Gigot (aka leg-of-mutton) sleeves were a defining feature of mid-1890s style and as with all fashion trends, they could get somewhat excessive. Here is some commentary on this trend from the October 7, 1894 edition of the Los Angeles Times:
Today the big sleeve is declared possible in any material, its chief uses being to broaden the shoulders and give the waist that effect of a wasp-like slimness so much desired. Diaphanous textiles, too, have taken the place of tho stately gilt and sliver spun brocades, and the girl whose wardrobe docs not Include at least two bodices of transparent stuffs can safely be said to be outside the pale of fashion.
The foundations of a sleeve in any of the gauzy webs now fashionable, does not begin, as one would naturally think, with a simple silk lining. It Is a complicated and awe-Inspiring affair, and often calls for considerable thinking, no matter how accomplished the builder. First, there is a smallish lining in some soft, dainty silk: this covered by a huge one, puffed, folded and pleated in heavier silk or satin, which in turn, is interlined with stiff tarleton or crinoline, and perhaps padded at shoulders or bunched with
concealing looseness at the lower arm…
On this ballooned or mutton-legged structure, the chiffon or mousseline de sole ties in bows or knots or fall in graceful, drifting folds, or is, perhaps, cunningly captioned with hidden tackings to look for all tho world like a furniture covering!
It’s interesting that the trend is said to have started with using heavy silk brocade, often in metallic, but then expanded to using lighter fabrics, that utilized a complex construction process. Ultimately, sleeve styles were part of a greater whole, serving to help define an overall look which, in this case, was the wasp-waist:
In the course of creating our designs, we have drawn on a wide variety of period sources and especially ones that speak to us across the years such as in the case of commentary from those who were living in the era. As we come across more interesting items of this nature, we’ll be sharing them with you all here. 🙂