Tops with flouncy, cuffed, ruffled, lantern and bell-shaped sleeves have been mainstream for the last eighteen months. And it seems the trend is here to stay. For the most part, this type of maximal sleeve has met with approval from my clients. It adds interest to a top, and coverage for those who don’t want to wear sleeveless styles. And it’s been a while since fashion celebrated the voluminous sleeve.

That said, maximal sleeves are awfully bossy. They can be annoying to wear, getting in the way when you type, drive and eat, and they are hard to layer under a topper. They can also overwhelm your frame. Here are a few strategies for managing them that have worked for myself, my clients and my friends.

1. Stick to Shorter Sleeve Lengths

A shorter-length maximal sleeve is a lot less fussy. You can get on with it without worrying about flounces and bells getting in the way of daily activities. You’re looking at a sleeve hem that finishes between a short and three-quarter length on the arm. By way of example, here are my own tops with shorter maximal sleeves.

2. Leave Off the Topper

Voluminous sleeves are much easier to wear when you don’t need a topper. So apart from one black pullover, I’ve kept the exuberant sleeve trend for warmer weather so that I don’t need to worry too much about the topper.

3. Add a Scarf

Sometimes, you can wear a Spring or Summer scarf instead of a topper. Wrap the scarf around the neck a couple of times to keep out the chill when wearing a top with maximal sleeves. Remove the scarf when it warms up during the day.

4. Wear a Bell-Sleeved Topper

It’s a good idea to add a topper with bell sleeves to your topper capsule when you run cold like I do. The roomy fit of a bell-sleeved topper accommodates the volume of shorter maximal sleeves quite well. My new lightweight citron cocoon coat is excellent over maximal sleeved pullovers because of the wide bell sleeves. The peplum utility jacket from the Loft has been great for my clients.

5. Wear a Wrap, Cape, Poncho, or drape a Jacket

Toppers that don’t have sleeves like wraps, capes, kimonos and ponchos work well over maximal sleeved tops. Or you can drape a coat or jacket over your shoulders if it’s not too cold. Sometimes that’s all you need to keep out the chill.

6. Choose a Blouson or Lantern-Sleeve Silhouette

I’m drawn to the more subtle exuberant sleeve, like a blouson or lantern silhouette, because it’s less overwhelming on my slight frame. When you choose them in soft fabrics, the sleeves collapse under most toppers and regain their shape when you remove the topper. A cuff at the end of a blouson sleeve is even better, because it keeps the sleeve volume in place. I have the citron blouson sleeve pullover from the Loft, and LOVE it. It works especially well under my bell-sleeved cocoon coat. A blouse with a lantern sleeve in a soft fabric (on the right below) works well under most regular jackets.

Club Monaco
Weylyn Shirt
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Top Pick

Every so often, the cut/fit/fabric/drape of a top with long maximal sleeves is perfect. That’s what I found with the Weylyn shirt from Club Monaco. Surprisingly, the ties on the cuffs are stiff, substantial and stay put. They don’t flounce around and boss me around. Sometimes you have to take the trend a style at a time.