Oftentimes, the cardigan is an afterthought we typically throw on or stash in our bags in case temperatures get cooler. We never really think of incorporating it into our outfits on the daily, because the cardigan has always been that reliable, practical piece you can turn to only for chilly movie nights at the cinema or freezing office temperatures. The cardigan, though, is actually a pretty versatile item—the warmer counterpart of a denim jacket, if you will. And it’s the item’s very versatility that can work to your sartorial advantage! It can be used as both a top or a cover-up. Plus, you can also layer it over thinner or thicker pieces depending on your needs.
How to Style a Cardigan
Here, we present 12 ways you can style the cardigan that will highlight its true potential:
1. Tuck it in.
Unlike other jackets, cardigans are lightweight and thin enough to tuck in your trousers. It’s an uncommon styling tip, but one you should definitely consider especially if your pants are slim-fit or relaxed—this will accentuate your figure and reveal more of your trousers as opposed to covering it up. Note that this trick works best if your cardigan has a V-shaped neckline. As seen in the photos above, tucking in your cardigan will make your look more put together.
2. Wear it as a top.
If your style is classic, consider sporting your cardigan as you would other blouses and pair it with jeans or smart trousers. For something timeless, we suggest going for a Parisian vibe by pairing a nude cardigan with dark wash jeans and finishing it off with suede ankle booties. It’s a simple ensemble that’s inarguably chic—and trend-proof!
3. Try a romantic vibe for a change.
Speaking of Parisian, one influencer we can always rely on for inspo is Jeanne Damas. While her style definitely encapsulates that French je ne sais quoi, her aesthetic is more romantic—perfect for girls who like playing with pastel and florals. Here, she pulls off a cardigan look by wearing mom jeans and nude shoes, and makes it more feminine by donning cropped tops. Don’t you just love that bustier?
4. Choose an accent cardigan.
For lazy days when you want to look like you still put in some effort, why don’t you take a brightly colored cardigan and make that the centerpiece of your outfit? Make like Emma Roberts who opted for a cherry red version. Just pair with jeans, flats or heels, and you’re good to go! On the other hand, if you’ve got a monochromatic ensemble, like an all-black one as seen above, you can use a cardigan in a contrast color to serve as your outfit’s accent piece.
5. Use it for your streetwear looks.
If cardigans remind you of preppy schoolgirl looks or plain Janes, perhaps you haven’t seen the piece on the streets yet. Yes, cardigans work just as well for those with a streetwear aesthetic, as they do for those with classic sensibilities. It’s all a matter of choosing the right kind of cardigan. In this case, opt for loose oversized designs. These will go well with baggy trousers, joggers, and anything wide-legged. Tip: Choose one in a dark neutral color (like navy blue, black, and gray) if you’re looking for a versatile piece.
6. Layer with structured pieces.
If you’re the kind who brings cardigans to the cinemas, then you’re probably the type who has one packed in her handbag during a flight as well. Well, here’s some news for you: That trusty cardigan can serve as a building block to an incredibly cool outfit. If your cardigan is thin, you can layer it on top of a white shirt and underneath a boxy blazer. If your cardigan is chunky, layer that on top of a slim longline sleeveless jacket as seen above. Complete the look with luxe accessories and a leather handbag.
7. Try tonal dressing.
We’re sure you’ve got a neutral-colored cardigan lying around somewhere. Instead of using it as a “safe cover-up” for your outfits (like when you wear a beige cardigan with everything), why don’t you take inspiration from the cardigan’s color by dressing up in its different tones? You can wear that beige cardigan with something warmer, like say, tan-colored trousers. Or pair a rust cardigan with cream separates.
8. Make a statement in monochromes.
Now that we’ve got tonal dressing covered, let’s talk about monochromatic outfits. Since color shouldn’t be a problem here (you literally have to stick to just one), the trick lies in playing around with proportions. You can go for a loose shape for your top and a slim silhouette for your bottoms (as seen in the relaxed cardigan + midi skirt looks above) or the other way around. On the other hand, you can also just choose one silhouette all throughout—will it be oversized all the way or slim-fit all the way?
9. Pair with a dainty skirt.
In the previous example, you’ve seen how a simple skirt matched with the right cardigan can become an impactful outfit, no matter what your style is. Well, the same goes for other skirts with more intricate designs! If you’ve got a printed silk slip skirt, take cues from Kaia Gerber and match that with a similar-colored cardigan. Or, choose a contrast color like the baby blue cardigan above paired with a crochet skirt. If you don’t want to wear it as a top, put on a white tee.
10. Look chic in black trousers and heels.
For a simple yet sophisticated ensemble, wear a cardigan (preferably in muted colors) with relaxed black trousers and finish off the look with sleek heels or mules. If heels are too fancy for the occasion, consider wearing thong sandals instead.
11. Go for grunge.
The ‘90s aesthetic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. To make your look feel fresh and modern though, take cues from Bella Hadid who always goes for cardigans in unexpected colors (like lilac and marigold) to go with her grunge redux essentials like combat boots, chunky belts, and faded blue jeans.
12. Keep it playful in a cute ‘90s look.
Want to put a youthful spin on your old cardigan? Or do you just want to live out your favorite ‘90s chick flicks? Here’s a way you can fulfill those dreams without going overboard: Just take your cute, colored cardigan, match that with mom jeans, and opt for a pochette purse. Finish with vintage sneakers, and you’ve got a look made for Nickelodeon’s All That.