From the look of the spring shows in New York, Milan and Paris last month, fashion has had an awakening. Designers who routinely cater to stringy adolescents, or parade arm-baring sheaths that only Michelle Obama could love, suddenly seemed to get that their most devoted clients women well over 40 with upscale tastes and incomes to match view the first ladys biceps with serious pangs of envy.
This year a handful of tastemakers, among them Dries Van Noten, Joseph Altuzarra, Karl Lagerfeld and even the perennially youth-conscious Marc Jacobs, finally acknowledged those customers, offering them camouflage in the shape of sleeves.
Long scarce on the runways, caped sleeves, belled and puffed variations (Chanel, Bottega Veneta, Celine), bracelet sleeves (Marni), butterfly sleeves (Narciso Rodriguez) and those extending to the wrists (Balenciaga, in lace, and Proenza Schouler, paired with a flared slit skirt) have returned in force.
The resurgence of the slightly more demure look may well owe a debt to the Duchess of Cambridge, who flits around London with her arms discreetly covered. Or, perhaps, to a belated recognition that much of high fashions fan base is in the Middle East.
Whatever the impetus, frocks with sleeves are likely to give more-revealing styles a run for the money in the spring not just on the runways but also in mainstream stores.
Retailers like Nordstrom, Gap and Bloomingdales are showcasing dresses with sleeves on their websites.
And by next season, presumably, a wardrobe feature that once telegraphed matron, or (shudder) mother of the bride, will have acquired a bracing dose of cool.