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Sydney's Closet guide to plus size wedding dresses with sleeves

The Ultimate Guide to Plus Size Wedding Dresses with Sleeves

Are you a curvy bride shopping for a wedding dress that takes attention away from your arms? If so, you’re not alone! 

The demand for bridal gowns for plus size wedding dresses with sleeves is exploding, says wedding dress designer Phyllis Brasch Librach. Curvy brides can’t get enough of all sleeves from dainty cap styles to billowing Bishop sleeves to fancy flutter designs.

Phyllis knows the fashion trend firsthand. She creates dreamy wedding gowns with sleeves exclusively for curvy brides in plus sizes 14 to 40. Brides across the USA, UK and Canada covet her collections under the Sydney’s Closet and Michelle Bridal brands. 

Glossary of Plus Size Sleeved Wedding Dresses

Once you have set your heart on a dress with sleeves, there’s still the need to to select the style, length, fabric and color for sleeves. With so many choices, the design decisions can be so daunting and confusing even for fashion-savvy curvy brides. 

So where to start? Not to worry. Sydney’s Closet created this simple guide so you can understand quickly and easily the most popular styles of plus size sleeved wedding dresses.

Sydney's Closet Plus Size wedding dresses with sleeves: off-the-shoulder, cap, bishop, puff

Cap Sleeves on Plus Size Wedding Dresses

Think of a cap sleeve as the shortest of short sleeves. The delicate, rounded style extends to just the top few inches of your arms from the shoulder then tapers to almost nothing under the arm. Perfect for the demure bride who wants just a hint of coverage on her upper arms. 

A cap sleeve always looks pretty whether it is designed in a romantic lace, smooth satin or airy chiffon . Best of all, a plus size wedding dress with cap sleeves gives you enough coverage to feel confident and comfortable on your wedding day.

And if you’re tying the knot in Spring or Summer, or at a tropical destination, a gown with a cap sleeve lets you stay cool during the ceremony and the reception.

Wedding Dresses Plus Size with Short Sleeves

Are you a curvy bride who wants more than a cap sleeve but less than a long sleeve? Then shop for a plus size wedding dress with a short sleeve.

The short sleeve design starts in the armhole at the shoulder and ends about midway before the crease of the elbow.  You know this sleeve length very well. It’s the same length as on your favorite t-shirts.

Short puff sleeves have been all the rage for contemporary brides inspired by the Regency dress style made so popular by the Bridgerton series on Netflix.

Looking to add a chic touch to a simple cap sleeve? Then consider a tulip sleeve for your dress. The style features seams that overlap at the top of the arm creating what can look like a tulip petal.

Plus Size Bishop Sleeve Wedding Dress

Are you a hopelessly romantic curvy bride or bent on a Boho dress vibe? Then the charm of a bishop sleeve will surely tug at your heart strings.

The style is defined by loose fitting and fairly full sleeves that drape gracefully from the shoulder. The sleeve ends near the elbow or extends to the wrist and is finished with an elastic cuff or a tight cuff  band, maybe with buttons.

A plus size bridal gown with Bishop sleeves creates an oh-so feminine look for your wedding day. The sleeve offers you full coverage of your arms with a fashion statement centered on volume.

Wondering how this sleeve got its name? The timeless design was adapted from robes traditionally worn by Bishops during the Byzantine era more than 2,500 years ago.

Plus Size Wedding Dresses with Bell Sleeves

Be the most beautiful Boho bride when you go down the aisle wearing a plus size bridal gown with bell sleeves. This dramatic sleeve takes its name from the long, fitted style that flares into a bell shape until it stops at your wrist.

You always have the option of shortening the bell sleeve to a stylish three-quarter length sleeve if you are more comfortable with a sleeve hem that hits halfway between your wrist and elbow.

The style creates a free-spirited vintage vibe that is ideal if you’re planning a casual or informal wedding or a wedding aesthetic with a retro touch. In a plus size bell sleeve wedding dress you’ll  be bringing back the bell sleeves hippies made wildly popular during the Flower Child era of the 1960s and a look Cher loved to rock on stage in the 1970s.

With all these historical references, rest assured that bell sleeves survive the test of time as a classic choice for a stylish wedding dress.

Off-the-Shoulder Plus Size Wedding Dresses

Perfect if you dare to bare just a little skin, the off the shoulder sleeve focuses all eyes on your shoulders, neckline and beautiful face. The sleeve lacks an armhole. Instead, the fabric drapes from the neckline across the body to cover your upper arm at about the bicep. The result is an exposed shoulder and neckline that looks strapless. The choice of an off the shoulder wedding dress lets your partner and guests know your style is chic and just oh-so slightly sexy. (Here’s your chance to show a little cleavage!)

