How to Make Statement Sleeves Flattering on Your Body

Statement Sleeves

A client recently asked me for my thoughts on statement sleeves.  When I asked her to clarify what she meant when she said statement sleeves, because novelty sleeves in general are quite trendy this season, she told me she meant the flutter, bell sleeve styles that you have probably seen everywhere in the stores.

As I explained to my client, and I will explain to you, statement sleeves looking good is totally dependent on the placement on the sleeves because they can make you look really wide and/or busty if they are in the wrong place.  It’s not the trend in general that is bad, it’s how they are executed that can be a problem.

How to Make Statement Sleeves Flattering on Your Body

If you have tried on this trend and noticed it didn’t look as flattering as you thought it would, it could just be a matter of the placement of the sleeves that were an issue, not the trend itself.  Below, I have featured several of these statement sleeve styles and showed why each style may or may not work.

Statement sleeves #1

statement sleeves

This first style from Alice + Olivia incorporates also incorporates the cold shoulder trend (a trend I have yet to have a client seem interested in).  While the blouse is cute, it’s riddled with problems if you have certain body characteristics.  The ruffled sleeves are placed right below the bust and travel up over the chest area.  This diagonal shape drags the eye down and out which can create width and fullness, not particularly good if you have a large chest.   The good news is that if you do have a large chest isn’t likely you’ll be drawn to this top that can’t be worn with a bra.

If you have narrow shoulders and a large hips and thighs, this blouse is also a potential problem, not matter how large your chest is.  Optically, the halter shape of the blouse narrows the shoulders and causes the bottom half of the body to look wide.  The ruffles and statement sleeves only enhance this.

Statement Sleeves #2

statement sleeves

In general, these statement sleeves create extra width wherever they are placed.  This is why they can be so tricky to wear.  This top from Gibson might not work for anyone who gains weight in their midsection.  The sleeves add extra width right in that area.  The last thing most women want, even those who aren’t bigger in the tummy.

Statement Sleeves #3

Statement Sleeves

This top from Banana Republic is not for anyone with a large chest.  Between the wide sleeves and the ruffles, this top will make the bust line look disproportionately larger and wider.  With the sleeve width, the top is also not a great top for large arms either.  Lastly, as surprising as it sounds, I’d also be cautious about this top if you have large hips and thighs which could potentially look more emphasized with this top.

Statement Sleeves #4

statement sleeves

The problems with this top aren’t just found in the statement sleeves but in the cropped seam and hem ruffle.  Both components create a squat, wide silhouette that few will look good in.   Anytime you place horizontal stripe or seam it shortens and widens the body in that area. This top is a reminder that it is important to not just look at the sleeve placement but the entire top.

Statement Sleeves #5

statement sleeves

I included this top from Bobeau to show that when it comes to statement sleeves, less is often more.  While these sleeves can be a bit detrimental for large chested women due to the fullness of the sleeves being placed right at the bust line, it’s certainly not as bad as if the ruffle was wider.  This top addresses the trend without going overboard.

Statement sleeves #6


statement sleevesThis last blouse with statement sleeves from Banana Republic cascades over the shoulders and bust and to create broadness that I wouldn’t be likely to suggest to anyone with very broad shoulders or a large chest.  This top could work those who are flatter chested or have narrow shoulders and want to create the appearance of a stronger shoulder line.

As you hit the stores and consider statement sleeves I hope these tips will help you choose a style that is right for you.


  • Keri

    Sounds like this is a trend worth avoiding!

    • I’d have to agree, sadly. When Is started writing this it was with the intention to find different style for different body types and then realized that the tops are so hard they’re basically impossible for everyone but a very select few.

  • Pat

    Great tips, Bridgette! Some trends are better left to the very young and junior age. Thanks for the evaluation.
    A faithful fan,

    • Thanks Pat! I definitely think this is a better trend for young women and stick thin gals.

  • Patricia

    So, basically, none of the above, unless you have a perfectly trim body… And even if you find the ideal bell sleeve top, how do you put a jacket or cardigan over the top?

    • Basically. This is definitely a situation where the tops on the models can be misleading. The layering issue is another whole can of worms not even worth opening!!

  • Jeannean Jenkins

    Bought 2 bell sleeve tops and was planning on returning them both. They did absolutely nothing for this double d girl!!! Thanks for explaining why!!

    • Yup. If the ruffles fall right at the bustline you are widening that area and making your chest look big and wide. Not a good look. I am glad I could explain why that was happening.

  • tgchi13

    I’m not a fan of ruffles and don’t feel comfortable in anything that girlie so I’m gonna pass on this trend. Although I can see me wearing something like these with olive skinny jeans with a cargo edge to them…I don’t want to work that hard at it, and I know you know what I mean!

  • Kelly Harber

    What brand is the navy top with eyelet sleeves shown in your article header? I’d love to try on (and probably reject) it on my frame. Also curious if you think the off the shoulder trend is more wearable for bigger busts than the statement sleeves or if the issues are the same.

    • That top is from Banana Republic. Here is the link: As far as the cold shoulder trend and large chests; it all depends. Sometimes they are a little too exposed to the point that bras can’t be worn, sometimes cold shoulders narrow the look of the shoulders and can make the hips look wide. Like ruffle tops, it’s a case by case scenario.