Types of Sleeves

Jean Chaney
Jean Chaney
Research Writer
Jean is the brains behind her fashion label. She's a whiz with a needle and thread, and has been sewing since she was old enough to hold a pair of scissors. Jean has always read more
Reviewed By
Isabel Misner
Isabel Misner
Expert Consultant
A professional seamstress. Isabel has her own video blog where she shares her experience about all the aspects of sewing – from choosing suitable materials to step-by-step read more
Last updated: December 29, 2022
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Sleeves are an intricate part of garment constructions. This part of the cloth has both functional and aesthetic purposes Trusted Source Pump up the volume: why massive sleeves are this year's biggest trend | Fashion | The Guardian Unmissable sleeves – with their ruffles, puffs and frills – are ballooning across the catwalk and the high street. And there’s no sign of the trend deflating www.theguardian.com , and it covers the wearer’s arm and shoulders. The designs vary from one garment to the next for various reasons. There are different sleeves that one will encounter when buying clothes or when learning to make them. They come in a variety of shapes and lengths to help achieve the desired style.

In the medieval era, sleeves were cut straight with underarm gussets to allow for easy mobility when wearing the garment. Over the years, the construction techniques have evolved alongside the designs availing an assortment of picks for companies in the fashion industry and consumers. Herein we discuss forty-five different types of sleeves that one is likely to come across when shopping for garments. Numerous factors influence the choice of one sleeve over the other to guarantee satisfactory results.

45 different types of sleeves

Types of Sleeves

Patterns play a fundamental role in helping the designers achieve the look they are after. Knowing how to make sewing patterns will come in handy, especially when the sewists try something new. Important to note is that not all clothes require sleeves. There are sleeveless clothes in the market as well. Below we discuss forty-five sleeve types that both novice and seasoned sewers can use for different projects.

Regular sleeve

The regular sleeve is among the standard options that one will use for an assortment of projects as they are ideal for both male and female clothes. It is attached to the armscye with a curved head to fit into the roundness of the shoulder typical of clothes that require this type of sleeve. The construction allows for attachment to the bodice first before the side seams of the sleeve are finished. The process that one has to follow when making the regular sleeve is straightforward, making the workload more manageable for large projects.

Raglan sleeves

The construction of this kind of sleeve involves using a diagonal seam to join the sleeve to the bodice. The seam runs from the underarm front and back and extends all the way to the neckline. This helps create a wider underarm with more space that gives the wearer flexibility. The application of this type of sleeve is common in sportswear, jerseys, and tops. The raglan sleeve takes attention away from the shoulder due to the lack of a seam around this part.

Cap sleeves

This is a short-sleeved alternative that covers the upper part of the shoulder only. The cap sleeve is a little detail that sets the garment apart from others in the same family. The sleeve fits on the shoulder and tapers to nothing underneath the arm.

Cap sleeves are ideal for people with wide hips and narrow shoulders as they help widen the upper part of the body, availing the much-needed balance. This sleeve is ideal for women’s clothing and attires for special occasions.

Extended cap sleeves

The extended cap sleeves, as the name suggests, are similar to the cap sleeve we discuss above but with an extension to the bodice. The edges of the sleeve taper to nothing as they have a small extension that joins it to the rest of the garment. To achieve this design, beginners in this industry will need sewing tips to help them, especially for hand sewing projects. The extended cap sleeves are best suited for bridal and ceremonial wear.

Bracelet sleeves

This sleeve type has a length that is slightly below the elbow but above the wrist. The idea behind the design is to allow the wearer to see their bracelet, which also explains the name of the sleeve. It is not a typical three-quarter sleeve as they tend to be just slightly above the wrist. This kind of sleeve is common in women’s clothing and may decoratively finish elevating the clothes’ aesthetic value.

Lantern sleeve

The construction of the lantern sleeve makes it an ideal choice for ornate garments. It is along the sleeve with two sections—the top part of the sleeve flares from the shoulder seam towards the wrist. The lower section of the sleeve flares from the wrist to meet the other part. A seam joins the two pieces, and this results in a flared lantern shape. This alternative is the perfect pick for anyone camouflaging flabby upper arms. The lantern sleeve is among the new trends in the fashion realm.

