A sleeve! A sleeve! My kingdom for a sleeve...
The sleet and snow are coming coming down here in Connecticut, the temperature is hovering at 20 degrees, and every dress in every major department store is sleeveless. Lovely wool fabrics, cashmere, and fine flannel abound,
but all lack even a token sleeve. Apparently, while women want dresses with sleeves, designers hate them- sleeves that is, not customers. Sleeves are apparently frumpy from a design perspective.
For many women, the place where the top of the arm and the shoulder meet is, sadly, not always a place of beauty. Older women can have flabby arms while other women simply want a modest dress with sleeves for church and religious services. Others simply feel a chill and want a warm garment. Designers, however, contend
that sleeves break up the line of a dress and add emphasis to parts of the body best left in obscurity, at least from a design standpoint: short sleeves draw attention to the bust, elbow length sleeves to the waist or lack of, etc. And small puff sleeves? Don't even think of going there. Suggestions for dealing with no sleeves include a sweater, under blouse, jacket, etc, but one might ask what's the point? How difficult can a sleeve be? The answer is apparently 'very'.
Designers complain that sleeves can be uncomfortable if the fabric lacks sufficient stretch and difficult to incorporate into a design, while buyers want comfort and a free
range of motion. (Most women outside of the world of haute couture dislike restrictive clothing.) Additionally, sleeves require extra fabric in construction possibly adding to the overall cost of manufacturing the garment. Some designers use a small gusset insert under the arm, but gussets are expensive to incorporate into a sleeve and are found usually in only high priced items.
So, outside of peasant blouses and bohemian styles the battle over sleeves rages. The good news is that small boutiques and department store buyers are insisting that designers offer some sleeves to accommodate the many women who desire to keep their arms covered. To quote a Manhattan boutique owner, "I'm the one that has to sell it to a customer. If I had to rely on what they think the client wants, I'd have to eat it." Bless you, Ms. Powell.