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What is a Three-Quarter Sleeve?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 21, 2024
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A three-quarter sleeve is one of the types of sleeves considered the most comfortable to wear. It fits just below the elbow, so it eliminates the need to keep pushing it up to that level, as often happens when a long-sleeved top or sweater is worn. When cooking or doing other tasks with the hands, a three-quarter sleeve won't get in the way.

Both dressy and casual garments can have a three-quarter length of sleeve. For example, a drop shouldered top with bat wing sleeves that end at the elbow is an informal look, while the same sleeve length in a fitted lace gown is suitable for a formal wedding. Many people like the comfort of the three-quarter fit as long as it allows for ease of movement at the elbows.

When wide, these below-the-elbow length sleeves have the look of a short kimono sleeve. Narrower three-quarter sleeve designs are often seen in casual wear such as T-shirts. A V-neck, three-quarter sleeved style and the raglan sleeve T-shirt are especially common. Raglan T-shirts are also called "baseball shirts." Raglan shirts have three-quarter sleeves that attach at the neckline; the sleeve color often differs from that of the main shirt for contrast.

Men's and women's shirt styles both suit the three-quarter sleeve. For men, the look is usually a casual one. Sweaters and lightweight pullover shirts are the most likely types of men's tops to feature three-quarter sleeves. Women's mid-arm sleeve length tops may be dressy or casual depending on the fabric used.

Sleeving that is mid-arm like the three-quarter sleeve can be season-spanning. While shorter sleeves are associated with warm weather and longer sleeve types with cold seasons, three-quarter sleeves can look stylish anytime. As they leave the lower arms bare, three-quarter sleeves are the ideal length for calling attention to a beautiful accessory such as a sparkling gemstone bracelet.

As an alternative to short and long sleeves, the three-quarter sleeve tends to be more flattering to many different body types. It disguises heavy or flabby upper arms as well as dry or darkened elbows. For many people, their lower arms are much more attractive than the upper sections; a three-quarter sleeve shirt flatters them in the appropriate places. Choosing three-quarter sleeves in sweaters and shirts is also beneficial for body types with shorter limbs since full length sleeves may be too long and extend onto the tops of the hands.

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Discussion Comments
By Cabe — On Feb 12, 2020

There is no real fashion history for three-quater length sleeves and they appear to be a modern invention made mostly for convenience, and for women who cleaned or had to always have their hands in water throughout the day and so did not have to keep rolling up their sleeves!

They were also for economy. Both in the amount of material used and the effect of that amount on final cost of garment, so possibly for the less affluent population.

Flattery of body type is subjective and they tend to mostly flatter only chunky arms and are not helpful in cold weather or for those with long slim forearms or wrists.

People exploited the length by saying it was to 'show off jewellery' possibly at a time in the 20th Centuary where wealth was needed to impress, and hence the popularity of them grew.

In this day and age they are considered 'old-fashioned' and tend to be favored by older women. But in this day and age also women are no longer tied to the sink, do not need to impress anyone with their jewellery and Lol, I can afford long sleeves!

By comfyshoes — On Aug 15, 2011

I love three quarter length tops. They are so comfortable and I can wear them regardless if the weather is warm or not and it always looks stylish. I really don’t like my arms and this way I can cover them without getting too hot.

I also like to wear these tops with leggings or Capri pants and a pair of flat sandals. It really is a comfortable and casual look that I can wear to go to most places.

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