Just WTH On The Bell Sleeve & Other Fashion Crimes

Retail sales in women’s fashion have been sluggish for a couple of years. Even the mom stalwarts like J. Crew, Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic have been seriously struggling and I know why. Don’t blame Internet commerce giant Amazon or outdated malls that no one wants to go to anymore. Instead retailers need to blame their clothes.

This isn’t me being grumpy because I can’t wear a “toothpick jean in chimney wash.” And by wear I mean the jean wouldn’t go above my mid calf and just in case you’re thinking what in the world is chimney wash. The best I can figure out is it’s fashion lingo for slacks made out of scraps of denim. (Yeah, I could have said pants, but in an homage to my mother I went with slacks.)

Lest you think my not exactly slender body is to blame please note that last year Banana Republic confirmed it made a blazer that women couldn’t fit their arms into. Yes, you read that correctly. They were selling an item of clothing that was unwearable unless you had arms the width of an American Girl doll. Surprise, surprise, the blazer and Banana Republic’s sales tanked.

This spring as I peruse the offerings at women’s clothing stores I’m mystified at a lot of the clothing designs especially the tops. My personal fashion nemesis is the bell sleeve.

Who in their right mind wants to wear a blouse in the summer with sleeves so huge they could do double duty as sails on a clipper ship? Are we landed gentry from the 1850’s with nary a thing to do except pass the time by sipping tea on the veranda while fanning ourselves with our huge sleeves?

I will concede that the bell sleeve with it’s extraneous fabric does come in handy for nose wiping, cleaning up spills (but alas so do Bounty paper towels) and drying your tears from the pain caused when the sleeve the size of a beach towel gets stuck in your car door.

Another fashion design that has me shaking my head are off the shoulder tops. They are everywhere this spring. From chambray to silk – you name it. It’s a shoulder-blade free for all. My issue with the off the shoulder top is multi faceted. 1) It’s being marketed as work attire. 2) The design of the top mandates you go bra free. 3) See number one. But, wait there’s more because 4) you can’t freaking move in the top.

Okay, correction you can move, but your upper body range of motion is limited as in good luck raising your arms. If you dare to throw caution to the wind and, I don’t know, wave hello to someone it’s brace for a wardrobe malfunction. To avoid that worst case scenario you spend most of your time in the top yanking on the elastic to ensure it doesn’t stray into the unmentionable zone.

Then there’s the Frankenstein of tops – the “cold shoulder.” (Literally that’s the design name.) Think off the shoulder with long bell sleeves that feature gaping holes, sorry cutouts, to reveal your upper arm. The blouse looks like Edward Scissorhands took a turn at designing. It would be more flattering to just stay in your pajamas.

Now, I know I’m no fashionista, but mark my words come July there will be oodles of clearance racks jammed with these blouses (and chimney washed toothpick jeans). Meanwhile, women’s clothing retailers will bemoan their lackluster sales when what they really need to be doing is thinking about designing clothes that don’t look like something a serving wench would wear after getting in a sword fight with two out of three musketeers.

The whole thing makes me want to take a bell sleeve and slap someone with it.

11 thoughts on “Just WTH On The Bell Sleeve & Other Fashion Crimes

  1. momonthedge says:

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! I do not understand any of these trends, especially the cold shoulder. Love seeing the 70-year-old grande dames at church sporting those–NOT!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Yes yes yes on the cutout shoulders! Just why? As far as the bell sleeves, I am actually just thrilled to find any nice shirt with actual sleeves! I do not like to show my upper arms, so I NEVER wear sleeveless shirts. Until very recently when I finally found a very lightweight white sweater I can wear over said sleeveless shirts. And besides, I also differ from a gap under the arms because I am a bustier woman, and so any blouse I find to accommodate “the girls” is too big under the arms. Ugh! I hate shopping.

  3. Jan says:

    Haha! I should show my orthopedic surgeon those feet and shoe picures. Between 2 surgeries on my foot, I’ve done 20 weeks in a hard cast on crutches, non-weight bearing, just to try and make my foot somewhat like the peasant foot on the left. (It started out looking worse.) After that, it was weeks of a walking boot/air cast. There is no way in the world I’d ever dream of trying to stuff my foot in a high heel now, even though they ‘might’ even fit into one! I love pretty shoes but have been resigned to Birkenstocks for years and years. Getting my foot into a running shoe that feels comfortable would even make me smile. I’m not going to go back to being unable to walk because of shoes! Besides, next he has to begin wotking on the other foot.

    As a kid, my mom despaired over finding shoes that fit me (she suggested a shoe BOX with laces would work better). Manufacturers make these shoes because someone out there with tiny narrow feet keeps buying them. The worst part? That person just might be my twin sister!!! 😭 So unfair.

  4. irreverendt says:

    Soooooooooooo glad to see women complaining about these “fashion” trends. The first time I saw the cut out shoulder look i thought is was from Victoria’s Secret. Then they began to appear in every biker bar, er ah, trendy establishment. Ladies, just don’t go there. Believe me

  5. JanetB says:

    “what they really need to be doing is thinking about designing clothes that don’t look like something a serving wench would wear after getting in a sword fight with two out of three musketeers.” LOL!! My laugh of the day! My three daughters love when I’m shopping and try on the trends just for laughs. I’m all over their Snapchat with laughy faces as I model the ridiculous floral shirts with the bell sleeves. No one should be wearing them, but especially not moms in my age group. I want a nice higher neckline and three quarter length sleeves in pretty fabrics!! Is that so hard to come up with? It’s what we look good in and I have to dig and shop and shop to maybe come up with one. Great article. I won’t even start on the shoes, but oh, man …..

  6. Blythe Asher says:

    the bell sleeve and the cut out shoulders are actually heaven sent for me. I have lymphedema and so my arm swells and I have to wear compression sleeves (due to breast cancer surgery). Both styles are perfect for me because I can still look pretty/ show some skin while covering up my hideous arm. Much prefer these looks to tank tops!!

  7. phyllisbrowne45 says:

    As I have gotten older, I don’t bother shopping in stores-online is so much easier. The downside is that I don’t actually know how well the pieces will fit or even look. I find I keep ordering the same items over and over because I know they work. I wear plus sizes-don’t even get me started on the crappy fabrics and stupid prints these companies sell.

  8. Fiona Stenton says:

    Not top related. My daughter bought a pair of jeans that had that many cuts and tears on it I thought they might fall off.

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