Bubu threw this request into the Suggestion Box:
I would love a post on cardigans – long short, crew, v-neck, straight, flyaway, ruffly, etc- how to pair then, layer them, what shapes work better on different heights, different builds, etc.
Gah. That’s a LOT to tackle in one post. Luckily, I’ve already written a post that should address the pairing question: This piece on layering necklines will help you figure out which cardigan will play nicely with which underlayer. Though I’ll try to dig into that question a bit more here, too.
As for which shapes work on which bodies, I can’t really generalize. As always, it’s going to depend on a thousand highly personal factors including shoulder span, bust size, waist width and placement, torso length, arm length, personal figure flattery priorities, and (of course) taste. So what I’ll do is run through the basic shapes of cardigans that I own and wear, and explain why they work for me, which may illuminate some reasons why the same styles might or might not work for YOU.
WHAT ARE THEY: Cropped cardigans have hemlines that fall at or above your natural waist (the smallest point on your torso).
WHAT DO THEY DO: Cropped cardigans will draw the eye to your waist, or the point on your torso where their hem falls. They may also make your bust look bigger or smaller, depending on the cardigan shape and how it interacts with your actual boobs.
WHAT TO PAIR WITH THEM: Although I will occasionally do a cropped cardigan with slim-fitting pants, I generally prefer them with skirts and dresses.
SHORT AND TAILORED
WHAT ARE THEY: Short, tailored cardigans fall at high or mid-hip and sit fairly close to your torso, even when worn open.
WHAT DO THEY DO: Short, tailored cardigans will draw the eye to their hem – just as cropped ones will – especially when worn over a contrasting color. If they are seamed and fairly heavy in weight, they can help define a waistline when buttoned over a loose top. They’ll interact differently with different busts, but they flatten mine out visually.
WHAT TO PAIR WITH THEM: I have owned many of this style of cardigan, and wore mine with everything from leggings and tank dresses to jeans, to sheaths and full-skirted dresses. However that hem-attention-drawing thing means that this style of garment brings the eye right to my hips, my widest part. To balance that, I make sure to purchase styles that are pretty durned fitted OR wear them with a few buttons done up. That way, they cinch my waist and flare out a bit over my hips.
SHORT AND DRAPEY
WHAT ARE THEY: Short, drapey cardigans generally fall at mid- or low-hip and have less structure than tailored and fitted versions. They may have a cascading opening, ruffles, or folds where there would normally be a placket and buttons.
WHAT DO THEY DO: Short, drapey cardigans … well, there are a LOT of different types that will do a lot of different things to a lot of different bodies. How’s that for a cop-out? I have only ever owned one myself – this zebra-print number that was consigned years ago – and since it has a pointed hem in the front it helps draw the eye vertically along my torso. If it had a blunt, straight hem it would draw the eye right to its own endpoint. Short, drapey cardigans may add volume around the midsection and aren’t terribly helpful with accentuating waistlines.
WHAT TO PAIR WITH THEM: Since this style is pretty voluminous by nature, I always wore mine with fitted garments. Sheath dresses and cigarette pants both work well, as would skinny or straight-leg jeans.
LONG AND STRAIGHT
WHAT ARE THEY: Long, straight cardigans hit below the hip and have a straight or fitted shape. This is the style that many mall stores deem the “boyfriend cardigan.”
WHAT DO THEY DO: Long, straight cardigans can definitely affect your perceived height, especially if they hit low on your thigh and are worn with pants. Shortening effects can be mitigated with heels, if you like. This style has a long, straight opening and therefore draws the eye vertically along your body, but can also serve to mask the waistline since it’s often a non-tailored garment. Fastening one or two buttons can help carve out a waist, as can belting your under-layer.
WHAT TO PAIR WITH THEM: Although I have occasionally do a long, straight cardigan with a dress, I generally prefer slim-fitting pants, tunics, and leggings with this style.
LONG AND DRAPEY
WHAT ARE THEY: Long, drapey cardigans hit below the hip and have less structure than their straight-cut cousins. Like shorter versions, they may have a cascading opening, ruffles, or folds where there would normally be a placket and buttons.
WHAT DO THEY DO: Depending on cardigan length and body configuration, this style of cardigan can mask or distract from midsection lumps and bumps. But it may also add midsection volume, so be aware! This style can be belted on some figures.
WHAT TO PAIR WITH THEM: I’ve worn this style belted over slim-fitting pants, open over tunics and skinnies or leggings.
This list is not even REMOTELY exhaustive, of course, but hopefully it’ll give you some ideas for the basics!
Top image courtesy J.Crew.