How to wear puff sleeves | Jess Cartner-Morley


The most practical piece in your autumn wardrobe this year is a puff sleeve. A raincoat is always handy and a comfortable pair of trainers is never a bad idea, but a puff sleeve serves the most purpose. What you see here is fashion with built-in social distancing.

Puff sleeves have been on-trend for two years but until recently they served no practical purpose, unless you count giving off a “sassy Jane Austen heroine with a one-liner up her sleeve” vibe at parties, which I have come to accept not everyone does.

Anyway, I digress. The puff sleeve warns off anyone who tries to get too close. It repels air kisses, rebuffs hugs, wards off in-ear whisperers. It asserts your personal space.

It is not quite as ironclad in its effectiveness as one of those slogan T-shirts that says ‘2M BACK OFF’, or as eye-catching as a social-distancing hat made from swimming pool floats: a puff sleeve is a useful aide-memoire, rather than a steely deterrent. But for the most part, that is enough to do the job. Most people don’t set out to breathe on you, it’s just that they were looking at their phone/spotted an ice-cream van, and dodged a hair’s breadth past you without thinking about it. A puff sleeve is often enough to help them get a swerve on. There are plenty of triggers to raise your blood pressure out there without adding unnecessary confrontation to the mix, so there is much to be said for a sleeve shape that transmits a clear, but courteous, stay-in-your-lane message.

And that’s not even all. Safely back in front of your laptop, the puff sleeve doubles as excellent Zoom-wear. Dressing properly for a video call – from the waist up, that is – is every bit as important as dressing up for actual meetings. More, probably, because the stilted mood music of digital comms, calls on us all to bring a little energy to proceedings, by way of a bright colour or an interesting silhouette.

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It might sound like a silly trend, but the puff sleeve is this autumn’s most sensible pick. In a crazy year, this is fashion that makes sense.

  • Jess wears poplin pink dress, £69.99, mango.com. Green heels, Jess’s own. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Makeup and hair: Alexis Day using Tropic and Stila



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