vintage fashion wingz sleeves

Have you ever wondered where the inspiration for Wingz designs comes from?

Michelle Ellis came up with the idea of fashion arm coverage that could be added to sleeveless tops and dresses when she couldn’t find any tops with sleeves – frustrated at the fact all the tops she liked were sleeveless, she decided to make Wingz to address the problem.

The rest is history, but history has given fashion designers like Michelle inspiration for centuries, and we thought it would be fun to look at some of the fashionable sleeve designs of the past and see how they influenced Wingz designs in the 21st century…

Early sleeve design was pretty basic and sleeves would have been cut in as part of a garment, usually a dress. The batwing sleeve was fashionable in the early middle ages, and it’s a style that doesn’t seem to have lost its popularity centuries later.

Batwing sleeves made an appearance at this year’s fashion shows so there’s something about the design that just appeals to women through the centuries. Perhaps it’s the freedom of movement you get with a batwing, although it’s hard to imagine dresses giving much leeway when they were cut with old fashioned fabrics and sleeves sewn in as part of the frock!

One design that was quite popular at the time with genteel ladies especially was the hanging sleeve – a much exaggerated style that could sometimes hang to ground level. Not very practical for washing up, but they were a hit with the 14th century gentlemen.


Fashionable women of the Renaissance period liked to mix and match their sleeve designs a bit, getting creative with puff sleeves that were padded, tied with bands and slashed in strategic places to display opulent inner linings and even undergarments. By the end of the 16th century the trend was for the padding to be all the way down the sleeve but tapering into the wrist.



The elegant three quarter length sleeve was popular in the 17th century, although the sleeves were very full, rather than tight to the arm like Wingz best-selling sleeves. They were unpadded – the fashion for padded sleeves had gone out of favour by then, but they were often embellished with lace, cuffs and ruffles.

Fitted sleeves were on trend in the 18th century, and generally elbow length. Some women liked to add their own touches with a deep cuff or a pagoda sleeve – a deep funnel style sleeve which stayed popular through the Victorian era. The 1830s were the era of very big puffy sleeves too, and the distinctive ‘leg o’ mutton’ design that went away briefly, only to be reintroduced in the 1890s.


Sleeves became shorter in the 20th century – the cap sleeve, sleeveless dresses of the twenties onwards and strappy dresses all saw sleeves disappear in favour of arm exposure that would have been scandalous in the Victorian era! The bracelet sleeve was another favourite, with tailored sleeves on jackets and of course the dreaded shoulder pad that dominated the eighties. Batwings were another eighties staple, and the long, fluted sleeves of medieval times were popular in the seventies along with floaty dresses and polyester.



Anything goes in the 21st century – lace sleeves have definitely been in style for a few years, along with lightweight sleeves and three quarter length fitted styles reminiscent of 1950s glamour.


What’s your favourite sleeve design?

(I’m thinking the leg o’ mutton must be due a comeback…)