Cardigan Tips

Cardigans are having a fashion moment, so options are more plentiful than in recent seasons. Many of you have mentioned that you prefer cardigans over jackets and blazers. You’ve also asked for tips to wear them in modern ways, so I’ll share some of my favorite examples and tips today.

The very casual combination shown above was my look for yesterday. I shopped for groceries and went for an hour-long walk in my neighborhood to enjoy the sunshine. The cardigan is a couple of years old. A similar current style is here. The jeans are here.

From dressed up to very casual, a cardigan can work with any look. Design details make them more memorable so, I look for solid colors. Effortless styles made from fine gauge knits do not add bulk to my frame.

This cardigan is also a couple of years old. A similar one is here.

I wear cardigans open or closed, so I usually buy a size large so that they don’t pull across the bust when closed. When I leave the cardigan open, I attempt to keep the edges in front. Letting the edges vanish to the sides under the armpits calls too much attention to the bust.

Cotton or cashmere are my first choices in fabrication. I find that wool is too itchy and acrylic knits tend to pill and look shabby almost after the first wearing.

This is the Biscayne Blue cardigan in size large. Find it and other colors here.

I wear a cardigan almost daily while at home. I enjoy the ease and comfort of such a flexible layering piece. You can see from the example pictures that you can wear cardigans with any silhouette, including maxi dresses and culottes. My goal is always to balance the proportions, not to wear two of the same shapes. (Never long and baggy over baggy, for example.)

The color of the girlfriend cardigan above is sold out now, but others are here.
White girlfriend cardigan in size medium. The striped tank is here.

I have the Girlfriend Cardigan above found here in several colors.

I also have the shorter 3/4 length sleeve cardigan above in a few colors. The cardigan is available here.

What we wear under a cardigan can make or break the look. I purchased the sleeveless shirt above (found here) to wear with mine. It looks crisp and neat without adding bulk to the sleeves. I can tuck it in and wear a belt with a cardigan and jeans for a timeless and polished look.

A white cotton tank top is essential in my wardrobe and is often my first choice under a cardigan or a blazer. I found this one here.

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50 Comments
  1. I read through your older posts to get a sense of how you transitioned. I noticed that you were describing yourself as a “soft summer” in terms of coloring on the Fifty, Not Frumpy site. More recently you mentioned you were a “winter.” What happened?

    1. My coloring might now fall somewhere between the two coloring systems. I looked best in winter colors and high contrast when I was younger but the fully saturated colors can be overwhelming for me now. As long as the colors have a cool undertone, I can wear them.

  2. Cardigans are not just for casual wear, as you have shown in these pictures. You always have a styling idea that is new to me and proves to be very useful. I have found that as I age, the swatches from my color palette from the mid-80’s (back in my 30’s) don’t look as good now in my 70’s. Love the colors you wear as we have simular coloring.

  3. Another wonderful post Ms. Susan! Your photo examples are always helpful and much appreciated!

  4. I love cardigans, even though I live in the South! I love the feel and the look. Thank you for sharing your info on cardigans. They all look lovely to me. Have a super day!

  5. Hello Susan, I came across you almost by accident very recently. I was looking for a new hairstyle suitable for the over sixties. I am 67. I am a winter, with grey hair and sadly that is where the similarity ends. I am 5ft 2 and an Apple in shape. I also live in the UK, but I love the way you dress and the way you write. Thank you, you are an inspiration.

  6. Great post! I’m happy to see the short cardigans again. The longer ones are harder to carry off on a petite frame. I have a couple of nice shorter, cashmere cardigans I’ve kept in the closet the past few seasons when they seemed to be out of style. One of them is a cable knit. Do you think that would be fine to wear? Or would it look dated? It’s a fairly classic turquoise colour.

    1. If the cable knit works for you, then wear it with confidence. I avoid the cable or textured knits because they add volume where I already have enough.

  7. Hello Susan,

    I love your blog for the helpful info that you provide, but I also like that we have similar tastes in clothing and accessories.

