Northern Threads: The rise and fall of the gigot sleeve

In the late 1820s and 1830s, fashion embraced romantic ideals and drew inspiration from the Renaissance. The period’s most iconic element was the voluminous balloon-like gigot sleeve. A resemblance to a leg of lamb or mutton, a common sight at dinner tables of the day, led to the style’s elegant name, gigot, the French word for this cut of meat.

The gigot sleeve evolved through several variations. Balloon-like puffs progressed from shoulder level, then down the arm in diminishing sizes until the style faded away around 1837, replaced by a straight sleeve. The gigot made a short-lived resurgence in the 1890s. Large upper sleeves returned again in the 1980s, and occasionally make an appearance in today’s fashions. The 1830s gigot style is strongly represented in the Maine Historical Society collection.

Gigot (pronounced zhee-go) sleeves varied in shape and size. The full gigot, also known as a true gigot, and the demi-gigot sleeve are both well represented in the Maine Historical Society collection. The full gigot sleeve was full throughout, narrowing at the wrist. The demi-gigot (a variation pictured in the painting at right) included balloon-like puffs, but straight from about the elbow down. The demi-gigot went through several iterations, most voluminous in the early 1830s.

This gigot sleeve vignette is part of Northern Threads: Two centuries of dress at Maine Historical Society, a two-part exhibition at MHS in 2022. See the gigot sleeve portion, or the full exhibit online using the links below.

Return to Part I

Return to Part I

Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

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