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Dressing for Your Body, Which Happens to Be Awesome: Broad Shoulders Edition


Olympic Swimmers
Image Source

Is it too late to still be thinking about the Olympics? Because I’m still thinking about the Olympics.

Here’s what I’m thinking: In the Olympics (and other athletic pursuits), bodies are appreciated for what they can do, not their aesthetic qualities. I heard a few people grumbling about how so-and-so didn’t look “feminine” and all of that, but for the most part we put aside our societal expectations and let ourselves just be impressed with what these athletes could do.

That said, I imagine it’s pretty hard to dress yourself if you’re, say, Missy Franklin. First of all, she’s 6’1″, which must make buying jeans somewhat problematic. (By the way, post in the comments if you’d like a column on dressing your mega-tall body!) But as a byproduct of her sport, she’s got killer shoulders. Her arms are the kind that win gold medals, guys. They’re awesome. But they’re probably sort of tricky to outfit.

This post is for all you athletes out there who want to show off your muscular back and arms, and it’s also for all of y’all who were just born this way, with your hips narrow and your shoulders broad.

Tips for Dressing Your Broad Shoulders

1. Get The Right Sleeves (or lack thereof)

Michelle Obama is a pro at this (and, in my opinion, a fashion icon in her own right). If you can just look at what she wears and try to adapt it for the college girl, you will always look put together and your best features will stand out in the best possible way. Below I’ll show a couple of my favorite types of tops that flatter your arms and shoulders.

2. Balance with your butt.

Styles that emphasize your lower curves just a little bit will make your shoulders look more proportional and flatter your natural shape. Luckily for you, the peplum trend is still raging on, and it’s the perfect way to add volume to your hips without trying to hide your actual shape. Also, when you widen your hips and your shoulders are already wide, you end up magically developing a defined waist. Look at that!

3.  Add bling.

For a more dramatic effect, you’re going to need some arm candy. Immediately start dating Ryan Lochte. Or, if that’s not an option for some reason, stock up on bracelets and bangles. Anything that draws attention to your arms is a good thing, and people tend to look at shiny objects. We’re sort of like birds, really.

Outfit #1: Über-feminine

Girly outfit for broad shoulders
Jeans – H&M, Top – ASOS, Shoes – Charlotte Russe, Bow – Debenhams, Bag – Warehouse, Nail Polish – Essie

This outfit showcases how girly a broad-shouldered look can be. The peplum top and slightly shiny jeans balance out your body, while still showing off your narrow hips. (The coated denim trend was pretty much made for you!) This top’s neckline and slightly thicker straps are mega-flattering as well. A studded clutch is the perfect way to draw attention to your arms and add sparkle. Finally, I love this nail polish so much that I found coordinating shoes and a hair bow – the intersection of red, orange, and pink is the place I want to spend the rest of my days.

Outfit #2: Summer-to-Fall

Outfit for broad shoulders - maxi dress with thick straps and a low neck, sandals, slouchy bag, bangles, sunglasses
Dress – Quiksilver, Sunglasses – Zappos, Bracelets – Miss Selfridge, Bag – UO, Sandals – DSW

This outfit is ideal for those last days of warm weather, sitting outside while the sun is setting, feeling just chilly enough that you’re glad there’s fabric on your lower half. (I’m convinced that the maxi dress is best suited for early fall). The neckline of this dress is also super flattering to broad shoulders, and the fact that the dress goes all the way to the floor keeps things balanced. These bracelets serve a dual purpose: they draw attention to your arms, and they push this look a little closer to the fashion-forward side of things. (Edge is in right now, guys! I might just start listening to The Academy Is… again.)

What do you think?

How do you dress your muscular upper half? What topic should I cover next? Let us know with a comment.

Posted on on September 23, 2012 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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36 Responses to “Dressing for Your Body, Which Happens to Be Awesome: Broad Shoulders Edition”

  1. 1
    September 23rd, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I’d love an article on tall people

  2. 2
    September 23rd, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Yes for tall edition!!

  3. 3
    September 23rd, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Can you please do a post about short legs?

  4. 4
    September 23rd, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    I absolutely love this post! I am built athletically, broad shoulders, über tall, and small boobs…*sigh* But the title of this post makes me feel great, honestly! I adore it! So since you’ve covered all my body parts besides my super long legs, a post like that would be great! Thanks :)

  5. 5
    September 23rd, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Sasha, she did do a long legs post. It was a long time ago, so it was easy to miss :)
    Me? I’d like a straight-up-and-down post. One about girls built like boys.


  6. 6
    September 23rd, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I would also like to see a post on dressing a tall body, I’m 6 feet tall and I often feel I look ridiculous in some pieces :(

  7. 7
    September 23rd, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you! The athletic shape is hard to work, especially when you’re not actually that athletic :/ But do you think you could add a going-out outfit to this post? It’s hard to dress for parties when the standard bandage skirt only emphasizes my weird upper half-lower half proportions.

  8. 8
    September 23rd, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Yes! I’d love tips on my tall body!

  9. 9
    September 23rd, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Yay! Also as Kristin said, a post on short legs would be amazing.

    Also, sort of a tangent on athletic/ broad sholders- wide rib cage! It (surprisingly) happens to many runners like myself. I’m muscular except for a large waist, that couldn’t really be addressed with the curvy post since it’s the same size as what little curve i have. Like an apple shape but a bit different. Thanks :)

  10. 10
    September 23rd, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Nice article, I love how feminine both outfits are!

