A Sleeve Too Far

What I’m going to say today could come across as prissy and judgmental, so first, let me assure you that I am actually quite open-minded when it comes to fashion. I swear.

For example, you might wonder whether I’d be down with gift-wrapping my torso and calling it a dress. Guess what? I am totally into it. I think this looks fabulous:

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You might think, “I bet she doesn’t approve of a grown-ass woman dressing as Super Mario Goes to a Tea Party.” Au contraire. I DO approve. This outfit looks fun, if perhaps a bit warm on top:

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And lo, though I am growing a bit weary of every single top having cold shoulder cut-outs (of all the body parts that could possibly need airing out, why did we decide on the shoulder? why not cut the hole on the other side of the sleeve and call it a ventilated armpit? why not leave a gap where the inseams of pants come together and call it a cool crotch?), I’ve grown resigned to it. It’s the new norm.

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But this . . .

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. . . is . . .

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. . . madness.

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Can you explain the semi-detached poof-sleeve on a swimsuit? Here, I’ll try:

It’s like this bathing suit and this top were playing poker, and the bathing suit said, “I’ll see you your cold shoulder, and I’ll raise you . . . a warm bicep.”

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Attaching a sleeve to a bikini top makes as much sense as hooking a pair of knee socks to a bikini bottom. We might as well add a set of cuffs.

Oh wait, we’ve tried that.

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This look is perfectly darling if it’s 1963 and your name is Debbie and you and your roommate Barb sling cocktails all night before going back to your tiny New York apartment to smoke cigarettes and count your tips while dreaming of moving to LA to make something of yourself on your own because YOUR DAD WAS WRONG, YOU DON’T NEED A MAN (Go, Debbie!), but we’re not her and it’s 2017.

Why is this bothering me so much?

Maybe because it just doesn’t visually make sense. On a top or a dress, a poofy little sleeve or an off-the-shoulder ruffle looks cute in a retro way — like a young Sophia Loren picnicking on the Amalfi coast, or an adorable farm gal who just got her first sewing machine and a bolt of calico. Like, wheeeee, I’m having so much fun, my sleeves slipped!

But put that sleeve on a swimsuit, and it looks like you ripped off your tear-away dress to transform into a beach superhero but the sleeves got stuck and stayed on your arms.

Anyway: Have you tried it? Did you end up with a wide tan-line midway up each arm? And if so, did you then look like you went yachting while being held hostage and that the hostage-taker’s hands around your upper arms blocked the sun? Did people ask if you needed help? These are things I wonder.

And here is something I fear: Maybe I am too damn old to understand anything anymore. Perhaps, if you’re 20, it all makes sense. I went to bed last night thinking I comprehended things, then I woke up feeling stuck on the wrong side of a one-way mirror, banging on the glass screaming, “THAT OUTFIT IS BROKEN AND YOU LOOK INSANE,” but no one can hear me, because my voice no longer makes sound.

Maybe I’ve aged out of being on-trend. Already? I don’t know.

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Or maybe this is just who we are now: a nation of puff-sleeved swimmers. It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing about our world.


  1. I even like like a one shoulder, free in its entirety, mostly for the Aphrodite effect (which I effortlessly achieve or mostly not), but the isometric exercise of the cold shoulder mostly says: I am so young I can wear anything and look good OR not care.

  2. Anne of Green Gables made a compelling case for the puffed sleeve but that was back in the late 1880s and not for swimming. I understand your annoyance. For me it arises because women appear to be stupid. I enjoy fashion, adornment etc… but not when it gets in the way of movement. High heels – stupid. Girdles – stupid. Hoops, bustles, corsets, skirts you can’t run in – stupid. Men don’t seem so inclined but baggy pants below the ass – stupid. Ties – possibly stupid – have to think on it. Okay, enough. I’m trying not to be cranky. Gives me wrinkles.

  3. ML- I am reading this while 8th graders are taking a test and I am almost guffawing. Lord help us all. I feel like saying “Kids, take a break from that test and let me ask you what you think.” But I love my job. And I would like to keep it for a while longer. Thanks for making me laugh. I needed it. Middle schoolers + May = Crazy teacher

  4. I prefer no-fuss dressing, which is why I will avoid anything that looks like it requires spanx or a strapless bra. At least the cold shoulder shirt shows a little skin with no fuss.
    But that swimsuit? Sorry, but I’m thinking those sleeves are tight, and the minute it all gets wet its sliding down, pinning your arms to your sides and turning you into an anchor in the water.


  5. I will not buy anything with cold shoulders. Nope. I also am not buying anything with a high low hemline, be it a dress, skirt or shirt. Why do they do such idiotic things to women’s clothing? And it doesn’t have to be this century, and looking at the new heroine from Star Wars, why doesn’t she get a full sleeve even in her new uniform. I think Prince may have been the only male that embraced cut out fashion for his own self. Of all the stupid swim suit looks, puffed sleeves don’t even come close to the worst!

  6. How funny! These fashions are just one more example of our air-headed times. A few are original, but the gaps just look like something’s slipped. Anyone choosing to wear these ridiculous sleeves had better not try swimming with them. ..

  7. I have yet to figure out how to wear a bra with creative-shouldered shirts. Mine breasts are, thanks to pregnancy, getting close to looking like man boobs. Bras give me a little shape (and protect all of us women from forming through). But I’m not seeing any bra straps up there.

  8. I enjoy an off shoulder or Bardot garment. However, cold shoulder just looks like you ran out of fabric for the shoulder and thought you’d add a sleeve anyway.
    That said, puffs and flounces on swimsuits ensures no swimming should occur. Who wants a wet flounces dripping into your martini or splooshing onto your book.
    For some reason my phone won’t let me see this text as I type so excuse typos.

  9. I don’t understand the cold shoulder thing either but then I am old. The puff sleeves with a bathing suit is new to me but then I don’t shop for bathing suits as my old black one-piece works just fine. The off-the-shoulder thing could work in some settings although I am too old for them too as I wore them way back. I call them Blanche blouses.

  10. This looks like another attempt at making women look like little girls. Poofy sleeves. Geez. It’s disturbing.

  11. Perhaps the puff sleeves are adult floaties .Then you wouldn’t have to say to your tipsy sister “here honey put your water wings on”.
    The holes in the shoulders, I can totally do without. I would on the other hand, love to have anything without a crotch,well maybe crotchless with an easy open flap. I am 52 afterall

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