How to Minimize Wide or Square Shoulders

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I was recently asked by a reader how to minimize her broad square shoulders.  Now this is a problem I’d love to have, but this is not about me.  This post is for the women who feel their shoulders are too broad and make them feel masculine.

Look for narrower necklines, so narrow V necks, narrow scoops, avoid boat necks and other square necklines.

Gathered necklines can draw the eye inwards away from your shoulders, as will raglan sleeves, halternecks and dolman sleeves which don’t define the shoulder line.

Balance your shoulders by adding width to your lower half, look for skirts that flare, from A-lines to circle, bootleg, flared or wide-leg pants.

Avoid capped sleeves cut on the horizontal, look for ones (as pictured with the gathered neckline) cut on the diagonal.

Avoid spaghetti straps, look for wider straps on tops and dresses.

And of course, there are no need for shoulder pads in jackets and tops!  Avoid shoulder detail, puffed sleeves and ruched upper arms.

For evening wear, try an asymmetrical one shoulder dress, the diagonal line will distract from your shoulders.

Look for long necklaces, these will draw a vertical detail on your upper body.  Wear long rectangle scarves with the ends hanging down the front of you body for the same effect.

Avoid wide collars on jackets and shirts, look for narrower collars.

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10 Comments

  • I get so confused because some sources say that raglan and dolman sleeves are bad for broad square shoulders and other sources say they are good. Can you explain why a raglan or a dolman sleeve would be good?

  • Anon – The reason is that the diagonal line in the raglan sleeve draws your eyes in toward the neck, rather than outwards toward the shoulder making them appear narrower.

    Also, neither Raglan nor Dolman sleeves have a defined edge like a set-in-sleeve, so they don't exaggerate the edge of the shoulderline.

  • Thank you for your explanation. I do really like raglan sleeves, but have been unsure whether I can wear them or not.

    I wish I could give you my broad shoulders since I hate them, but thanks for the tip on dressing them!

    Sorry for posting as anonymous; it's the only way I can figure out how to comment.

  • I have slightly broad shoulders, but right now I like them because they balance my definitely too-broad hips!! And I am IN LOVE with that tiered skirt!! Way too expensive and I'm wondering if my sewing skills are up for a DIY copy!

  • I have a sikmilar question as the first poster, nemely about halternecks. I've thought the same as you, that they make shoulders look narrower bacuse they draw the eye inwards, bur have seen style books recommend them also to make shoulders look broader. I guess this is because the line between the fabric and the edge of the shoulder gets as long as possible, as opposed to shoulder straps that devide the shoulder line in halfs, hence making it appear shorter. What's your oppinion on this?

  • Re the halter top mentioned in comments, I definitely think they are more flattering on us wide shouldered gals. I think they do pull the eye inward. I totally agree that spaghetti straps are heinous. I bought a few tops and I don't know what I was thinking. I'll save them to wear under cardigans I think.

    On sleeve length, I feel like short sleeves are more widening that sleeveless, especially a cap sleeve. I always feel a little daintier when I'm wearing either a sleeveless or a 3/4 sleeve. When it hits high on the arm, I just feel like a linebacker.

  • As a V shape, I definitely think raglan sleeves are flattering, but dolman can be tricky if you have boobs! My shoulders aren't vast, but they're definitely wider than my hips and I have a little ribcage with DD boobs. I think halternecks are fab, and definitely V and scoop necks, but I think a wider V neck is better on me than a narrow one. Short sleeves are horrible on me – great point, Imogen, about the diagonal cap sleeves being best – but sleeveless is best of all! One thing,Imogen – as I am petite I find that wide leg trousers are just too much and swamp me. Would a narrower straight leg/bootleg work?

  • Interesting, I've got broad shoulders and Raglan sleeves make me look like a linebacker.

    Halters work pretty well, but best if there is a lot of fabric to gather, thin straps don't work well on girls who are broad up top.

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