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
68 thoughts on “How to Minimize Large Upper Arms w/ Fashion + Fitness”
This was a great post! I would be happy to add some of these to my pinterest board. but I did not see a link or anything on how to do that. Please let me know when you get a chance. thanks.
Hi Cathy. Thanks so much. There should be a little Pinterest icon at the bottom of the post, just a little ways beneath the Blessed for My Day section. Click on that and you should be directed through the process. Let me know if you need more help. ?
Great post, Kay! I’m going to check out your video.Thanks. Happy Spring ????
Hi Joan. Well honestly I might should have mentioned that the woman in the video is annoyingly young and fit! Ha! But she does provide really good exercises and how to.
This post is excellent! I did save it to my Pinterest board and am going to spend some time today going though my spring wardrobe, using your post as a guide. I look forward to your blog everyday.
Thanks so much for your affirming words, Marcia. It’s good to know I’m on the right track! ?
Excellent post Kay! The information you provided will be extremely helpful. I’m glad that your daughter has improved.
Thanks so much Ginger. ?
Great information. I do want to disagree with the first photo – if you are going to wear (and not take off) a cardigan or jacket over that top then the problem is eliminated. ?♀️
But I love all the tips and have been looking for some arm exercises so will definitely check out the exercise video. ? Would love to hear back from you as to any results you’re seeing.
Exactly, Gina. I have at least a dozen of those regular t-shirts in my wardrobe and I wear them plenty. But I think when we’re choosing, say, a mother of the bride dress and want to look our very best it’s good to know what to look for and what to steer clear of. Thanks so much for sharing. And yes, I’ll keep you gals informed on my progress! ?
Where can I find the royal blue cinch waist top? It’s gorgeoius.
I really enjoyed & needed today’s post.
Hi Susy. It’s the black one in the shopping widget. It actually comes in several colors and prints. Very pretty. https://shopstyle.it/l/0ZEW
Such a timely post on the first day of Spring, with short-sleeved weather beckoning us! I did pin this to my “Fashion Tips” Pintrest board and am a Follower as well. I’m glad your daughter is better, which in turn makes you feel better! Have a blessed day!
I was just in my closet last evening trying on tops and wandering what happened to my arms during the winter months. Your timing for this post was perfect. Thank you!
Awesome post. My mom was a small lady with thin arms, but her upper arms flapped when she got older. I vowed never to have those arms. I’ve worked out with a personal trainer for years BUT I started to see my upper arms flap like hers, and it bothered me. I worked out harder, but they still flapped. Last year I went to three different surgeons to see about fixing them. They would cut a line from the elbow to the armpit to tighten. There would be a white line under the arm. One doctor said something that made me think. He said, “Some women still wear longer sleeves even after the tightening because they are conscious of their scar.” I started watching people on TV and personal friends. It is almost impossible to talk without lifting your arms. I knew I would be a woman always conscious about lifting my arms with a scar. Then I went into my closet and evaluated my clothes. The clothes I wear in public have some type of sleeves. All my tank tops are for wearing around the house or working out. I have a see-through net top that I throw over my tank top when working out with the personal trainer or if I want to make a quick errand run. I knew if I spent $12,000 on my arms, I still wouldn’t wear spaghetti straps when I go out in public. As a pear-shaped person, my smaller upper body seems more noticeable when I wear tanks anyway. I decided to accept the genetics I inherited and move on. I love your post and clothes. If you run across more cover-ups to throw on over tanks that would be great. Most of the cover-ups I find look like they are for swimsuits. You always do a lot of research for your posts. Thank you so much!
Barbara, thank you so much for sharing your story. Truly. Sharing that will do us all a world of good. I do think for many of us it’s just unavoidable. I too have worked out all my life and I still have a sag and a jiggle! Ha! ?But I’m quite fine with just making the same adjustments you’ve made. Do I get a little envious when I see other women with either more toned arms or just upper arms that aren’t as full? You betcha. But I figure we all have our “things”. Thanks again for sharing your experience. ??
I just read a article a few days ago that said it is the loss of testosterone that causes upper arm flap. Men have enough of the hormone, even when they have “low T” to keep their arm skin tighter. Like you, I have decided to accept the wave and I wear 3/4 sleeves year round. Most places are air conditioned so I would need a top layer over a tank anyway.
Huh. That’s interesting, Kate. And it makes sense. Because try as I do – and I definitely work really hard at it – I cannot get my arms to trim up. And I’ve got a lot of muscle in my arms! But they’re still thick and a little flabby. So if nothing else, you just made me feel better! Ha!
Hi Kay, Just as I was concerned about, I subscribed to be notified to receive comments and I’m getting everyone’s comment dropped into my email Inbox. Yikes..I can’t have that much email! Would you please change the setting on this for me. I don’t want to unsubscribe to your daily posts, just the comments coming from other people. BTW, you have personally commented back to me in the past but I’m never notified. The only way I’ve been able to tell you commented to me is click back into the today’s Post and scroll through the comment section until I find my name and your response. I hope this makes sense. I don’t know if others are having this issue or just me but wanted you to be aware that it’s very confusing to your readers. Thanks Kay!
