Busty Dressing with Dolman Sleeves

Each of us has a personal set of cardinal rules for D+ dressing, and for many years mine has included “No dolman sleeves.” Dolman sleeves fit a large chest, but is the fit worth looking like a lollipop? I dismissed anything like the top below whenever I browsed store racks.

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Last year, however, a few dolmans slipped into my wardrobe. One was the purple jacket I included at the end of my fall roundup of busty blazers and coats; another was a super snuggly sweater that I found for super cheap on Black Friday; and the third was the Rock Cotton tunic that I lived in while on vacation.batwings for the bustyNO ONE has complimented the purple jacket or the snuggly sweater on me, leading me to believe that dolmans truly are off limits (I refuse to abandon my snuggly sweater, however). I wonder if it has something to do with my height or average-to-short torso? After all, Sarah over at Stackdd is quite a bit taller and longer, and she has written about her great success with dolman tops (also here) and sweaters. To test my theory, I shipped the items to Leah, who also has a long torso. She’s going to take pictures of herself in them and give us her take on dolman sleeves this Friday!

In studying these photos, I realize that all dolmans are not created equal. Here are my observations:

  1. Length matters. If a big balloon of fabric is going to hide the top half of a torso, don’t end things suddenly. Keep going. I look leaner in the sweater (it’s all relative!) and the tunic than I do in the blazer because the hems fall below my hips.
  2. Knits trump wovens. Drapey fabrics give a little definition where they skim the body. Stiff fabrics stand out from the body.
  3. Contrast helps. The dark sleeves in the tunic distinguish my arms from my waist.

My friend Renee Lowry of Braology added her own insight on the subject with the help of this handy napkin diagram.extreme batwingIn her experience, the most flattering dolman sleeve tops are ones where the sleeves don’t take over the waist completely (blue lines) but instead allow for some fit and structure (red lines).

A representative for Saint Bustie, also weighed in on the subject in a recent email exchange:

Dolman sleeves can look super stylish, but it’s wise to choose carefully. Most importantly, don’t wear them to try and hide anything. To wear them well–particularly but not exclusively with big boobs–avoid dolman sleeves with too much volume or draping. Be ultra careful if you have broad shoulders–big bust or no!–as they can make you look somewhat triangular.  At the end of the day though, it’s how you wear it that really counts. Accessorize well and wear with confidence, and you will look fabulous!

One of her favorite dolman sleeve dresses at the moment is the Lauren Dress, seen below in garnet red, which also comes in black, blue and ivory white.

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Finally, Angie at YouLookFab has a great overview on dolman sleeves, including this specific pointer for petite, full busted or strong shouldered women: keep the volume [under the arms] fairly subtle. And as one commenter pointed out, if you fall in love with a top that’s too voluminous, it can be a pretty simple alteration to narrow the sleeves and waist.

It looks like I won’t be snubbing every dolman sleeve top that I see in stores anymore! Instead, I’ll be experimenting with these new discoveries and looking for more.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. As someone whose closet consists of 90% dolman/raglan/drop sleeves I agree the most flattering ones are the narrower cuts without the hang under the arms and at the waist. I sometimes see the fuller cuts called bat wings. I avoid them.

    I am the big boob/big shoulder variety and quite frankly I can’t live without dolman sleeves. I have found an odd shirt here and there with a straight seam that fits, but as a rule straight shoulder seams just won’t work on me. And it isn’t just the boobs…bog boob brands won’t fit my shoulders (despite plenty of boob room).

    • Darlene C. says:

      It sounds like dolmans are perfect for you, Wide Curves. I’d love to see pics of you in them on your blog.

  2. In my opinion having a very short waist is much more of a problem than a full bust for finding a good fit in dolman/batwing sleeves. The fullest part of the garment will sit 3-4″ lower on your body than the designer intended and you will get huge, weird empty folds of fabric dangling down on the sides, usually right around the waistline on a short torso. I have a short waist just like you and in order to get some semblance of a fit in this type of top/dress I would need to take in a lot of fabric at the seams near/on top of the shoulder (indeed, frequently this is all the way at the front of the shoulder which makes the alteration really way more trouble than it could ever be worth). Once in a while I can find something in a Petite size range that fits my vertical proportion but overall this type of design is quite a dodgy fit on me.

    • Darlene C. says:

      So glad you can relate, Wendy. Great analysis of the issue. I never considered the alteration you describe, but it makes sense. And it also makes sense why some petite can work! That’s one way to find a petite that works proportionally AND has enough room for a D+ chest.

  3. I prefer to wear the sorter sleeves version, like the ones on Sarah’s blog. And agree that the drappier the fabric the better. The tunic is my favorite but I can imagine why you like the sweater so much, it looks very comfy 🙂

    • Darlene C. says:

      Speaking of shorter sleeves, I’d like to explore kimono sleeves,too. Miriam Baker has an adorable wrap dress w/ them in her spring collection. And thanks for understanding about the sweater!

  4. I like the tunic the best because of the contrast, as you said. It defines your trunk and your arms separately and the other two just don’t.