Man’s shirt sleeve with cuff

Man’s shirt sleeve with cuff is the typical kind that fashion designers use to make an assortment of shirts. This sleeve has two pleats at the buttoned cuff that avail the necessary comfort that the wearer needs. It is also pleasing to the eye, improving the overall appearance of the garment.

The construction also includes a placket opening. This element allows the wearer to put on or remove the garment with ease. The most common use of this kind of sleeve is on men’s shirts, but it is not limited to this application only.

Leg of mutton sleeves

This sleeve type became common in fashionable dresses in the 1820s. The unusual shape influenced the name leg of mutton. The sleeve is characterized by a huge gathering of fabric on the upper arm, which tapers into a tight fit from the elbow all the way to the wrist. This shape mimics the appearance of a leg of mutton. Fashion designers alter certain elements of this sleeve to achieve different results. Leg of mutton sleeves is ideal for children’s clothing and ornamental attire.

Juliet sleeve

The Juliet sleeve is named after Shakespeare’s tragic heroine. This sleeve type is inspired by the Italian renaissance period popular fashion. The design of this sleeve is almost similar to the leg of mutton variety. The major difference is the construction. The Juliet sleeve has two parts, with the upper side being voluminous. The sewist uses to join the large upper arm to the fitted sleeve, which makes the lower section of the sleeve. The Juliet sleeve was popular in the 1820s and again in the 1960s.

Bell sleeves

Types of Sleeves

There are different types of bell sleeves, but they all have the same design. The attachment of this sleeve is at the armscye, and it flares towards the bottom, taking on the shape of the belt. It adds a feminine touch to any garment, which is why it is popular in women’s clothes construction. The designer can choose to make the sleeves long or short. This is among the sleeve designs that are seeing a comeback in the modern garment design industry.

Cape sleeve / Circular sleeve

The cape sleeve is common in bridal dresses and long gowns. The sleeves are an overlay of fabric, in most cases sheer, that is gathered at the shoulder and flares out like a cape. This type of sleeves gives the dress or gown a stylish finish that makes them ideal for celebratory occasions. The sleeve can be inbuilt or an attachment that can be removed. The removable alternative of the circular sleeve is most preferred over the inbuilt ones. It gives the wearer the freedom to alter the aesthetics of the gown or dress accordingly.

Frill sleeve / Flute sleeves

The frill or flute sleeves are among those that the designers can alter in various ways to achieve the desired effect. There are different types of frill sleeves that one will come across. The choice of material and construction will determine the result. This sleeve type is formed by gathered or pleated fabric. Lightweight fabric with an excellent drape is the best fit for this type of sleeve. When working with delicate material typical of the frill sleeve varieties, the designer should ensure that they use a good pair of sewing scissors to avoid damaging the fabric.

Bishop sleeve

The bishop sleeve gives the sewist multiple options regarding the construction. One can opt to have a full alternative of this sleeve or a full one. This is a long sleeve that is fitted at the armhole then becomes wider towards the hem. The fullness is contained in various ways. The most common finish for this sleeve is the use of an elastic band or a cuff. Other design elements can be included in the finishing to make the garment more attractive.

Peasant sleeve

This kind of sleeve is among those that are popular in women’s clothing. The construction is almost similar to the raglan sleeve, but there are some differences. The neck and hem of this sleeve are gathered using drawstring or elastic. The design provides additional space for the wearer to stretch or engage in other activities that require a wide underarm. The peasant sleeve has common applications in women’s and children’s clothing.

Square armhole sleeve

The armhole in most garments is circular, but this is not the case for the square armhole sleeve. This armhole design is angular rather than circular, and this feature makes this sleeve variation stand out. Square armhole sleeves are ideal for garments worn during tasking activities as it allows for free movement.

The applications for this type of sleeves are numerous in the clothing industry. One can also transform the basic sleeves into a square armhole alternative when handling DIY projects.

