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.