Bride sitting with flowers

Wedding Dress Sleeves 101

When brides think of a wedding gown’s distinguishing features, they often don’t even consider sleeves. However, sleeves can completely change the look of a dress, making it more formal, more casual, more classic, or more unique.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about sleeves when you’re on the search for your wedding gown.

What Are My Length Options?

When you hear sleeves, you may think exclusively of long sleeves a la Kate Middleton. However, wedding dress sleeves come in a variety of lengths. 

Here are the different sleeve lengths available for wedding gowns.

Sleeveless

The vast majority of wedding gowns are sleeveless. A sleeveless gown may have straps or be totally strapless. At most, a strapless gown will have fabric to the edge of the shoulder.

Depending on the silhouette, sleeveless gowns can be both formal and casual. For instance, a sleeveless A-line gown is likely to be more casual, whereas a sleeveless ball gown would be considered more formal.

Capped Sleeves

Capped sleeves are very short, almost like very thick straps. The difference is that, unlike a sleeveless gown with straps, a capped sleeve gown has a few inches of fabric covering the curvature of the shoulder.

Capped sleeves often create a sweet and innocent aesthetic, which goes well with ancient Greece or Regency-inspired sheath dresses.

Short Sleeves

Anything longer than a capped sleeve but shorter than the elbow would be considered a short sleeve. Depending on the fabric, short sleeves can be more formal or more casual.

A fitted lace or crepe sleeve will create a more formal effect. Meanwhile, a chiffon flutter sleeve will likely feel more youthful and romantic.

¾ Length Sleeves

¾ length sleeves typically fall between the wrist and the elbow. They are a popular choice with more mature brides; however, this style of sleeve is flattering for any age or body type.

¾ length sleeves look particularly stunning with wide necklines like off-the-shoulder, portrait, and bateau styles.

Long Sleeves

Long-sleeved wedding dresses have recently undergone a renaissance, arguably ever since Kate Middleton became the Duchess of Cambridge. But while her sleeves were fitted to the wrists, many popular modern long sleeve styles feature more volume and movement.

Long fitted sleeves look quite formal and austere, while more billowy styles give off a vintage or bohemian look.

Popular Sleeve Styles

Flutter Sleeves

Flutter sleeves are drapey, flowy pieces of fabric that hang from the shoulders. They are called flutter sleeves because they are lightweight and almost give the appearance of small wings.

Most flutter sleeves are short and made from a lightweight fabric like chiffon

Bell Sleeves

Bell sleeves are narrow at the shoulder and get progressively wider down towards the wrist. Depending on the fabric and style of the dress, bell sleeves can look medieval or bohemian.

Bishop Sleeves

Bishop sleeves were very popular in the 70s and have recently come back into vogue. They are usually relatively wide and billowy but are gathered into a simple fitted cuff at the wrist. 

Poet Sleeves

Poet sleeves are similar to bishop sleeves in that they offer some excess volume through the arm and are gathered more tightly around the wrist. The major difference is that there is usually a small ruffle instead of a cuff at the wrist.

Fitted Sleeves

Fitted sleeves are arguably the most classic and timeless. This style of sleeve simply conforms to the shape of the arm, fitting closely from the shoulder to the wrist. Fitted sleeves are a popular option for more religious ceremonies as they offer complete coverage and balance modern style and traditionalism quite nicely.

Your Comfort & Style Come First

 When choosing the sleeve style you want for your wedding gown, it’s important to ask yourself 2 questions:

  1. What can I comfortably wear for an entire day?
  2. What makes me feel beautiful?

If you can satisfy those 2 requirements, you’ll know you’ve found the perfect sleeve length and style for you.