This article is the result of a request from Clarissa. She writes: “Hi, I love your site! But I miss one thing: could you post some style advice for narrow shoulders? I have an hourglass body shape but narrow shoulders … Thank you”.  It’s indeed a topic we hadn’t discussed yet, so let’s do that today. Let’s talk about how to dress when you have narrow shoulders.

The ideal shoulder line is almost equal to your hips as in the hourglass figure. Not too square and broad and not too narrow and sloping. But if you don’t have it naturally (most of us don’t) then we can always create the illusion of this ideal with our clothes.

Why dressing to suit your narrow shoulders is so important

Narrow or sloping shoulders can be aging, as they can give the illusion that you are hunched over. You’ll see that many models have a rectangular shape, with broad shoulders as clothes hang well from them. So, your posture is important. Stand tall, and keep your shoulders back!

How to dress when you have narrow shoulders - Natalia wears a wrap top |

Natalia above wears a top with drop shoulders, which can also be effective in making it look as if your shoulders are wider. She creates balance in her outfit with wide-leg jeans.

Get her look with this similar blouse, wide jeans, mules, bag, necklace and sunglasses.

What to think about when you have narrow shoulders

With narrow shoulders your main aim is to broaden the look of the shoulders. There are several ways to do this:

  • Make sure that your shoulder seams are at the right place and fit perfectly, which means that the seam extends just past your natural shoulder. This may be tricky as one size down may be too tight and one size up may be too big for your shoulders. In that case there is no other good solution, but a good tailor.
  • Choose an off the shoulder top or dress
  • Puffy sleeves also work really well
  • Boat and square necks give a widening effect too
  • On shirts, the bigger the collar, the better!
  • Cap sleeves also work well.
  • A wide v-neck also leads the eye to the side which has a broadening effect
  • Have accents on the shoulders
  • Any horizontally placed details on your shoulder and neckline will also widen
  • Use shoulder pads to widen shoulders (subtly of course)
  • Opt for wider straps instead of smaller ones (avoid halter tops altogether)
  • You can scrunch your sleeves a bit and blouse up your upper arm area, which draws attention up and away
  • Although raglan sleeves are usually advised for broad shoulders, they can also work well for narrow shoulders, since you don’t have to worry that the seam is at the correct place of your shoulder.
  • A trench coat with epaulettes is also great to add volume to the shoulders.
How to dress when you have narrow shoulders |

Cathy @themiddlepageblog above (read her style interview here) shows how you can create the illusion of wider shoulders with the style of top you choose.

Check out this similar blouse (another option here), jeans, sandals, shoulder bag, belt and sunglasses.

Should you wear shoulder pads?

Subtle shoulder pads can be a great option if you want to create the look of wider shoulders.

  • Look for natural rounded shoulder pads
  • Choose them in skin colour
  • Make sure they are not too thick. You want them to widen your shoulders, not make them bigger and higher.
  • You can just wear them underneath your bra and pull them as far wide as necessary to balance your hip
  • Make sure your shoulders pads are not visible through your fabric

What to wear if you have narrow shoulders

Now, let’s take a look at a capsule wardrobe that would work well for you if you have narrow shoulders.


The tops below feature details at the shoulder that visually widen the shoulder line, such as ruffles and cap sleeves. Another good choice if to look out for horizontal stripes that cut across the body and sleeve.

Tops for narrow shoulders |

Loveappella Flutter Sleeve Jersey Wrap TopCeCe Ruffle Sleeve Crepe BlouseFRAME Puff Sleeve Cotton Crop TopZadig & Zoltaire Tchao Sequin Stripe Top

Melissa wears zebra print |

Melissa @melissabultburns above opts for a top with volumnious sleeves.

Recreate her outfit with this similar blouse, pants and sandals.

jackets and coats

Choose jackets and coats with strong shoulders, stripes, shoulder details and epaulettes.