Dolman/ Magyar sleeve

The Dolman or Magyar sleeve is among the easiest ones to sew. Beginners will find it easier working with this sleeve alternative as it is constructed from the same piece of fabric as the bodice. The dolman sleeve is flattering, and it allows for the softening of soft shoulder lines. On the other hand, if the line is weak, the Magyar sleeve will strengthen it. A gusset can be added to the underarm to allow for easy movement by enlarging the same. It can also be added to strengthen the underarm.

Padded shouldered sleeve

Padded shouldered sleeves are common in an array of official wear and other selections in the garment industry. A pad is added to the shoulders to alter the appearance of this part of the garment. Different elements can be achieved with the padded shouldered sleeve. Sleeves in this category are made extra wide to accommodate the pad. The padding that the manufacturer uses determines the final result. The illusion created can be a broader shoulder, rounded, or squared.

Petal sleeve (lapped sleeve); Tulip sleeve

The petal sleeve does not have an underarm seam as the two edges of the fabric overlap each other. The name is derived from the sleeve’s shape, which resembles the petals of the tulip flower. The layered panels of fabric allow for the formation of this shape as it is sewn on the bodice. The petal sleeve is usually short or skimpy. This is because it is hard to achieve the tulip petals effect on a long sleeve.

Marmaluke or Virago sleeve

Marmaluke or virago is a long sleeve alternative divided into sections to enhance the beauty of the garment it is sewn into. The partitions are usually five, but some designers ignore this and make more or fewer sections in the sleeve. Gathers are used at the intersections to give the arm a hugging effect that the virago sleeve is known for. This type of sleeve was popular in the period between the 1620s and 1630s. Marmaduke is still utilized in the modern fashion industry to make women’s garments.

Angel sleeves / Dalmation sleeves

This type of sleeve is common in the making of graduation gowns and robes. It is a long wide sleeve that hangs loosely on the side of the garment. It dates back to the renaissance period where sleeves were cut with extra fabric to create the illusion of wings. There are many ways to make this sleeve, and the design elements give rise to the various alternatives that we see in contemporary clothing. Women’s garments are among those that feature this type of sleeves in the design for beauty reasons.

Bag sleeve / Barrel sleeve

The barrel sleeve is one of the long alternatives in the clothing construction realm. The design of this sleeve is even at the armhole with no fullness. It is straight with a cuff at the wrist. This sleeve type does not have any fullness at the armhole or the cuff. The cuff in this variation is tighter than the fitted sleeve. It features uniform width giving the sleeve a sophisticated look. The barrel cuff is common in men’s shirts, but the applications do not end here.

Draped sleeves

This kind of sleeve has an exceptional design that improves the esthetics of the garment. The top part of the sleeve is fuller than the lower section. A drapey effect is necessary to create the desired fullness at the top. In some instances, the designer may have to use elastic to achieve the extra breadth at the top of the sleeve. According to a ton of reviews on the wide web, the sewist should use the best sewing machine for such designs to avoid ruining the fabric. Computerized sewing machines from reputable manufacturers ought to be considered first.

Puff sleeves

Types of Sleeves

Contemporary fashion designers rely on the puff sleeve to create silhouettes for the different garments they bring to the market. The popularity and prominence of this sleeve are expected to grow in the coming years as it is a timeless design. This sleeve is gathered at the shoulder, where it is attached to the armhole. It puffs out and gathers at the wrist. The finishing at the band and the size of the puff give the garment a preferred look. It is best suited for women’s clothes and theatrical costumes.

Drawstring puff sleeve

The drawstring puff sleeve can be long or short. It is commonly used in women’s clothing and that of children as well. It is similar to the puff sleeves but with unique detail. A drawstring or a cuff is used alongside the gathered hem to form a frill which gives the garment a distinctive shape.

Over the years, this technique has been borrowed for different parts of a garment to achieve a crunched look. Applications for the drawstring puff sleeve are many in the clothing industry.

Balloon sleeve

The balloon sleeve is long. It is gathered at the armhole then puffs out to create the balloon effect. It gathers back at the wrist, but the length remains puffed. The gathers at the shoulder are one variation of this kind of sleeve. In some garments, the sleeve puffs slightly below the shoulder, giving the cloth a classy look. Designers can manipulate the design in various ways to achieve the puff effect that is necessary for a balloon sleeve.

