The most fashionable emoji right now isn’t the dancing lady, or the face with the hearts for eyes. And it’s not the red balloon or the all-white heart (although fashion people do love the red balloon and the white heart). No, the most chic symbol on the keyboard is the muscly arm emoji with the mega-biceps that suggests itself when you type the word “strong”.
That emoji is the most on-trend silhouette of the season, a cut-out-and-keep template for your 2020 wardrobe. But don’t panic, because you will not be required to weightlift, nor exist on protein milkshakes. We’re talking Popeye sleeves, not Popeye arms. That’s the whole point of fashion, surely: you get your clothes to do the aesthetic heavy lifting for you.
The statement sleeve is turning out to be an unlikely long-running fashion hit. It first swept the catwalks back in 2016, mostly in the form of sleeves that were slender at the shoulder, but got bigger and more dramatic from below the elbow. Roksanda, in particular, nailed the way a bell- or tulip-shaped sleeve could transform a simple dress into something much more interesting. Catwalk names from Vetements to Jacquemus championed the ultra-long sleeve, and overnight the fashion week habit of grabbing a coffee between shows got a whole lot more challenging.
Big sleeve energy is different this year. The volume has moved up the sleeve; the effect is less floaty and romantic and more muscular. As I’m both practical and clumsy, this appeals to me because of the aforementioned coffee-dipping issue.
With this updated leg-of-mutton sleeve you get broad, sizeable shoulders, a bit like the look you would get from a shoulder-padded jacket. But because the shape is soft, the mood isn’t so serious, somehow – less 1980s power dressing, more of a modern, Batsheva-esque slant on 1880s prairie chic.
Big sleeve energy works for all ages and body shapes. And it is all the more cheering because it was not so long ago that fashion barely had any sleeves, let alone chic ones. In the power-shift days of early last decade, day dresses were mostly sleeveless, which meant a lot of goosebumps and cardigans on the backs of chairs. Sleeves make clothes more useful, which has to be a good thing, right? And these ones are particularly punchy.