Plus size wedding gowns with drape and long sleeves

Plus Size Wedding Dresses with Flutter Sleeves

Looking for a feminine sleeve with a super comfortable fit and flattering style? Then go for a plus size flutter sleeve wedding dress. You won’t be sorry!

This design starts at the shoulder then spills down the upper arm in soft folds.  Typically, a flutter sleeve extends about eight inches from the shoulder to just above the elbow, but the style can be slightly shorter if you’re petite.

Curvy brides love the freedom of movement that this style delivers especially on days when hugging happens endless times and your arms get raised for toast after toast.

Plus Size Wedding Dress ¾ Sleeve

This sleek sleeve style extends over the shoulder and down the arm stopping roughly midway between the elbow and the wrist. The result? A design that strikes a more modest look than a short sleeve but a less formal one than a long sleeve.

Plus sized wedding gowns with three-quarter sleeves work perfectly for a bride who dreams of looking elegant on her wedding day. And it leaves your wrist open to wear a bracelet - maybe something borrowed or blue.

Plus Size Wedding Gowns with Long Sleeves

This is the best option if you want maximum coverage on your arms when you tie the knot. The length of a long sleeve typically extends from the shoulder to your wrist. The timeless style looks romantic in a variety of fabrics including crepe, lace, chiffon and net tulle. No wonder so many curvy brides dream of a plus size wedding dress with long sleeves.

The style is so popular Sydney’s Closet decided to devote a whole blog to just writing about plus size long sleeved wedding dresses. Check it out now.

Plus Size Wedding Dress with Detachable Sleeves

Can’t make up your mind to go down the aisle with bar arms or covered in long or short sleeves?  Then be open to the idea of a curvy plus bridal gown with optional sleeves.

You can easily wear the sleeves for the ceremony when you say, “I Do” and keep them on in your photos. Then just snap the sleeves out for the reception. In the photos, you get the look of wearing two dresses when you actually had one. 

Bridal gowns with detachable sleeves, plus size wedding dresses  

Why don’t curvy brides want to bare their arms on their wedding day?

Bridal designer Phyllis Brasch Librach says there are a variety of reasons curvy brides skip the sleeveless style, even if they like the look of bare arms.  

At the top of the list is a desire to avoid feeling self conscious on their wedding day about the love-hate relationship they have with their larger arms. Then after tying the knot, brides want only an expression of happiness and confidence when they look back on their wedding photos and videos. 

What’s the best style sleeve for a curvy plus size wedding dress?

To find the style of sleeve that most flatters a curvy bride, start by defining the look of your wedding dress as a formal or informal design. Then go for a sleeve style that best matches the overall aesthetic of your wedding day. 

  • Are you going for a Boho vibe for a beach or barn wedding wearing Vintage-inspired lace dress? Then consider a billowy Bishop sleeve in chiffon or lace that floats in the tropical wind.

  • Will your winter wedding be a formal black-tie affair with you going down the aisle at a country club? Then a fairy-tale ball gown with a long fitted illusion sleeve embellished with lace looks picture perfect for your wedding day. 

  • Tying the knot on the courthouse steps?  A simple cap sleeve on a satin tea-length gown looks chic and contemporary for a casual, intimate wedding.

Once you’ve nailed your wedding day fashion look, bridal designer Phyllis Brasch Librach points out that sleeves in any length add drama, interest and sophistication to your wedding dress. 

She offers curvy brides these styling tips for plus sized sleeved wedding dresses:

  • Fit matters most if you want a sleeve that is stylish and comfortable. A sleeve  that is too big flops, fails to flatter your curves and leaves you distracted fussing with extra fabric. A sleeve that is too tight calls attention to your arms and leaves you miserable trying to squeeze into a dress that’s too small and worried about a wardrobe mishap.

  • Keep in mind that simple sleeves in smooth fabrics keep the eyes on your neckline and face. Voluminous sleeves in fancy, embellished fabrics have the opposite effect. They draw attention to your arms which may just be what you’re trying to avoid.

  • Your choice of fabric will influence the look and the feel of your sleeves. A wispy tulle with embroidery drizzled down the arm creates a romantic vibe while a simple satin sleeve serves a minimalist look. 
  • Avoid a short sleeve gown if your arms are very full from the elbow up. The style is tough to fit at the bicep and you risk being uncomfortable on your wedding day if the sleeve fits too tightly..
  • Puff sleeves in any length help to balance out a curvy figure.
  • No matter what style sleeve you select, your choice will be not only pretty but also practical. Sleeves keep your arms warm in cool or cold weather and camouflage any skin blemishes, scars or tattoos you want to hide on your wedding day.

  • Beware of the volume of your sleeve. You don’t want the design feature to overwhelm you and your dress or end up drawing too much attention to your arms.

  • And remember, you can always skip the sleeves and opt for a strapless or sleeveless wedding dress.