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Fashion is full of nostalgia, from 70s-inspired boho dresses to 90s-era minimalist gowns. While both aesthetics work for a bride on her big day, one ’80s trend is bigger than ever as of late—puff sleeve wedding dresses (and yes, pun very much intended). That’s right, über-poofy sleeves, balloon cuffs, and puffed-up shoulders are ruling the bridal scene—but they’re not the same old-school versions you might have seen in your parent’s or grandparent’s wedding photos. Designers have reimagined the voluminous trend, though some dresses take inspiration from decade-defining gowns like Princess Diana’s silk and taffeta creation.
“We’re all about creating a look that feels unique on your big day, and we love an exaggerated puff sleeve,” says Kaity Gaskill, a buyer at BHLDN. “We have been closely tracking the trend since the first runway emergence and are working to bring it to life in a way that feels fresh and timeless for brides-to-be.” Pia Panaligan, director of styling and visual design at David’s Bridal, is also in favor of the puffy sleeve wedding dress trend, telling Brides, “If there’s something that never goes out of style, it’s a statement piece. There’s something about big puffy sleeves, especially made with transparent fabric, with some structure to it that’s very romantic.”
Puffy sleeve wedding dresses might feel a little too Disney princess for some modern brides, but subtler variations could be a welcome dose of volume. The same goes for Victorian-inspired mutton sleeves or billowing bishop sleeves—both are a lot of look. But when offset with clean lines and minimal accessories, such details will result in a modern bridal moment. Gaskill tells Brides, “We love the many ways a puff sleeve can be executed, whether in an off-the-shoulder silhouette, a dramatic long sleeve, or a simple short sleeve, there’s no wrong way to wear this trend!”
Meet the Expert
- Pia Panaligan is the director of styling and visual design at David’s Bridal and is based in Philadelphia, PA. With a thorough knowledge of bridal fashion, current trends, and an acute eye for fit and detail, she articulates the brand's voice each season by styling their digital and print fashion editorials and brand visuals.
- Kaity Gaskill is a buyer at BHLDN, in charge of developing and curating the retailer’s product assortment. She’s been with the brand for over six years, buying for all categories, but loves gowns the best!
Whether you’re here for a subtle play on volume or love the fantasy of puffy design, scroll through our edit of 30 puffy sleeve wedding dresses for every taste and budget.
Best Lace Design: Melissa Sweet Puff Sleeve Plus Size Wedding Dress With Low Back
This puff sleeve design is perfect for the bride craving lace with a modern feel. Style the sleeves on or off the shoulders, and be sure to note the beautiful low back.
For the ‘80s-Loving Bride: Halfpenny London Cosmic Dress & Mars Sleeves
If you’re all about resurrecting ’80s trends to the fullest, then Halpenny London’s Out Of This World collection is right up your alley. The sleeves and dresses from this assortment are separates, so you can mix and match styles to best suit your taste—our favorite combo being massive sleeves and a slim-fitting skirt.
For the Minimalist Bride: Pronovias Turner Mermaid Wedding Dress
Pronovias is synonymous with drama, and this puffy sleeve wedding dress is hardly an exception. Though minimal in aesthetic, the Juliet-style sleeves, plunging neckline, and covered buttons lining the cuffs and backside, are breathtaking.
Best Two-Piece: Laury Bride Kalah Bishop Sleeve Bodysuit & Dina Trumpet Skirt
Though you would never guess, many gorgeous wedding dresses feature two pieces. This bodysuit and skirt combo is a sleek pair we love for modern brides. The sleeves are incredibly bold, but well-balanced by the trumpet skirt and dipped-down neckline.
Best Floral Appliqué: Isabelle Armstrong Lugo Wedding Dress
It doesn’t get more dramatic than Isabelle Armstrong’s puff sleeve wedding dress, featuring 3D floral appliqués and a sheer bodice. Let the detailing of this dress have its moment in the spotlight, and keep accessories and makeup to a minimum.
Should I buy a puffy sleeve wedding dress?
Puffy sleeve wedding dresses are best suited for brides in favor of drama, or those who want romantic and feminine touches. They feature large sleeves or shoulders, and range in aesthetic from minimal to ornate.
Where and when can you wear a puffy sleeve wedding dress?
Super exaggerated styles and heavier-weight fabrics are best in the cooler months. In contrast, lightweight materials, arm and shoulder-baring silhouettes, or designs featuring cut-outs are most comfortable in warm weather.
How do you style a puffy sleeve wedding dress?
A general rule of thumb: for super voluminous and decorative dresses, simple shoes, veils, and minimal jewelry are ideal. If you choose a simpler design, you can consider a detailed veil, statement shoes, or bold jewelry.