Yeah, I’m working on this. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll work on it.
Thank you Kay! Shall I unsubscribe from you altogether then re-subscribe to get the setting removed? I’ve already had 2-3 comments come to my email Inbox this afternoon.
The struggle is real. Thank you for being so honest and open about this and sharing your tips. I work those arms as much as I can but still wave twice! LOL Will try some of the exercises from the video. Can’t wait to hear how they work for you. 🙂
Wave twice–too funny! Lol! Yes, the struggle IS real!
I love your pictures. Who is your photographer?
Hi Abby! That’s the work of your amazing dad! Glad you’re feeling better! 🙂
Love this! In the future, will you share some ways to dress other common problem areas? I.e. short torso, thick middle, wide hips, short legs, ample chest, not-so-ample chest, etc. I feel like I am a little “top heavy” in the sense that my shoulders/upper arms are a little too big compared to everything below and I’m learning how to best dress for that…it’s a regular little struggle! 🙂 Thanks for all your awesome posts!
Hi! Where is the black button down top with diagonal hemmed sleeves (next to the blush, tie front shirt) from? I’ve been looking for something just like that!
Hi Teresa, I’m pretty sure the shirt was at Nordstrom. I can’t find it now, so it may have already sold out. The post is pretty old, so it’s probably gone. But you could scour their website if you’re really interested. I did look, but couldn’t find it. Sorry about that! https://shopstyle.it/l/4Z3S
Thank you, Kay! Your article today is spot-on and very helpful! I never buy a top online as I never know how it will fit over my arms. I will be rereading your post again and shopping for the above suggestions.
Wonderful. I’m so glad this was helpful Heather. Have a great day!
Good Morning Kay….
Great post today…..even though I am thin and try working out my arms, they are still flabby, UGH! I do try and wear the longer sleeve. Also great to know about the wider band at the shoulder to not draw as much attention to the arm.
I am definitely going to incorporate the exercises you provided from the video for my triceps.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post Holly. The battle is real. I think some of it has to do with genetics, some with time and age. But it’s good to know some aesthetic solutions.
Hi Kay, you wear plain tops a lot. What about tops with printed material? Can’t I wear them too?
Sure you can. I do wear some prints, mostly stripes but also the occasional floral. But some prints are prone to look dated quickly and I tend to buy things I can have in my closet for several seasons. But I’m actually looking for a few pretty florals to add to my wardrobe right now. I guess I’m just pretty picky when it comes to prints, however. I tend to think solids are easier to work with.
I certainly appreciate this post, comments, and video. This is one of my problem areas that is a real pain for me, and this reassures me I’m not alone. I have found if I devote 20 minutes a day to arm work I do notice improvement. I’ll be adding your video today.
Extremely helpful post, thank you for all of your fashion and spiritual help you share daily.
You bet, Doreen. I think I probably need to get back to working out my arms more daily, too. At least some push-ups and tricep dips. Those seek to help a lot. Thanks for sharing. ?
One of the most helpful posts! Thanks for all the time & research you put into your blogs, videos, etc. Your healthy relationship with God and your heart for women is evident.
Ahh, thanks so much for that encouragement, Charlotte. That means a lot to me. I really do want to provide you with meaningful and practical content.
Thank you,Kay, for a very helpful post. I found some ideas that I had never thought about before. I love your blog and look forward to reading it each day. I appreciate your style, hard work, and sharing your faith. Have a lovely day!
Wonderful. Thanks for letting me know Debbie. Blessings!
Helpful advice AND BFMD! Thanks, Kay! It helps to remember that no one else is conscious of our perceived flaws the way we are. A warm smile and a bit of confidence (or bravado) help people see the whole picture. If you care about others, THAT’S what they’ll notice.
Thanks for reading Jena. ?
Oh, Kay, you have no idea how much I appreciate and needed this post! So, THANK YOU! I shy away from sleeveless tops, but now I know why and know which ones to wear. I will check out the videos. And the BFMD is so true. Have a beautiful day!
Glad I could provide something helpful. ?
Also…lotion is your friend. So is a tan.
Thanks for all of the great information!
Thanks for sharing Kathy. Yes. Good points.
Thank you for the great tips. My arms are not large, but have gotten a little flabbier with age . In fact when I was young I had very skinny arms as I was very skinny as a youngster and young woman. But as you age you are not as skinny as you once were. Funny how life and aging makes these changes to your body. These tips will help.
Thank you for the BFMD. I have been up against lives bumps the past couple of days and I need this advice.
The challenge is real! Thanks for sharing Sherry.
Awesome post! Can you do a blog post on bathing suits?
It’s coming next week. Probably Monday or Tuesday. ?
