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Finding the Perfect Special Occasion Dress ... With Sleeves

Don’t want to bare arms? Try these flattering options

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One of the joys of the season is looking forward to all the life-affirming occasions that pop up on your calendar after winter’s long, dark days: weddings, showers, Mother’s Day, Juneteenth, graduations and religious holidays, such as Easter, Passover and Eid al-Fitr. But getting dressed for these events may not always fill your heart with delight, and finding a dress that has sleeves and a hemline that isn’t thigh-high can be challenging. 

Wanting some coverage may have nothing to do with any personal hang-ups about revealing your arms. Certain occasions just require a more chic, discreet way of dressing. If you are the mother of the bride or groom, you want to dress appropriately but still look amazing, right? Overexposure is overrated. 

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A few caveats: Not all sleeves flatter grownup women. Poofy, balloon-like ones can overwhelm your silhouette, especially if you have a full bust or are petite. Ditto, dolman or batwing styles, which may add sag where most of us don’t need it. Cap sleeves are fine if you are comfortable showing some upper arm, but ruffled ones may appear too girlish. The universal flatterer is the ¾-length “bracelet sleeve.” Another nice option is a sheer sleeve, which gives the illusion of bareness without showing too much. 

Bear in mind, a sexy shoe or sandal can go a long way in jazzing up an otherwise demure dress. 

The good news is many online shopping destinations allow you to search dresses by sleeve and hem length: Bloomingdale’s, ASOS, Anthropologie, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Lane Bryant among them.

There is always the option of renting a designer dress from sites — such as and — for a fraction of the dress’s cost. If you are only going to wear the garment once, this may be an excellent solution. But if you are looking to invest, here are some dreamy options: 

May your spring be full of joy and promise — and may you always celebrate your age and style! 

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