Leg-O-Mutton Sleeves

15 Nov

If you lived in the first half of the 1800s, you would be quite familiar with the sleeves of this dress.  I’m not sure everyone is aware that there were different styles between the popular Jane Austen/Regency look at the start of the 1800s and the hoop skirts from the 1850s.  These bell dresses are actually quite quite charming- simple bell skirts with classic decoration, form fitting blouses (with the help of corsets), and huge, poofy sleeves to add some pizazz.

The poofy sleeves, called “Gigot” sleeves, are full at the shoulder, start to taper in at the elbow, and fit tightly around the wrist.  The look reached its full potential in the mid 1830s.

Sophie, Archduchess of Austria

As you would imagine, the fabrics of these dresses are quite fine and thin.  To make the sleeve look lively instead of wilted, padding was required around the upper arm.  And don’t forget this is in addition to the chemise and corset you are already wearing on your upper body.

The fad died down by 1837 and only made a brief resurgence in the 1890s.

Beyond a small poof in the shoulders in modern dress, I must admit I don’t see another rise of the leg-of-mutton sleeve.  Too bad- it makes your waist look tiny.

For more information, check out Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail.

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One Response to “Leg-O-Mutton Sleeves”

  1. Coriana November 18, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Let’s bring back the gigot! You, me, and Anne of Green Gables.

    And now, because you’ve given me an opening (well, at least brought up the tangentially related subject, which I have parlayed into a soap box), I must take this opportunity to express my deep-seated and long-standing annoyance with L. M. Montgomery, who must have added a decade between 1899 and 1900 because otherwise the timeline of the Anne books SIMPLY DOES NOT WORK in reference to sleeves.

    WTF, Maud? (I actually do lie awake at night and stress about this, sometimes.)

    ~ c.

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