The best dresses with sleeves for women over 40

by Sylvia

best dresses with sleeves

Nothing is as easy and feminine like a great dress. However, many women over 40 don’t want to bare their arms.

My friend Anja, who is one of them, wrote a great article on how to cover up your arms while still staying cool when you live in a warm climate.

However, if you prefer to cover your arms, then summer dresses with sleeves are a great option.

I personally believe that most women look great in dresses without sleeves even if their arms are not as toned as they once were.

But I also believe in dressing in a way that makes you feel your most beautiful. If you feel more fabulous and sexy by covering all or part of your arms then I’m all for that as well.

Another reason you may want to cover up your arms is because of the chill.

I tend to get cold very quickly and the only reason I can wear so many sleeveless dresses here is because Singapore is just so unbelievably hot! I am always sure to bring a scarf or cardigan for the airconditioning indoors though.

I went online to find some of the best summer dresses with sleeves. I selected dresses for all kinds of occasions. From going for a summer stroll to a dinner date with your partner to a groovy night out.

What to look out for in a great summer dress?

  • Choose a dress that enhances your body shape. A wrap dress or drape dress looks great on many body types as does an asymmetrical dress. The latter is a personal favorite as it adds something special in my opinion and it creates a nice diagonal line which is very flattering for many women. I have a great selection of asymmetrical garments listed here. Here are some great drape and wrap dresses to try!
  • Choose a fabric that lets you breathe. I personally prefer cotton and silk, but in cooler climates, flowy dresses in polyester can work too. Read this for more info on fabrics. Here are some silk and silk mix options for you. Some of the shorter styles would look great worn over pants.
  • Pay attention to the silhouette you like to create and the length of your dress. I believe knee-high is a great length for many women over 40, but you may want to go slightly shorter if you are petite.
  • If you don’t want to be too self-conscious or wear shapewear, choose a dress that is flowier and is draped. As I prefer to wear nothing underneath my dress (apart from basic cotton underwear of course), my dresses tend to be drapey and not too tight.
  • Shorter dresses are great for holidays or the beach but can also do double duty as tunics. Have a look at my short silk dress with sleeves that I wear by itself and over pants.
  • Be sure to check out the back carefully too. Many dresses drape beautifully at the front but are very plain at the back. I prefer dresses that flatter both the front and back.

Some of the dresses featured here can be carried over to fall as well, especially when you can pair them with pants or thick tights (see examples and how to wear tights here). Just add a jacket or cardigan for extra warmth.

More recommendations for summer dresses with sleeves:

Wrap Dresses with sleeves

Wrap dress - The best summer dresses with sleeves |

Leota faux wrap dress – Fluted wrap dress – Cece belted ruffle wrap dress – French Connection floral dress

Silk dresses with sleeves

Silk dress - The best summer dresses with sleeves |

Nic+Zoe twilight hour shift dress – Madewell oasis dress – A.L.C. silk wrap leopard dress – Sezane belted silk dress

Knee length dresses with sleeves

Knee length dress - The best summer dresses with sleeves |

Tahari sheath dress – Eileen Fisher asymmetrical dress – Sam Edelman high neck pleated dress – Adrianna Papell lace sheath dress

Draped summer dresses with sleeves

Draped dress - The best summer dresses with sleeves |

Vince Camuto draped dress – Eileen fisher jersey shift dress – Eileen Fisher asymmetrical dress – Eileen Fisher tie black dress

Tunic dresses with sleeves

summer dresses with sleeves |

City Chic tunic dress – Vineyard Vines embellished dress – Lily Pulitzer tunic dress – Nic and Zoe tunic dress

These dresses look great worn over pants too!

Do you currently prefer your dresses with or without sleeves? Any dresses with sleeves you can recommend?


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The best summer dresses with sleeves |


1 Rita A.

I will wear a sleeveless dress, but I do prefer a little sleeve, either a cap sleeve or a short sleeve. I am always chilly, too, so I will have a cardigan with me. I don’t really care for a long-sleeved dresses, though.

2 Lorraine

I do like sleeveless dresses although my arms, despite working on them at the gym, probably aren’t what they were. That doesn’t stop me wearing them though and I usually have a cardigan with me!
I find that a short sleeve can sometimes hit at the very point you are trying to hide so they can be tricky.
Long sleeves can sometimes feel a bit covered up, depending on the style of the dress. I love 3/4 sleeves.
I would definitely wear some of the dresses above.

3 Lisa

I wear sleeveless. I cannot stand how hot I feel with sleeves in the summer, even light flowing sleeves like Anja wears. I know my arms aren’t as good as when I was younger, but as long as I don’t raise my arms and shimmy it looks okay.

4 Ann

I can do sleeveless but I feel more comfortable in sleeves. I like that first orange dress. I’d try on many of these if I saw them in the store. Nordstroms does have many good choices.

blue hue wonderland

5 Lorraine

I wore a new sleeveless navy lace dress for a party last night – and took a cardigan but I didn’t need it. I had some good comments so I guess people weren’t looking at my arms!

6 Elaine Lascher

I live in an area with 4 distinct seasons where temps range from arctic to tropical. When summer arrives I’m ready for a change from long sleeves. While my arms reflect my age I’m willing to go sleeveless in a flattering dress. Sometimes I add a jacket or sweater to finish the look or allow for air conditioning. I like the dresses with 3/4 and elbow length sleeves and wear them too. The lace sleeves are sexy and I would wear them as a compromise between sleeveless and a covered long sleeve look or during seasonal transitions.

7 TerriMA

I live in Phoenix, where it’s 105 for months on end. I HAVE to wear sleeveless dresses and tops, I overheat even with short sleeves. They don’t over-air condition here as they used to do in years past, either. Most people keep their houses around 78 or even more.

8 Greetje Kamminga

I would love to wear sleeveless dresses, but my arms aged faster than me… So I cover them. Preferably below the elbow. I like the navy/pink dress from Nordstrom in your selection, but I don’t wear many dresses anymore. Strange thing, but I just found that out. I have a few dresses that desperately need outings, so I will refrain from buying more.

9 Eileen

I have always loved sleeves, I think they are interesting, and I don’t have to coordinate a jacket, or have three pieces to put together. And I can keep the sun from burning my shoulders. We women but to much emphasis on arms, men never say, ” ooh, hot arms, how sexy!”

10 Sylvia

Vey true Eileen!

11 Eileen

12 Eileen


13 Emily

I always prefer without sleeve or short sleeves, especially in summer. In winter, I prefer a cardigan. I really like the wrap dresses with sleeves and I just give them a try and I feel comfortable in hot sunshine.

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