Puff sleeve tops: the statement piece to wear now

Posted by for Fashion

Stuck in a style rut? Put the joy back in getting dressed with the statement-making puff sleeve top that’s making waves in every style setter’s wardrobe. 

Do you get dressed on autopilot? While sticking to an everyday uniform might have sped up our morning routine, this dress-by-rote approach has taken all the joy and creativity out of dressing. If you’re ready to rip up the rule book and say goodbye to style formulas then rejoice, because new season style is here, and it’s all about going all out with colour, print and exaggerated silhouettes.   

From vibrant floral print dresses to colourful cardigans, sculptural handbags to oversized totes, this spring is all about experimenting with bold pieces and playing with your personal style. While all of these pieces sound like the perfect additions to our new season wardrobe, we’re left wondering how sustainable (and affordable) building a whole new spring wardrobe might be. If only there was one style that offered enough interest to act as a complete style overhaul in a single piece? We prayed and the gods of fashion answered, blessing us with the puff sleeve top.

Thanks to its exaggerated puff (or balloon) sleeves this playful style means you can stay casual from the waist down, and still look like you’ve gone all out. In other words, it’s an ideal style for those who are ready to experiment with a bolder look but don’t have time to spend hours building an outfit in their bedroom mirror. 

From colour-pop brights and summer-ready checks, to monochrome black and crisp white styles, we’ve curated an edit of the best puff-sleeve tops to wear now, along with tips on how to wear the statement sleeve. 

Bold and bright

Purple puff sleeve top street style

If you’re already a seasoned lover of colour and print, then by all means, find the loudest pieces and clash them to perfection. For the rest of us, the best way to make bolder pieces work for you is to pair them with failsafe wardrobe basics. Enter the classic ‘jeans and a nice top’ approach. The outfit equation that hasn’t let us down since the 90s: style your statement sleeve top with blue denim for an everyday look that’s anything but ordinary.

  • Rotate Birger Christensen

    When it comes to an Instagram-ready exaggerated puff sleeve, few do it quite like purveyors of Copenhagen-cool, Rotate Birger Christensen. Channel the 80s vibe in this graphic stripe print wrap top, served with a stand-out puff sleeve shoulder.

    Shop Rotate Birger Christensen Bridget top, £139

  • Staud

    We asked for statement-making colour and Staud delivered in spades. The sustainable label seen on Meghan Markle might be best known for its bags but stand-out pieces like this turquoise top prove there’s a lot more to the California based label than just accessories. Not ready to dive in at the brightest end of the colour spectrum? This puffed long sleeve top is also available in neutral shades of white, black and navy.

    Shop Staud peplum-hem cotton-blend top, £200

  • Shrimps

    Inspired by country western style icon Dolly Parton, this wrap over top is a love letter to our inner maximalist. Go all out with exaggerated puff sleeves, diamante fringing and fuchsia organza, style with blue denim and then just sit back and wait while those compliments come rolling in. 

    Shop Shrimps Cordelia blouse, £225

Chic checks

With spring comes prints aplenty. While there will always be a special place in our hearts for polka dots, this season we can’t stop thinking about checks – and a gingham or plaid puff sleeve top will tick off two trends in one. Make like stylist and creative consultant Thora Valdimars and take your top into evening with a little help from a pair of high-waisted jeans and brightly coloured heels.

All white

White puff sleeve top street style

A chic shade of bright white makes this exaggerated silhouette feel fresh and crisp. Take your cues from stylist Bettina Looney who opts for a subtle puff sleeve by New York brand, Sea. Mastered the jeans and top formula? Then it’s time to take your forays into experimental dressing one step further by layering your white top under a patterned dress for the kind of stand-out look that Instagram was made for. 

  • Sara Battaglia

    Want to take the puff sleeve into the office? Sara Battaglia gives the trend a 9-5 appropriate makeover with a stiff collared, button-down white poplin shirt. The bustier-style stitching creates the illusion of corset detailing that adds extra structure to the silhouette, and contrasts beautifully with the exaggerated sleeve.  

    Shop Sara Battaglia bustier-stitch white shirt at Matches Fashion, £268

  • Zara

    Call it the Little Women effect, but if there’s one thing we love more than a puffed sleeve, it’s a frilly collar top. When we heard the news that Zara had combined the two we knew that great things were in store, and we weren’t disappointed. With an exaggerated collar, ruffles and embroidered applique, this puff sleeved top offers all the romantic interest of a Jane Austen and Bronte sisters cross over. Naturally, we’re in love. 

    Shop Zara embroidered ruffled top, £25.99

  • Topshop

    This taffeta take on the white puff sleeve top feels just as luxe as it does playful. The gathered waist adds structure to the silhouette while a peplum ruffle adds an extra touch of drama. Make yours work for day with the addition of white trainers or pair with a silky midi skirt for a textural and romantic evening look. 

    Shop Topshop short sleeve puff taffeta blouse, £29

Back to black

Black puff sleeve top

Still not ready to step out of your style comfort zone? Take it in baby steps by opting for a puff sleeve top in a perennially chic shade of black. For a minimalist take on the trend that is no less effective, follow Carola Pojer’s lead and style a black puff sleeve with an effortless midi skirt makes for the ideal brunch-to-bar-to-basically-anywhere look. 

  • Warehouse

    When it comes to basics that are anything but basic, Warehouse is running the game. The puff sleeves on this block colour black top give a new season update to this wardrobe staple, making it the perfect piece to wear with statement-making accessories, such as the ugly dad trainers that have never been cooler.  

    Shop Warehouse puff sleeve top, £22

  • Maison Cleo

    Who said black needs to be subtle? Dial up the drama with this sheer take on the puff sleeve shirt. Cut from silk-organza this shirt looks (and feels) so wonderfully luxurious that you’d be forgiven for forgetting that it’s a sustainable, zero-waste design created from deadstock fabric. Tie yours over a tonal camisole for a more subtle approach or wear with a lace bralette for a look that’s truly sensational. 

    Shop Maison Cleo tie-detailed silk-organza blouse at Net-A-Porter, £215

A stylish edit of what to buy, see & do for busy women - think fashion, beauty, food, interiors, culture and more

Images: Getty and courtesy of brands. 

Share this article

Recommended by Harriet Davey