Wedding Dresses: Sleeve Styles and Options, Explained

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Photography by Andria Lo

Wedding Dresses: Sleeve Styles and Options, explained

Choosing a wedding dress is undoubtably one of the best parts about planning a wedding. All dresses are comprised of two main parts: the bodice and the skirt. When it comes to sleeves, however, it’s completely up to you: some brides prefer to go completely strapless, while others might be searching for a long cuff sleeved, vintage-inspired look. From cap sleeves to off-the-shoulder numbers, in this post Weddingful explores wedding dress sleeves, pointing out the design features that make each style unique.

 

If you find that you’re stuck when it comes to planning the rest of the wedding details, Weddingful  can help. Our online planner is free, and it’s designed to match you with vendors – from photographers to planners to cake artists – who fit your location, budget, and style.

Off-the-Shoulder

Conjuring visions of fairytale romance and evening elegance, an off-the-shoulder sleeve most often works as an extension to a low, boatneck neckline, highlighting your collarbone and shoulders with strong horizontal lines. Count on having this style altered by a seamstress, as they need to fit just right in order to conform properly to your arms without constricting your movement or falling down.

Photography by Alex Veil Bridal on Etsy
Photography by Alex Veil Bridal on Etsy

French

Found in many vintage dress styles hailing from the 1940s, a French sleeve is characterized by a small pucker of volume in the shoulder and a mid-length short sleeve. Often, they also feature a small cuff that hugs the upper arm at their hem. For brides looking for something comfortable and time-tested, you’ll need to look no further than the rack at your local vintage store in order to find many examples of this sleeve type.

Photography by Andy Roberts
Photography by Andy Roberts

Bell or Butterfly Sleeve

A bell sleeve is defined by a set-in arm (no gathers at the shoulder) and a sleeve that continues to flare as it extends towards the wrist. A butterfly sleeve takes this flare one step further, ending with a long sleeve that appears a miniature skirt in an of itself. This loose and voluminous style is full of freedom and movement – a great style for beach, folk, bohemian, rustic farm, and gypset brides.

Photography by Andria Lo
Photography by Andria Lo

Cap

Variations on cap sleeves are very popular in wedding dress styles, as they provide some shoulder coverage and chest support without starting to cover the arms. Just barely wide enough to be considered a sleeve, cap sleeve is an excellent choice for a bride looking beyond a thin strap for solid support on her wedding day.

Photography by Caught the Light
Photography by Caught the Light

 

Epaulet

Traditionally seen ornamenting the royal shoulders of Prince Charming, epaulets are also seen in many wedding dresses, valued for the glamour and majestic draping effect that they bring to the upper half of a wedding dress. In keeping with recent shoulder jewelry trends, epaulet style sleeves often include strings of beads, strands of pearls or gemstones, hints of gold or silver, and plenty of eye-catching sparkle.

Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis
Photography by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

 

Cuff or Bishop Sleeve

Seen in many vintage-inspired styles, a bishop or cuff sleeve is characterized by a long, full sleeve whose volume comes together at a gathered wrist cuff. Comfortable and laid-back, a bishop sleeve is a solid feature for a bohemian, backyard, or vintage inspired wedding.

Photography by Jodi McDonald Photography
Photography by Jodi McDonald Photography

 

Illusion Neckline with Sleeves

An illusion neckline is formed when a sheer overlay extends from the bodice to form a high neckline. This example shows an illusion neckline whose sheer material continues to form 3/4 length sleeves. This sheer overlay design creates a look that feels covered and secure without swaddling the bride in fabric – a sheer style like this has its benefits at a hot summer celebration!

Photography by Kate Webber
Photography by Kate Webber

 

Nude

Some brides search for a sleeve or strap that won’t draw attention away from the simple, chic form of her dress. This example shows a nude version of an illusion neckline extending from a solid white sweetheart bodice, ending in small cap sleeves. A nude sleeve is a good choice for winter bride who’d like to balance a strapless look with the realities of chilly weather.

Photography by Sarah AK Carpenter
Photography by Sarah AK Carpenter

Cape

A cape sleeve is wide, flowing, and dramatic, providing a loose and voluminous sleeve that allows plenty of easy arm movement.

Photography by Jaimee Morse
Photography by Jaimee Morse

 

Minimalist Short Sleeve

It’s common for women to say they like their spouse best in a simple white T-shirt – straightforward, clean, and simple, a basic short sleeve might be the perfect style for your wedding dress. In this example, a hem-less lace sleeve extends from the shoulder in a straight line, carrying through a uniform, minimalist look. This no-fuss style is perfect for a bride looking to keep things simple and familiar on her wedding day.

Photography by Piteira Photography
Photography by Piteira Photography

 

Bracelet

A bracelet (also called a 3/4 length) sleeve hugs the arm closely. Often seen in wedding dresses as a statement lace sleeve with an elaborate floral lace pattern, a 3/4 length sleeve is snug, sophisticated, and practical. Paired with the mandarin collar that you see in this image, the bracelet sleeve style conveys a stately sense of early 1900s propriety.

Photography by White Cat Studio
Photography by White Cat Studio

 

So, you’ve got the dress under wraps – how about the rest of your wedding details? Weddingful’s free online planner can help you find wedding vendors – from venues to cake decorators to videographers – that match your location, budget, and unique wedding needs.

 

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