Batwing sleeve

This sleeve bears a close resemblance to the dolman alternative. It is commonly used in the construction of women’s clothes and costumes for film and theatre. A wide-cut characterizes the batwing sleeve at the shoulder with deep armholes. It is a long sleeve with extra width to achieve the wing-like effect as it tapers to the wrist. It was a popular design during WW1 and WW2 due to a shortage of fabric. A revival of this sleeve was seen in the 1940s for feminine clothes. Designers utilize the aesthetics of this sleeve in the 21st century.

Circle sleeve / Flutter sleeves

After cutting the pattern for this sleeve variation, the fabric that the sewists end up with is a circle. The constructions result in a flutter that most designers prefer to use for kid’s clothes. The flutter sleeves give adult feminine clothes a dramatic appearance. The circular sleeves’ fullness makes them the perfect choice for anyone looking to add the illusion of heaviness on the shoulder region. People with broad shoulders should avoid garments with flutter sleeves as it will make them appear bigger than they are.

Kimono sleeves

Types of Sleeves

The kimono is a traditional Japanese attire that looks like a bathrobe. The kimono sleeves borrow heavily from the design of the customary cloth. Sleeves in this context are cut together with the bodice. This results in wide sleeves from the shoulder to the hem. The measurements vary depending on the design of the garment that the designer is working on. The ease at the armhole and aesthetic value of the wide hem is among the factors propelling the use of this type of sleeves for an assortment of garments.

Over sleeve

The layering effect makes it possible for designers to construct the oversleeve. The design contains two sleeves, with one on top of the other. The upper sleeve hangs loosely over the one below. The one above can be altered accordingly to fit the needs of the garment being made. The purpose of the clothing will also dictate the best alternative to use as an oversleeve. Women’s and children’s clothes are among those that benefit from this functional and fashionable type of sleeve.

Hanging sleeve

Hanging sleeves are ideal for ceremonial clothes due to the aesthetic value they add to the garment it is added to. The uses of this sleeve type are not limited to this application. It is a long sleeve with a slit that hangs down. The first use of such sleeves goes back to the 15th century where this design was popular, especially for the ruling class. It is an appropriate choice for women’s clothing for different occasions. It is used for both dresses and tops. In recent times, the hanging sleeve is becoming common in women blazers.

Elbow patched sleeve

As the name suggests, this sleeve variety has a patched elbow. This design helps minimize wear and tear. Additionally, it improves the overall appearance of the garment when contrasting colors are used. Elbow patched sleeves are ideal for everyday wear clothes as they experience the strain at the elbow region more often.

The addition of a patch at the elbow adds a sophisticated touch making the cloth ideal for both official and casual wear. This sleeve is common in jackets and sweaters, among other garments.

Slashed sleeve

This type of sleeve has slashes that make a trendy statement. Most teens wear garments that feature the slashed sleeve as it attracts this demographic more than the older ones. The horizontal slits are included in the design, and the number and length vary from one design to the next. Others are finished using decorative stitches that augment the aesthetics of the cloth. The sleeve variety is best suited for denim jackets, t-shirts, and blouses. These slits are not finished in most instances, and the raw edges will fray with time.

Strapped or banded sleeve

This type can be short or long-sleeved. The designers include a thin strip of fabric to the hem of the sleeves during the finishing process. The strap can be elastic or just a normal fabric. The design process is straightforward for both beginners and seasoned sewers. It increases the strength of the sleeve, guaranteeing years of service to the wearer. This type of sleeve is common in shirts and t-shirts for both men and women. Children’s clothes also feature this sleeve design that is durable and aesthetically pleasing.

Tailored sleeve

The tailored sleeve has two sections. The seams for this variation of sleeves are at the front, and the back is running down. Other types of sleeves have underarm seams, but this is not the case for the tailored ones. The technique of using the seams at the front and back is to achieve the shape necessary for garments that utilize this sleeve. Women’s and men’s suits are among the common applications of the tailored sleeve. This sleeve has other uses in the garment construction industry.

