What's Up Your Sleeve?

Be it a sari’s blouse, a lehenga’s choli, a kurta or a jacket, a lot of embroidery — and thought — has been lavished on the good ol’ sleeve, making it a fashion must this season

What's Up Your Sleeve?
A model in a design by Anju Modi
Think long sari blouse and you zoom in on 1950s in general and Nutan in Anari (1959) in particular. Considering fashion is nothing but recycled trends, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that long sleeves are trending again. Perhaps brought to focus by Sonakshi Sinha’s Pakhi, who graced the length of Lootera (2013) in those graceful long sleeved blouses. The devil, though, is in the detail. Literally. This time round, long sleeves come embellished in every possible way — cut-worked, embroidered, laced up, beaded.

It seems the upcoming winter/festive season has only spurred our designers to think up ways to present the long sleeve on a couture platter. A number of them who showcased their collections at the recent India couture week (ICW) paid particular attention to sleeves. Be it a sari’s blouse, a lehnga’s choli or an accompanying jacket, a lot of embroidery — and thought — has been lavished on the good ol’ sleeve. While everyone experimented with cuts and patterns in their blouses/cholis/anarkalis by making them high-neck, backless or embroidered, the sleeves remained long and embellished.

“Elbow-length and full-length sleeves are definitely back in vogue. Especially for evening ensembles,” says Sulakshana Monga, who has used gold silk coated fabrics with zardozi and silver thread embroidery in her latest line.

Varun Bahl’s India Moderne is partial towards long sleeves as well. “No doubt, sleeves are preferred in winter/festive collections for practical reasons, but they are mostly used because they add grace to an outfit.” Bahl adorns his sleeves with his signature rose motif, dainty appliques in velvet, and intricate hand-embroideries, among others, and set them on traditional silhouettes like sari, anarkali and lehenga.

Bahl, whose penchant for detailed sleeves is apparent in almost all his collections, confesses his love for all its avatars, “I personally have always preferred sleeves as they make the outfits look elegant; especially Indian garments. Sleeve is the element that can be played with in many interesting ways, as it can completely change the way an outfit looks,” he says.

According to Bahl, sheer sleeves bring a contemporary appeal to an outfit. They also help in making the wearer look leaner. “Beautifully embroidered sleeves enhance the overall look which you will see in my collection, specially with the timeless damask motif,” says Bahl.

However, Monga cautions that the weight of the work and its placement are crucial. “Embroidery and embellishment on shoulders work really well since the area does not have that much movement compared to the elbow. Therefore, one can wear a light full-sleeved sheer organza or net sleeved garment in the day or in summer too.”

Anju Modi’s vintage collection, Manikarnika, incorporates patterned full-sleeve blouses that are teamed with dhoti pants, saris and lehnga skirts. “We used a lot of ivory threadwork on sheer net that weren’t lined to give an elegant and delicate look. Some of our pieces also used metal embroidery, sitara gold work and gold patina work on pure silk,” explains Modi.

Most of the blouses (even cropped tops used as blouses) included heavy embellishments and were encrusted with zardozi, crystals and beads.

Rina Dhaka has turned a specially made gota patti, set against a lace like background, into sleeves of blouses and capes and teamed them with lehengas and shararas for that east meets west silhouette.

The moral of the story, in case you are wondering: go get yourself a long-sleeved outfit, if you haven’t one already. This trend is timeless, as it chants the perfect fashion forever mantra — ancient yet modern.



  • Air India is a reminder that government should not dilly-dally on tough decisions

    Finance minister Arun Jaitley recently hinted that the government was open to selling its stake in perennially loss making national carrier, Air India


Stay informed on our latest news!


Sandeep Bamzai

Freedom Files : Creating a communal cleave

The Nawab of Bhopal Sir Hafiz Hamidullah Khan, saboteur ...

Gautam Datt

Cattle cauldron simmers: Govt mulling order rework

Ban on sale of cattle for slaughter at animal markets ...

Rajgopal Nidamboor

Live life to its fullest potential

Life is full of charm. Yet, we don’t often discern ...