A few special fashion trends are truly timeless, and my personal favorite is romance. It takes a different form every season, but over the past few years it’s all about head-turning sleeves.
Statement tops are a staple of my wardrobe, and today I wanted to hone in on one type that can feel challenging to wear: the puff sleeve. Here are 5 simple tips for styling puff sleeve tops and dresses, and a puff sleeve outfit I wore recently.
5 Tips for Styling a Puff Sleeve Top or Dress
1. Create Balance
Balance is all about creating equal visual weight throughout your outfit. Simply put, it’s making sure the outfit is pleasing to the eye.
In most cases, this translates to giving the eyes somewhere to rest. Just as you wouldn’t pair a dark smokey eye with a bold red lip because it’s too overwhelming, you wouldn’t pair a puff sleeve with a competing statement piece or really voluminous skirt.
2. Show Some Skin
Puff sleeves tend to cover your arms in fabric, so showing skin helps create that balance I mentioned above.
In the outfit I’m wearing in this post, the square neckline shows my décolletage and then there’s some ankle peeking out below the cropped denim.
When shopping the puff sleeve trend, try to look for square neck, v-neck, scoop neck, and sweetheart necklines to counter the extra coverage you’ll have at the arms. High neckline tops like this have a place and time but can quickly lean a bit prairie, in my opinion.
3. Do a Waist Check
Creating a waist isn’t necessary if you want a bohemian vibe like we often see from brands such as Doen and Zara.
However, if you want to create shape with a billowy top, tucking is a must! You could even tuck and belt to further accentuate the waist.
That being said, many puff sleeve tops and dresses come in at the waist (like the fitted bodice of my blouse and the smocking on this dress and this dress) so you don’t need to worry about creating one yourself!
4. Draw the Eyes Vertical
Puff sleeves draw the eyes left to right, so we want to draw the eyes vertically to create a lengthening effect.
Any point of interest that tells the eyes to travel up and down will work! In my outfit, the blue shoes and kick crop hem detail draw the eyes downward. Other options for my look could’ve been a headband (up), pointed toe pumps (down), and an asymmetrical skirt (down).
5. Forego the Jacket
This tip is obvious, but voluminous sleeves and jackets/coats/blazers are not friends!
On the bright side, this makes puff sleeve tops and dresses the perfect standalone pieces from late spring to early fall. See below for a few ways to wear them…
Outfit Details: Cara Cara Floral Puff Sleeve Top (similar, less expensive here), Rachel Comey Jeans (old, similar here), Club Monaco Sandals (old, similar here), Bambien Clutch
4 Puff Sleeve Top Outfit Ideas
- Relaxed with Denim: I love the relaxed feel denim gives a statement sleeve top. Draw the eyes vertical with shoes in a pop of color.
- With a Pencil Skirt for the Office: Try puff sleeves at the office by choosing a solid color or subdued pattern. Tuck the top into a pencil skirt and wear with pumps.
- Dressed Up for an Evening Out: Puff sleeves dress up beautifully when tucked into a skinny crop ankle pant or midi skirt (remember the skin rule). Finish the look with heels, fun jewelry, and a coordinating clutch.
- Boho Casual: I love pairing a billowy puff sleeve top with cutoffs on the weekend. Abandon the tuck, do a half tuck, or try a full tuck—whatever suits you. Pair with sandals, a straw bag, and a summer hat or scarf.
See below for a selection of puff sleeve tops and dresses to enjoy this spring and summer!