How to Minimize Large Upper Arms

Today I’m addressing an issue that is near to my heart…quite literally. My flabby and rather large upper arms. I’m not really a proponent of hiding behind our clothes. But I am a firm believer in dressing in such a way as to maximize the positives and minimize the, um, less than positives.

Today let’s talk about how to minimize large upper arms with the fashion choices we make. Focus on sleeve choice and a few other style cues to help minimize larger upper arms with fashion, especially during the spring and summer.

First…know the enemy. The Basic T-shirt.

You can certainly still wear them. I know I will. But let’s understand that the basic t-shirt with a snug-fitting sleeve that hits the mid-upper arm and features a horizontal hem is the worst sleeve for a woman with large upper arms. The snugness of the fit, the fact that it hits right at the fullest place and the horizontal line adds up to big trouble.

Like I said, I’ll undoubtedly still wear these basic tees. But this is definitely the time to add that fitted blazer, fun denim jacket, flowing kimono or cardigan.

But let’s look at a few alternatives first.

1. Wear 3/4 length sleeves

The 3/4 length sleeve is the most universally flattering sleeve length for women because it exposes a bit of the forearm and wrist, which are generally the smaller and more feminine part of any woman’s arm.

You can also utilize this sleeve length by cuffing or rolling up your long sleeves to this more flattering proportion, as in the photo below. But it’s quite easy to find a large selection of 3/4 length sleeves in the stores during spring, too.

2. Add some interesting details to the cuff of the sleeve of a 3/4 length or long sleeve

When you have a little interest on the sleeve further down the arm, the details draw the eyes away from the bicep and tricep area.

3. Wear an elbow-length sleeve

These days we’re seeing a lot of elbow-length sleeves in fashions, too. These hit right at the bend of the elbow, concealing the entire upper arm. But you do want to make sure that the sleeve fits slightly loose on your arm, not tight.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me and have thicker upper arms, you probably find that tops that appear to have loose-fitting sleeves on the website actually fit you more snuggly. Ugh. So the search is not always an easy one.

4. Wear a full flutter sleeve

That’s why the fuller flutter sleeve is a great option when you want to wear a short sleeve. I had to search way back to 2019 to find a photo of me wearing a flutter sleeve. And it’s not a very long one.

A flutter sleeve creates visual interest and doesn’t fit snug to the arm, creating a visually smaller upper arm. For maximum effect, choose an elbow length flutter sleeve. But if you want to wear a short sleeve, just choose a flutter sleeve that has a diagonal hem, like the one above. The diagonal hem is more slimming than a horizontal one.

I was determined to find the photos for this post from my own archives, but I don’t seem to get this right very often. Ha! Then again, maybe the reason I don’t find many of the above sleeve options in my photos is simply that I generally just opt to show my arms anyhow. Especially during the summer, I refuse to let my arms prevent me from wearing the sleeveless tops I want to wear. But I do have a few tips – that I do follow! – to help us choose those sleeveless options wisely.

5. Choose sleeveless options wisely

If you’d like to or need to, you can still go sleeveless. But if you’ll go with wider shoulder straps instead of spaghetti straps, you’ll minimize the heft of your uppers arms and your shoulders. Spaghetti straps visually enlarge the area around them.

Depending on the rest of your build (your shoulders, neck, etc.) sleeveless tops can actually be very flattering for a woman with fuller upper arms. Why? Because the focus is drawn to your shoulders and/or your clavicle, which is conventionally called the most flattering part of a woman’s body.

The sleeveless blouse I’m wearing below is the same as the blue one above. Granted, I’m posing in a way that minimizes my upper arms, but I truly enjoy wearing this sleeveless top. I think the wide shoulder straps and the v-neck help to detract from my full upper arms.

6. Use lace or crochet sleeves to camouflage the upper arms

Another way to keep cool in the summer while you’re trying to camouflage large upper arms is to opt for “cooler” sleeves. Sleeves with a little bit of lace or crochet are more breathable and also give the vibe of summer while keeping you more covered up.

Fortunately, these two beautiful forms of camouflage are trending right now. Make sure you choose sleeves that do not fit too tightly, but lacy or crocheted sleeves can also hide other imperfections, such as skin issues. Yep. I have those, too.

7. Stay away from short cap sleeves if possible

Very short cap sleeves are everywhere. And they’re lovely. But if you’re trying to minimize fuller upper arms, you’ll do better to steer clear of these. Why? They cut right at the place where the thickness begins and draw attention to that area as well.

If you do want to wear a short cap sleeve, choose a flutter sleeve that has some volume, like the one above and to the right. The fullness of that flutter sleeve would make the arm look a little smaller in proportion.

8. Wear a v-neck shirt or top or dress

I know a lot of us gals also lose confidence in our necks and decolletage as we age. So we may be tempted to shy away from exposing necklines. But the v-neck silhouette is truly the most flattering for most women. It draws attention to the face and exposes the collar bones, another very feminine and alluring feature of most women.

More often than not, during the summer the trick to drawing attention away from fuller upper arms is not about the sleeve length but the neckline.

9. Choose short sleeves with a diagonal hemline or create one if possible

If you do need to wear a short sleeve, look for one that has a diagonal hemline. That diagonal line really does the trick, especially if the sleeve is fuller and doesn’t hug the upper arm.

10.Work the proportions and angles

One of the absolute best ways to minimize large upper arms has nothing to do with what you’re wearing on your arms and everything to do with your torso. A cinched waist creates more space between your arms and your body, giving the illusion of smaller upper arms. Honestly, this is the trick I prefer over all the others.

BONUS Tip – Use jewelry or a scarf to draw attention away

You can pull the focus to a more flattering part of the body with jewelry or a scarf, too. Again, earrings draw attention up to the face. Bracelets, especially with a 3/4 length sleeve or shorter sleeve, can draw attention down to the hands. Just make sure your bracelets are a little roomy and create the illusion of a smaller wrist.


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By Style Bestie

Super busy mom