Hello and welcome to Dressed for My Day! Today I’m addressing an issue that is near to my heart…quite literally. My flabby and rather large upper arms. I workout rigorously – lifting the heaviest weights I can manage – three times a week and eat a diet high in protein, but I still struggle with keeping my arms as toned as they once were. I won’t give up working out and eating lean(ish), but at 57 I have about decided that my arms will simply never be as toned as they once were. Do you struggle with this body part, too? Today let’s talk about how to minimize large upper arms with the fashion choices we make.
Now I’m not really a proponent of hiding behind our clothes. But I am a firm believer in dressing in such a way as to maximize the positives and minimize the, um, less than positives. In Dressed for My Day My Way style series, I provided an overview of how to identify and dress your unique body variations. Those variations include things like a large bosom, a small bosom, thick ankles, a thick waist, an ample derriere, etc.
But I didn’t address how to minimize large upper arms specifically in that series. And a lot of us more mature gals find our once toned, or at least slim, arms looking a little fat and flabby as we lose muscle mass. I’m providing a link to an exercise video you might find helpful at the end of the post. But for now, let’s talk about how we can use sleeve choice and other style cues to help us minimize our larger upper arms with fashion, especially during the spring and summer.
First…know the enemy.
You can certainly still wear them. I know I will. But let’s understand that the basic t-shirt with a snug fitting sleeve that hits mid upper arm and features a horizontal hem is the worst sleeve for a woman with large upper arms. The snugness of the fit, the fact that it hits right at the fullest place and the horizontal line add up to big trouble.
Like I said, I’ll undoubtedly still wear these basic tees. But this is definitely the time to add that fitted blazer, fun denim jacket, flowing kimono or cardigan.
And I have a few other tricks up my sleeve for when you need to wear this sleeve design as well. Keep reading!
But let’s look at a few alternatives first.
#1 – Wear 3/4 length sleeves.
The 3/4 length sleeve is the most universally flattering sleeve length for women because it exposes a bit of the forearm and wrist, which are generally the smaller and more feminine part of any woman’s arm.
You can also utilize this sleeve length by cuffing or rolling up your long sleeves to this more flattering proportion, as in the photo below. But it’s quite easy to find a large selection of 3/4 length sleeves in the stores during spring, too.
#2 – Add some interesting details to the cuff of the sleeve of a 3/4 length or long sleeve.
When you have a little interest on the sleeve further down the arm, the details draw the eyes away from the bicep and tricep area.
#3 – Wear an elbow length sleeve.
These days we’re seeing a lot of elbow length sleeves in fashions, too. These hit right at the bend of the elbow, concealing the entire upper arm. But you do want to make sure that the sleeve fits slightly loose on your arm, not tight.
In the photo above I’m wearing a sleeve that hits right at the bend of the elbow. It’s a very stretchy shirt, so not tight. You can see the same concept below. Unfortunately neither of these are available; they’re from last season. But you can see how a softly draping elbow length sleeve can work.
But ideally, an even better option would be a loose fitting blouse sleeve, something that actually stands away from the arm a bit. That’s why I loved the short sleeve popovers that were so popular last year. I don’t see them as much this year, however.
Unfortunately, if you’re like me and have thicker upper arms, you probably find that tops that appear to have loose fitting sleeves on the website actually fit you more snuggly. Ugh. So the search is not always an easy one.
#4 – Wear a full flutter sleeve.
That’s why the fuller flutter sleeve is a great option when you want to wear a short sleeve. I had to search way back to 2019 to find a photo of me wearing a flutter sleeve. And it’s not a very long one.
And here I am wearing a longer flutter sleeve in 2018. The flutter sleeve is definitely an option that will minimize your upper arms. But it can also add visual weight overall. I think that’s why I don’t generally choose this option that often.
A flutter sleeve creates visual interest and doesn’t fit snug to the arm, creating a visually smaller upper arm. For maximum effect, choose an elbow length flutter sleeve. But if you want to wear a short sleeve, just choose a flutter sleeve that has a diagonal hem, like the one above. The diagonal hem is more slimming than a horizontal one.
I was determined to find the photos for this post from my own archives, but I don’t seem to get this right very often. Ha! Then again, maybe the reason I don’t find many of the above sleeve options in my photos is simply that I generally just opt to show my arms anyhow. Especially during the summer, I refuse to let my arms prevent me from wearing the sleeveless tops I want to wear. But I do have a few tips – that I do follow! – to help us choose those sleeveless options wisely.
#5 – Choose sleeveless options wisely.
If you’d like to or need to, you can still go sleeveless. But if you’ll go with wider shoulder straps instead of spaghetti straps, you’ll minimize the heft of your uppers arms and your shoulders. Spaghetti straps visually enlarge the area around them.
Depending on the rest of your build (your shoulders, neck, etc.) sleeveless tops can actually be very flattering for a woman with fuller upper arms. Why? Because the focus is drawn to your shoulders and/or your clavicle, which is conventionally called the most flattering part of a woman’s body.
The sleeveless blouse I’m wearing below is the same as the blue one above. Granted, I’m posing in a way that minimizes my upper arms, but I truly enjoy wearing this sleeveless top. I think the wide shoulder straps and the v-neck help to detract from my full upper arms.
