Off the Rack ~ Busty Dressing with Dolman Sleeves Part II

Like Darlene, I mostly avoid dolman sleeves. Sure, they mean there’s more room for boobs, but they usually have a weird boxy shape that completely swallows your figure. Even on rail-thin ladies, I am not a fan. Even with the gorgeous red cocktail dress from Saint Bustier that Darlene shared in her post, I just don’t understand the point. What’s the appeal of webbed armpits??


I tried the same three dolman-sleeve tops that Darlene included in her post, and my opinion remains unchanged. Of course, Darlene and I have different proportions and heights, so what looks good on her naturally may not work on me, but I still had to laugh at how terrible I think these garments look on me compared to her.

First, the snuggly sweater:


Look, Ma, no waist! This sweater is super soft, but I was super not-a-fan of the tighter hem hitting me at just the right spot so the folded over bits on the side blossomed out right at my waist—and turned it from my smallest part to my biggest. It was even worse if my arms weren’t glued to my sides:


What is happening at my biceps??

It’s not as bad if I strike a sassier pose, but I certainly wouldn’t be standing around like this all day—and I still don’t like that webbed armpit!


Next up is the Rock Cotton tunic, but again I wasn’t happy:


This tunic was shockingly long. I thought maybe it just looked long on Darlene because she’s more petite, and that it might be true tunic-length on me, but it’s definitely long enough to be a dress. In fact, it would probably look cute with black tights and a pair of moto boots…that is, if it didn’t swallow my waist again.

Like the sweater, the fabric here is a dream. It’s really soft and stretchy, and I like the goth tie-dye look of the print. But it was very tight on my hips, which made te top half billow out even more, a look I did not appreciate. If the whole thing were loose, I could probably wear it with a wide belt, but as it is, the proportions just don’t work for me.

Once again, though, a crooked elbow and a cocked hip make all the difference:


Finally, we have the cropped blazer, which I actually quite like!




This one highlights my waist instead of hiding it: The bottom button hits right at my waist’s smallest point, the flared opening creates an arrow pointing right at my waist, and the sleeves stop at my waist. The jacket is conspiring to make me look thinner instead of boxier!

Something about the way the stiffer, tailored fabric lays in the armpit region also keeps it from bunching up on the front side of my armpit.

Still, I think a normal-sleeved cropped jacket with a peplum would be similar but slightly cuter.


Like the Diva jacket from Heart of Haute—hello lovely!

So, conclusion: Big boobs don’t really affect how flattering a dolman top is…because they’re not very flattering on any shape, in my opinion! (Sorry, Darlene.)


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.


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.


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.






Big Bust Prominence . . . Experimenting with a Polka Dot Boatneck

My friend gave me a polka dot dress a few months ago, and I wore it for the first time on Easter Sunday. It was a pretty cool day, and since I didn’t have the perfect jacket or sweater to wear over the dress, I wore one of my button fronts under it. I was so pleased with myself that I took this picture afterwards . . . and got a shock at how prominent my boobs were.

big bust neckline polka dot rolled sleeves front

They were much more dominant in the photo than they had seemed in the mirror that morning. After mulling it over, I came up with three observations:

  1. Other busty women do fine with boatnecks–Miriam Baker likes the way they balance her out. But every time I try a  boatneck, I look bustier.
  2. Using sleeves to avoid grouping my boobs with my waistline didn’t work any magic with this neckline. At best, it only neutralized the effect of so much fabric above my chest. All the fabric on top (including the added collar) makes me look like I’m hanging low, but at least the sleeves show how much lower I could go.
  3. This is very thin, super stretchy fabric, and it has to stretch the most at my bustline, which makes the print around my chest bigger there than anywhere else.

I couldn’t do anything about the neckline or the print, but look what happened when I got rid of all that extra fabric from the shirt.

big bust prominence better with less fabricMy boobs are still front and center, but they look more lifted, and I look slimmer without all that cluttery fabric.

Since layering underneath isn’t an option anymore, what happens when I layer above? I found this knit Calvin Klein jacket on sale at Macy’s last week and thought it would be perfect. A jacket definitely reduces boob prominence.

reduce boob prominence but jacket too longUnfortunately, this jacket also makes me look frumpy–a common issue for busty women. I mentioned this problem to my stylish friend Carol last week, and she said that length is often the culprit. It certainly is here. Look what happened when I pinned up the hem.

reduce boob prominence with jacket but remember proportionI should have learned this lesson from my Express jacket experience, but I guess I need to be hit over the head a couple of times before something sinks in.

This isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of this dress. That bare neckline is just begging for a necklace, and I’m going to show you my discoveries on that front as soon as I make them.

Addendum: As promised, this wasn’t the last of this dress, although I didn’t expect to make the discovery I write about a week later.



Continuing My Fight Against Full Bust Frumpiness

If you read my experiment with skirt length and top tightness last June, you probably felt like I had a long way to go in my fight against frump. So did I, and I found the comments on that post to be super helpful. As a result, I’ve spent more time in the petites department, where I found this Lauren Ralph Lauren polka dot faux wrap top in size Petite Large. Although I liked Malica’s suggestion to change the shape at the bottom of my denim skirt, it was simpler to have my skirt taken in by two inches at the waist.

The pictures below don’t exactly compare melons to melons–the pose and shoes are different, plus I’m tanner and a few pounds lighter–but I think it’s instructive. What makes the biggest difference in fighting frump? The same answer we’re told over and over again: fit. Besides that, what else do you think helps? And what more should I do?

full bust frump fight comparison