Tis The Season of the Seinfeld Puffy Shirt

Have you ever received a gift you had to keep and use, even though it was extremely embarrassing to do so? How about watched in complete confusion as something so ugly becomes extremely popular and trendy (think high-waisted pleated acid wash jeans, mc hammer style drop crotch pants, or skin-tight velour track suits, just to name a few)? The funny thing with fashion is that sometimes what at first seems so foreign, so strange, and so ugly, can slyly work its way into become a fashion must have that looks not only acceptable but desirable in a must have item kind of way. I’m going to use the famous “puffy shirt” to illustrate just how an early 90s joke became one of 2017’s most popular feature in fashion.

Even if you weren’t a loyal fan of watching the television show Seinfeld, you probably heard of the puffy shirt episode.  This particular episode was so popular that the actual “puffy” shirt is now housed in little ole’ place known as The Smithsonian, in the Natural Museum of American History.  

The quick version of the episode is that Jerry’s friend Kramer is dating an up and coming fashion designer who offers to create a shirt for Jerry to wear on a television for a homeless center fundraiser. Jerry says yes but really had no idea what he was saying yes to because Kramer’s girlfriend is “low-talker” and Jerry never really heard her. When Elaine,  Jerry’s best friend who is chairing the fundraiser, shows up to see Jerry for the promotion she encounters Kramer who is insisting Jerry wear the custom shirt as his girlfriend’s career depends on this type of exposure. Elaine is horrified and freaks out. because the shirt is hideous and looks like Jerry is going to a pirate party, not promoting aid to the homeless. The promotion bombs, as does Kramer’s girlfriend’s fashion line, leading to hundreds of homeless men on the street wearing the now donated shirts that couldn’t be sold. Jerry spots the shirt and remarks that it really is kind of a nice shirt.



So how is it that Seinfeld’s Puffy Shirt is now available from dozen’s of designers from $50 to $1,500?

The Puffy Shirt

From Chico’s to Chanel there is a version of the Puffy Shirt everywhere this season. Why? Because the fashion industry requires change, and when options are exhausted fashion becomes cyclical. The puffy shirt didn’t start in the 1990s with Seinfeld, in fact no one probably knows the exact origins. But we do know that it’s been much longer than the 1990s, going way back to the Baroque period in history. Exaggerated bell sleeves, tiered ruffles on arms and at necks and oversize collars are nothing new. They may seem weird at first we are open-minded to bringing back in style statements that have been doormat because we get bored. It’s important to buy the best quality basics that we can afford because we know we won’t get sick of a basic. Basics are great because they ground trendy items. They allow us to mix it up without feeling like we are losing our identity or becoming fashion victim. The trends that gain the most momentum? As I often mention in my tagline for my company, fashion should “fit, flatter and make you feel good.”  Well guess what a ruffle can do?

Ruffles can FIT most women. Depending where they start on the arm of the sleeve, they work on the small and petite to the tall and broad.

Ruffles can FLATTER most women. Ruffles draw attention. Thick in the middle? Ruffles that are a 3/4 length on the sleeve are perfect because they draw attention to your wrists and your forearms and away from where you feel you have excess. Feeling straight up and down and craving curves? The ruffles add a visual curve to those ladies who feel like they would like a little more oomph on the top. Too large and in charge in the bust area? No worries, opt for a v-neck style to elongate your waist and bring the attention away from the chest.

Ruffles can FEEL good. Listen, it ain’t Mr. Roger’s neighborhood out there anymore. Times are tense and tough and everyone is offended or afraid of offending. A little levity is a welcome addition to all the seriousness in our lives. A ruffle on the sleeve feels fun, feminine and makes us happy.

All good things.

Oh and the best part? They are available in all sizes in all price points in pretty much every color and every fabric – Click this link HERE for my favorite picks.

Buyer beware…watch the length of the sleeves. While a dramatic long tiered bell sleeve is indeed beautiful, it will look terrible if it gets covered in green bean casserole or lands just so into the buffalo dip at a party. Make sure the sleeves end at bracelet length, also known as in and around your wrist bone. You can’t help Aunt Marge clean up in the kitchen if your ruffled sleeves are scraping the plates and drying the dishes. Better to be safe than sorry so when you try it on do yourself a favor and pretend you are sitting at a table eating soup. If the sales person comes to check on you just tell them you are having lunch with your imaginary friend.  And if anyone, and I mean anyone, makes fun of your ruffled top, just tell them you are making a list of who you want to walk the plank and if they want their name on that list.

*Insider Tip – What To Wear Over The Ruffle

While the pirate look is fun there is still the challenge of how exactly you stuff 6 extra sleeves into your winter coat? The solution lies with one of the items I get asked the most questions about  – the wrap, aka the ruana, aka the cape. These oversize blankie type pieces are a fun addition to our wardrobe yet most people end up either feeling or looking like they are indeed wrapped up in a blanket. The key is in proportion. Taller and broader can do longer to look leaner. Tinier and petite should look for an abbreviated version in a scarf that they can hang over one shoulder while throwing the other end across the body and over that shoulder.

Thanksgiving Casual

Use the lines of the wrap to bring attention to where you want it on your body. The rib cage, the waist and the lower hip all work on different bodies for different reasons. If you are afraid that the wrap will be fussy and that you’ll end up looking like Linus from Charlie Brown dragging around his blankie, then opt for a ruana (close to a poncho with a v shape in the back to contour over your shoulders, or a cape with a closure for no-fuss stay put polish. While I realize this won’t work in sub-zero  conditions, wraps are a perfect solution for days when you will be running errands and in and out of the car and into all different temperatures as it affords you to drive without feeling like you are in a straight jacket as well as adjust a range of temps. They are also great for night outs or dinner dates when you are going from the house to the garage to the restaurant or party. No jacket, no bulk, just an elegant layer to invite in additional color, texture and pattern to your outfit. Oh and if you are a slob like me and inevitably spill on your sweater, they do double duty by hiding stains while still letting your ruffle arms party on.

Below are some examples at every style in every price point – check out tons of options to shop from right HERE on my website.  What to wear on the bottom? How about a denim skirt, tights or leggings and boots. Or faux leather style black pants and a simple stiletto? Denim and a classic riding or ankle boot is a no fail as well.



Thanks so much for reading and have a lovely Thanksgiving with your family and friends. Remember to shop local and support small businesses this Saturday.





Published by suziegaffney

owner at Suzie Gaffney Styling

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