How to dress like a grown up with SHANE WATSON

Pump up the volume with a bigger or fancier sleeve: How to dress like a grown up with SHANE WATSON

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The sleeves are the key. Just remember that when you’re next weighing up the blouse with the marrow sleeves versus the mere courgettes, or deciding between the balloon-sleeved dress and the one with the slim bracelets.

If you want to give yourself a makeover for as much effort as changing your lipstick (less I would argue, I don’t wear lipstick much), then pump up the sleeve volume, pick one that’s ruched, just don’t settle for safe.

Sleeves have been getting bigger or fancier (BOF) for a while, so we’ve already got our trainer wheels, and let’s not call them ‘statement sleeves’ any more because now this sleeve is the expected normal not the dramatic exception.

It’s what allows you to wear jeans to a smart-casual social gathering. (‘Just wear your BOF sleeve top’ your best friend will tell you, or she will now.) What are you wearing to the wedding? Any dress you like, so long as it’s got a sleeve that doesn’t blend in and that might even be the most interesting thing about it.

This season’s best blouses have puff or balloon sleeves, jackets have wide-flared arms or raised puff sleeves and dresses come with every variety of BOF including bold armhole ruffles on sleeveless dresses. You know it’s a silhouette-changing moment when even the sleeveless clothes have to get in on it.

Elegant: Holly Willoughby sporting a light blue dress with statement sleeves

We are, for now, talking about the death of the clinging sleeve, so, if you are still a fan of the tight sweater or the narrow-knit top, this time make it sleeveless and wear a top with a BOF sleeve underneath.

I have a tank top I wore last year with a boyfriend shirt (still a safe bet), but now I wear it over a Me+Em balloon- sleeved top (£75, and it’s an outfit changer: classic preppy to feminine and fashion forward in one sleight of sleeve. And if you want more evening glamour, just up the volume and make the sleeve organza (£95,

Or invest in a cream silk, balloon-sleeved shirt with a narrow ruffle collar (£137.50, and wear loose over black trousers. A silky full-sleeved blouse never dates.

This is what I love about the trend: it allows you to dress simply and make those hard working classics that are so versatile (but, if you don’t reinvigorate them every so often, a tiny bit boring) instantly different, feminine and flattering.

Don’t be tempted to scrimp on the scale. The BOF sleeve needs to stand out in order to raise your wardrobe into new territory, but it doesn’t have to be over the top. The sleeve shape I like best because it really flatters your arms, is the just-above-the-elbow full puff sleeve. This is the grown-up version of puff sleeves — glamorous, not little girly.

Maya Jama cuts a stylish figure in a pair of jeans and a white, balloon-sleeved crop top

Davina McCall (pictured left) and Michelle Pfeiffer (pictured right) both opted for statement sleeves when wearing elegant gowns to glamorous events 

Karen Millen has a great black midaxi puff-sleeved dress (£63.20, which is a good example of how BOFs do the heavy lifting: you don’t need or want much more going on.


Go for elbow-length.

Stick to block colour.

Avoid busy prints.

Drape your jacket.

Even reasonably modest BOF sleeves do the work of a necklace plus lipstick and cancel out the need for extra embellishments.

For a more casual, looser fit version with a keyhole neck opening, try & Other Stories (£65, This dress comes in black and a blue floral print, but BOF sleeves look best in one plain block colour and you really can’t go wrong with black at the moment. Along with white it’s the high impact clean choice for summer, and a lot more practical.

For the jacquard blouse equivalent try Ganni, which practically invented the puff sleeve (£135,

If the puff or balloon sleeve doesn’t grab you, try an almost elbow length butterfly-sleeved dress (£85, or look for ruched sleeves on tops and dresses (£45, marksand They can make even short sleeves flattering.

Is there anything you should avoid? To keep the look modern, steer clear of floaty styles and busy fabrics. Likewise batwing sleeves are not having a moment. You want fullness and volume not wafting and trailing. The only real downside to BOF sleeves is fitting them under jackets, but there are wide-armed jackets and swing coats you can drape if absolutely necessary.

Don’t cover them up unless you have to — they’re your new secret weapon.

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