Over the last year or so, we’ve seen a lot of delightful trends. Metallics made their way into summer wardrobes. Tropical prints experienced a somewhat controversial resurrection. Ruffles, smocked details and jelly sandals were among the relics of our youth to see a revival. But no trend has felt more consistently fun, more consistently delightful and more consistently charming than the return of puffy sleeves.
This is likely because, while these other trends are reminiscent of our youth, none feel as specifically associated with fairytales as puffy sleeves do. Growing up, we adorned ourselves with ruffles. We slipped our feet into jelly sandals. We teased the smocked details on our clothing—pulling them away from our bodies and watching them bounce back, time and time again, without any loss of elasticity. These experiences were fun, tactile, exciting. And now, they’re nostalgic. But none of them drip with dreaminess the way puffy sleeves do.
Because puffy sleeves were the stuff of fantasy. They were a mainstay of Disney princess culture, characterizing every ball gown we begged our parents to buy come Halloween. They were magnificent—fancy in a way our other favorite pieces simply weren’t. You could wear jelly sandals to the beach, or the park, or the playground. And you could sport ruffles and smocked details just about anywhere, too. But puffy sleeves—those were reserved for special occasions.
Not anymore. What was once a hyper-fancy relic from our youth has made its way into the contemporary mainstream—and into the ready-to-wear contemporary mainstream, at that. Puffy sleeves are no longer exclusively reserved for Disney princesses or Halloween costumes or the fanciest events on our calendars. They’re designed with day-to-day wear in mind. You’re not over-the-top or fussy if you wear puff-sleeve clothing on the regular—you’re just on-trend. So be the 20-something, or 30-something, or whatever-something your 5-year-old self always wished you’d turned out to be. You might not be a literal princess, but when you look this good, who even cares?
1. Laura Ashley Lucille Button-Front Peplum Blouse, $69 at Urban Outfitters
Definitely buying this one with the matching biking shorts, because seriously—the two-piece is too cute to pass up.
2. Rainbow Organza Puff-Sleeve Midi Dress, $49.99 at Urban Outfitters
Sure to elevate any ensemble you pair it with.
3. Finders Keepers Aranciata Ruffle Puff-Sleeve Romper, $140 at Urban Outfitters
Last year’s fruit print trend still managed to make its way into the zeitgeist this spring/summer.
4. Perseverance London Ottoman Puff-Sleeve Mini Dress, $305 at Urban Outfitters
A little 1980s, a little Wizard of Oz—a lotta cute.
5. Veronica Sweetheart Top, $68 at Free People
Because you shouldn’t have to choose between puffy sleeves and off-the-shoulder necklines if you don’t want to.
6. Organza Puff-Sleeve Cinched-Waist Midi Dress, $44.99 at Urban Outfitters
Can you imagine anything more quintessentially spring?
7. Elsie Floral Puff-Sleeve Crop Top, $59 at Urban Outfitters
Crop tops are a far cry from the puff-sleeve pieces of yore, but don’t we all deserve a little more fantasy in our day-to-days?
8. Puff-Sleeve Tiered Maxi Dress, $56 at ASOS
Perfect for brunch, trips to the beach, and maybe even days spent at the office.
9. Lisa Says Gah Topanga Puff-Sleeve Midi Dress, $180 at Urban Outfitters
Dorothy isn’t in Kansas anymore—she’s in fashion heaven.
10. C/MEO COllective Elate Top, $135 at Fashion Bunker
Fairytale chic—an aesthetic our younger selves can definitely get behind.
11. Some Kind of Beautiful Midi Dress, $395 at Free People
Metallics are routinely underrated in the spring, but this floral dress proves how seasonally appropriate they can be.
12. Missguided Puff-Sleeve Dress, $20.50 at ASOS
Sexy, sleek and a little princess-y—the ultimate trifecta.
13. Close Enough Long-Sleeve Dress, $111 at Fashion Bunker
Because puff sleeves don’t have to be short.
14. Lisa Says Gah Toni Smocked Crop Top, $148 at Urban Outfitters
Puffy sleeves, ruffled hems and a smocked bodice all in one? This is what our elementary school fashion dreams were made of.
15. Laura Ashley Penelope Cherub Babydoll Dress, $79 at Urban Outfitters
A puff-sleeve dress that feels floral without actually featuring a floral print—we’re here for it.
16. C/MEO Collective Vices Short-Sleeve Top, $160 at Fashion Bunker
The visual definition of a statement blouse.
17. Miss Selfridge Bardot Puff-Sleeve Dress, $35 at ASOS
Bold colors, bold sleeves, can’t lose.
18. Polka Dot Tie-Front Romper, $69 at Urban Outfitters
This puff-sleeve, polka-dot romper brings all kinds of mod fun to the table.
19. Gingham Seersucker Mini Dress, $69 at Urban Outfitters
Because gingham and puff-sleeves are a veritable match made in heaven.
20. Gabriella Dress, $495 at Free People
A party-worthy dress for every fun AF occasion on your calendar.
21. Puff-Sleeve Tea Jumpsuit, $48 at ASOS
Versatile enough to live in this season.
22. Antibes Gingham Puff-Sleeve Midi Dress, $69 at Urban Outfitters
A little drop-waist goes a long way.
23. Thurman Ruffle Puff-Sleeve Top, $89 at Urban Outfitters
A ruffled, floral, puff-sleeve blouse that feels anything but over-the-top.
24. Carousel Asymmetrical Frock Dress, $69 at Urban Outfitters
Proof plaid isn’t a fall-only pattern.
25. Addison Puff-Sleeve Peplum Top, $59 at Urban Outfitters
Because wrap blouses are more fun with puff sleeves.
26. C/MEO Collective Ovation Top, $135 at Fashion Bunker
Giving new meaning to the phrase “statement sleeves.”
27. Greta Knit Pullover, $350 at Anthropologie
Oh yeah, puff-sleeve sweaters are definitely on the sartorial menu.
28. Secure Long-Sleeve Top, $150 at Fashion Bunker
29. Keepsake Allure Printed Puff-Sleeve Crop Top, $135 at Urban Outfitters
Sure to play well with your favorite high-waisted pants. Or high-waisted shorts. Or high-waisted skirt. (Or high-waisted anything, really.)
30. Bow Detail Mini Skater Dress, $19 at ASOS
It was really only a matter of time before bows made their way into the puff-sleeve sphere.
31. Vesna Puff-Sleeve Peplum Top, $29 at Urban Outfitters
Because dresses aren’t the only way to get your floral on this spring.
32. Denim Puff-Sleeve Blouse, $250 at Anthropologie
Don’t you think you deserve a denim blouse as interesting as you are?
33. Keepsake Daybreak Top, $135 at Fashion Bunker
This fabric was made to be rendered in puff-sleeve form.
34. Sabrina Ruched Puff-Sleeve Crop Top, $69 at Urban Outfitters
Square necklines offer a serious structural juxtaposition to round, puffy sleeves.
35. LPA Filomena Mini Dress, $228 at Revolve
Date night awaits.
36. C/MEO Collective Close Enough Puff-Sleeve Top, $69.99 at Urban Outfitters
A maximalist take on print and structure—because you really can have it all.
37. ASTR the Label Icon Top, $98 at Revolve
For the shopper who can’t pick between puff sleeves and long sleeves.
Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to the people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale.
A version of this story was originally published in July 2018.