16+ Plus Size Short Sleeved Tops: When You Want Something Nicer Than a T-Shirt

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plus size short sleeved tops for summer by Wardrobe Oxygen

My sister Debbie has written for Wardrobe Oxygen before. She recently texted me about a subject I hadn't written about. It was one I knew many of you would also want to know about: plus size short sleeved tops for summer. The kind of tops that are more elevated than a t-shirt for all those times where you want to look a bit more polished this summer. Take it away Debbie!

I was getting dressed the other day and on my agenda was working from home where I was unlikely to have any Zoom calls and then a dentist appointment. I didn’t want to wear a dress, I didn’t want to wear something off-the-shoulder, I didn’t want to wear a t-shirt with the neck cut out. I finally landed on an oversized linen tunic with the sleeves rolled up. But I really wanted a short sleeve top that looks nice, but that I can just throw on with either jeans or shorts and don’t have to think too hard about creating an outfit. I started searching online, but also texted Alison:

“Have you done a roundup of short-sleeved tops that aren’t full-on t-shirts and aren’t shells, that would be good to wear to a casual/semi-casual office or for things like doctor’s appointments? Where you don’t want to look “done” but you want to look pulled together, but you don’t want to show your arms or just haven’t shaved your armpits in a few days so sleeveless isn’t an option?”

She said no, but that it was a good idea, and that I should write the post. So here we are, and here’s what I found:

Plus Size Short Sleeved Tops for Summer

plus size short sleeved tops for summer

Below I share what I considered, what I ordered, and what I ended up wearing. Read right to left, first row through third. Below my thoughts on each of these tops and why I considered them:

  1. Talbots: This top is going to be a bit sheer, but I think I’m okay with that. We’ll see how I feel when it comes in! I love that this top is available in Talbots' full size range including plus petite.
  2. Modcloth: This is just another pattern of the bird one below. They also have it in solid green, but it felt more obvious that it’s t-shirt material. And one with bees, but I don’t really want to wear insects.
  3. Chico's: I like that the pattern is only on half of the top & also on the back. It makes it feel more purposeful, rather than just putting a pattern on a t-shirt and calling it dressy. It’s also linen, so great in the summer.
  4. Anthropologie: The collar gives it a bit more structure than your typical peasant blouse
  5. Talbots: While this is technically a t-shirt, the longer sleeves and split neck help it fit the vibe I’m going for, and I can see me wearing this with multiple things in my closet. Available in three colors.
  6. Modcloth: I always like a wrap top and something like this was exactly what I had in mind.
  7. Chico's: This definitely has the t-shirt vibe, but the colors and pattern are very summery. Plus, linen.
  8. Knox Rose for Target: I skipped most peasant-type blouses, but this one has a seam across the back that makes me think it wouldn’t be as much of a tent. 100% not anti a tent, but again, I had a specific vibe in mind. Also available in a navy print.
  9. Lands' End: And for what I did wear, it was this shirt from Lands’ End in pink. I bought it in a size bigger than my norm specifically for added air flow, and wore it tied in the front, with the sleeves rolled up one extra roll so they were above my elbows. I didn’t spend a lot of time outside, but I was comfortable in the 85-degree weather.

Shop These Plus Size Short Sleeved Tops:


I narrowed this list down for myself and just ordered the tops from ModCloth and Talbots. I’ll report back what worked and what didn’t once it all arrives!  

Hey Alison here! After she texted me and before she wrote this post, I started doing a search for plus size short sleeved tops. Some of what Debbie and I found overlapped; here are some other ones I found on my search:

plus size short sleeved tops for summer 1

Top Row: floral wrap | floral puffed sleeves | red gathered shoulders (comes in other colors)
Middle Row: blue and white tie dye | green floral | yellow floral wrap
Bottom Row: blue floral wrap | blue gathered (comes in other colors) | black floral

Shop More Plus Size Short Sleeved Tops for Summer:


If you have any great plus size short sleeved tops you recommend, share them below in the comments!

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  1. Due to chest size I am US12, and I am hunting for formal tops with bust darts and short sleeves, since I don*t like sleeveless clothes under jackets. It seems majority of manufacturers opt for stretch fabric and dolman/batwing sleeves. The remaining will be 2D-square with sleeve imitation. I put superzoom on models and try to see if there are any darts. Hard time finding tops I need, snif.

  2. I own and adore several colors of the Madewell central drapey and courier shirts for exactly those sorts of semi-polished errands. Good size selection, colors, dresses up or down, plus Amazon has some quality dupes for this top at stellar, under $40 price points.

  3. Thanks for this! My holy grail is a 1) short-sleeved 2) casual 3) midi (or at least below the knee, but not maxi) summer dress. It appears to be as rare as a unicorn or if I do find it, it’s made of that stretchy POLYESTER-SPANDEX blend. Just no. It’s summer, I am menopausal and unless it’s 65 degrees or less, I can’t wear poly without sweating like Albert Brooks doing anchor in “Broadcast News”….Why do they make summer clothes out of that material?

    Anyway…thanks for at least providing some help with my top half!

    1. Check out eshatki! You can customize sleeves, necklines and length, and they’re still returnable (as long as you don’t also do a custom size). I have several of their cotton poplin dresses and they are great in the heat. I wore one walking around for hours in Atlanta in July a few years ago and it was perfect.

  4. For anyone, like me, who hates their arms and finds short sleeves cut right across the widest part of their arms (and chest), a boho cotton top in a print, with loose 3/4-length sleeves, is a godsend. The loose cut, cotton fabric, and flowy sleeves allow air to circulate. If there’s elastic at the bottom of the sleeve, I usually snip it out to create even more looseness. I have a small and beloved collection of these tops from J Crew, J Jill, Lucky Brand, and Sundance, most bought on ebay for pennies on the dollar.

    1. Mine is supposed to arrive today and I keep checking the door everytime I hear something outside

  5. Thank you for this post! Since I live in the tropics, I need this sort of top about 90% of the time. Please make this a regular feature!

  6. I, too, have been on the hunt for tops that aren’t t-shirts, have sleeves, are of a natural fabric, suit my classic aesthetic, and don’t look like tents. My challenge is finding petite sizing for my Size 12 apple-shaped body. It’s tough to find t-shirts that don’t cling around the middle. I have a couple of tops on order from Soft Surroundings. I’ve never tried this brand before, so fingers crossed!

  7. I love these tops, but I sweat a lot and like to have cotton in my tops. I have a hard time finding fabric that doesn’t make me sweat, it’s embarrassing to have sweaty arm pits.

  8. While living in temporary housing during our move, I ended up buying a Knox Rose top similar to the one Debbie shows. It’s quickly become a favorite to “throw on” for errands to Home Depot and Home Goods. Well made, comfortable and made from material that won’t make me melt. And when laundered with care, this line from Target holds up well enough for more than a season.

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