When Three-Quarters is More than Enough

By Lauren P. MacLellan

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In times when trends become less than flattering – somewhere between dropped-crotch pants and see-through skirts – it’s easy to think trendy and classically flattering are polar opposites. But one flick of the wrist can renew your faith in fashion trendsetters. If you’re wondering how to embrace a timeless (flattering) piece in a fresh way, just look below the elbow for a three-quarter sleeve.  

Even without a full arm's length, the three-quarter style has plenty of tricks up its slightly shorter sleeve. For starters, this cropped length celebrates accessories. That favourite bangle will never get lost, that priceless heirloom watch will never be hidden. Suddenly with a peek of bare skin jewellery of all kinds can properly shine.

This length isn’t just for sparkle; it comes backed by science, both modern and Renaissance. Renaissance artists, like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, believed beauty was a matter of scientific proportion, a mathematical combination of shapes that balance and create sight lines to create a more flattering image. The three-quarter sleeve falls just below the natural waist creating the illusion of a smaller mid-section. This is why the three-quarter sleeve is most often referred to as the universally flattering length, but few know it’s a matter of art. Modern science, however, proves the most undervalued trait of the three-quarter-length sleeve, thermoregulation! Fashionistas have argued style for decades, but no one can argue getting flattering coverage without overheating is a fashion miracle. When upper arms begin to show natural signs of the passage of time, a three-quarter sleeve comes to the rescue keeping you looking – and feeling – cool.

The important thing to remember is that you are not trapped by a ribbed cuff. A traditional cardigan is not the only way to explore this artful cut. Try out some of these must-have takes on the three-quarter-length sleeve for a chic look.


A staple of old Hollywood sophistication, this billowing sleeve gathers to a structured cuff. A favourite of Elizabeth Taylor’s this dramatic look in a three-quarter style gives you just the right amount of drama without feeling overwhelmed by fabric.


A romantic ruffle delicately encircles the shortened cuff and adds playful movement to any outfit. While the full-length poet sleeve can exude stuffy Victorian style, a shortened version creates a flirty modern take.


This wide, geometric style gracefully cuts away from the body and stays wide until the cuff for a flowing effect. The soft draping not only leaves a lot of room for comfort, but its playful movement makes for quite an entrance.

The Breakfast At Tiffany’s Jacket

Possibly the most iconic three-quarter-length look is as stylish today as it was when it first debuted. Audrey Hepburn’s fabulous array of three-quarter-length wool jackets remain a sought-after essential and she gave us the perfect styling idea to tailor this look for winter – gloves. Whether you prefer the edginess of leather, simple cashmere or a rich velvet, a full-length glove takes a cropped jacket into a winter-ready red-carpet look.

We are often so caught up and often scared by the increasingly difficult-to-wear trends, we forget the powerful appeal of proportion. Yet with a stylized three-quarter sleeve, you do not have to choose between fashion-forward and figure-flattering options. Go ahead, be daring, and flash a little wrist.


february 2017 INSPIRED senior living


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