This week I am focusing in on the use of short sleeves and loose sleeves on dresses in the medieval/early renaissance period, particularly in the 1400’s, give or take a few years. It seems like unlike earlier periods it became common to have short sleeves on the outer dress with a shift or an underdress beneath it. I am mostly looking at this using visual source material, such as paintings and drawings. I am mostly interested in Northen Europe. I am aware that short sleeves is a thing earlier in southern Europe. All pictures have the source in the description, so please click them to see the large version.
The combination of a short sleeve or no sleeve and a pinned loose sleeve gives the wearer more options to cheaply update the look of a dress, which is why I think the fashion choose arose. You can quickly and cheaply make a new loose sleeve and change it out if something else stricks your fancy. You can also take the loose sleeve off if it is too warm or unpractical to wear it. We also see quite a few short sleeve without an added loose sleeve but instead with very pretty edges in fur or patterned bands. The short sleeved dress gives your dress more edges. It also allows you to show off your fabulous expensive shift you are wearing underneath. It is important to note that the short sleeve are by no means universel or the only style worn in this period, but is the one I am currently interested in. If you want to take a look at the broader fashion history of the period take a look at the what the female fashion of the middle ages looked like. I am planing a post on the 1400’s at some point, but I have not gotten to it just yet.
Women raking hay work barefoot and wear their kirtles looped up over long-sleeved linen smocks, c. 1415
Early example of the style: Loose green overdress with sleeve that hit the elbow. All the edges of the dress are edge in white fur. It looks to maybe be a open robe rather than a dress. Under the green robe, she is wearing a red dress and a white shift is peeking out underneath.
Another early example: Here the lady is wearing a dress with pinned red loose sleeves on top. Her white shift peeks out over the top of the dress, but not at the sleeves, which makes me think that the dress has sleeves. The dress it self has a tight bodies, however the belt is hanging very loose around her hips. Her loose sleeves are only tight at the wrist.
Abegg Triptych Rogier van der Weyden Date: c.1445
The Annunciation Rogier van der Weyden Date: 1440
Lady in a blue dress. From the look of it the dress is sleeveless. She wears pinned loose sleeves in a beautiful brocade fabric. Under the dress she wears a white shift that peaks out at the edge of the sleeve and over collar of the blue dress.
Red short sleeved dress with yellow loose sleeves and a white shift. The dress is form fitting and worn with a loose belt around the waist.
Saint John Altarpiece Rogier van der Weyden Date: 1455 – 1460
Lady in a green(?) dress without sleeves. Her loose sleeve are tight and the same colour as the dress. They look to be attached with buttons. Under the dress she wears a loose white shift made from a lot of fabric. Also notich her wide belt.
A late example. Her the lady is wearing a short sleeved dress over an under dress. The overdress is edged in something – possibly lace.