Bold shoulders have a long history in fashion, from the voluminous puff sleeves of the Victorian era to the sharp shoulder pads of the eighties. But while shoulder pads can be a tricky look to pull off without looking dated, puff sleeves have withstood the test of time. They add a touch of whimsy to any outfit but still look sophisticated. They can be romantic with ruffles, dramatic and voluminous, or casually draped.
We sifted through the many puff sleeve tops available online and put together a list of the top 10. For a basic, versatile option, we like H&M's Puff-Sleeved Boat-Neck Top. It's made from a comfy jersey knit with flowy sleeves and a unique neckline that takes it to the next level. Keep reading to see the rest of our picks, and don't forget to check out our buying guide for tips on how to pick the right puff sleeve top for your wardrobe.
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Table of Contents
With puff sleeve tops, there's a lot of variety in style and materials. Here are some things to consider while you shop.
The sleeves are the star of the show, so the first thing to consider is what type of sleeve you want.
Having to cover up your top with a jacket can ruin the puff sleeve look. Think about where you’ll be wearing the top and pick a sleeve length that will keep you warm enough.
Short sleeves generally hit at mid-bicep or longer and can come all the way to the elbow. This gives them room to create that voluminous look. Wear them in warmer weather or to indoor events so that you can show them off without getting cold.
Long puff sleeves provide more coverage and are better suited to colder weather, although this will also depend on what material they’re made of.
The size of the puff matters! In general, the more volume the sleeve has, the more dramatic and noticeable it will be. Bigger puff sleeves will also be more difficult to layer underneath coats or jackets.
If you’re looking for a top for everyday wear, look for a puff sleeve with a low profile. For example, one with a little bit of volume at the shoulder with a slim fit down the rest of the arm looks trendy and is still easy to layer.
Try a bigger puff for special occasions or fun events. You can find sleeves that puff only at the shoulders, as well as sleeves that balloon out all the way down to your wrists.
The neckline has a large impact on the overall look of a puff sleeve top. High necklines will give you more of a Rennaisance vibe, making you look sophisticated and elegant. Crew necklines look more casual and less dramatic. V-necks add a feminine touch; depending on how deep they are, they can range from work-friendly to bar-friendly.
While not super common on regular tops, square necklines pair well with puff sleeves and are reminiscent of 18th-century Victorian fashion (think Marie Antoinette). Sweetheart necklines are also common on puff sleeve tops. They look flirty, delicate, and romantic.
You can also find button-up puff sleeve tops with collars. This is a more modern, gender-neutral look that’s easy to wear to the office.
Puff sleeve tops exist in pretty much any material you can think of, from jersey to mesh. The material will affect how formal the top looks and how easy it is to dress up or down.
Jersey knit is a soft, stretchy fabric made from cotton, synthetics, or a blend of the two. It’s lightweight and comfortable, making it a popular option for tops. Most t-shirts are made from jersey knit.
Jersey knit puff sleeve tops tend to look more casual. Because the fabric is so soft, the sleeves won’t have a lot of structure and will look more drapey and balloon-like. However, this material can also function in the workplace when paired with business attire, like a blazer and pumps.
Puff sleeve tops made from fabric that’s smooth, shiny, and fluttery will look more formal. Think blouse material rather than t-shirt material. Usually, this type of fabric is made from synthetics like polyester or rayon. You can dress these tops up or down depending on the occasion.
If you want to keep warm while showing off your sleeves, opt for a puff sleeve sweater. You can find them in a variety of textures. Chunky knit sweaters look more casual and trendy, while finely knit sweaters can be dressed up more easily. Consider a puff sleeve cardigan for easy layering.
Puff sleeve shirts come in some fun materials that you don’t often find in other styles of shirts. Mesh is a popular choice and can be used just for the sleeves or for the entire top. It’s a great way to add drama without bulk since it’s super thin and see-through.
Velvet puff sleeve tops are an elegant style that hearkens back to the Renaissance. Because the material is on the heavier side, they work well for dressier events and colder seasons.
Faux leather is a more modern choice that adds some edge to round out the puff sleeve's femininity. It’s a unique twist on the look that’s great for casual wear or a night out.
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Puff-Sleeved Boat-Neck Top
A Classic Top That's Easy to Dress Up or Down
Romantic Ruffles and Sheer Sleeves
Faux Leather Puff Sleeve Top
A Plus-Sized Top in Faux Leather
Corduroy Puff-Sleeve Button-Front Top
A Retro Design Meets Modern Corduroy
Puff Sleeves Blouse
A Sweet Silhouette in a Bold Color
Ruffle Mock Neck Puff Sleeve Top
A Flowy Statement Blouse in Blue
Puff Sleeve Crew Neck
A Basic Long Sleeve Top That's Super Versatile
Satin Puff-Sleeve Blouse
Silky Satin for an Elegant Look
Moneta Puff Sleeve Sweater
A Soft Sweater That's Better for the Environment
Alice + Olivia
Abella Tulle Puff-Sleeve Blouse
Dramatic and Sophisticated in Tulle
H&M's Puff-Sleeved Boat-Neck Top is a basic with a twist. It's made from recycled polyester in a jersey knit, making it comfortable and drapey. The short puff sleeves come to the elbow and add flair, while the boat neckline elevates it above a typical t-shirt.
