Dresses For Moms Who Hate Their Upper Arms


I believe every Mom should have one great dress in their closet.  And by "great", I mean that the dress should make you look like a million bucks, make you feel like your old pre-baby, sophisticated, rockin' self (or a close approximation), and can be dressed up or down, depending on the situation. I know this sounds like the Holy Grail of dresses, but a worthy quest, no?  This quest gets ever so much harder when you are uncomfortable with the sight of your upper arms.  You can always turn to various shrugs, cardis, pashminas…but finding one in the right fabric, color, and style for your dress adds an additional layer of complexity.  It takes all of the ease out of the dress.  And EASE is one of the best reasons to wear a dress.

This fall, I started to notice more and more dress options that successfully camouflage upper arms without a hint of dowdiness.  They are, in fact, quite sexy.  The key is balance.  Here are some rules about balance to consider when finding a dress with sleeves:

  1. The more your arms are covered, the more something else must be bare.  A low neckline, a high hemline (or both!) is needed to keep the look sexy.
  2. Consider drape – if the dress is fabulously drape-y, or silky, the hemline doesn't need to be so short.  However, if you are looking at something thick and sweater-like, you must have a short hemline.
  3. Not all long sleeves are created equal – if the sleeve is tight, it won't look good on upper arm flab. You want a loose long sleeve.
  4. Consider a loose short sleeve, flutter sleeve or off-the-shoulder option.  These styles will still give the illusion of bareness, without actually showing your upper arm.

For a little inspiration, here are my top picks for sexy dresses with sleeves:

Off-The Shoulder or Flutter Sleeve

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Above left is the Alice+Olivia Taylor Tiered Dress, on sale at shopbop.com for $338.  Above right is the Doie Melrose Dress at Nimli.com for $114.  For someone just a little worried about their upper arms, a dress like either of these dresses above would do enough camouflage to put your mind at ease, but still give a very bare armed, sexy look.

A Short, Loose Sleeve

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Above left is the silk Ulla Johnson Eloise Dress, on sale for $165 at shopbop.com.  This dress is a great example of a loose short sleeve that will cover and slim upper arms (it's all about the drape, people).  I love the combo of the plaid and the silk, but if you find the print (or price) a bit much, you can also check out a similar paisley version at Ann Taylor Loft or the Plaid Dress at Victoria's Secret.  

Above right is the very fabulous Tibi Nikita Tie-Waist Dress, $365 at shopbop.com.  I love the tied waist, the slight flutter sleeve, and the fun print.  Notice that both of these dresses cover the upper arms, but are silky and show enough wrist and leg to be sexy.   These dresses are also bit pricier, but either would be fantastic for both summer and winter events.  For summer just add flip-flops (or high heel sandals), and for winter, thick black tights and booties. 

Long Sleeve Mini Dresses

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Above left is Banana Republic's Drop Waist Dress, $90.  This dress is a perfect example of how to mix long, loose sleeves with a higher hemline for a very sexy effect.  I love that the sleeves are a bit dolman-style, and that they are tight right at the wrist and forearm (the narrowest part of the arm).  The front draping and tied waist give it a little flirtiness.  A perfect LBD for folks afraid of upper arm flab. 

Above right is a very fabulous shirt dress called the Flannel Mini Dress from Victoria's Secret, $68.  Oooo – flannel!  And a dress!  I'm in love.  The rolled sleeves are loose enough to be slimming, the front can be unbuttoned for a sexier look (throw it on over a little cami) and the hemline is nice and short.  Perfect.  This dress would also work great for nursing.

So, to recap:  show some leg, show some chest, but when your arms are covered, show something! 




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