Friday, May 18, 2012

What's Up With Three-Quarter Sleeves?

To my mind, the three-quarter sleeve is the sleeve of concession. If I want a scoop neck instead of a plunging V, or a certain length or color or cut of clothing, then the Murphy's law of fashion states that the  quality I desire will be available only in combination with a three-quarter sleeve.  

It's hard for me to imagine any woman going shopping with the thought, I hope I find something awesome with three-quarter sleeves.  

But the proliferation of three-quarter sleeves I see in print and online (if not on anyone I know) makes me consider the possibility I am wrong. 

Am I?

If you are a lover of three-quarter sleeves, please respond--as I am truly curious.  Are you blessed with particularly attractive wrists? Do you operate dangerous machinery snags full-length cuffs and pulls hands into its teeth?

Or do you live in some magical perfect three-quarter sleeve climate,  too chilly in short sleeves, but too warm for long sleeves?  A climate so perfect that the mere idea of pushing or rolling up long sleeves is repellent--all that extra material would weighing upon one's forearms, the fear that a slip of the sleeve might momentarily deprive one of the feel of that perfect balmy breeze over one's forearms?

That climate doesn't exist in Southern California. If you do happen to walk outside and experience a 73-degree moment, it's likely you are in transit to a hot car, or a refrigerated building, or, if you are planning to be outside for longer than an hour or two, you should be prepared for the temperature to rise or plummet by 20 degrees.   If you ask what to wear to almost any kind of outing in SoCal--whether a hike to to trip to the mall--the most common answer is "layers."

And you know what three-quarter sleeves suck at?  Layers.  Pull on a fitted cardigan: the sleeves bunch above your elbows, and you have to stretch your sweater by reaching a second arm into each sleeve to adjust the three-quarter sleeve inside.  How about a blazer? Nothing feels more awkward than a long sleeve blazer over a three-quarter sleeve blouse.  Could you imagine a man pulling of the jacket of his power suit to reveal sleeves cropped five inches above the wrist? It would be a little ridiculous right?  I feel a little ridiculous in three-quarter sleeves.  How can I expect people to respect me if I can't even convince a designer to give me enough material to cover my arms?  How can I "roll up my sleeves" and "get down to work" if my sleeves have been pre-cropped for me?  I can no longer perform that piece of effort-proving theatrics in the conference room because the decision has been taken from my hands.   

Is it possible to feel emasculated even though I'm a woman?  Is there a word for that?

ADDENDUM--I put this question to Facebook, and garnered these pro-three-quarters responses:

"They're the capris for your arms. They let air in." 
                       (I'm not a big fan of capris either)  

" I own upper arms that should never see the light of day...and it gets worse as I age.  I seek out the 3/4 length. "
                  (Leave it to my friend Genevieve to very sensible prove me wrong...)

"They are awesome for interpreting...and what Genevieve said too:)." 
                    (From my friend who is a sign-language interpreter--coolest job ever.) 


  1. I love 3/4 sleeves. I think they look good on everyone. If it's too cold for short sleeves, they are great if long seems to wintery. And you can wear bracelets with them much better than with long sleeves. I agree that they don't pair well with cardigans, but then, just don't wear them with cardigans. They are good for spring and fall in California, though not so much for summer and winter.

  2. Anonymous6:10 AM

    i'm a big fan of the 3/4 sleeve. i live in the middle east and find that they're perfect for spring, early summer, and early fall. further, i often find myself in situations where i need to be dressed "modestly." the 3/4 sleeve is acceptable yet more comfortable than long sleeves. turns out keeping my forearms cool makes a difference!


  4. Anonymous8:46 AM

    I hate 3/4 sleeves too, and have been feeling so alone in my disgust at them. I have skinny arms, and they look so stupid on me. It seems like a plot to scam women out of their fair share of fabric.

  5. They don't look good or fit everybody. Whoever thinks this is naïve. I have longer than "average" arms and they hit me IN the elbow. Try wearing a rubber band around your elbow all day! I hate them! Manufacturer are using them to save money instead of long sleeves. I used to be able to buy "long" sleeves and call them 3/4 sleeves but now I can't do that as it is difficult to even find "long" sleeves. I am so tired of the "one size fits all" mentality. Tall women have no chance in the fashion world. Don't let all the tall models fool you. Their clothing is custom made to look good on them. They can't buy "off-the-shelf". HELP!

  6. Anonymous6:14 PM

    They look crappy on everyone, sorry. The people who think they look good are deluding themselves. Those sleeves make you look dreadful and sloppy.

  7. Omg yes I despise 3/4 sleeves! Especially due to trying to put on a jacket over them. Shirts should always come with full length sleeves... The people who want 3/4 could easily chop and hem their sleeves, but it is much harder to make something full length again!