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Fashion News

Fashion Archives: A Look at the History of the Bell Sleeve

Lately, when it comes to trends, the devil is in the details. While designers have always been coming up with new and exciting silhouettes, it’s also nice to see more subtle tweaks. The bell sleeve is a great example- it’s not a complete overhaul of an outfit, just a single element that takes a garment up a notch. While bell sleeves are not exactly a new idea, it’s been fun to see them re-imagined from previous iterations in different sizes and on unexpected pieces.

Speaking of previous lives, where did this trend originate?

After all, what makes this trend so interesting is the contrast of the way it is used in the past and present. In fact, the bell sleeve has taken many different forms, which is perhaps why a fresh, modern take feels so appealing.

Flared sleeves have been part of the fashion lexicon for centuries, dating back to the Heian period in Japan (beginning in the year 794). It was during this era that the Japanese began crafting and wearing kimonos. A dramatically long, flared sleeve was and is a major feature of this classic garment- and has since been referenced by numerous designers drawing inspiration from Japanese fashion.

The Medieval Era

Bell sleeves began making their way into western fashion during the Medieval Era. At first, the sleeve style was only seen on garments for the clergy. They wore a robe known as a chasuble, which featured very large, wide bell sleeves that arched on the sides. However, the religious connotations quickly dissolved, and by the 1500’s the style had been snapped up by the wealthy.

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