Dress to Impress: How To Flatter Your Arms

Colette Werden

Style and Image Specialist

If we challenged Madonna and Michelle Obama to an arm wrestle, who do you think would win? I’d hand over all the dumbbells in the world to see that happen (good riddance). Whilst these women have worked hard to tone up their upper limbs, some of us lack in the guns department and may feel uncomfortable exposing them freely in the warmer months.

No matter how many times we are told to stop body-shaming ourselves, there are some areas we just can’t get over. Yes, the photoshopped magazine editorials aren’t helping and neither is the common perception that toned arms are the way to go.

Everyone’s body is different and some areas are nearly impossible to tone compared to others. Arms are actually a common area that come up in client styling sessions in the “I want to camouflage these bad boys” category.

So, I’ve narrowed in on 5 garments that will flatter our beloved appendages, just in time for the summer season.

1. The Cape.

I’m a sucker for a cape, I’ll find a version of it for every season. It’s so damn chic and does the trick in camouflaging the under developed triceps. The definite lines that run down the arm create the illusion of length and leanness. Not to mention, some much needed gaping for air on those warmer days. Cape tops, cape blazers and cape dresses; you can take these beauties from day to night with ease. May the wind be beneath your wings.



Giambattista Valli Cape Dress, Elliatt Cape, Willow Cape Top and Zalora Cape Sleeve top

2. The Kimono.

These flowing beauties have been doing the rounds in Europe, especially the ones of the frilled variety. If you’re a follower of trends, then make room in your wardrobe for a few this summer. Generally, the sleeves are cut to the perfect length; focusing the eye on the waist and draw a soft line around the “smaller” part of the arm. Worn over a dress for work (or play), and draped over jeans and a tee for brunch with the girlfriends. Light weight and restriction free.


Free People Kimono, House of Cannon Kimono, Josh Goot Kimono, Ruby Sees All Kimono

3. The Kaftan.

There’s something about a Kaftan that makes me desire cocktails by the beach on a hot summer’s day. It also makes me think of Rachel Zoe – that woman knows how to rock a Kaftan like the Moroccans. Now, back to the arm situation. Your easiest, most effortless bet this summer is slipping on a kaftan dress (or top) and letting the luxurious fabric lightly caress your arms, transforming you into an ethereal creature. What flab?


BCBG Max Azria Kaftan, Camilla Kaftan, The Wallflower Kaftan, Deshabille Kaftan 

4. The Flutter.

I’m talking sleeve here. Sometimes labelled as the Ruffle or Frill sleeve. So, short sleeves and cap sleeves with straight definite horizontal lines bisect the upper arm at its widest spot, visually widening the area. However, there are always exceptions – enter, flutter sleeves. Their loose unconfined shape means they’re less harsh on upper arms. The bigger the flutter (frill or ruffle), the better; this balances out the proportions and commands the eye to look at the statement detailing.


Chloe top, BCBG Max Azria dress, Forever 21 top, BCBG Max Azria playsuit 

5. The Bustier.

Now, don’t freak out. I know we’re fully exposing arms here. Here’s the thing, because there are no definite strong lines that cut your arm length off (and shorten it), it creates the illusion that your arms run as long as a marathon. Sometimes, completely covering up your arms is not the best way to go to camouflage them – a strapless bustier has the advantage of the unbroken line; the observing eye sees your arm from shoulder to wrist, from one arm all the way to the other. Let the limbs out to play with the ease that your bustier is drawing the attention to your mid-section and your stunning collarbones. Having said that, there are so many factors that come to play here; like breast size and waist line shape, however, if this resonates with you and makes you feel comfortable, give it a good liberated shot.


Camilla and Marc bustier, Shona Joy bustier maxi, Finders Keepers bustier, Shona Joy bustier dress


Found that informative? Get more style advice from Colette Werden.

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