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Arms: To Bare or Not to Bare

We are about to enter the warmest time of the year and the question always arises about exposed body parts. I am not talking about excessive cleavage or midriff baring tops. I am referring to one particular part of the body that causes the most anxiety in the summer: ARMS.

Let’s talk!

We give them many names: bat wings, flab, under arm dingle-dangle—mostly not so kind terms we use to define the loose area under our upper arms. We stare in horror as this area of our body seems to take on a life of its own, especially when we wave!

Even if we weren’t perfectly buff and at our perfect weight all our young lives, we never worried about our arms in this way.

And then, all of sudden…POW…we notice a little extra movement under there and feel like we age a million years in one second. Even if we feel youthful our arms defy that—all we see are our mother’s or grandmother’s arms on our bodies.

It was a sad realization for me. I have always been slim and up until two years ago I didn’t work out. I knew I should, but I don’t like working out and kept putting it off. But, two years ago two things got me to the gym pronto! One was the fact that I couldn’t stand up easily from a squatting position (yikes!) and the other was the excessive amount of flabby, wiggly skin under my arms. It seemed to have a life of its own and it made me feel really old.

Now, with my regular, twice a week weight training although the jiggling is not completely gone it is much, much better. I have to say that simply feeling stronger in my arms helps me overlook the fact that it still wiggles a bit!

Our society, that unapologetically reveres youth, makes anyone with jiggly arms feel uncommonly self-conscious about exposing them and I’m here to say, Let It Go. No matter your height or weight for most (if not all) of us that part of our body becomes much less firm and seems to take on a life of its own with each passing year. Our skin loses elasticity and the connective tissue is less tight as we age so it just can’t keep everything tight anymore. Working out helps…quite a bit, but it won’t alleviate it completely.

If you don’t already have one, definitely get a workout routine, but beyond that, without intervention like liposuction, some jiggle is here to stay.

What do you do about it?

You have two choices: tell the critics to take a hike and bare your arms anyway or cover up.

I am in the first camp. Once the temperature and humidity soar I wear a sleeveless outfit I love and hope for the best. Do not just throw on any old shapeless, colorless tank top and hope you will feel good. You won’t. Choose something that makes you feel beautiful and then you won’t care so much about what your arms are doing.

If you are of the other mind and prefer to keep your arms under cover what are some choices that are not so hot that perspiration stains become the unwelcome alternative to a little jiggle?

Fabric Matters

Yes, a lot of things are made from polyester and a variety of microfibers some of which trap in the heat and will not make you feel cool on a sweltering day. Cotton and linen win out at those times.

Here are a couple of ideas beyond the typical T-shirt and you will find many more ideas (with commentary)

Loosen Up

Loosely woven tops are a popular and welcome trend right now that I hope sticks around. Crocheted, cut-out, lace, macramé…it’s all pretty. Wear a cotton tank under it and you’re good to go. Or, choose a top that has a solid body but loosely woven sleeves for the best of both worlds!

Or, try a pretty bell sleeve or flutter sleeve that allows air to circulate.

Find more breezy top ideas here (and see one of my absolute favorites that a client got and LOVES!).

Keep It Short

Two sleeve lengths dominate the popularity chart: ¾ sleeves and cap sleeves. The former is great, but sometimes feels a bit too much on a hot day. Cap sleeves are generally unforgiving—often hitting at the widest part of your arm and they draw attention to exactly the place you want to conceal.

Short sleeves are harder find, but when you do they are much more flattering. They cover the under arm dingle dangle and let your arms breathe more than longer sleeves.

2 Fashion Tips:

  1. Find a ¾ sleeve top you like and have it cut to short sleeves. That way you get to determine exactly where the sleeve ends.
  2. Be sure the short sleeves are not too wide and stiff so they stick out unnaturally (like a traditional boxy t-shirt style) – this will only make you feel frumpy and wider.

And, of course, there are some pre-made short sleeve tops out there in the stores. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started (one combining cold shoulder with a short sleeve!):

See many more ideas here.

Let Your Shoulders Do the Talking

A very fun style that has been on trend for a couple of years is known as the ‘cold shoulder’ style. I’m hoping it will stay around a bit longer. It has a slightly sexy feel without feeling too exposed—thankfully, our shoulders don’t age the way other parts of our bodies do.

There are a wide variety of ‘cold shoulder’ styles – some expose the entire shoulder and slightly down the arm while some have a slight, modest opening at the shoulder. You can also choose a split sleeve design that has an opening down the outside of the arm. All are flattering and cool!

There are so many options (see many choices here). Here are a couple of my favorites:

Also, if your arms feel pale and you don’t like to (or like me, can’t!) tan you can also get a self-tanner and apply a small amount to your arms. Sometimes just that little extra color can make you feel better.

One last word of advice, if you choose to bare your arms, do not spend time fussing with them. Don’t say things like, “I don’t usually go sleeveless, but it’s just so hot outside.” Don’t check out your arms in the reflection of store windows and stop comparing your arms to every woman (especially younger women) you see. Instead, choose a great outfit you feel beautiful wearing and enjoy! People pick up on energy and if you exude discomfort that is what they will notice. If you head out with joy and just let your arms be, they’ll pick up on the joy and beauty you express instead. Plus, you will have a lot more fun because you’ll be focusing on what you are doing and the company you are keeping rather than what others think!

Please note: All garments pictured here (and in the catalogue) are vegan-friendly (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals).

Some of the affiliate links may generate commissions for Total Image Consultants which helps support the time spent creating these very specific recommendations.

Tweet:Tell the fashion police to take a hike. Wear an outfit you love & bare your arms proudly, with joy & a little attitude.

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Tell the fashion police to take a hike. Wear an outfit you love & bare your arms proudly, with joy & a little attitude.


2 Responses

  1. Ginger! I didn’t even finish the whole article before literally running to Nordstrom for the Harlowe shoulder-less T-Shirt!!! Yes, I bought the coral one not the black. I love it. Your advice, as usual, was spot on!

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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.