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How to hide upper arm flab?

by Rea
(Philadelphia, PA, USA)

I recently turned 75, and although I am not heavy (130 lbs) my upper arms are wrinkled and flabby despite using weights when I exercise. I fear no amount of weight lifting will tone my arms, and my arms are a condition of my age.


I have many summer dresses without sleeves that I would like to wear but am now self-conscious of my arms. I can wear shawls and little jackets, but often end up removing them in the summer heat. What to do?

Jane’s answer…Rea, thanks for your question. Many women don’t like to show their upper arms either because, like you, they don’t like the condition of their skin, or because they don’t like the size of their upper arms.

I know I mostly prefer to cover my upper arms now too. Although, I find it easier to expose my upper arms in softer evening light. I also find that the condition of my skin gets worse (looser) when I don't have enough protein (I now take a sugar-free protein powder supplement to help with this).

It’s easier in winter and cooler months, when we can simply cover our upper arms with sleeves, or outer layers. However, in summer heat, and especially if you feel the heat, dressing comfortably for the weather and your well being can be a challenge.

Options for covering upper arms in summer


Here are my suggestions:
  • Summer dresses with sleeves -- when you buy new dresses make sure they have a sleeve. It's currently easier than usual (while statement sleeves are in fashion) to buy dresses with sleeves. Choose lengths and widths that are comfortable and flatter your proportions. Here are a few examples, showing different
    sleeve styles:
    hide upper arms with dresses with sleeves

    Images (clockwise from left): Talbots; Nordstrom; Chico's; Chico's; Nordstrom

  • Add sleeves to sleeveless dresses -- if you sew, you can do this yourself. Alternatively, find a clothing alterations person you trust (ask around, for recommendations. You can try a new person by starting with a basic alteration such as getting a hem altered, see if you like working with them). Ideally you’ll have a good idea of the sleeve style you want and you’ll take the fabric to the alterations person as well.



  • Wear a light-weight tee shirt, shirt, or top under a sleeveless dress -- look for tops in light-weight linen, and light-weight cotton (for example, cotton voile) and other light-weight versions of breathable fabrics such as rayon and viscose
    hide upper arms with light weight sleeved-tops

    Examples of layering light-weight sleeved-tops under a dress


  • Sleevey Wonders! -- try this purpose made product to add sleeves and hide upper arms, while minimizing the amount of fabric on the body. However, be aware that many of these are made of a nylon mix. You may be able to wear this fabric in a mesh, as the looser weave fabric is cooler than you might think. Alternatively, there are some versions in breathable fabrics too, such as this rayon flutter sleeve
    hide upper arms with sleevey wonders

    An example of a Sleevey Wonder


  • Accept your arms! On the hottest of days, to keep cool and to make use of sleeveless dresses you already own you may choose to simply accept your arms and expose them. Think of the activities you’ll be doing on that day and who will see you. Work out how self-conscious you’ll feel and whether that’s acceptable to you.



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