Fashion is full of boomerangs—those items or styles that, having once shrunk into the distance, suddenly swing back around to return in force. At London Fashion Week, which just ended, a puffy-sleeve boomerang came whizzing back from a great distance this season.
The exact shapes of the ballooning appendages on the runway varied, but their inspirations generally dated from the mid-16th century to the mid-17th century. Attached to a zippered jacket, or a sweatshirt, last week’s sleeves were updated for the times, but all the same gave several London shows a distinctly historical atmosphere.
At J.W. Anderson, the jackets of Henry VIII, who died in 1547, gave rise to elaborate, puffed arms.
Burberry’s Christopher Bailey cited the influence of Virginia Woolf’s fantastical novel Orlando, which spans from 1588 to 1928 as it tells the story of a character who defies time and gender.
For the latest Erdem collection, Erdem Moralioglu referenced the wardrobe of a lady-in-waiting for the wife of Charles I, recently discovered after sinking in a 1642 shipwreck.
At times the tops and dresses had a full, rounded shoulder. In other instances, the shoulder lay limp—or was nonexistent, baring the model’s actual shoulder—while the fabric on the arm inflated and bunched.
Marques Almeida showed a mash-up of various influences that included some of the enlarged sleeves often sported by Princess Diana. These were more in keeping with the volume plays of the 1980s than the much older reference points of Burberry, Erdem, and J.W. Anderson.
Anderson, who has proved one of London’s most influential voices, has also been one of the designers most willing to play with sleeve volumes recently. A year ago, he riffed on those giant leg-of-mutton sleeves of the 1980s. In December, he continued his obsession with the sleeve, showing shoulders so large they looked like they were meant to cover football pads (American football, that is). Vogue predicted his designs would be “affecting the way women dress” by this year.
Whether you can blame Anderson or not—the well-worn joke is that Seinfeld deserves the credit—variations on puffy sleeves are popping up. Actress Diane Kruger just appeared in some at a gala for the New York City ballet, and the cover of Elle magazine next month features actress Lily James wearing one of the full-sleeved sweaters Burberry just sent down the runway.