Bell sleeves began making their way into western fashion during the Medieval Era. At first, the sleeve style was only seen on garments for the clergy. They wore a robe known as a chasuble, which featured very large, wide bell sleeves that arched on the sides. However, the religious connotations quickly dissolved, and by the 1500’s the style had been snapped up by the wealthy.
Royalty and nobility adopted the bell sleeve with a dramatic flair. With most fashions of this era, the rule was “the bigger the better,” and sleeves were no exception. The upper class donned wide, draping sleeves, often embellished with fur or embroidery for good measure. The look was especially popular with French nobility. Anne of Brittany, the queen of France at the time, was a notable proponent of this trend.