Soup may be off the menu at stylish tables this party season. What with fashion’s fondness for extra-long sleeves – some so long that they trail off the wearer’s arm towards the floor – attempting to eat anything liquid could prove messy.
This is a trend seen recently on the catwalk – brands including Acne, Balenciaga and Givenchy featured models wearing oversized sleeves. It’s also one worn by celebrities. Alexa Chung has been spotted in a shirt with gigantic hand-covering cuffs, while the new Doctor Who, Ncuti Gatwa, wore a long coat at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, with sleeves covering his hands. The trend is Gen Alpha-approved. 10-year-old North West, the daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, is pictured in a sweater with extra-long sleeves in i-D magazine this month.
This is a look that is available for those without Kardashian budgets, though. Brands including Raey, COS and Other Stories have items with long sleeves currently. Jigsaw’s collection with designer Roksanda Ilinčić, released this month, made longer sleeves a theme across colourful knits. And shopping vintage – but sizing up – is, of course, a very viable option here.
The extra-long sleeve has been a quirk loved by fashion for a few years – The New York Times reported on “fashion that doesn’t let you use your hands” in 2016, while Vogue noted long sleeves as a fashion editor favourite during fashion week in 2022 – but this winter it seems to have reached another peak. Combining the ‘cosy girl’ aesthetic popular on TikTok with 90s pedigree (Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, for example, was a proponent of knitwear that covered hands), it’s a detail that chimes with fashion now.
The “cosy girl” became popular last winter, and the “cozygirl” hashtag now has 29.4m views on TikTok. The aesthetic prioritises comfort and a hygge-style homebody feel, with 90s romcoms such as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail the references. For clothes, it chiefly centres around cream-coloured knitwear and oversized coats, with sleeves that often fall far over the wearer’s hand. If Meg Ryan is the retro icon, Katie Holmes has become the more modern style inspiration. This week, Vogue declared she was “in full ‘cosy-girl’ mode”.
Less cosy girl and more glamorous, the designer Nensi Dojaka, whose London-based label is a favourite of celebrities like Dua Lipa and Rihanna, has made longer sleeves a signature of her look. “We have always been very specific about sleeve lengths,” she says. “Usually, we go for a longer sleeve that covers the knuckles because it adds a layer of sensuality to the wearer’s attitude as well as subtly elongating your arms and silhouette.”
Dojaka is known for her evening dresses that subvert assumptions of what female sexuality looks like. She prefers longer sleeves because it is not what is expected for this category – one which often centres around putting skin on show. “It’s unexpected to see long sleeves in after-dark dressing as, typically, we would go for a slip dress without any sleeves,” she says. “Perhaps they evoke a bit of mystery.” The fact that they keep hands warm – and cosy – as temperatures drop is an added bonus.