One of my favorite scenes in the Anne of Green Gables miniseries produced in the 1980s was when Matthew (Anne’s male guardian) bought her a dress with puffed sleeves. Matthew comments on the puffed sleeves, and Anne says, “The puffiest in the world.” Oh, yeah. That’s what I’m talking about.
Puffed, gigot, and leg o’ mutton sleeves were all very voluminous and popular in the 1890s. The term “leg o’ mutton” comes from shape of a leg of lamb, bulbous at one end and narrow at the other like a turkey drumstick. Even though the shapes are very similar, I still find it peculiar to name a sleeve after an animal part that is used for food. But no one asked me when naming the gloriously poofy sleeves.
Sleeves are often a key fashion element of a garment that creates the overall silhouette. Puffed sleeves have come and gone from fashion over the decades and centuries. Puffy sleeves can be seen in the 1830s, 1850s, 1890s, 1930s, 1980s, and apparently, as of Spring and Summer 2021, puffed sleeves are back once again.
I often wondered how they managed to keep historical puffed sleeves puffy. The trick was the “sleeve puffs” or “plumpers.” These were pillow-like things stuffed with down or feathers that were slipped around the arm and tied in place on the corset to keep them from slipping down. Light weight, yet poofy. Perfect.
In my novel The Débutante’s Secret that releases in August, I gave my heroine my love of puffed sleeves. My story takes place in the 1890s. The decade started out with relatively slim sleeves and bloomed from there, getting puffier and puffier. Some were so big, they bordered on absurd.
My down-to-earth hero (a deputy) in The Débutante’s Secret doesn’t understand the heroine’s sleeve choice, but he’s impressed by how she manages to effortlessly maneuver her massive sleeves through a doorway without them even touching the door frame. I, too, had wondered how it could done, so I put myself in my heroine’s sleeves and proceeded to mentally walk through a doorway. Since she usually wore this style of sleeves, she wouldn’t have any trouble navigating through a doorway.
I’m secretly pleased that puffy sleeves are back. Shhhhh. Don’t tell anyone.
Do you like puffed sleeves?
***NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER***THE DÉBUTANTE'S SECRET (Quilting Circle 4)
Will Geneviève open her heart to a love she never imagined?
Washington State 1894
Geneviève Marseille has one purpose in coming to Kamola—stopping her brother from digging up the past. Deputy Montana has lived a simple life. But when a fancy French lady steps off the train and into his arms, his modest existence might not be enough anymore. A nemesis from Aunt Henny's past arrives in town threatening her with jail. Will she flee as she’d done all those years ago, or stand her ground in the town she’s made her home? When secrets come out, will the lives of Geneviève, Montana, and Aunt Henny ever be the same?