Puffy Sleeves

It's not a secret that strong shoulders are having a serious fashion moment this season. Quite the opposite, in fact, as jackets, dresses, and blouses with architectural and austere shoulders are everywhere right now. And while the more angular rendition of this trend originally got the sartorial spotlight, we have noticed that some of our favorite trendsetters have taken a shining to a different variation of the look: the puffy sleeve. Whether it's a fancy flounce on a little black dress or a swell of fabric on a vintage bolero, this iteration is less Frankenstein and more feminine, creating a silhouette that is soft yet dramatic.

Before we get into the who and wear portion of today's story, let us focus first on the what. The S/S 09 runways at Chloe and Rue du Mail provide perfect examples for how to best execute this festive detail. A puffy sleeve can accentuate a tiny waist or willowy frame by drawing the eye upward and conveys a sense of confidence-if you are going to wear a balloon or ruffle-armed garment, you've got to be able to carry the look and not let it carry you away.

A good example of one such style-setter is British girl-about-town, Peaches Geldof. The darling dresser wore a pale puff-sleeved selection to an exhibition of London-based illustrator Hannah Bays' collaboration with PPQ. Geldof's romantic ringlets and opaque tights balance out the boldness of her shoulder, and add hint of lady-like sophistication. Another dress that stole our hearts was Reese Witherspoon's Prada frock, which she wore while promoting her 3-D children's flick Monsters vs Aliens in London earlier this year. Madame Miuccia's directional designs are always ahead of the, ahem, curve, but this silk cocktail confection with black stone embroidery from the F/W 09 collection is a cut above the rest. We love the way the compact concentration of volume can add interest to a little black (or white) dress, and recommend you invest in one, as it is sure to persist well into the summer and fall months. You will certainly get maximum mileage out of any dress in this style, so we suggest Designers Remix's Ohhstyle Dress ($386), Voom's Joy Puff Sleeve Dress ($198), and Twelve by Twelve's Puff Sleeve Dress ($39), all of which are on-trend and classic.

Of course, this shape is exceptional outside of the monochromatic spectrum as well; Hervé Léger, for example, affixed this peplum embellishment to a geometric-printed bandage dress. At the Hannah Montana: The Movie London premiere, Miley Cyrus looked trés chic in the aforementioned frock, proving that a mutton sleeve can look proper and playful, simultaneously. Rihanna, risk-taker extraordinaire, opted for a luxurious Louis Vuitton ensemble for the DKMS Gala in New York. Her metallic puff-sleeved top from the house's F/W 09 collection strikes a nice balance with her geranium-hued bubble skirt, and makes a bold and festive statement. The songbird shows us that a blouse is the perfect way to integrate this look into your wardrobe; just make sure the top isn't bogged down with enough fabric to sail a ship (lest you resemble Jerry Seinfeld's notorious puffy pirate shirt.) We recommend Derercuny's Pintuck Blouse with Puff Sleeves ($643) and Clu's Puff Sleeved Blouse ($202), two sensational options.

Another great way to incorporate this novel shape into your warm-weather rotation is by picking a great jacket or shrug that features this exaggerated shoulder silhouette. Byrdie Bell did just that when she wore a ruched vintage bolero to the Cinema Society's after-party for the New York premiere of The Brothers Bloom. Her studded piece looked remarkably au currant for a breezy summer evening, but for those of you who don't have such a stellar antique piece hanging in your closet, try Designers Remix's Polka Black Jacket ($426) for a circular yet structural alternative!-KM

Runway images, from firstVIEW; Photo of Miley Cyrus, from INF; Photos of Reese Witherspoon and Rihanna, from Splash; Photo of Peaches Geldof, from Getty Images.