Sleeves: The Long and Short of It.

To Sleeve or Not to Sleeve? That is the question — Whether ’tis nobler to cover one’s biceps or take arms against a sea of lace and mesh and oppose them.

The Return Of The Long Sleeve

Kate Middleton changed the direction of wedding style in 2011 with her classically tailored gown that included a full lace sleeve. Up to this point very few designers were branching out from the strapless styles that defined the 1990’s.

Photo by Getty Image
Gown Designer: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen

Sleeves are a great feature for those weddings planned in the cooler months of the year. A long sleeve crepe gown will definitely drive away that evening chill, while a lace sleeve can provide a fun tattoo or illusion effect as the patterns are highlighted by your natural skin tone. Sleeves can have their down sides as well. Those same warm features can be overwhelmingly hot during a mid-summer reception and if you have a more athletic build those guns may feel a bit claustrophobic as designers do not always accommodate for a fuller bicep. Ask about your options. Some designers offer custom measurements, or you could create your own look by choosing a gown that has the ability to have a custom sleeve added.

Stephanie Grace from Sophia Tolli Meghan from Bridget & Bianca
Bride ‘N Groom Private Label

Three Quarter Length Sleeve

The Three Quarter sleeve is a good all season sleeve length. The hem of this sleeve ends just between the wrist and the elbow, ensuring that you will stay cozy without overheating. This sleeve length is also good for casual weddings as they can project a more easy going vibe than their full length counterparts.

Honor from Beloved by Casablanca Mia from Julietta by Morilee

Cap Sleeves

You say you don’t want a sleeve but you do want a little extra coverage? Tada!! Cap Sleeve! Unlike a traditional sleeve, the cap sleeve covers only the tops of the shoulders leaving an open lower armhole that allows for more freedom of movement. Caps are also available as an accessory for strapless gowns. Have them sewn into the bodice or fitted with snaps to create a detachable option for a subtle two-look ensemble.

Musidora from Morilee Moiselle from Julietta by Morilee Lark from Morilee Lorena from Beloved by Casablanca Marquesa from Morilee


The Off-the-Shoulder gown has been a go-to style for formal designers since Julia Roberts donned that iconic red opera dress in Pretty Woman. This classic style features a sleeve that sits just below the shoulder line. The look can be expressed in a number of ways from a chic cold shoulder to unique detached sleeves!

Ines by Sophia Tolli, Leighton by Morilee, Louise by Morilee, Lennon by Casablanca Beloved, and Jade by Sophia Tolli


What’s the difference between sleeveless and strapless? Good question! Unlike their strapless kin the sleeveless gown offers a wide strap that provides a secondary level of support for the bodice. A wider strap can offer more coverage along the neckline or create a clean transition into a deep plunge

Morilee Style 3208 Milly by Morilee Christabel by Sophia Tolli Sailor by Morilee

Spaghetti Straps

Delicate and feminine, these dainty lines of fabric were first worn during the Jazz era to show off all those great shoulders! A Spaghetti Strap can create a surprisingly dramatic neckline and offers light shoulder support for the bodice of your gown.

Sweet by Beloved by Casablanca Caterina by Sophia Tolli Rasia by Morilee


Strapless gowns first emerged in the 1930s when actress Libby Holman debuted the style for American couturier Main Rousseau Bocher. In the 1990s designer Vera Wang made the strapless wedding gown her specialty creating a definitive, modern bridal style that endures today.

Gisele by Sophia Tolli Romana by Morilee Hallie by Beloved by Casablanca

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