The leopard prints sleeveless blouse above is still available. And it’s available in other solid colors, too. But I also really enjoyed my linen blend tanks from Chico’s last summer. I wore them frequently. And once again, that wider shoulder area is the key.
Chico’s doesn’t have these linen blend tanks available right now. But I fully expect them to have them in May or June. We’ll see.
#6 – Use lace or crochet sleeves to camouflage the upper arms.
Another way to keep cool in the summer while you’re trying to camouflage large upper arms is to opt for “cooler” sleeves. Sleeves with a little bit of lace or crochet are more breathable and also give the vibe of summer while keeping you more covered up.
Fortunately these two beautiful forms of camouflage are trending right now. Make sure you choose sleeves that do not fit too tightly, but lacy or crocheted sleeves can also hide other imperfections, such as skin issues. Yep. I have those, too.
#7 – Stay away from short cap sleeves if possible.
Very short cap sleeves are everywhere. And they’re lovely. But if you’re trying to minimize fuller upper arms, you’ll do better to steer clear of these. Why? They cut right at the place where the thickness begins and draw attention to that area as well.
If you do want to wear a short cap sleeve, choose a flutter sleeve that has some volume, like the one above and to the right. The fullness of that flutter sleeve would make the arm look a little smaller in proportion.
#8 – Wear a v-neck shirt or top or dress.
I know a lot of us gals also lose confidence in our necks and decolletage as we age. So we may be tempted to shy away from exposing necklines. But the v-neck silhouette is truly the most flattering for most women. It draws attention to the face and exposes the collar bones, another very feminine and alluring feature of most women.
In the example below I’m wearing a t-shirt with that short sleeve length that I warned against at the top of the post. But I think the neckline helps to draw the focus away from the arms and toward the clavicle and face.
More often than not, during the summer the trick to drawing attention away from fuller upper arms is not about the sleeve length but the neckline.
#9 – Choose short sleeves with a diagonal hemline or create one if possible.
If you do need to wear a short sleeve, look for one that has a diagonal hemline. That diagonal line really does the trick, especially if the sleeve is fuller and doesn’t hug the upper arm.
Here’s another example of using a diagonal hemline to create a more flattering appearance. The dolman sleeves on this shirtdress that I wore for Easter stand out from my arm and also have a slight angle to them, creating a more slenderizing effect.
And this dress also brings us to my next suggestion.
#10 – Work the proportions and angles.
One of the absolute best ways to minimize large upper arms has nothing to do with what you’re wearing on your arms and everything to do with your torso. A cinched waist creates more space between your arms and your body, giving the illusion of smaller upper arms. Honestly, this is the trick I prefer over all the others.
I appreciate Talbots’ fitted silhouette on their sleeveless perfect shirts for the same reason. The slightly fitted torso of this sleeveless shirt creates enough space between my arms and my body to give the illusion of thinner arms. Trust me. I’ve tried wearing more boxy shirts like these and the effect is not the same. That slenderizing effect at the waistline really does help minimize large upper arms.
That’s also why I prefer the Banana Republic short sleeve t-shirt over others. Yes, it has that sleeve length that cuts right across the widest part of my arm. But it’s also more fitted that other tees. And I’ve discovered that wearing more fitted clothes that create a trimmer silhouette and more space between the arm and torso really help slenderize my arms more than anything else.
BONUS Tip – Use jewelry or a scarf to draw attention away.
You can pull the focus to a more flattering part of the body with jewelry or a scarf, too. Again, earrings draw attention up to the face. Bracelets, especially with a 3/4 length sleeve or shorter sleeve, can draw attention down to the hands. Just make sure your bracelets are a little roomy and create the illusion of a smaller wrist.
I hope these fashion tips helped if you are looking for alternatives that will minimize your fuller upper arms. It certainly helped me to research this topic. I’ll still revert back to that horizontal sleeve every now and again, but at least I can be aware.
Meanwhile, I’m continuing to focus on exercising my upper arms. I use the very challenging workouts provided by FASTer Way to Fat Loss, but I found this video with 7 great exercises that target the triceps, the area on the back or underneath of our upper arms. You might enjoy incorporating those into our workout routine.
Shop these looks:
I’m including a shopping widget with all of the tops above. These are affiliate links, so I do potentially earn a commission if you purchase something through them. Thank you for shopping my links and supporting what I do here at Dressed for My Day. I really appreciate it!
By the way, it would do me a world a good if you would pin this post to one of your Pinterest boards!!! Thanks so much!
Blessed for My Day
When you get shaken, what comes out? Know how I mean? When life bumps up against you, what spills out of your mouth, what shines in your eyes and what comes from your hands and feet? I’ll have to admit, sometimes ugly comes out of me in such times.
But I’d prefer the fruit of the Spirit to spill out. The only way I know to ensure that God’s character comes forth when life bumps up against me is to be walking in the Spirit at all times. That begins before my feet hit the floor in the morning. I must choose to listen and lean in to the Spirit of God rather than giving in to the flesh of my own spirit throughout my day. Then when the world bumps up against me, His character will be more likely to spill forth.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23