Gigot Sleeves

12:16 AM

As a lady of fashion in the 1830s, one must keep up with the latest trends. And nowadays that means really huge enormous big sleeves.


Big sleeves began to come into fashion in the late 1820s, but really hit their stride in the 1830s. Called leg-of-mutton or gigot sleeves (the French translation of leg-of-mutton), they started slightly off the shoulder and puffed out before narrowing again towards the lower arm. In combination with the popular V-neckline and full skirt, gigot sleeves helped to give an illusion of a narrower waist.

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Unlike the big sleeves of the 1890s, gigot sleeves did not start directly where the sleeve and shoulder of the dress met. Instead, gigot sleeves began at the top of the arm, helping to create a fashionable sloped shoulder look. The most beautiful lady in the 1830s would have shoulders not extending in a horizontal line from the base of her neck, but sloping in a gentle diagonal down to her arms. This ideal was connected with the romanticism movement popular during the period, making a woman look as though she were pining away for a lover.

Sleeves were cut on the bias of the fabric. Imagine you have a square piece of fabric in front of you. The threads which make up the fabric go horizontally (the weft) and vertically (the warp). If you were to place a pattern diagonally on that piece of fabric, so that it made a diagonal across the warp and weft, that would be cut on the bias. Fabric cut on the bias has greater stretch and movement, allowing for softer curves. But a lot of fabric and a bias cut isn't going to make your sleeves stand out to poofy perfection.

From the LA County Museum of Art

What you need is a pair of sleeve plumpers, worn underneath the dress to help hold out the volume of the sleeves. Women could also use stiff lining on the inside of the sleeves to help keep up the volume.

Once you are armed with your gigot sleeves (BUH DUM CHING!!!), the only thing left to do is fine an equally fashionable man and go showing off to all your friends.


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