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10 Ways to Embrace Your Arms

Show them off with different styles and sleeve lengths


We spend way too much time worrying about our arms. Do you wear long sleeves on a steamy 90-degree day? Tote a cardigan or shawl — and not for the air-conditioning? By age 50 every woman — even those with slender arms — has some arm dangle or flab. It's normal, thanks to Mother Nature and gravity. The great part is that all our arms, regardless of definition or lack of, can still look very appealing — bare or dressed to thrill. Here are 10 ways to do it from gutsy to glam. You can:

spinner image Goldie Hawn in black sleeveless illusion blouson tank and black pants; Queen Latifah in sleeveless black jumpsuit; Debra Messing show her right to bares arms in a bright blue sundress
Goldie Hawn in black sleeveless illusion blouson tank and black pants; Queen Latifah in sleeveless black jumpsuit; Debra Messing shows her right to bare arms in a bright blue sundress
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Child Mind Institute; Getty Images; Mark Sagliocco/Getty Images for Hamptons Magazine

1. Go sleeveless and forget about being self-conscious. No one is looking at your arms that closely, and if they are it's their problem not yours. Take control and wave buh-bye to arm anxiety. Chill out in any sleeve-free dress, jumpsuit or top you please..

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spinner image Patricia Clarkson in a turquoise halter gown; Viola Davis in gold one-shoulder sleeveless gown; Salma Hayek in a one-sleeve asymmetric neck gown
Patricia Clarkson in a turquoise halter gown; Viola Davis in gold one-shoulder sleeveless gown; Salma Hayek in a one-sleeve asymmetric neck gown
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images; Getty Images; Gary Mitchell/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

2. Firm up fast with low-weight dumbbells. You don't need an evening gown or major party for incentive, just the fact that arms respond quickly to targeted exercise. Daily workouts with light two- or three-pound dumbbells improve the jiggle pronto. Here's the catch: you need to strengthen the underarm muscles called the triceps — not just the biceps and deltoids. Otherwise you might end up with buff arms and shoulders and still have a dangle dilemma.

spinner image Hoda Kotb in a sleeveless black jumpsuit cut in at armholes; Katie Couric in a high-neck black tank with cut in straps and print midi skirt
Hoda Kotb in a sleeveless black jumpsuit cut in at armholes; Katie Couric in a high-neck black tank with cut in straps and print midi skirt
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images; John Lamparski/WireImage

3. Try sleeveless with cutaway armholes. Give sleeveless another chance with this athletic-inspired style. Scooped-out cutaway armholes are roomier than classic cuts, and display more of your shoulder and collarbones to shift attention away from the upper arms.

spinner image Brooke Shields in a white V neck sheath dress with extended cap sleeve, deep V neck; Jane Seymour in extended shoulder high neck red sheath dress with bare arms; Mariella Ahrens in white cap sleeve jumpsuit
Brooke Shields in a white V neck sheath dress with extended cap sleeve, deep V neck; Jane Seymour in extended shoulder high neck red sheath dress with bare arms; Mariella Ahrens in white cap sleeve jumpsuit
Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth; Gisela Schober/Getty Images for Gala

4. Go with an extended shoulder or cap sleeve. Here's another illusion that benefits chunky or slim untoned arms — and it's the exact reverse of tip No. 2. Choose styles where the shoulder line extends to the very edge or even over the edge to form a mini cap sleeve. The increased coverage on the torso side diminishes the prominence of arms, and you still get to bare ‘em.

spinner image Sherri Shepherd in a white dress with billow-y bishop sleeves; Spanx Arm Tights in white; Loni Love in a black top with sheer long bishop sleeves
Sherri Shepherd in a white dress with billow-y bishop sleeves; Spanx Arm Tights in white; Loni Love in a black top with sheer long bishop sleeves
Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic; Spanx; Leon Bennett/WireImage

5. Opt for a sheer sleeve. You don't necessarily need full coverage. A see-through sleeve in chiffon, mesh or lace can push any dress or top into your comfort zone without adding excess weight or bulk. Or, you can simply slip a sheer blouse or shapewear top with sleeves — like SPANX Arm Tights in black or white ($30 and up, spanx.com) — under any sleeveless top or dress for subtle coverage and peace of mind.