Off-shoulder sleeve

Types of Sleeves

Off-shoulder sleeves have been popular since the 1960s. There are different varieties of the same, each with matchless features that make the garments stand out. The sleeves can be long or short, and they sit under the shoulder bone. Elastic helps cloth makers attain the off-shoulder effect when attached to the neck region to allow the wearer to pull the cloth down. This sleeve is common in women’s dresses and tops. It is a perfect choice for summer wear, especially when paired with lightweight fabric and floral prints.

Mahoitres sleeve

This is one of the vintage sleeves that have been around for many centuries. It was widely used in garment construction in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. It is a long sleeve, padded, and is shaped like a bag. In the contemporary world, this sleeve has different applications, but it is not very common. It is an ideal choice for ceremonial wear as it adds a touch of elegance to the garment. Other than women’s clothing, the mahoitres sleeve can help design costumes for stage performance and motion pictures.

Gibson girl sleeve

The Gibson girl sleeve is one that has been around for many years. It is mostly used for women’s clothing both in the classic and modern worlds. The Gibson girl was a personification of femininity and the physical attractiveness of women. The sleeve is delicate and radiates feminine energy with the full shoulder to the elbow. From the elbow to the wrist, the sleeve is fitted, giving the garment a delicate womanly touch. Other than dresses, this sleeve is ideal for women’s sweaters and tops.

Poet sleeve

The poet sleeve has numerous desirable features that propel its use in the clothing industry. It is fitted from the shoulder to the elbow. After the elbow, the sleeve flares towards the wrist. The long sleeve alternative of the poet goes all the way to the wrist. Other options end mid-hand with either ruffles or cuffs.

The choice between the two finishings is a matter of preference. Also, one has to consider the purpose of the garment featuring the poet’s sleeve. Its common application is in the construction of women’s tops and dresses.

Melon sleeve

Lengthwise fabrics that are wider in the middle are used in the sewing of the melon sleeve. Stiffened fabric is used to achieve the desired shape for this sleeve. The use of material that is broader in the middle helps create the melon effect. This is for the long-sleeved variety of the melon sleeve. The short-sleeved alternative is rounded from the shoulder to the elbow with a band or cuff finishing. Its uses are diverse, with women clothing construction topping the list due to the detail.

Gauntlet sleeve (pointed)

A gauntlet is a type of glove constructed for protection purposes. It was used to protect the hands of combatants in battle in Europe from the early 14th century. The gauntlet sleeve features an extended cuff that covers the forearm in women’s clothes. Bridal clothes are among those that utilize this type of sleeve to give the bride an edge. The material that extends to the back of the hand, in most cases, has a V shape. This sleeve type is not common in everyday wear but ideal for ornate fits.

Cold-shouldered sleeve

Types of Sleeves

This is another type of open sleeves that one is likely to encounter when handling various projects or shopping for clothes. The cold shoulder sleeve is best suited for women’s and girl’s clothes. It is almost similar to the off-shoulder, but their designs differ. The sleeves hang on the bodice, exposing the shoulder. The sleeve is attached to the bodice with a moon or oval-shaped cutout that exposes the shoulders. It is a common sleeve type in modern women’s clothes.

Final thoughts

Sleeves play both functional and beauty roles in a garment. There are various types of sleeves, and the sewists pick the best alternative for the garment they are working on. Using the correct equipment to prepare and sew the fabric is essential for one to attain the desired results. Professional shears are among those that people overlook, but they are necessary for garment construction. According to reviews from experts and previous users, the Kai 7250 10-inch shears are the best in the market for the different fabrics available.

Choosing the best sleeve for a particular garment is essential. The purpose of the clothing is the first factor that dictates the best design for one to choose. Interesting to note is that most of the sleeves we review above date back to many centuries and are best suited for women’s clothing. One can alter the various sleeves we discuss accordingly to fit the garment they are making.


Pump up the volume: why massive sleeves are this year
Unmissable sleeves – with their ruffles, puffs and frills – are ballooning across the catwalk and the high street. And there’s no sign of the trend deflating
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