Hello Kay, this blog is right where I’m at in life. I never thought I’d have big arms , I have more than a jiggle and sag. They are just big!! I know all your tips for hiding them because Ive been doing those things for years. Your arms look great by the way. I really wish designers would keep arm size in mind when designing Wonens tops. I have to say Chico’s is so far the best but I like a more tailored fit in the waist. Still looking for that perfect top for my shape.
Thanks and God bless you!
I completely agree Vicki. Designers could help us out a little with just a bit more fullness in sleeves. There are several brands I love but can’t wear their shirts because they’re just tight in the arms on me.
And my problem is just the opposite – thin arms that are crepey ( auto correct wanted to change that to creepy, and that would also be accurate !) as a kid I was a competitive swimmer and I was blessed to have really great toned long lean arms. And I was able to keep that up until I was about 60 and things started looking not so great in the arms. I can do push-ups, weights, nothing really builds them up again. And now they’re wrinkly, and when I asked my dermatologist what can I do about my skin being crepey there and he said “ you could gain 30 or 40 lbs”. Thanks, Doc.
But some of your tips for covering heavier arms also work on skinny wrinkled arms. Living in Texas wearing a blazer or denim jacket in July , it’s just not an option. One thing that I think really helps is using self tanner on my arms. I always think tan flabby skin looks better than white flabby skin!
Thank you , Kay , for helping all of us age with grace! And your love of Jesus makes you even more beautiful and radiant ! ?
Hi Susie. Yes, it’s definitely a challenge on either side of the equation. And I agree that a little self tanner seems to help. Thank you for sharing. I’m sure there are other readers in the same boat. ?
Hi Kay, I Love this post. I struggle with the same problem.
The video has great exercises but too much strength training without proper amount of days off will increase cordisol levels.
I would like to give a plug for a program I use for 50 something women. It is science based on our hormones and the proper way to exercise for our benefit at our age. Check Out FlippingFifty with owner and creator Debra Atkinson. She has 30 years experience in the industry and is 50 something and works with menopausal and post menopausal women.
Also I love the self tanner ideas, but would like to know of a more natural product without so many chemicals.
Again Kay, I really enjoy your blog.
Blessings to you for all you do to inspire us.
Although I shy away from videos for fitness/toning with young, slim, perfect body women, I am trusting you on this one. I have been slacking off on exercise (yoga and some weight training I was doing) due to “life”. I am going to try to get back to them (even if only on a limited basis until I have retired and moved in May.)
My upper arms are not my most troublesome area, but I don’t want them to become that. My worst area is my middle as I am very short waisted, and I carry any extra pounds in my middle. At least I have nice legs, so as you say to maximize the parts we like the best, that is what I will continue to do. Thank you for your tips, as always.
Hahaha! Yeah I’m not much one for exercise videos with perfect women either. But these just seemed like good exercises to suggest. Thanks for sharing Arna.
Looking forward to trying this video. I need to get myself back to an exercise routine. Packing boxes and working at the computer – not a good exercise routine haha! Thanks!
We all have our problem area where flab just moves in to stay. My neck and upper arms are my burden to bear. My sister who is two years older wears sleeveless and looks great but I didn’t get her dreadful cowlick either.?
I will try to hide what I can and accept the rest by using these great tips. My favorites you suggested are wearing lace or crochet tops. Even sheer can work if it has all over pattern like my dotted Swiss.
Yes indeed. We all have our “thing.” One of these days in glory!!!
Yes, Kay, I’m looking forward to that gloried body.?
A great post Kay! I love everything you put together. I have noticed that you wear belts with your pants and jeans. Can you do a post on belts with tips and information? I don’t usually wear a belt because I’m self-conscious about my tummy but they look so good on you. I’ve just recently found you so I apologize if you’ve already done belts. If so, do you have a link to it? Thanks so much for all your help!
Hello Toya. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t think I’ve done a post on belts per se, but I can work on that. You might some helpful information and shopping links in my Spring Accessories post here: https://dressedformyday.com/spring-accessories-to-add-to-your-wardrobe/ Welcome to Dressed for My Day and thank you for leaving a comment. ?
OMG Kay! Thanks for that post! I’m quite lean overall as working out 5 days a week, but my arms still stand out, and make me look frumpy. This post made me realise that I should show off my clavicles more, and draw attention to my shapely upper back. Again, thanks ? so, so much!
First time reading a post from you and now a new follower. So many great tips and excellent explanation for every sleeve option out there. I’m 56, 5 foot 9, and always had nice upper arms until I got sick and was diagnosed with a rare disease. After losing 50 lbs very quickly, my arms have the dreaded wings of lose skin. We all want to look our best as we age, understanding how even the right or wrong cut or fit can make all the difference in the world in our confidence level. Thank you for addressing such a common issue with humour, sensitivity, and kindness!
Hi Laurie. Thanks so much for introducing yourself. I always enjoy meeting new readers and subscribers. Yes, it’s a challenge to confront the issues of aging with style and grace. I’m so glad you benefited from the post. And thank you for subscribing. ?
First of all, I’d like to say that you don’t have big upper arms! I thought the short flutter sleeve was very flattering on you. That was actually my favorite outfit.