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What is a Raglan Sleeve?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 21, 2024
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A raglan sleeve is often used when making items of clothing such as sweatshirts, certain types of jerseys, and other sportswear. The construction is different from that of typical shirt sleeves, because it has a seam that goes from the underarm straight to the neckline. A raglan sleeve is only one piece, instead of several pieces sewn together and attached to the shell of the garment. This style makes shirts easy to move around in and very comfortable. There is no shoulder seam in a garment with this type of sleeve.

Shirts made with the raglan sleeve design tend to be more casual. T-shirts with short or three-quarter length sleeves are often made this way. In many cases, the sleeve is made from fabric of a different color than the rest of the shirt, creating a sporty look. For even more visual interest, each raglan sleeve may be a different color, while still another color is used for the front and back pieces of the shirt.

Maternity clothes can also benefit from raglan sleeves. This sleeve design works well with the loose, free flowing styles of tops and dresses for expectant mothers. The raglan design also works well for plus size clothing.

The raglan sleeve is popular because it is a simpler design to sew than the standard sleeve. Some people who sew their own clothes prefer it to the typical sleeve design because it requires less stitching and is less time consuming. It is also a preferred style for knitting and crocheting sweaters, due to its simplicity and the relatively short time it takes to complete.

Many types of jackets and coats have raglan sleeves due to the fact that they provides more room. This style is common in letterman jackets, for example. This sleeve is wider in the underarm area than other sleeve designs, and the rest of the sleeve fits loosely as well; both of these features allow for freer movement of the arms. The additional space also allows a person to wear bulky sweaters or layered clothing comfortably under a jacket with raglan sleeves.

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Discussion Comments
By anon998431 — On Jun 10, 2017

Very helpful. Thank you.

By Oceana — On Apr 12, 2012

I never realized that the reason sweatshirts are so roomy and comfy is the sleeve design. Now that I think about it, all of my sweatshirts do have a diagonal seam that goes right from the armpit to the neck.

I've always been able to fit at least two shirts under my sweatshirts without feeling packed in too tightly. I'm sure that whoever came up with the raglan sleeve design considered this.

Sweatshirts are good to wear when working out on cold days, too. Instead of getting soaked with sweat, your body has room to breathe, and the sweat can evaporate and cool you off, thanks to the raglan sleeve.

By OeKc05 — On Apr 12, 2012

I like those sporty looking raglan sleeve t-shirts that people wear to games or around the house. They are so comfortable. Maybe it's just because everyone I've seen wearing one has been lounging around, but I associate them with being relaxed.

I have a gray t-shirt with elbow-length orange sleeves. It also has the number 9 in orange on the front. I have no idea what it means, but I just like the way it's made.

I also have one made the same way that is a bit dressier. It has the feel of a jersey-style t-shirt, but I can wear it to work or out on a date. It has a light blue body that fades to dark blue, and designs are embroidered in dark blue thread along the bottom. The sleeves are also dark blue.

By wavy58 — On Apr 12, 2012

@seag47 – I know what you mean. I can't stand long-sleeve shirts that fit snugly against my underarms. I tend to sweat a lot anyway, and I hate it when wet spots appear on my clothes.

All of my favorite shirts have raglan sleeves. I have been able to find several three-quarter length raglan sleeve sweaters, and I never get sweat stains when wearing these.

My best friend is a seamstress, and I had complained to her years ago about garments that fit tight under the arm. She let me in on the secret of raglan sleeves, and I've been hooked ever since.

By seag47 — On Apr 11, 2012

Some of the more tight-fitting, stylish women's jackets do not have raglan sleeves. I cannot stand to wear these jackets, because I get very cold in the winter, and I have to layer up. I cannot fit layers of clothing under these jackets.

I always search for a coat with raglan sleeves. I am extremely cold-natured, and my coworkers simply do not turn up the heat high enough for me.

I usually wear thermal underwear, a thin long-sleeve shirt, and a sweater on top. I need lots of room, especially in the underarm area, because I can't stand for my clothes to be pressed up against my skin there, since it makes me sweat more.

By mitchell14 — On Jul 19, 2010

I also like knitting styles raglan sleeves, for cardigans as well as pullovers. They’re simpler to make and a versatile style than holds up well with use.

By widget2010 — On Jul 19, 2010

Once you get the hang of it, raglan sleeves are indeed a nice choice for knitted garments, since they usually are simpler and faster to make than traditional sleeves. Raglan sleeves also add a unique look to sweaters, since they are less commonly used in store-bought garments.

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