Ultimate Guide to Wearing the Stylish and Classic Cardigan

A cardigan is a knitted sweater or vest with front button closure. The cardigan’s button-front allows it to be worn closed or open as a jacket replacement, allowing for a seamless transition from outside to indoor wear. It’s a versatile piece that can be worn in various temperatures, making it nearly an all-season garment.

Cardigans are made to give warmth while seeming elegant, making them ideal as an easy jacket in the fall or layering essential in the winter. The classical style comes in a wide range of variations, making it suitable for practically every event. The garment can provide a sophisticated and professional touch to outfits, even though it is neither thrilling nor modern.

Here’s the ultimate guide to wearing a cardigan in style, from when to wear one to what to wear it with.

The Cardigan’s History

a man wearing a cardigan in fashion photo from 1947

The origins of the cardigan sweater, which may be traced back to a legendary military general and a terrible conflict, belies its more mild reputation.

Members of the British military began wearing thick knitted sweater jackets (which fisherman had worn for several generations) in the mid-nineteenth century, and no one wore them with more consistency and flair than the 7th Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell. The 11th Hussars were commanded by Brudenell, who had a reputation for being boisterous, vain, and arrogant and had been dismissed from a post for misconduct and punished for dueling with a fellow officer. He clothed his men with beautiful, dazzling uniforms and selected a soft, fur-trimmed sweater coat as his distinctive appearance, holding high standards for their attire and parade.

During the Crimean War, Brudenell was the commander of the Light Cavalry Brigade, and he was instructed to lead his soldiers into a valley surrounded by 20 Russian battalions equipped with heavy artillery. Tennyson was inspired to write his famous poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by the ensuing massacre and the bravery displayed by the unfortunate cavalrymen who rushed into cannon fire.

It also brought a lot of praise to Brudenell, who came out of the encounter unscathed. Brudenell’s sweater — which has grown famous as the cardigan – enjoyed a less checkered reputation and became a favorite garment in upper society, despite his conduct during the charge being afterward questioned.

Letterman sweaters sported by American high school and college students, imprinted on the left breast with cloth letters (often the school’s first initial) that represented the achievement of particular standards in athletics and other activities, introduced the cardigan across the pond. Stripes signified further accolades on the sweater’s sleeve.

The cardigan’s athletic connotation made it famous with professional athletes off the field, and its flexible, soft character made it ideal for recreational activities such as golfing and fishing.

The letterman cardigan was first worn at Harvard in the late 1800s, and it gained popularity during the Roaring Twenties when the sweater became a symbol of preppy collegiate style. In the 1930s, the cardigan also became a popular choice for golfers.

The cardigan made a comeback in the 1950s, both as golfing wear and letterman sweaters. Crooners like Perry Como (who made the sweater his signature look on his weekly television show), Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby wore them all the time, both at home and on the golf course.

The cardigan became popular day-to-day wear amid celebrities and creative, “avant-garde” types on the West Coast. Still, it was too informal for the normal mid-century male to wear to work and was reserved for after-work relaxation. It was relaxed, comfortable, and stylish leisure clothing.

The cardigan started to earn its more conservative, “square” reputation in the 1970s when the old swingers began to age and Mr. Rogers debuted on television. The garment’s popularity began to dwindle. In the 1990s, the sweater enjoyed a resurgence, thanks to “the Dude” from The Big Lebowski and Kurt Cobain, who wore it with slacker style.

Today’s cardigan is one of those items of clothing that ebbs and flows in favor but has generally fallen into the category of “style staple” – never out of style, never inappropriate, as long as it’s worn well.

Cardigans for Men


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As previously stated, a cardigan can refer to a variety of styles. The seemingly basic cardigan comes in many forms, from chunky cable knits and loose longline silhouettes to sophisticated shawl collar styles and dapper button-ups.

While all of these looks are in the same category, every one is distinct and will add a new vibe to your overall look. So, choosing a cardigan is a significant decision that will surely influence the rest of your ensemble.

