It’s nearly impossible to find a fashion piece that suits an assortment of tastes, flatters every body shape and still has a real style point of view. That notion has remained true until the puff sleeve dress burst onto the scene this year. An ultra-current interpretation of modern femininity, it’s undoubtedly the buzziest trend we’ve seen in countless seasons. And in the quest to simplify our wardrobes, to really wear every piece with intention, this versatile style has instantly become a fashion stalwart.
Puff sleeves first got noticed on the flashiest of stages: the fashion month street style circuit. Peacocks who once elected for flashbulb-garnering ball gowns suddenly turned to big, billowy sleeves instead. You get that refined, princess-y vibe without a ton of effort otherwise, and still, it caught the photogs’ attention with fervor.
In the real world, this one-and-done nature is also its most appealing feature. Need something that’s a step up from slip dress for a wedding invite? There’s a fancy puff sleeve for that. Want to go all out for date night? Top a lingerie set with a sheer version like fashion darling Reese Blutstein has on more than one occasion. It’s got you covered for your most dressed-up occasions and, when accompanied with a pair of Docs, your everyday ones, too.
Luckily for us, the market is stacked with inflated options. On the contemporary front, New York-based Batsheva has carved out a now-coveted niche with her Victorian-era-meets-pioneer aesthetic. Copenhagen’s Cecilie Bahnsen has leaned into her couture-level designs that take shoulder volume to new, architectural heights.
Now, as the trend rides out its sweeping success, we’re seeing more affordable and wearable takes, migrating from just dresses to more workwear-appropriate pieces, like billowy sweaters and blouses. Even brands like Asos and Addition Elle are making plus size dresses that capture its girlish essence.
Want to try a puff piece for yourself? Get inspired with these ace street style iterations, then shop the trend below.
You don’t have to drown your shape in glorious, all-over volume. Cinch it with a wide belt to let the sleeves—and your waist—really sing.
The next iteration of the puff sleeve? Bringing its easy elegance to underneath an evening dress. It keeps up with the flashiness while taming it for daytime.
Between the Victorian collar, the floral pattern clash and a collection of frivolous frills, there’s a lot going on here. Still, our eyes go to the puffy sleeve which she’s expertly layered under the prairie dress.
You know the trend’s completely caught fire when a ballooned sleeve makes its way onto a statement trench.
Shop the puff-sleeve trend:
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's bi-weekly newsletter