    I was attracted to the Dooney & Bourke shopper tote you carry often and thought yours to be orange and purchased it in Clementine which is a light orange that doesn’t look close to yours. I’m wondering if yours is one of the D & B reds; i.e., tomato, watermelon, geranium, strawberry, or red? There are no stores near me that sell D & B so I must purchase online and the descriptions frequently state red when the item they’re selling is actually one of the other shades.

    Please excuse that this question has nothing to do with cardigans and thank you in advance for your reply.

  8. I absolutely loved this! Cardigans are my favorite and I am always looking for tips! Thank you so much!

  9. Thank you for helping me over the last couple of years. I turned 50 last year and read your both blogs. Updating my wardrobe was a synch because I’m shaped like you and my style always was similar to yours, classic pieces! I don’t comment on blogs but making an exception here, because I’m so grateful for all you do here, and I faithfully read it. I’m a mother of 3, had kids later in life so they’re all home, and I barely had time to focus on me. Your blogs made it easier for me to feel better about myself and to look better. Thank you Susan!

  10. Thank you Susan for this article. I hope Mr Mickey is doing well. I particularly liked the idea of the sleeveless shirt.
    I’d not thought of that before but as a cardigan lover I will be purchasing a sleeveless shirt to go under my cardigans.
    Best wishes
    Sue Smith.X

  11. Susan,

    Thanks for this post!
    I’m one of those who, after wearing suits and blazers for many years, loves cardigans in retirement.

    I have a question about the midi dress and cardigan. Would a shorter sweater (more like the red one) also work or would that throw proportions off? If it matters, I’m shorter and a bit pear shaped but nice waist that I like to highlight.

    Thanks!

  12. All ofr the cardigan looks are great! Every one of the them looks good. I too use them frequently and prefer them to a jacket but yet they give you a “finished” look. I never gave a thought to the finer knit looking less bulky on us, but you are so right. I will have to start looking for more of them and pitching a few of the bulky knit ones.

    Thank you for all of your suggestions.

    Gail McKelvey

  13. I am also a cardigan lover and these are some fabulous looks. I especially like the red cardigan with the white pants that are a little more wide legged. Have to try this look.

  14. I think your hair looks great in the picture of you wearing the buttoned red cardigan and light skirt. Very flattering!

  15. I’ve always gotten so much mileage out of cardigans so I’m glad they’re a bit more on trend again.

  16. I think red must be your color. Every time you wear red, you just seem to sparkle. I need some red! haha Still looking for my sparkle color. I know since my hair has turned gray/white, my skin tone seems to have lightened too. Colors I wore before don’t work for me anymore. Seeing your pictures have helped me a lot. The idea of wearing a sleeveless shirt under a cardigan is a good idea. I get tired of always wearing a tank type top. Hope you are having good weather for your walks.

  17. I agree with Annie. Love your hair in the pic with the buttoned up cardigan also. So pretty behind your ears. Highlights your pretty features. Like the tips you gave us on cardigans today. Have a great weekend

  18. I went to Instagram first so had seen this before I came to the blog. I enjoyed seeing the other post again though. Two for one.

  19. The picture of you in the cardigan with white pants is just beautiful !
    I like the cardigans with the short sleeve shirts very much.
    I never thought of matching the two. I prefer this look over the matching top and cardigan.
    As always; thank you for sharing your various looks.
    You’re most helpful!
    Jan

  20. Thank you so much for this post! It is very helpful to see how you styled the longer and shorter cardigans! Also, I love the purple dress with the white cardigan! You look great! Is there a link to the dress?
    Thank you again Susan for taking the time to provide your posts to us. It is much appreciated. Blessings to you and Mr. Mickey.

  21. Hi Susan, Thank you for another great article. I always look forward to reading your post. Would you please share the type of black pants you are wearing with the biscayne blue and white cardigan? I need to purchase new ones. I like a slightly relaxed fit in the legs. Any suggestions?

