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How to Wear A Puff Sleeve Knit Dress: 9 Ways to Rock One This Fall

One of the easiest ways to add a little “notice me” factor to an outfit is with a statement piece or statement detail. One of the trendiest statement details for the past few years has been puff sleeves.

Today I’m sharing the cutest dress with puff sleeves. Puff sleeves in general have been a little intimidating for some, but don’t worry.  I’m going to give you all the details on how to wear a puff sleeve knit dress.


First, let’s address a few things about puff sleeves. 

Are puff sleeves in style?

Puff sleeves have been around since the the 14th or 15th century as part of the Renaissance period. As with many fashion statements, fashion was used in history to show power and status. 

 A large voluminous sleeve was a sure way to show status and was found on men’s and women’s attire in the Renaissance period. 

“Puffed sleeves are so fashionable now. It would give me such a thrill, Marilla, just to wear a dress with puffed sleeves,” says Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables.

Called puff sleeves, puffed sleeves, balloon sleeves, mutton sleeves and even imbocile sleeves, this statement detail has surged and resurged througout history. It will never really go out of style.

The popularity and size of the “puff” may come and go as a trend, especially the super large puff sleeves (remember the 80s rompers?), but the more subtle puff sleeve will always be in style.

It may not always be the latest fashion, but history shows it will stick around. It’s a detail that represents femininity, romance and power all at the same time- three things we just won’t let go of. 

Who can wear puff sleeves

You may be wondering “can I wear puff sleeves?”

A puff sleeve will help add curves and shape to a rectangle body shape. While they definitely work on an hour glass body shape and add balance for a pear shape, they can be tricky for those triangles that already have wide shoulders.

If you have wide shoulders, choose sleeves that feature a puff lower on the sleeve rather than at the shoulder. If you want to slim your neck, choose puff sleeves that sit closer to the neck than the shoulder. 

Puff sleeves are also associated with “girly” looks and those over a certain age might be wondering if you are too old. Consider the overall style of the garment. A puff sleeve midi dress can be quite elegant on an older woman. 

The bottom line is anyone who feels amazing in a puff sleeve top or dress can wear puff sleeves. Let your own intuition and style goals guide you in your decisions. 

This short dress with puff sleeves is perfect for all age ranges. This puff sleeve knit dress is a shift puff sleeve dress that breaks some of the rules associated with puff sleeves. It lends itself to being styled multiple ways.  

You will find that many of the rules for wearing a puff sleeve focus on creating a waist line. That’s not going to be the case with a shift style dress, but this style is perfect for giving a little more room to the pair shapes with wide hips and the body types who want to hide a belly.

If you do want to emphasize the waist, there are some tricks for that included here.

Nine Ways to Wear a Puff Sleeve Knit Dress

Wear a Puff Sleeve Knit Dress As an Individual Statement

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The easiest way to wear a puff sleeve knit dress is to wear it as is. Keeping the look simple lets the puff sleeves shine. This dress is a basic staple that’s been elevated by the puff sleeves.

This dress is a heavier knit that is perfect for early fall or climates with warm fall and winter seasons. It would probably be too warm in the summer.

Create a simple fall outfit by accessorizing with a chunky necklace to draw the eye up and down, especially if the wide shoulder issue is a concern. Puff sleeves tend to draw the eye side the side. You can balance this by drawing the eye up and down.

Finish your look with your favorite shoes. This outfit features white sneakers, but this dress works with a variey of shoes. 

With Sneakers and A Ball Cap

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If your style is sporty chic, this puff sleeve knit dress is the perfect combo of girly, feminine and sporty. While this look is sporty, it’s polished and elevated way above athleisure. Wear the dress with sneakers, a corduroy ball cap, and a sling bag or belt bag for a functional fall outfit for errands or shopping.

A simple delicate gold necklace adds some more interest to the neckline and keeps this look feminine.

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Cap- Amazon; Bag- Amazon; Sneakers- JCrew Factory; Necklace- option

Tie a Flannel Shirt Around the Waist

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As you transition into cooler mornings and evenings, wear a puff sleeve knit dress with a flannel tied at the waist. This is one way to accent the waist if you aren’t comfortable with the shift shape. 

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Flannel shirt – Old Navy; Necklace- option

If you do need the extra layer, untie the shirt and pop it on over the dress. Sneakers are also part of this look, but ankle boots would work too. 

With a flannel Shirt and Retro Sneakers

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This look shows the flannel shirt as a layer and switches up the shoes to color coorinated retro style sneakers. The neutral color of this dress goes with a variety of colors.

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Sneakers- Option; Option; Flannel shirt- Old Navy

With a Cardigan and White Ankle Boots

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One of the rules of wearing a puff sleeve dress is to not wear anything over it. Yes, you loose the effect of the puff sleeve, but this soft knit works with layers and gives you more options. 

If you were wondering what to wear over a puff sleeve dress, consider a cardigan with a dress with smaller softer puff sleeves. This won’t work with the large voluminous stiff puff sleeves.

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Cardigan- Old Navy; White ankle boots- Mia

This combination creates a dressy fall outfit you can wear to dinner or meetings. Brown cardigans and white ankle boots are trendy this fall, but you can wear any color that coordiates. The white ankle boots work well with this soft muted color, but neutral ankle boots would work also. 

With a Short Cardigan and Clogs

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Yes, you can wear clogs with a dress. You can wear them with a puff sleeve knit dress. 

Switching to a shorter cardigan also emphasizes the waist, where the longer cardigan was helpful in creating that vertical line drawing the eye up and down. 

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Cardigan- option; Clogs- Dr. Scholls

What jacket to wear with a puff sleeve dress

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Pop a denim jacket over your puff sleeve knit dress. Again, a denim jacket won’t work with all puff sleeve dresses, but it’s perfect with this puff sleeve knit dress. 

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Denim jacket- Old Navy

I chose white sneakers again, but ankle boots or even tall boots in colder weather would work with this look. 

You may also like: 15 Ways to Wear a Denim Jacket for Spring or

Women’s Fall Jackets: The Best Types and How to Wear Them

Is a puff sleeve dress part of your wardrobe?