Coats for narrow shoulders |

Naked Wardrobe Bossed Up Oversize BlazerJ.Crew Emilie Sweater Stripe Sequin Lady JacketKedera Rivet Pearl Denim JacketCOS Classic Belted Trench Coat

Blazer and jeans outfit |

Naked Wardrobe Bossed Up Oversize BlazerLoveappella Flutter Sleeve Jersey Wrap TopPAIGE Cindy High Waist Ankle Straight Leg JeansSöfft Carleigh Peep Toe BootieVince Camuto Saly Canvas ToteEttika Set of 4 Crystal & Chain Link Necklaces

jeans and pants

The bottoms you choose will depend on the balance you want to create for the rest of your figure. If you have wider thighs and hips, you will want figure skimming pants that slim your lower half. If you have a slimmer lower half, you will be able to choose any style of pants.

Also take a look at how to dress the pear shape – as the aim there is to create balance by focusing on the top half.

Jeans and pants for your narrow shoulders outfits |

PAIGE Cindy High Waist Ankle Straight Leg JeansAG Saige High Waist Ankle Wide Leg JeansHalogen High Waist Side Slit Straight Leg PantsAnne Klein Stripe Flare Leg Pants

Marie-Louise wears a jacket over her shoulders |

Marie-Louise @mrsmlmode above shows how you could wear your jacket over your shoulders rather than as you would usually.

Steal her look with this similar striped top, tweed jacket, wide jeans, sandals and handbag.

dresses and jumpsuits

Onto good dresses and jumpsuits for narrow shoulders. Again, puff sleeves will really help to create width at the shoulders. Another great option is an off the shoulder dress, which draws the eye across ad makes the shoulders look wider in comparison to your lower half.

Dresses for narrow shoulders |

Nobody’s Child Darcie Puff Sleeve DressCharles Henry Puff Sleeve DressVince Camuto Popover Cocktail DressJulia Jordan Sequin Bodice Puff Long Sleeve Jumpsuit

Floral dress outfit |

Charles Henry Puff Sleeve DressFttpdeaus Chunky Heel Strappy SandalsCOACH Crossgrain Leather Convertible Shoulder BagMEDWISE Long Drop Earrings

shoes to go with your outfits for narrow shoulders

Given that the aim is to widen the look of your shoulders, you can choose any shoes you love that go with your outfit.

Shoes for your narrow shoulders outfits |

Fttpdeaus Chunky Heel Strappy SandalsJack Rogers Debra Kitten Heel Slingback Pump – Söfft Carleigh Peep Toe BootieConverse Chuck Taylor® All Star® Platform Sneaker

Emms wears a floral dress |

Emms @beautifuleveryday_uk above chooses a puffed sleeve dress.

Recreate her outfit with this similar dress (another option here), sandals, handbag, earrings and sunglasses.


Below, you can see accessories that go with your outfits for narrow shoulders. A bag you wear at the shoulder line can create extra width there. Or, choose a tote if you have lots of essentials to fit in.

Accessories for your narrow shoulders outfits |

Vince Camuto Saly Canvas ToteCOACH Crossgrain Leather Convertible Shoulder BagMarc Jacobs The St. Marc Convertible ClutchEttika Set of 4 Crystal & Chain Link NecklacesMEDWISE Long Drop EarringsJennifer Zeuner Jude Hoop Earrings

Off the shoulder dress outfit |

Vince Camuto Popover Cocktail DressJack Rogers Debra Kitten Heel Slingback Pump – Marc Jacobs The St. Marc Convertible ClutchEttika Set of 4 Crystal & Chain Link NecklacesJennifer Zeuner Jude Hoop Earrings

Your outfits for narrow shoulders together in one capsule

Below, you can see all the outfits from above together in one capsule. You can easily change the tops and bottoms around to create different looks.

Outfits for women with narrow shoulders |

shop the best pieces to buy if you have narrow shoulders:

These are just some of our ideas. If you have narrow shoulders, let us know what works for you!

Continue reading:

  1. How To Dress A Pear Shaped Body
  2. How To Cover Your Upper Arms While Staying Stylish And Cool!
  3. How To Fit A Blazer – A Comprehensive Guide On How To Select The Right Blazer
How to dress when you have narrow shoulders |

 Feature image by Cathy @themiddlepageblog


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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