This top comes in a variety of neutral colors, including black, white, khaki, and two work-friendly patterns.
Some reviewers noted that this top runs large. Others complained that the material was quite thin. Still, most reviewers found this top to be comfortable and flattering. They said the material looked expensive in person, noting it was a great option for the office.
Feel like a princess in this blouse from Wilfred. It has a cropped cut and a slim fit with dramatic, voluminous long sleeves. The bodice is smocked for a snug fit, and ruffles adorn the hem, cuffs, and neckline for a sweet, feminine vibe.
The chiffon material is semi-sheer through the sleeves, creating a less bulky look. In addition to white, this top also comes in fun colors like teal, royal blue, and sage green.
Some reviewers felt that this top was a tad too short and recommended ordering a size larger. But overall, reviewers said this top was high-quality and flattering. Many suggested pairing it with high-waisted pants. Plus, they loved the romantic ruffles and elegant sleeves.
This top from Eloquii takes a standard button-down and gives it a fresh new look with puff sleeves and faux leather. Made from polyurethane, it's soft and a little shiny. The sleeves hit at the elbow with invisible elastic for a voluminous puff. The top comes down to the hip and has a relaxed fit.
A couple of reviewers said the top runs large. However, most reviewers were pleased with the design and material. They said the faux leather is lightweight, and the overall look is super versatile. They also found this top comfortable to wear.
Madewell's corduroy puff sleeve top is the best of all worlds, combining retro details with a modern fit and comfy material. It's made from dark green cotton corduroy, with corduroy's signature ribbed pattern. The fit is relaxed with a deep V-neck. The sleeves hit just above the elbow with an understated puff.
Covered buttons run down the front of the top and adorn the sleeves. But instead of buttonholes, there are loop closures that add a bit of vintage flair.
It doesn't have to be Valentine's Day to wear this bold red blouse from Mango, but it's definitely a look fit for a romantic occasion. This top features large puff sleeves that end with elastic cuffs at the elbow. The sweetheart neckline is accentuated with a bit of ruching for a cute, flirty look.
The top is cropped with a straight fit down the body. It's made from polyester with a touch of elastane for stretch and has a crepe-like texture that can be dressed up or down.
This polyester top from Express is soft and airy, making it perfect for spring. It features a lined body and sheer puff sleeves with extra fabric to flutter at the cuffs. The mock neck is adorned with ruffles and there's a closure at the back of the neck for a comfortable fit.
The top hits below the hips. It has a straight hem and an easy fit, so it can be worn tucked or untucked. Pair it with jeans for a casual weekend look, slacks for the office, or a skirt for date night. It also comes in black.
Made from a blend of polyester, cotton, and spandex, this puff sleeve top is stretchy and comfortable. It features a ribbed kit texture and is cut in a form-fitting silhouette with long sleeves that puff at the shoulders. The crew neckline keeps it casual. It comes in a range of solid colors, including white, burgundy, and lilac.
Some reviewers complained that the fabric had an unpleasant smell that wouldn't come out. Others said it runs small. Still, most reviewers found this top to be comfortable and flattering. They liked the fabric, saying that it had a good weight and a nice amount of stretch.
This bold top from Banana Republic pairs a feminine silhouette with flowy satin fabric for a romantic and classy look. The top is semi-fitted with a V-neck, smocked waist, and peplum hem to accentuate your curves. Covered buttons adorn the front, and the body is fully lined.
Some reviewers complained that the shoulders of this top are itchy. However, other reviewers said the fabric is beautiful, and the fit is slimming. They said this top is versatile; they wear it for casual outfits with jeans or dress it up for special occasions.
Puff sleeve tops aren't all floaty and romantic; they can be super cozy too! For example, Reformation's Moneta Puff Sleeve Sweater is made of a chunky ribbed knit perfect for colder weather. The three-quarter-length sleeves puff at the shoulders, and the cuffs create a slight balloon effect.
The sweater is made from 100 percent baby alpaca, which is comfortable and warm. Alpaca is a renewable fiber with a lower environmental impact than other yarns since the animals' soft hooves and gentle grazing is less destructive to soil and plants.
The Abella Tulle Puff-Sleeve Blouse from Alice + Olivia is a showstopper, and it's perfect for your next big event. The structural tulle puff sleeves' volume is offset by the sheer material, which adds drama without the bulk. They end in extra-long rib-knit cuffs that create a slim wrist.
The shirt's body is made from a stretchy blend of viscose, nylon, elastane, and polyester for a slim fit that's good for tucking. The boatneck gives the whole look an elegant finish.
Whether you're going to the office or going out, you'll always need an appropriate outfit. Prep your closet for any occasion with more of our favorite pieces of clothing.
No. 1: H&M｜Puff-Sleeved Boat-Neck Top
No. 2: Wilfred｜Lilith Blouse
No. 3: Eloquii｜Faux Leather Puff Sleeve Top
No. 4: Madewell｜Corduroy Puff-Sleeve Button-Front Top
No. 5: Mango｜Puff Sleeves Blouse
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