Puffed Up - How to Wear the Puff Sleeve Trend

Photo Courtesy of The Evening Standard
Written by Peyton Haahr

This next trend is full of hot air - not in the sense that it’s not saying anything of meaning, but in that the fashion volume concerning fabric is pumped up and puffed out. It seems the sleeve size a-la childhood Disney princess dresses has made its way up to become a full blown trend in the fashion world. Tops and dresses have been hitting the market with puff sleeves (and that is the technical term for it), with billowing shoulders that add a touch of dressiness and spice to your look without edging into the ‘dress-up’ category. While among the other mega-trends such as neon tones and tie-dye prints, the puffed sleeve has slowly become more popular, jumping out on social media feeds and even a few runways. The off-the-shoulder tops may have taken the fashion world by storm the past few years, yet the new style for show-stopping tees and tops finds its defining feature in its standout sleeve design.

This style, without a doubt, is looking to make a statement. You’ve got to be looking for some attention if you’re putting one of these pieces on. If that sounds like you, take a look at Marc Jacobs runway show, which was dotted with ridiculously puffy sleeves, toeing the line between unwearable and gorgeous. Bold patterns were mixed with towering shoulders and sleeves, crafting a unique combination of theater and fashion. The show featured dashing pinks and oranges, feathery layers and tiered ruffles on just about everything. It was a brilliant display of focused maximalism. Several looks featured a form of the puffy sleeve, and while not as wearable as the average person would like, it still proved a very eye-catching addition to each outfit. The drama and volume of such a fashion choice can feel daunting to many, yet when paired with contrasting fabrics and a few minimalist details, it can come across as a very cohesive look for any evening outing or party. Jacobs crafted his tops and dresses with a sense of precision, where the puffiness was not seen as overwhelming, but purposeful. He paired tops with metallic skirts, glittering leggings, and silky pants. Each addition proved a valuable matchmaker for the oversized top. Exaggeration, meet restraint, combined to create fashionable cohesion.

With such dramatic tops, we recommend pairing it with something to tone it down. Keep the puffy sleeves as the center of your look, but try combining it with a pair of vintage high-waisted jeans and heeled sandals, or a trendy silk skirt and sneakers. If you’ve got a dress with puffed sleeves, have fun with your accessories, and feel free to try a pair of chunky sneakers or some comfortable slides and sunglasses for a summer-ready outfit.



Marc Jacobs Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear; Photos Courtesy: Yannis Vlamos / Indigital.tv

Puff sleeves were given a supremely romantic and feminine overhaul at Rodarte, who’s beautiful tulle fabrics and flower appliques seemed never ending - and in a good way. There was a mixture of simple styles and sleeve details, while many looks were so full of ruffles, ribbons, bows, and flowers that they seemed better fit for an ethereal fairy or goddess rather than a runway model. Not that we’re complaining, though. For the shopper whose style is decidedly feminine, this is the brand to look at. The coloring, attention to detail, and delicate patterns all add up to the perfect theme to try the puffy sleeve trend. Many social media gurus and influencers have been pairing more feminine puffy sleeve tops and dresses with retro-inspired bottoms and accessories. You can do the same, and try mixing similar feeling pieces with it - think about button-up skirts or flared trousers, perhaps even a pair of shorts with a paper-bag waist for a cinched style. Throwing on your favorite high-top sneakers can be a great touch of vintage, or even a woven sandal or slide for a bit more sophistication in your look. While your top or dress may be wholeheartedly a feminine feel, that doesn’t mean the rest of your look has to follow suit. Try experimenting with casual styles or punches of masculine-inspired notes to add that little sense of contrast to everything and ultimately set that puffy sleeve apart from the rest, giving it the attention it deserves.



Rodarte Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear; Photos Courtesy: Yannis Vlamos / Indigital.tv

Other brands like Valentino, Saint Laurent, and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi all took a stab at this billowing trend. It has taken the all-encompassing trend of oversized clothing and narrowed it down to one spot: the sleeve. And both Marc Jacobs and Rodarte offered their own specific take on the puff sleeve, one that may not fit your own style. So, we offer our own picks and recommendations. Starting with the idea that “go big or go home” doesn’t necessarily apply here. You can start small, with tops or dresses with just a little extra volume, that may work well into your wardrobe but not throw off your entire style or look. Boring professional button-downs can retain their sophistication and appropriateness but offer just a little jolt of style with a slightly puffed sleeve. Even try spicing up the classic black dress with a unique shoulder style and detail that will still always be oh-so-classy but again, just with that hint of something new. You don’t have to treat this trend as something that will throw off your entire style with some out-of-the-box piece that at the end of the day, doesn’t feel like you. The puff sleeve is a style that works with a variety of colors, and can be paired with a variety of styles, whether you’re a street-style lover or a high-fashion follower.


All photos courtesy of Farfetch.com

Oversized anything is here to stay. The oversized tee is a staple, the oversized hoodie is a forever-favorite, and the oversized hat has become a vacation must-have. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this idea has made its way around to the sleeve of your favorite tops and dresses. The puff sleeve made a fabulously bold entrance on the runways for Spring and Summer, and went on to prove its validity with an onslaught of social media praise and excitement over it. Runway shows proved there are a variety of options when it comes to color, style, shape, and level of desired drama for your own personal take on the puff sleeve trend. Whether you are all about beautiful florals, waterfalls of ruffles, or even menswear details and casual comfort, this trend can work for you.

There aren’t any surprises up our sleeve here - in fact, we’re wearing that surprise on our sleeve.