The name “batwing” fittingly describes the look of the sleeve design which resembles a pair of bat wings. Such a batwing shirt is made with sleeves that are cut very deep and wide at the shoulder with the armholes of the shirt lengthening almost to the waist. Rather than have a sleeve that is shaped to the arm like a cylinder, the underarm portion of the shirt is dropped lower, toward the waist such it creates a triangular silhouette. There are variants versions of the attire having both long sleeved and short sleeved dresses.
In the fashion industry, a batwing sleeve is also known as the “dolman sleeve”. The design of the dolman sleeve was inspired by a type of robe worn in Turkey in the 18th century, which was a loose-fitting robe, almost cape-like in design with sleeves formed from the folds in the fabric. A dolman military jacket, patterned after the same type of design, was created as a formal addition to a uniform. In the early 20th century, the dolman sleeve found its way into women’s attire as an exotic, eastern influence. The appeal of the design was a flowing line, with more freedom of movement than other, tapered garment choices. By the 1940s, the style again resurfaced with more dramatic lines and squared shoulders. A dolman sleeved dress became one of the most popular pieces in a woman’s wardrobe. In the 1980s, the dolman transformed into the batwing sleeve and the design was incorporated into formal wear and sportswear. The versatility of the batwing shirt is one of the reasons that the style has continually resurfaced for centuries. Because the garment is both forgiving and flattering to a woman’s figure, the designs have been worked into a variety of looks for all body types.