Whether it’s a dress, top or shoe, certain wardrobe staples are synonymous with a particular season—eyelet and linen in summer, chunky knits for fall, cozy outwear in the thick of winter. While specific to a select number of months, it’s a guarantee you’ll reach for these pieces year after year.
Similarly, certain trends have the ability to live on for more than a single season, even if they were the type to define a certain moment in time—mules, straw bags and slip dresses are prime examples. In the blouse department, puff-sleeved tops are the latest trend to live on. That’s right, the hype continues. You may have thought these voluminous silhouettes peaked for summer, but the ‘80s-inspired staple is, in fact, continuing its reign and going bolder for fall. We have designers like Zimmermann, Ulla Johnson and Isa Arfen to thank, among others.
In terms of wearing a puff-sleeve top in the new season, Caroline Maguire, fashion director at Shopbop says the bolder the puff, the better. “Fall is all about color and drama. Look to rich jewel-toned colors, luxe fabrics and loads and loads of prints.” If you’re partial to feminine styling, Maguire cites Dries Van Noten, Stella Jean and Brock Collection as designers who successfully gave puff sleeves a prim and professional look on the runway by pairing with a classic pencil skirt. For those into something less prescious, she recommends teaming your preferred version with a full feminine skirt and Vans sneakers. “I love the juxtaposition of taking an über-feminine top and making it downtown cool.”
Speaking of cool, Rachael Wang, stylist and brand consultant, explains how It-girl labels Isabel Marant, Marni and JW Anderson embraced the super-feminine silhouette by tapping into the romantic side of the ‘80s look. The brands all offer two outfit formulas that both nod to the nostalgic spirit of the trend, but in a modern way. “For a full-on femme moment, pair a puff-sleeve blouse with a narrow bias-cut midi skirt and perhaps a statement colored mule. If you prefer more of a masculine-feminine mashup, the blouse pairs effortlessly with jeans and a heeled boot.” Done and done.
For extra style points, accessories are the way to give an already head-turning top added personality. “Don’t forget a great pair of statement earrings or short pendant necklace to draw attention to a lovely clavicle,” Wang suggests.
Since puff-sleeve tops aren’t going anywhere (for the next few months, anyway), we’re spotlighting 15 styles that you can wear now and transition into your wardrobe when layering season hits. From voluminous shoulders to larger-than-life sleeves, we’ve plucked a range of options that work for everyone, whether you’re looking for something under $15 or want to splurge on a designer rendition. Just remember to go big.
Ava & Viv Plus Size Floral Print Pleated Short Sleeve Top
This blouse is a fresh way to rock an ‘80s-inspired floral print.
Puff Half Sleeve Blouse
Cotton poplin modernizes this pretty-in-pink top for the perfect amount of structure.
Floral Print Puff Sleeve Top
For a feminine approach to the trend, this flowery motif is sweet as can be. Available in sizes 16 to 24.
Lavender Gingham Top
It doesn’t get more girly than a babydoll silhouette in purple gingham print. Team with ravaged denim and boots for an edgier spin.
This toffee-colored top comes with a ‘90s feel.
The Esmeralda Top Pink
Olivia Rose The Label
We love this prim puff-sleeve top with vintage-wash denim and heels.
Toit Volant Lilly Rose Top
Need Supply Co.
Does it get more ‘80s than a high-shine yellow top with megawatt sleeves?
Amanda Uprichard Puff Sleeve Top
Wear this charming top with a denim mini now and swap for a maxi length come fall.
Petersyn Alexis Puff-Sleeve Top
What better way to go big than with a ditsy floral print in so-now yellow?
Riviera Puff Slv Top
An exaggerated silhouette to go your biggest and boldest.
Although ruffles and organza may sound too ‘80s, this top is anything but.
Ronny Kobo Daisha Top
Go romantic in this Old West-inspired style.
Farren Flower Poplin Top
With sculptural sleeves, this top looks like it’s straight out of the ‘80s, in a good way.
A sweetheart neckline and puff sleeves take this checkered top into ultra-feminine territory.
Silvia Tcherassi Stella Gathered Cotton Top
What better way to balance larger-than-life sleeves than with a fitted buttoned bodice?