Modest Maxi Dresses That Cover Flabby Arms

Hi Deborah,

I love maxi dresses and wore those cute spaghetti strap maxis back in the 70s. Now I’m over 40 I’m interested in more modest maxi dresses that cover my flabby arms. I also don’t want to show a lot of cleavage. Can you suggest a few that look modern? Thanks, Louise

Hi Louise

Maxi dresses are back in a big way. I can understand you wanting more coverage now that you are older, but you have to be careful. Maxi dresses with long sleeves, and high necks can make you look old and dowdy. Showing some skin is modern and youthful, so here are a few modern, but modest maxi dresses.

Modest Maxi dresses


Maxi Shirtdresses

Maxi shirtdresses are the new, popular style of maxi dress.  They have long sleeves and a more modest collared neckline, but they can be styled to look very youthful. For example, you can roll up the sleeves to show your forearms and look more sporty.

You can also unbutton your collar to reveal as much or as little as your neck and chest as you like. You can also leave a few buttons undone at the bottom of the dress to show off some of your legs, or buy a maxi shirtdress that already has side slits.

Tunic maxi dresses

Tunic Maxi Dresses

Another popular type of modest maxi dress is the tunic style. Tunic Style maxi dresses have a reasonable neckline but do find one you love that dips too low; you can always wear a stretchy camisole underneath to hide any cleavage. Feel free to push up the sleeves and add some bangles if you like.

Many of the tunic style maxi dresses on the market are bright and colorful. You find lots like these two, above, from Lily Pulitzer, which are perfect for vacation time, a cruise, or by the pool at home. They have a bonus. They have 50+ sun protection built-in!


wrap maxi dress

Wrap Maxi Dresses

Wrap maxi dresses are very modern and youthful because they do wonders to show off your shape. If you are big busted and want something modest, then these are not the best choice because they emphasize the bust. However, if you are smaller busted, they can be just fine.

Many gals use a pin or fabric tape to lock down the V-neck, allowing them to show as much or as little decolletage as they want. The other option is to wear a stretchy colored camisole underneath, the same way you might with a tunic to lessen the amount of cleavage showing.


If it’s mainly your upper arms you want to cover, then you have even more sleeve options. Try: 

  • Three quarter length sleeves: more youthful and sporty than a full-length sleeve
  • Flutter sleeves: will camouflage your upper arms and lighten the look of a maxi dress.
  • Kimono Style sleeves are trending.

Modest maxi dresses with long sleeves are a great way to camouflage your arms. You’ll find more here. Here what works to hide your legs in summer.

Join the Conversation

24 thoughts on “Modest Maxi Dresses That Cover Flabby Arms

  1. How about cold shoulder dresses/tops? That conceals the flabbiest section of flying squirrel arms. If you have nice shoulders, it emphasizes your assets and doesn’t look matronly.

  2. Maxi dresses are again getting popular like 60s but this time in a modest way. On the other hand, women’s skin after 40 starts wrinkling that’s why it can be a great idea to wear modest maxi dresses to hide that wrinkling skin.

  3. Look up the word “Abaya” in Ebay, and you will find modest maxi dresses. I love them. The ones I chose are a lovely lightweight knit fabric with a little slinky hand feel; these dresses keep me modestly covered and cool in many solid colors. I dislike prints because they get dated too fast. If you want patterns, add a scarf and you can keep up with the pattern fads and keep wearing your favorite dress year after year.

  4. TY- The dresses you posted are gorgeous. I’m 5’2″ & 60 yrs. old. Been looking for casual summer maxi dresses in Petite….not an easy task. 90% of them are sleeveless, halters, plunging neckline, & skimpy fabric. Decided to go sleeveless & cover up w/ cute denim jacket or lightweight cardigan… Patti. Always freezing in air conditioning, right?!

  5. I’ve had good luck finding tasteful and inexpensive wrap dresses at TJMaxx, Marshall’s and Ross. I think the most I’ve spent is $29.99. So don’t give up hope finding these…

    1. Amen to this, smart shopper! There are good finds at consignment stores too; look for BoHo.

  6. I have a few maxi dresses and skirts, and although I like them I wonder are they still in fashion for spring/summer 2015? I was thinking of shorting a couple favorites to update them. I’d love your opinion.

  7. Deborah,
    I love your column, reading every post and learning something new all the time. I do have a request…when sharing some of your favorite “picks” would you share samples in more of a price range for most of we gals. I don’t have the budget to shop Diane Von Furstenberg’s $350 to $700 dresses.
    Thank you!

  8. I have looked at Maxi dresses again and again, my son’s girlfriend looks adorable in them, but I just feel like I would look out of place or like I was “putting on airs” wearing them for every day. I hope I get the “guts” to try one this summer!