Types of Cardigan

1. Longline Cardigan

For casual situations, a longline cardigan is a great choice. A longline cardigan’s elongated silhouette lends it a laid-back vibe that’s ideal for weekend outfits.

Because the style is most typically found in light knitted materials, it works well as a transitional garment between autumn and spring. Try it on with a loose-fitting T-shirt and a pair of skinny black jeans.

2. Shawl Collar Cardigan

On cardigans, a shawl collar is a circular turned-down collar. Shawl collared cardigans are typically chunkier and thicker than other cardigan types, making them ideal for chilly days.

These cardigans generally appear professional and polished due to the structure of the collar and the increased weight. Pair it with a relaxed button-up and dark denim for a classy casual look.

3. Button-Up Cardigan

Among the most popular styles is the button-up cardigan. A button-up cardigan can look suave and classy when done correctly.

Choose a sleek, well-fitting design with a few buttons to keep things manly and modern. As a result, a cardigan will look more formal, and you can even pair it with a suit.

4. Chunky Knit Cardigan

A chunky knit cardigan is ideal for creating a trendy casual look and keeping you warm. Combine one with items from your weekend wardrobe, and you’ll have a fashionable ensemble in no time.

Don’t be scared to go for statement-making styles when buying a bulky cardigan. Longline fashions, cable-knit designs, and one-of-a-kind fastenings are all things to think about.

When Should You Wear a Cardigan?

a standing man wearing a cardigan and looking at his phone, potted plants

You may style cardigans in various ways because of their versatile design. You can utilize your cardigan to create knockout outfits in different settings, from casual to more formal. Just make sure to mix it with the proper accessories for a trendy and cohesive look.

1. Formal Occasions

While a cardigan isn’t often associated with formal dress, it may be an excellent suit companion. Replace your three-piece suit’s vest or waistcoat with a fitted button-up cardigan. This style is comfortable and attractive, making it ideal for occasions when your winter calendar is jam-packed with formal events.

2. Semi-Formal Occasions

While a cardigan is ideal for casual wear, it works well with semi-formal and smart casual attire. To pull off this outfit, start with a fitting cardigan. Then add some smart trousers, a button-up shirt, and dress shoes to complete the look.

Also, keep the color palette neutral and clean for the proper amount of polish.

3. Business Casual Occasions

The versatile cardigan can easily be integrated into your work attire for a terrific business casual look. On days when you need something a little more relaxed but still office-appropriate, try substituting it for your blazer.

Combine it with chinos or trousers, an oxford shirt, and a tie for a stylish yet laid-back look. To keep the appearance from becoming too formal, choose loafers instead of traditional lace-up shoes.

4. Casual Occasions

A cardigan’s loose construction makes it an excellent choice for casual attire. Best of all, you’ll have no trouble finding one that matches your style and fits into your weekend outfit.

Try a plain black style if you’re looking for a versatile piece. Combine it with chinos or jeans, a T-shirt, and sneakers whenever you need a quick casual look.

What to Wear Under a Cardigan

a man wearing cardigan

Wearing the correct clothing underneath a cardigan is a big part of pulling it off. While you can wear turtlenecks and various tops, T-shirts and button-up shirts are the greatest choices. These styles will make you look your finest and cover you for any event.

You can also wear a tie under your cardigan for a more formal appearance. Just remember to wear crew-neck T-shirts with buttons up, as anything too open will look odd. Also, keep in mind that shirts look better when they are a lighter color than cardigans.

The Best Way to Wear a Cardigan

an elderly woman wearing a cardigan, table setting at the back, plants, trees, lighting

  1. Choose between loose cardigans for a laid-back vibe or fitted cardigans for a polished look.
  2. To best fit your style, choose a longline shape, button-up, shawl collar, or chunky knit cardigan.
  3. For a simple weekend outfit, pair a cardigan with jeans or chinos, a T-shirt, and sneakers.
  4. Consider replacing your three-piece suit’s waistcoat or vest with a button-up cardigan during the winter.
  5. Whether you prefer a formal or casual look, wear a shirt or T-shirt underneath your cardigan.
  6. Always fold your cardigans rather than hanging them because the hanger might cause stretching, especially at the shoulders.

