Unless you’re headed to the country club or a polo match, it can be tough to figure out how to style a cardigan. You don’t necessarily want to dress like your grandmother (or your grandfather). And you’re probably shooting more for “cool” than “prim” or “proper.” So, the cardigan can seem like a tough sell. But don’t write it off just yet. The right cardigan will definitely hit the ideal balance between keeping you warm and flattering your figure. And there’s definitely a way to wear a cardigan that fits with your style.
In that spirit, we’ve collected some examples of chic ways to style a cardigan, straight from the runway. Didn’t think a piece as basic as a cardigan would appear over and over on runways at fashion weeks around the world? Think again. Ahead, you’ll see tons of fashionable ways to wear a cardigan. You’ll also see lots of different kinds of cardigans — which are the perfect inspiration, whether you want to go shopping or are just looking to work with what’s already in your closet.
1. Wear a long cardigan over a dress
A short, waist-length cardigan isn’t the only kind of sweater you can pair with a dress. Wear a long, drapey cardigan in a length that matches your favorite dress, like this model on the runway at the holyGhost show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin A/W 2017.
2. Style an oversized cardigan with a mini dress
Need another unexpected way to play with proportions? Pair an oversized cardigan with a simple mini dress that puts the sweater center stage. Copy the look from this model at the J.Crew presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015.
3. Pair a buttoned-up cardigan with a pencil skirt
Put a modern twist on a classic look by pairing a buttoned-up cardigan with a bright pencil skirt, like this model on the runway during the Agnes B show at Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017. Deep colors, bright colors, even patterns and prints — you can style a solid cardigan with just about any skirt.
4. Drape a cardigan over your shoulders to make a sundress a little warmer
Your favorite sundress probably isn’t very warm on its own. Make it a little easier to wear in transitional weather by draping a cardigan, preferably in a dark color that offsets the cute factor, over your shoulders. We like this example on a model from the Agnes B at Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2017.
5. Make a cardigan a centerpiece in your winter layering strategy
We all have a coat we just can’t go without during winter. Find yours a soul mate in the form of a long, statement-making cardigan you can pair with it for extra warmth. The look is illustrated perfectly by model Edie Campbel, walking in the John Galliano show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2016/2017.
6. Wear a long, loose cardigan with separates in the same color family
Have a long, loose cardigan that looks a little like a kimono, with a chic and swingy cut? Put it on display by pairing it with separates in the same color family. We particularly love the look in a mix of navy blue patterns, like on this model at the J.Crew presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014.
7. Tuck a cardigan into your pencil skirt
If you have a lightweight cardigan that’s so soft it almost feels like a tee, wear it like one! Button it up and tuck it into a sleek pencil skirt, like this model at the Frame Denim presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015. We just love how modern and sophisticated the pairing feels.
8. Pair a chunky cardigan with winter florals
You might think you can’t wear a floral dress in winter, but that’s definitely not the case if you wear it with a chunky cardigan on top. Steal the look from this model at the Marc Cain show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin Autumn/Winter 2015/16.
9. Wear a furry cardigan with your favorite jeans
Some furry pieces blur the line between coat and cardigan, and can stump even the savviest of amateur stylists. Deliberate no more by pairing your furry cardigan with your favorite pair of jeans, like this model at the J.Crew presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Fall 2015.
10. Match a striped cardigan with a striped tee
Whatever you think of those shorts, you have to admit the interplay between this striped cardigan and the striped tee is pretty genius. The blue-and-white color scheme looks pretty nautical, but you could try the same look with stripes in your favorite colors (maybe grey or black). Copy the look from this model at the J.Crew presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2014.
11. Go for a cardigan with multiple colors and textures
We may not be able to pull off that hat and scarf combination at work or even running errands, but we can definitely get behind that cardigan. This piece illustrates that reaching for a cardigan with multiple colors or even multiple textures can punch up any outfit, even if it’s already a pretty bold ensemble. Steal the look from this model at the Peter Jensen presentation during London Fashion Week Spring/Summer collections 2017.
12. Use a cardigan to play it safe with color, but make a statement with texture
Another great way to use a cardigan to add texture to an outfit — even an office-appropriate outfit — is to choose a relatively safe color scheme, but use the cardigan to add some eye-catching texture to the ensemble. An eyelet-like fabric is an especially great choice for warmer weather. We love the look on this model at the Brooks Brothers SS 2017 Presentation during New York Fashion Week.
13. Style a sweater coat with a pair of flared jeans
Alright, so the piece this model at the Alice + Olivia Spring/Summer 2017 presentation during New York Fashion Week is wearing may be more sweater than coat. But hear us out. There are plenty of structured, long cardigans that blur the line between knitwear and outwear. Choose the most coat-like of your cardigans and style up its 1970s vibes. Add flared jeans, some platform heels, a pair of bright sunglasses, and maybe even a scarf tied around your hair. Definitely a great look for spring.
14. Add a cardigan to a monochromatic ensemble
Prefer to keep preppy, poppy colors away from your wardrobe? Try adding an architectural, drapey cardigan to a monochromatic ensemble. Take your cues from this model at Urban Zen during New York Fashion Week September 2016.
15. Tie a cardigan around your waist
Another way to make a cardigan look undeniably cool? Tie your cardigan around your waist, just like you did with your sweatshirt years ago. Copy the look from designer Andrea Jiapei Li, who’s seen here posing before her presentation during MADE Fashion Week September 2016 at Milk Studios.