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Cindy Weber-Cleary
Apr 01, 2015 @ 12:16 pm

InStyle’s Special Projects Editor Cindy Weber Cleary has been a fashion editor for the past 20+ years. Needless to say, she’s picked up some tricks along the way. Catch her column here each week for how-to tips and style secrets on her favorite, timeless styles.

Finding a cocktail dress or an outfit for spring weddings, graduations, and other special occasions that has sleeves and a hemline close to the knee can be a challenge. It’s always relatively easy to find a sleeveless, knee-length dress or a long-sleeve minidress because many designers and stylists adhere to the belief that it’s best to show some skin somewhere lest you look matronly. But what if you don’t want to?

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It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have hang-ups about your body. You may just feel more comfortable with a fitted silhouette and less exposure or, perhaps, you are going to attend a religious celebration, a work-related cocktail party, a charity fundraiser, or you are the mother-of-the-bride or -groom and feel that a more restrained outfit is called for. You still want to look fantastic, right?

Let me just say, not every sleeve is the right sleeve if you are of a certain age. Gathered, puffy sleeves aren’t a good idea nor is a dolman or “bat-wing” style, although a kimono-like, loose sleeve can work. A cap-sleeve can be fine if you are comfortable showing some arm. A 3/4-length or “bracelet” sleeve is flattering to almost everyone. Sheer long ones can be a wonderful option since they give the illusion of bareness with a measure of coverage.

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The good news is, a number of luxury brands including Carolina Herrera (at top, left), Prada (at top, center), and Nina Ricci (at top, right), sent chic, discreet looks down their spring 2015 runways. Here are some of my other favorites from Badgley Mishka (below, left), Lanvin (below, center), and Erdem (below, right).

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Here are some finds, all with varying sleeve styles, that fit the bill.

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Shop it: By Malene Birger metallic coat dress, $595; net-a-porter.com. Theory wrap dress, $595; net-a-porter.com. Roberto Cavalli snakeskin-print dress, $1,326; mytheresa.com. Reiss floral dress, $370; reiss.com. Prabal Gurung embroidered chiffon dress, $2,495; net-a-porter.com. Tibi off-the-shoulder dress, $595; tibi.com. Raey tunic, $431; matchesfashion.com.

And, remember, wearing a sexy shoe can add plenty of sizzle to an otherwise demure silhouette!

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Shop it: Manolo Blahnik blush-colored slides, $845; barneys.com. Christian Louboutin silver pumps, $795; saksfifthavenue.com. Steven by Steve Madden metallic strappy sandals, $89; nordstrom.com. Badgley Mishka flower-embellished pumps, $215; nordstrom.com. Riess black pointy toe d'Orsay pumps, $265; bloomingdales.com.

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