  11. 11
    September 23rd, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Yes, please, for short legs! (I know that’s not what you asked, but I affirm what others above me are saying)

  12. 12
    September 23rd, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Awesome, I love it!

    I love how they’re sleeveless too… I’m an athlete and yes my shoulders and arms are big, but I want to show off the guns too ;)

    Keep these articles coming, this is a great series! :)

  13. 13
    September 23rd, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    Yes, please do one for tall people! :)

  14. 14
    September 23rd, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Yes! Please do a tall girl edition :)

  15. 15
    September 23rd, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I love the uber-feminine look! It is adorable!

  16. 16
    September 23rd, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I like these outfits, but im a swimmer myself and i tend to like to HIDE my man arms…. if I’m not flexing constantly they just look fat and bulgy! thus, these outfits do NOT work for me:(

  17. 17
    September 23rd, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I have broad shoulders, and I never see articles about them :) However, none of these outfits would work in Michigan right now – it’s a little too chilly to not have sleeves!

  18. 18
    September 23rd, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Ooh I love this!
    A post about being tall would be AWESOME!

  19. 19
    September 23rd, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    OH MY GOSH FINALLY no one ever does anything like this for broad shoulders thank you!!

  20. 20
    September 23rd, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I was really excited when I saw the title of this post, but not so much when I was actually reading the article. I have broad shoulders, but I don’t have narrow hips so a lot of what’s written here does not help me. I have both broad shoulders and wide hips. I’m not an hourglass though, because I have a smaller waist and a smaller chest. If I wore either of those outfits, it would just make my shoulders look wider and my chest smaller :(

  21. 21
    September 23rd, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    I would love to see one for tall girls and it would be great if it is not only for tall girls who are like size 2, it always seems like that is what is considered tall but not all of us tall girls are super skinny. Also I would love to see this column more often….its one of my favorites!

  22. 22
    September 24th, 2012 at 6:01 am


    and you /should/ start listening to TAI again. :-)

  23. 23
    September 24th, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I love this series! but can you do one for big thighs? I just find after years of taekwondo and rowing they’re so big I can never find bottoms that fit properly

  24. 24
    September 24th, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Nice post! Even if my shoulders aren’t super super broad it can be tricky to look good sometimes.

    A post about either short stubby legs or short waists would really really, i mean REALLY help! lol

    keep up the good word :)

  25. 25
    September 24th, 2012 at 11:21 am

    The way I dress up my broad shoulders is showing off my beautiful long legs ;)

    Thanks for you opinion on peplum styles. I always thought that it would make me look even wider in addition to my broad shoulders. Maybe I’ll try a peplum something next time I get the chance ;)

  26. 26
    September 24th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I agree with Rachel- tall girls with curves would be great!

  27. 27
    September 24th, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Yesssss a tall girls’ post please!
    I’d like to add to this that where your sleeveless shoulder hem hits is very, very, important. Too close to your neck and you get over-emphasized shoulders, too far out and you can lose muscle definition (and sometimes your boobs) in the fabric.

    Unfortunately for me this post mostly addresses girls who have large shoulders combined with narrow hips. I have shoulders proportional to my 5’10, size six, life-long swimmer/dancer frame, which happens to mean wide and a little bony, but I have a nice hourglass figure underneath. I have trouble finding shirts that have a correct shoulder breadth for me, but I don’t need to create visual balance either. Anyone else like me out there?

  28. 28
    September 24th, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Yes, please do the next one for tall girls! And maybe include some suggestions of places to buy long pants. The only place I have found that has good length pants for myself is Hollister, but I’d very much like to find some cute pants that maybe aren’t from there.

  29. 29
    September 25th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    OMG YES! Please do a post for us tall girls! I dont know about all of you but I can have a very hard time picking out clothes for my body!

  30. 30
    September 25th, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I have an athletic build, am uber tall with long legs and would definitely love to see a post about dressing for tall people with long legs. Love the post <3

  31. 31
    October 1st, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Aw man, this is great, thanks! I’ve been feeling shy about my shoulders and arms lately; this helps!

  32. 32
    October 2nd, 2012 at 7:17 am

    A post for super tall people would be amazing!! I’m 6’4 and finding clothes is really difficult. Things like where waists hit and then flare out and the length of sleeves is hard.

  33. 33
    October 14th, 2012 at 1:30 am

    Short legs or long waist, please! I never know how to balance outfits just right, and I can’t seem to classify my body type as anything (at least not anything Seventeen identifies as a type). I’m not tall or short, I just have mildly off-balance proportions.

  34. 34
    December 5th, 2012 at 6:20 am

    I have the same body as Katie who was the 20th person who posted. Somewhat broad shoulders (genetic I guess?) combined wih wide hips, small waist, small breasts, and long legs. I’m 5″9 1/4 When I do body shape quizzes, I get the result pear but I don’t have small shoulders.

    Can somebody help me on dressing my body to its best potential?

  35. 35
    January 13th, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! Tons of fashion articles forget about depicting those with athletic body types. As a swimmer, I know how hard it is to find long-sleeve shirts that fit around the shoulders! Although, it would have been nice to see an outfit for muscular legs and booty as well (you develop quite the butt in breaststroke!). Anyways, thank you so much for this series!

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