Ask a Fashion Editor: How to Find Festive Holiday Dresses With Sleeves

Holiday dresses

This week, Zoomer's Fashion Director-at Large, Derick Chetty, offers option for a reader looking for festive evening dresses with sleeves. Photo: Jozef Polc/500px/Getty Images

Have a style dilemma or query? Send us your fashion-related question via Facebook or email to [email protected] and Zoomer’s Fashion Director-at-Large will select one to answer in his column.

QUESTION:  I’m 52 years old and I’m looking for some festive evening dresses with sleeves. I don’t like to bare my upper arms.  —Jackie B., Ottawa, Ont.

ANSWER:  During my two decade-long career in fashion, I’ve often heard the rallying cry from older women for the right to NOT bare arms. Particularly, when it comes to evening wear, they want dresses with sleeves.  But they’re often left with a feeling designers are saving on fabric because a great cocktail or evening gown with sleeves is a hard item to find. Hence, women have to resort to various cover-up tricks – shawls, sweaters or shrugs.

As we get older and our body changes, it is only natural we begin to consider covering certain parts of our bodies we think is less than ideal. If you believe the old adage “The legs is the last to go,” then perhaps the arms are the first to show the effects of aging because it’s often the body part older women often want to downplay.

But it should be noted it really has nothing to do with age or genetics.  It really boils down to how comfortable you feel baring your arms. One of the fashion world’s most famous septuagenarian – Vogue editor Anna Wintour – consistently wears sleeveless dresses.

The good news is sleeves – once dismissed by designers – are now basking in the spotlight. From frilly to balloon to pumped up exaggerated puffs, dresses in the past few seasons have been sporting all manner of sleeves. And leave it to Celine Dion to take sleeves to Titanic proportions. Last year during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, the chanteuse wore an Alexandre Vauthier dress with epic balloon sleeves which trailed behind her like a train.

Celine Dion
Canadian singer Celine Dion attends the Alexandre Vauthier Haute Couture show at Paris Fashion Week in 2019. Photo: Foc Kan/WireImage/Getty Images

So this holiday season – even if we’re still in lockdown – go ahead and treat yourself to a party frock. After all, you’ve spent most of the year in sweatpants. It’s time to dress up and celebrate life with loved ones.





Image courtesy of

Eliza J sequin blouson sleeve cocktail dress, $178,

While you might be thinking of sleeves as a camouflaging feature, it can also be the most striking design detail on a dress. This little black dress features a classic bodice, but the voluminous sequin sleeves adds a flourish of drama to an otherwise simple LBD.


Image courtesy of Winners

Burnt Orange Wrap-Top Sweater Dress, $40, Winners. 

This dress perfectly illustrates one of the simplest tenet of style:  downplay problem areas of your body while showcasing better attributes. Here, you get full coverage for your arms but a décolletage to showcase your great clavicles.  And the snug lower half of this knit dress will do justice to a great pair of legs.


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Denis Gagnon wavy trim two-tone dress, $465, 

This dramatic evening gown from Canadian designer Denis Gagnon has the ease of a caftan but hints at a regal air of formality that lets everyone at your intimate holiday gathering know you are the queen of your manor. A bonus style point: while the colour blocking is bold and graphic, the simple silhouette makes it an instant classic you will want to wear for years to come.


Image courtesy of Banana Republic

Zebra sweater dress, $199,

A simple knit dress will always be casual and comfortable attire. But when it’s also a bold and dynamic animal print – well, you’ve got yourself a fabulously fierce party dress.


Image courtesy of Michael Kors

MICHAEL Michael Kors Star Metallic Fil Coupe Silk Blend Mini Dress, $395,

The constellation of stars on this party dress is guaranteed to light up any holiday gathering. After the long dismal year we’ve had, it’s time for some sparkle.


Image courtesy of Joseph Ribkoff

Printed dress, $244, for retail locations, please consult

When it comes to problem body areas, It’s doubtful anyone ever declared their wrists as unsightly. So while you might be looking for dresses with long sleeves, don’t dismiss the abbreviated bracelet sleeve like this style from Canadian label Joseph Ribkoff.  It’s just the length to show off a beautiful cuff or a jewelled watch.

Image courtesy of Marshalls

Velvet and metallic brocade dress, $150, Marshalls

Sleeves don’t have to look like armour – full length and snug. This boho dress with short ruffled sleeves breezily offers coverage for that problematic area – the upper arm.


Image courtesy of Banana Republic

Double-breasted blazer dress, $179,

There is a new fashion category which has emerged as a hot trend in the past couple of seasons. Meet the “drazer” – a long blazer worn as a dress. Don’t worry – you’re not going to look as if you dressed in a hurry and forgot to wear pants. It’s designed to be worn as a chic cocktail dress, with the hem stopping just above the knee. Look at it as a new version of the little black dress.


Image courtesy of

Toggle dress, $80,

Even if your holiday festivities are restricted to in-home gatherings, why not embrace the holiday spirit in bold joyous red. While this dress might be inspired by classic toggle coats, these toggles are not closures but merely a decorative touch – the dress opens in the back with a zipper.