I was home with a cold all weekend and I’m still feeling a bit blechy and cranky, so I’m going to cut right to the chase: I don’t like ruffles and I hate puff sleeves. It’s not that I have an issue with the fact that they exist and are trendy because I’ve certainly watched a fair share of trends I didn’t like pass me by before, and I certainly know that fashion’s job isn’t to only appeal to my taste. I don’t let my personal views about trends get in the way of my work and I have brought the necessary objectivity I need to do my job. I have chosen ruffles and puff sleeves for clients without a tinge of resistance. So no, my issue isn’t the fact that ruffles and puff sleeves are trendy at the moment, my issue is that they are EVERYWHERE. I mean, would it be too much to ask for a few shirts that weren’t festooned to the hilt with big wingy sleeves, puffiness, and ruffles?

Fashion tends to be a bit all-or-nothing. Harkening back to the pandemic, remember how you couldn’t get anything but a pair of joggers for what felt like a year? This is what fashion does. It eyes a trend, pushes all its chips across the table, and says “all in.” There is usually no moderation, no middle ground, it’s very all or nothing. So, yeah, good luck finding tops that don’t have a ruffle or puff somewhere.

I look at many of these poofy styles and think, “good luck not looking ridiculous if you’re aren’t 85 lbs. and flat chested,” and I can’t help but wonder if I’m the only one looking for sleeves that don’t look like they were inflated with helium. Is it just me, or am I missing something? It can’t be that everyone is ga-ga for gratuitous winged shoulders.

Personal feelings aside, let’s not forget the laundry list of problems that come with puff and ruffled sleeves. Need to add a layer over your top? Good luck getting the sleeves of your ruffly top into the arms of your topper. Prefer crossbody bags? Depending on the style, it’s likely the strap of your bag will flatten your fluff. Have very broad shoulders, a large chest? Enjoy looking like a linebacker.

I’m not giving in, just like I haven’t given into boot-cut jeans yet because I cringe at the prospect of dealing with draggy hems and needing a variety of pants lengths in my closet. However, have I put clients in puff sleeves? Yes…when the situation and the style of my client fit the trend. But puff sleeves for the sake of puff sleeves? Nah, I’m not buying it. Not everyone is a puff-sleeve, ruffle-y person.


It’s not just tops and blouses that are throwing a puff parade, you’ll find ruffles on just about anything that will stand still. Today, I am putting looks together that even the unpuffiest fans might even like.


ruffles and puff sleeves

After my rant against puff sleeves and ruffles, you might be surprised to know that I chose these exact pieces for a client. She has a hard time with dresses so we’ve been putting together dress-skirt combos to achieve the look of a dress while working with her body. Given my client’s style, I can totally see her wearing this top and skirt from Marie Oliver. She can also easily break them apart and wear the top with white pants, jeans, or shorts, and the skirt with something a little less ornate. She has options. This would be a look for someone who is all in with the ruffles and the puff.

In this case, I styled the pieces together to create a dress look and finished the outfit with heeled sandals from Splendid, a bone crossbody bag from Proenza Schouler White Label, and drop earrings from Madewell.


ruffles and puff sleeves

For the person who isn’t ready to be all-in with ruffles and puffs and is more puff/ruffle-curious, pairing something ornate works better when it is balanced with something clean, modern, or classic. With a middle ground struck, it’s not so OTT. I mean, this top from Ulla Johnson can’t help but smack you over the head with ruffles, so the rest of the look calms it down a bit. Just keep in mind, if you are very broad-shouldered, this top likely isn’t for you.

I styled the top with white jeans from J.Crew, printed espadrilles from Boden, a cool convertible crossbody from M.Gemi, and basic hoops.


For us, non-ruffle-y people of the world who may be looking to keep it casual with this trend, this midi skirt with tier and a slight ruffle may be more palatable. In addition, the classic white shirt from Frank & Eileen and the strong modern classic look with the Margaux sneakers, a link necklace, drop earrings, bracelet, and a classic straw bag override the delicateness of this Ralph Lauren midi.


I used this top from Veronica Beard as a warning because who with a modicum of bustyness would put ruffles over their chest like this? Was Veronica Beard serious when she made this top? I can accept that ruffles are a thing, but at least strategically place them so they’re flattering. Sure, okay, maybe on a young, slim, not amply endowed woman it would look good, but at $178 I can’t see the person who would look good in this top dropping that amount on it.

I’d love to be proven wrong. How great would it be if I was? So if you would like to give this top a try, I styled it with a pair of wide-leg chinos in a sail blue, added white wedge sandals from Toms, a white braided belt, and a blue crossbody.


I should dislike this dress from Rails because we could basically shrink it down to child size and it would be perfectly acceptable for a nine-year-old, but, alas, I don’t entirely hate it. I think it’s the stunning color I’m drawn to. Would I wear it? Not unless there was a gun pointing at my head, but, objectively, I like it…except for the winged armholes. Enough with all these winged armholes already, huh?

I styled it with flat metallic sandals from Bernado, a Demellier crossbody bag, and circle drop earrings.


Haven’t had enough yet? Here are more styles to check out.