  22. Susan, you look fabulous in these photos. I’ll second the comments from readers about the photo with the white culottes – your hairstyle is perfect.
    Thank you for reminding us to shop our closets & for restyling your clothes as excellent examples for us to consider. Here in Ontario, Canada, the 3rd lockdown has just been extended into June. Of course, one can order online, but I prefer to shop in-store. So with everything shut down here (boy, do I need a haircut!) I’m taking a lesson from Susan – just found a pair of soft gray slim cropped jeans I bought in California 5 years ago and am wearing them today.

    1. And forgot to mention I’m wearing the jeans with a white cardigan bought 3 years ago that I’m wearing for the first time. Thanks for the reminder, Susan!

  23. For some reason, I went bananas on cardigans last year! So, I appreciate this post to see how you styled them.
    I love them because they are so versatile and you can find one in almost every color possible.
    The cardigan with the long purple dress looks great, and I love the cardigan worn alone too! I’ll have to try that.
    I have tank tops in every color and wear them with many of my patterned cardigans.
    Thanks for mentioning what fabric you buy. I’m going to go back and look at all I bought because, at the time, I wasn’t paying too much attention to fabric content. I prefer cotton as well; can’t wear cashmere.
    With summer coming, I’m wondering what fabric content you look for in PANTS to stay cool? I rarely wear jeans in the summertime since they are very hot and I don’t love linen because I don’t want to be that dressy. Usually I wear crop pants or capris, sometime shorts if it’s very humid. If the capris or pants are a rayon/poly blend, I find that they are also very hot. I do wear dresses and I have some wide leg pants that are breezy, but they’re also polyester. Any tips? Thanks Susan!

    1. I wear cotton jeans-style pants or linen pants in summer. During the past couple of summers, I have worn more dresses than ever before. I find that a cotton or linen dress is the coolest option of all on a hot, humid day.

  24. Hi, Susan!
    So you’ve kind of become my shopping enabler-lol!! I am loving all your cardigan looks and am huge fan of layering. I ended up purchasing the ‘girlfriend cardigan’ from Talbots in three colors (pink, blue, and black) and as an afterthought picked up a pair of white ankle pants and a couple pairs of their driving moccasins in pink and black. Now I’m thinking I should also get the cardigan in white and the ankle pants in black. I did upsize on the cardigans as you suggested. It worked out well when I did that with the pie crust collar jean jackets so I trust your judgment on this. I’ll let you know how they work out.
    I’m still searching for the perfect pearl station necklace as I’ve admired that style so often on you. The David Yurman is always sold out and the John Hardy one doesn’t look quite as feminine. I was looking at the ones from Chanel then found out they don’t even use real pearls—seriously not worth the money to have some little interlocking C’s on the chain which isn’t even sterling silver. That’s my Chanel rant for the day, though overall I do love many of their items.
    Thank you so much for all the style inspiration and fun shopping opportunities. I feel like you would be super fun to shop with!
    Sending greetings and best wishes from Charleston!

  25. I love cardigans. I think some people think of them as being old fashioned, but not me! Loved how you paired them with dressier outfits too. Thanks for the ideas!

  26. I love cardigans and wear them often. Shoes are always a challenge though. I work with children and need comfortable shoes , yet always feel frumpy. They often ruin an otherwise cute outfit. Suggestions?

    1. Look for sleek-fitting comfortable shoes like loafers or converse low-top sneakers in the same tone as your pants. If your ankles are slender (mine are not), ballet flats are a lovely option for comfortable flat shoes.

  27. Susan, you are beautiful and your style is so appealing. Thank you for sharing your ideas and photos. I love cardigans, but live in Florida now. I look forward to those few weeks of cool sweater weather!

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I blogged for five years as Fifty, not Frumpy. Now that I am in my sixties, I am sharing ideas and inspiration for using and loving what you already have.

Thank you!
Susan

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