With the massive resurgence of ‘80s fashion, and hints of the ‘70s thrown in for good measure, puffy sleeves are on-trend. For the most part, without the shoulder pad. We saw puffy sleeves return in the early ‘00s, but not for long. This time I suspect they’ll gain more momentum because we’re living in a fashion era where almost anything goes.

Puffy sleeves are gathered at the crown of the sleeve to create volume and interest. The crown of the sleeve is at the top where the armhole attaches to the shoulder. Puffy sleeves can also be gathered at the wrist openings and cuffs to create a blouson and lantern effect. You’ll see puffy sleeves on blouses, shirts, jackets, coats, dresses and knitwear.

The collection shows puffy sleeves across a range of wardrobe items:

Boden
Antonia Sweater
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12
Boden
Antonia Sweater
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4
Boden
Antonia Sweater
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17
Nordstrom
Tweed Jacket
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6
Shopbop
DEMYLEE Aubrie Dress
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2
Boden
Anya Blouse
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2

Puffy sleeves can be long or short, and the gathers at the crown can be subtle, regular or very voluminous. The same goes for the puff at the end of the sleeve, where the gathers can be subtle, hectic, or flare into a soft flutter sleeve.

The placement of the gathers at the crown can vary. Some gathers are placed closer to the shoulder-neck-point so the armholes are cut closer to the bust. This type of puffy sleeve adds a lot of structure to the shoulder line, thereby doing a great job of visually widening narrow shoulders OR narrowing a broad shoulder line. It’s amazing how the same silhouette can magically create the opposite effect by neutralizing proportions.

Gathers of puffy sleeves that are placed at the end of the shoulder point or beyond the shoulder point on dropped armholes tend to widen the shoulder line. Unless the necklines are tight and covered, this creates a sloppy shoulder line on narrow shoulders, and can visually widen broad shoulders.

Puffy sleeves can work well with a range of bust sizes. Generally, larger bust sizes are suited to puffy sleeves that are gathered closer to the shoulder-neck-point with a V-neck, shirt collar, or lower neckline. A soft flutter sleeve with a gathered crown and V-neck can look gorgeous on a larger bust. Puffy sleeves and a high neckline can add curve to a small bust.

The volume of the sleeve on the wrist or cuff can vary too. The more voluminous the sleeve of a top, the more dramatic it looks, but the harder it is to layer under toppers and knitwear with regular sleeves. Capes, capelets, cocoon coats, and wraps to the rescue. You could probably shove most puffy sleeves into a puffer coat or jacket.

My friends and clients run the gamut when it comes to puffy sleeves. Some won’t wear them at all because they look precious, cowgirl, or juvenile. Some feel the puff makes them look wider on the shoulder and larger on the bust. Others will wear subtle versions in soft fabrics that minimize the volume of the gathers. Some have a deep affection for any type of puffy sleeve because it looks interesting, dandy, maximal and pretty.

I adore wearing puffy sleeves, but the gathers on the crown have to be set close to the shoulder-neck-point because only then does the silhouette widen my narrow shoulders and give me lots of structure. Other types of puffy sleeves either layer poorly under toppers, or make my shoulder line look sloppy. I’ll wear puffy sleeves in any wardrobe item as long as the shoulder line is strong. I currently have two puffy sleeve tops and am happy to add more. I’m a big YAY. How about you?