I thought it would be like trying to play piano with gloves on.
May 17, 2017 3:03 AM   Subscribe

This is pretty cool - I especially like how, near the end of the article, she speculates about how fashion could be dictated by self-defense needs.
posted by Paladin1138 at 4:14 AM on May 17, 2017

I'm forwarding this to my rpg friends, too. Very cool.
posted by Mogur at 6:11 AM on May 17, 2017

Reminds of this article regarding how James Bonds suits are tailored for fight scenes. Great post!
posted by midmarch snowman at 6:23 AM on May 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I enjoyed this--as a seamstress currently struggling with vintage sleeves, I knew it would be sleeves and not really the armscye (the armhole). So you want the armscye to be as small and high as possible because that actually gives your arm the most freedom from constriction of the garment. But then you have to add the sleeve. Sleeves restrict arm motion unless they are voluminous or made in modern stretch fabrics with a wide, low sleeve cap (like a t-shirt). In which case, they still don't look tailored.

The sleeve is essentially a tube, attaching to the armscye, but our arms are not tubes and our arms don't move like tubes hanging off our shoulders. You have to modify the tube to give more range of motion. That is, modifying not the armscye but the sleeve cap. The sleeve cap is the rounded part of the sleeve tube that goes up over your shoulder when you connect the sleeve to the bodice (the distance from the side seam of the sleeve to the top of your shoulder is, of course, longer than the distance from the side seam of the sleeve to your armpit). In older garments--where there was more of a distinction (particularly for women) between leaving-the-house clothes and house-clothes--there is a very high sleeve cap. This makes the sleeve lie very smoothly against your shoulder when your arms are at your side or raised from the shoulder to about chest high but very much inhibits your ability to raise your arms higher than that. Kimono and other cut-in-one sleeves (pretty popular in the 40's and 50's by the way and less popular with the invention of stretch fabrics) help, as do gussets cut into the underside of the sleeve. Both, however create pooling of fabric under the arm when it's not lifted.

Houseclothes tended to have a sleeve attached to a dropped shoulder or a very wide, almost square, tube for the sleeve with a low sleeve cap. These tend to look relaxed or sloppy, depending on your perspective. They still pull the whole dress up when you reach over your head, but if the dress is not fitted through the waist (like a housedress would not be), it's not so problematic.

Other methods of bringing range of motion to fitted armscye and high sleeve cap sleeves create folds around the top of the shoulder no matter what the arm is doing, which never looks good. No matter what you do to improve range of motion, the whole bodice comes along when you raise the arm, which can be problematic.

In short, sleeves. They are vexing. And this was a great find. Thanks for sharing!
posted by crush at 6:35 AM on May 17, 2017 [27 favorites]

The little cartoon clip at the end was very satisfying to watch at the end of this article.
posted by aniola at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Relevant as the Suffregettes used a related martial art, jujitsu.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:08 AM on May 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was going to say about the suffragettes who did ju-jitsu. Karate in a dress is cool and all, but could she floor a policeman without disturbing her hat, like Edith Garrud? (Scroll for the pictures)

The point about restricted arm movement is well made though; if you look at 19th century women's fencing outfits (scroll down to get to the section on women) they vary a lot but all have generous upper arms to give that sort of movement.
posted by Vortisaur at 11:01 AM on May 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

crush: Thanks for the word armscye, which I'd never run into! The -scye part is Scots Sey n.3 "The arm-hole of the sleeve of a coat, jacket or dress" (Gen.Sc., in tailors' usage), of doubtful origin.
posted by languagehat at 11:28 AM on May 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

huh, interesting. I can never remember how to spell armscye, which I think of as "arm's eye" tho that makes no sense. I'd often wondered why it has a word other than armhole--interesting that it's the sane word as butcher's used for shoulder steak.
posted by crush at 11:38 AM on May 17, 2017

Well, it may or may not be; the DSL says "2., if not a different word, may be an extended usage from the corresponding part of the animal."
posted by languagehat at 11:50 AM on May 17, 2017

Ooh, I actually have one of the books she's written on my bookshelf.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:14 PM on May 17, 2017

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