Cardigans for Women

These are the different types of cardigans available to women.


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Types of Cardigan

1. Shawl Collar Cardigan

Choose a cardigan with a shawl collar for a fresh twist on the standard cardigan. Draping is a simple approach to spruce up an article of casual clothing without appearing overdressed, and you can wear it practically anyplace.

Pair this outerwear with jeans and a plain T-shirt for a more casual look, or take it up a notch with a black roll neck and leather leggings for a more edgy look. This is a timeless piece that you can wear at any age and every season.

2. Long Cardigan

The long cardigan is the perfect blend of style and comfort for the transitional seasons. You may wear it with jeans to pull a whole ensemble together or paired with a short skirt to elongate your legs.

A calf-length light knit layer will keep you warm without overheating if the temperature is hovering between warm and cold. If the weather starts to cool, opt for a chunky knit that keeps your arms and shoulders warm.

3. Chunky Knit Cardigan

Take things to the next level in chunky knits as the temperature drops. This outerwear, which ranges in length from short to long and everything in between, is a fantastic way to include a final touch to an outfit while keeping your body warm. You can’t go wrong with this stylish layer, with its floor-length length and classic elegance.

4. Button-up Cardigan

With a button-up cardigan, you can go back to the basics. This timeless piece of apparel belongs in every wardrobe, whether you choose a traditional look or incorporate a modern twist.

Don the outerwear as a top and pair it with jeans for a fresh look, or layer it with skirts and roll necks or shirts for an autumn-ready look. Experiment with leopard, stripes, blues, and pinks — there are no restrictions when it comes to this fun knitwear.

5. Wrap Cardigan Sweater

Wrap yourself with a wrap cardigan when the weather becomes chilly. This is a typical outfit set for dancers, as it is a timeless choice for outerwear that keeps them toasty while allowing them to move freely. Choose from cropped sweaters or longline knitwear for a simple approach to keep the chill at bay.

6. Short-Sleeve Cardigan Sweater

Who says cardigans are only worn in the winter? Show off your arms with a short-sleeved knitwear variation, and watch the praises roll in.

You can turn the layer into an entire outfit by buttoning up the middle and finishing the look with a pair of mom jeans. Keep it flirtatious by wearing the cardi with an A-line skirt or a summery dress, and you’ll be ready for a movie date or a picnic.

7. Plus Size Cardigan Sweater

With a stylish cardigan, you can take your look to the next level. Whether you want something short or long, it’s up to you, but this knitwear can complement any outfit.

Button it all the way up with a pair of high-waisted flares, or create a tiny waist by fastening a couple in the middle and leaving the rest undone – this will produce an hourglass shape and accentuate your waist. Wearing them in monochromatic colors is a simple way to seem instantly fashionable. A shawl collar also adds to the aesthetic.

8. Cropped Cardigan Sweater

You can take a page from Bella Hadid’s book by cinching up a cropped cardigan sweater and finishing the look with sneakers and straight-leg jeans. High-waisted palazzo trousers or pencil skirt with a tucked-in button-down jumper, as an alternative, is an easy way to look smart and chic without overdoing it. This is a great alternative for people looking to add variety to their wardrobe or traveling from work to a party.

When Should You Wear a Cardigan?


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1. Formal Occasions

A cardigan is a simple way to pull an ensemble together, whether you’re heading to the opera or a wedding. This outerwear, which ranges from a long duster to a bolero-style, is a great way to stay warm throughout the winter months.

Monochrome looks are stylish or go all out in knitwear with big sleeves. This is also a fashionable and easy approach to transform semi-formal clothing into something suitable for a formal occasion.

