home icon

Stylish Alternatives to Going Sleeveless

As the weather heats up, women have a number of smart ways to bare arms

By Susan Sommers | July 14, 2013

Every year as summer approaches, boomer women split into two distinct camps: the revealers and the concealers. The super-self-confident (who either work out all winter or have genetically taut arms) dare to bare while others are loath to show even a small amount of loose or lax skin.
To the first group I say, Good for you. But this article is really for those who prefer keeping their upper arms a little under wraps.
Our decisions about clothing are based not just on what’s trendy but what makes us feel comfortable and attractive. There are many sleeve options available these day, so you shouldn’t have any problem finding styles that can make your arms look long and lean or camouflage any problem areas.
To maximize comfort, consider layering a light wrap over a sleeveless top, allowing you to “strip down” if you get too warm yet cover up when that feels more appropriate. And if you do opt for sleeves, you probably want to steer clear of heavy or warm ones. Light, loose or translucent sleeves are the norm in many hot-weather countries, like kurtas in India and caftans in Morocco and Tunisia.

(MORE: The Best Cheap-Chic Meccas for All Ages)
Here are a few suggestions for covering up gracefully:

  • A loose-knit cardigan or wrap shawl can provide artful yet cool camouflage over bare arms.
  • A ruffle that flares out to cover the upper arms or a drapey neckline with dolman sleeves that extend down toward the elbow provide “shoulder interest" and take the focus away from the arms. 
  • Loose long or three-quarter-length sleeves can be just as cool as going sleeveless and, for many of us, are much more flattering. Look for them in sheer or translucent fabrics.
  • Fluttery short sleeves and split longer ones play peek-a-boo with your arms, and the latter are a terrific way to hide less-than-taut upper arms.

Style consultant Susan Sommers is founder of Dresszing, a company that helps people harness the power of their visual presentation, including wardrobe, to feel more confident and be more successful. She is the author of two best-sellers, French Chic and Italian Chic.