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Fancy shirting, with its bell sleeves, extra ruffles, and random ties and sashes, captured the imagination of fashion designers and fast-fashion executives with such a fervor in 2017 that you’d be hard-pressed to go anywhere without encountering one of them in the wild. (You might have an even harder time finding just a plain old normal shirt.)
Whether you love the look or hate it — or maybe love and hate it like my co-worker Rebecca, who wrote a rebuttal to her own takedown of The Shirts — it’s here to stay. In fact, it’s spreading to other articles of clothing.
While scoping out new arrivals for our fall shopping guide, I noticed something alarming in the sweater section of many of the stores I surveyed. There were some classic crewneck and turtleneck options, sure, but more often than not, an otherwise ordinary sweater inexplicably featured something a little too extra. And just like it did with The Shirts, it’s starting at the sleeves. There’s a long tie at the wrist, or a little flare, or a big, unabashed, voluminous bell sleeve that definitely wasn’t there last season. When done right, it looks cool — have you seen Uniqlo’s new collab with JW Anderson??! — but when done wrong, it just looks... wrong.
Exhibit A: The fancy, ’70s-ish puff-sleeved sweaters at Doen. For me at least, these sweaters walk the line — the ruffles here are pretty minimal, the photos are lovely, and the model looks great, but I’m pretty sure that I would look ridiculous in a sweater with princess sleeves that big. (How do you put a coat on over that? Do I need to get a bell-sleeved coat?) Several of the styles are sold out, so maybe I’m alone in my skepticism.
Exhibit B: The sweater section at Eloquii turns up the heat a bit. It sees Doen’s puff sleeves and raises them all kinds of bell sleeves, ruffles, cut-outs, and too much other stuff to list. This one has only one sleeve. This one has ruffles, bell sleeves, stripes, and mesh shoulders. Seriously, I dare you to find a normal sweater here. (It can’t be done.)
Exhibit C: Club Monaco is running with this, too. The store can get a little Fashion for a mall brand, so I’m not that surprised that you can find more options with bows and ruffles on the sleeves, cold shoulders, no shoulders, bows up the back, and any combination of the above than you can just a nice, cozy, normal sweater.
Exhibit D: Gap! It’s subtle, but it’s happening. Here’s a cardigan with a weird extra sleeve ruffle. Here’s a sweater with bell sleeves and a hood. I don’t even really know how to describe this one. But once it’s infiltrated Gap, you know it’s coming for the rest of the world, too.
While most of these retailers still offer some regular crewnecks and V-necks, and none of these examples (except maybe Club Monaco) are at full-blown shirting level — yet — it’s probably only just a matter of time. My advice? Buy yourself a normal sweater while you still can.