2. Semi-Formal Occasions

A cardigan is an appropriate option to transition from day to night for semi-formal gatherings. If you’re going out after work, go for a slim-line top and pencil skirt, then top it off with a cropped jacket. Choose a pair of high-waisted palazzo pants with a button-down color such as cream or sand for a corporate event.

3. Business Casual Occasions

Go from the coffee shop to your office in a cute cardigan. Keep it simple with a white shirt and black trousers, or switch out your work pants for jeans and go out for drinks afterward.

Instead of the conventional work bottoms, wear a long pleated skirt with a small belt to cinch in your waist. You may wear this look to work in various ways, and you can look like you’re ready for promotion by wearing a different outfit each day with the same sweater.

4. Casual Occasions

A pretty blouse and a pair of jeans are the best way to dress casually. Add a cardigan that touches your hips or rests just below them to complete the outfit. This adds another depth to the overall aesthetic and keeps it interesting.

Choose a monotone color palette or make a statement with a chunky knit in a bright hue. Wearing a crop top underneath or exposing one shoulder is an easy way to make it seem elegant.

What to Wear Under a Cardigan


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You can wear a cardigan in various ways depending on the weather and the occasion you’re attending. A T-shirt and jeans outfit is a traditional combination. Still, you can always spice it up by layering another knitwear or sweater below — it’s a high-fashion risk with a high-fashion payout.

Wear a short dress with thigh-high boots and long outerwear to make your legs look a mile long – tighten your waist with a belt, and you’ll look like a star. You can button up the middle of the fabric and wear nothing underneath on occasion. With this layer, there are no rules; have some fun and experiment.

The Best Way to Wear a Cardigan

  1. Experiment with different lengths. A long cardigan looks great with a short skirt.
  2. Use high-waisted jeans, a cropped cardigan, or a belt to cinch your waist — it’s a great way to seem stylish and put together.
  3. Dressing up a semi-formal dress code with a cardigan is a terrific way to look put together while feeling comfortable.
  4. Cardigans aren’t only for one season; they may be worn all year long and in various styles.
  5. When picking what to wear, experiment with different colors and patterns. Your cardigan can be the focal point of your ensemble.

How Should a Cardigan Fit?


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A cardigan should be comfy, depending on the design of the garment. It’s best to keep the shoulders properly fitted in all styles, from snug to oversized.

Ensure that it’s not too tight that you can’t move, but it’s also not too loose that it falls off. When it comes to buttoning up the center, choose a size that isn’t too tight across the chest. Keep it undone and layer something underneath if it does.

Emphasize the size of the armholes, just as you would with a standard jacket. You will feel uncomfortable if they are too tight, and if they are too wide, not only will it look baggy, but you will rapidly grow bothered by the need to pull the sweater down over your belt.

The look you’re going for will play a big role in finding the proper fit for your cardigan. Try a loose style if you wish to project a casual or relaxed vibe. Fitted cardigans that delicately hug your body are ideal for an outfit that appears more sophisticated.

No matter what style you’re trying for, you should only wear cardigans that are the right size for you, or the proportions will look off.

Where Can I Find Cardigans?

a pile of cardigans

Nearly 99% of today’s cardigans are off-the-rack, and the fit can be good because knit garments are far more flexible than tailored garments. In addition, c Cardigansare produced and sold by most clothing brands.

Cardigans come in various price ranges, and the price is often determined by the weight and quality of the yarn used. A heavy knit cashmere cardigan will cost several hundred dollars, but it is a good investment, whereas a wool blend or thin cotton cardigan will cost around $100 or less.

The higher the ply is, the more expensive the yarn. Knitwear is frequently labeled as two-ply, which signifies it comprises two strands spun into one yarn. This aids in evening out the differences in fiber thickness, resulting in a stronger yarn.

While two-ply cotton textiles are fine, exceptional wool or cashmere fabrics are normally three-ply, four-ply, six-ply, or even eight-ply for the most expensive heavy knits. True quality always comes at a cost, but a high price does not always imply a high-quality cardigan.

For more fashion guidelines, click on this guide to mini skirts or sweaters.