    1. Hi Jan, You really need to try one. They’re very mainstream now. I think it’s like anything. Sometimes new things take some getting used to. Go for it! I bet you will look great! Cheers Deborah

    2. Jus tell everyone you’re an artist. Artists are allowed to wear anything they want. LOL It’s like having “poetic license” for fashion. Our jobs are to express ourselves. If questioned about our fashion choices, we simply respond by saying, “This is what I was ‘feeling’ like wearing today.” The end, amen. Me? I practically live in maxi dresses and receive nothing but comments like, “My gawd, I LOVE your style! It’s just gorgeous!” I wear pure cotton, linen, and silk. I am petite, and the dresses are a bit large and flowing, but I wow them with fun accessories like fabulous jewellery and scarves to keep the dresses fun and current. SO comfortable and unfussy. Can wear them anywhere at any time for any occasion. To the library or to the party. You MUST try one, darling!

      1. Here’s an affirmation from another artist: maxi skirts and dresses are the best – cool, comfy, and they dress up and down. Yes I go to the grocery store in a maxi – nothing’s a quicker cover than a casual cotton maxi skirt with a tank style or tankini top bathing suit at the beach. Add a light jacket and take it to lunch or shopping, add a dressier shirt and some statement jewelry and wear it to dinner. ENDLESS possibilities.

  9. Sleeve lengths to my ellbow or 3/4 are definitely my favourite ones! I do like to wear shorter sleeves when I am a bit suntanned… or finally will go to the gym again regularly…
    Also our climate most times of the year requires longer sleeves anyway.
    I really look forward to the warmer season when I can wear these lovely maxi dresses again!


    1. Hi Annette, I also like the 3/4 length. They show some skin which is youthful but they give you the coverage so many women want. I’m seeing more and more so I think designers may be finally getting the message that women are sick of sleeveless especially us 40+ gals! Cheers, Deborah

  10. I love maxi dresses and skirts–particularly a plain black one (I know–you prefer less black, but it suits my coloring). You can do so much with them! Denim vest, white denim jacket, cardigans, scarves, flats, belts, etc. One thing I’d love to see from your website is an article showing the different ways to wear a wrap dress (not necessarily a maxi wrap, just a regular knee length). Boots, pumps, scarves, cardigans, etc.

  11. I recently purchased a maxi dress and I cannot tell you enough how flattering this is.
    What’s great about the dress is that it covers up a multitude of flaws. I can wear it to work; I recently wore it to a wedding and you can dress it down with boots.

    Monique Penn

  12. Thanks for the lovely suggestions. My daughter wants a maxi dress and some of these would look great on her. Can I make one request? I would really love to see how these dresses actually look on women over 40 who want to hide their upper arms, like me. It’s hard to imagine it when the dresses are on girls in their teens and twenties without arm cleavage or flabby upper arms.

  13. At 50 years young I never thought I would wear a maxi dress…until i tried one on. And now I LOVE them! I purchased two from Kohls, in CA, last year. They have a huge selection of adorable maxi’s! One of mine is a thin cotton and the other is polyester. Both with understated prints. I like to wear mine, weather permitting, with a short, thin colorful or neutral cardigan unbuttoned, and flat sandals. They’re so fun and breezy for evening or daytime. My husband comments on how nice I look every time I wear one! And they’re SO comfortable and and forgiving when I’m feeling a little a, ehem, puffy. Next time you spot one you like when you’re out shopping just try it on…you may surprise yourself and love the way it looks! I did!

  14. I haven’t made the leap to the Maxi…I have tried a few on ( all without sleeves)wasn’t happy. I will see if our Nordstroms has the Abigal silk wrap…

    My thought is that the rayon ones I have tried on are going to be way to HOT! And if I get hot…well them mother nature thinks I want to host my own holiday and on come the hot flashes. So maybe the silk will be better.

    Nanci-As for cleavage issues I bought these wonderful bras from Soma(now others have them) they have a lace insert across the front…no more taping a dress down or having to layer. link:

    I really love them. I have seen others at Macys and JCP.

  15. I just can’t get into the maxi dress for summer. They are very cute, but to me, look like they would be just tooo hot for warm days. All that extra fabric flopping around between the legs just makes me want to have a hot flash looking at it! :)

  16. Hi Ya’ll,

    Thank you so much for responding to my question. I immediately ordered two that kind of distracted you from my less than perfect upper arms.They look nice. I find many dresses with cleavage so low cut that you have to tape the dress to your skin just to keep those bad girls from popping out! And when its hot out, do you really want one more piece of clothing like a camisole?

    Thanks again – you do such a service to us!

      1. I am 60 years young, 5’2″ 118 pounds. Bought a beautiful coral maxi from jJill and a print one. Also purchased coordinating cardigans to wear with them. jJill sells alot of linen maxi dresses which are super comfy and look fabulous. The dresses can bd dressed up or down drpendent on your needs.

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