spinner image Robin Roberts in sun yellow T-shirt dress; Donatella Versace in heart T-shirt; Caterina  Pogorzelski in navy short sleeve T-shirt and striped skirt
Robin Roberts in sun yellow T-shirt dress; Donatella Versace in heart T-shirt; Caterina Pogorzelski in navy short sleeve T-shirt and striped skirt
Raymond Hall/GC Images; Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Pride Live; Matthias Nareyek/Getty Images for Riani

6. Consider a classic tee-length sleeve. It covers just enough to keep underarm bra bulges a secret and give rounded upper arms definition. The fit can be bodysuit clingy, tailored (like a guy's shirt) or soft and silky like a blouse. The straight bottom line creates a new border between clothing and skin.

spinner image Gayle King in elbow sleeves and geometric print dress; Sandra Oh in pink elbow sleeve tailored jumpsuit; Catherine Deneuve in elbow length swingy sleeved sequin gown
Gayle King in elbow sleeves and geometric print dress; Sandra Oh in pink elbow sleeve tailored jumpsuit; Catherine Deneuve in elbow length swingy sleeved sequin gown
Mike Coppola/WireImage; Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for AMC; Daniele Venturelli/WireImage

7. Give elbow-length sleeves a chance. Half sleeves cover the most-likely-to-wiggle part of your arms and put relatively firmer forearms on display. As in tip No. 6, your eye draws a horizontal line where the sleeves end. There's a bonus here, too: Elbow sleeves frame the body on either side so your waist appears trimmer.

spinner image Christine Baranski in narrow three-quarter sleeve fitted jersey dress; Queen Latifah in three-quarter sleeve silk print tunic over jeans; Joely Richardson in pink dotted dress with full three-quarter sleeves
Christine Baranski in narrow three-quarter sleeve fitted jersey dress; Queen Latifah in three-quarter sleeve silk print tunic over jeans; Joely Richardson in pink dotted dress with full three-quarter sleeves
Jeff Spicer/Getty Images; Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET; Neil Mockford/GC Images

8. Count on three-quarter sleeves. It is our favorite go-to length — also known as bracelet sleeves. They stop two or three inches short of your wrists, providing plenty of room for bangles, beads and watches. Of course, you can always roll and push up all long shirts, blouses, and sweater and jacket sleeves for an instant DIY three-quarter look, too.

spinner image Nicole Kidman in bold pink off-shoulder dress with ruched sleeves; Virginia Madsen in off-shoulder white blouse with trumpet long sleeves; Marcia Gay Harden in off-shoulder blue eyelet dress with full elbow sleeves
Nicole Kidman in bold pink off-shoulder dress with ruched sleeves; Virginia Madsen in off-shoulder white blouse with trumpet long sleeves; Marcia Gay Harden in off-shoulder blue eyelet dress with full elbow sleeves
Getty Images (3): Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli; Paul Archuleta; Jerod Harris
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9. Bare your shoulders in fancy sleeves. Even if you're arm shy, you probably have amazing shoulders. Get gutsy and cool off in an off-shoulder top or dress with full-statement sleeves that turn camouflage chic for hot weather.

spinner image Charo Reina in dramatic bell sleeved tunic; Patricia Arquette in gray midi dress with full bishop elbow sleeves; Jana Pallaske in sheer white dolman sleeve dress
Charo Reina in dramatic bell sleeved tunic; Patricia Arquette in gray midi dress with full bishop elbow sleeves; Jana Pallaske in sheer white dolman sleeve dress
Getty Images (3): Beatriz Velasco; Rachel Murray/Hulu; Franziska Krug/Longchamp

10. Wear summer sleeves with attitude. Statement sleeves that billow and flare are the ultimate diversion. Whether your sleeve is puffed, flounced, ruffled or winging out in an airy dolman cut, the good news is there's no need to slide them under jackets and coats. Why not have some fun? Nothing to hide here.

For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your look at Any Age by Lois Joy Johnson and Sandy Linter

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