Amanda e-mailed me this request:
I was wondering if you consider doing a blog post or offer some advice on styling long cardigans so they don’t look frumpy. I just bought my first one [and] it seemed like a good way to convert some of my summer dresses into fall or winter ensembles, and I see outfits with long cardis that I just love on other people. But I’m not sure what I think about making ti work for me. I’m on the tall side with a proportional curvy figure. The cardigan I bought is nice (and I love the belt that comes with it), but it has pockets that make it not lie super-flat over the hips. And basically it just didn’t look quite “right” when I tried it with some of the dresses I’d been thinking of.
Mollie seconded this request in the suggestion box, so clearly, it needs addressing!
Select your cardigan carefully
There is a vast universe of long cardigans out there, and many of them will look horrendous on you. And on me. And on that lady over there. Don’t assume that you’re doing something wrong if you can’t get a long cardi to look right in the context of an outfit. In all likelihood, it’s not you it’s the clothes. If you carry your weight in your hips and butt as I do, anything with a tapered/ribbed hem will emphasize your rear. If you’ve got a big bust, a one-button jobber like the cardigan shown above may cause bust-related mayhem. If you’re petite, truly long styles may shorten you up quite a bit. Try a variety of styles, lengths, and designs before you decide this garment is a lost cause.
Mind your body chops
Since long cardigans may hit you at a spot on your leg that’s not quite shirt and not quite dress length, they can wreak havoc on your proportions. Especially when you mix in underlayers that chop your body in spots that visually fight the cardigan. In my experience, long cardigans pair best with dresses/tunics that are the same length as the cardigan (or within 2″-3″ either way), or with a top and pants.
Skirt/top combos often to look wonky with this style of cardi, as you can see in this photo. At least on me, I’m getting chopped in far too many and conflicting places: Skirt waistband, skirt hem, cardigan hem, boots. It’s a cute enough outfit, but not ideal for proportions.
Watch those hemlines
As I just mentioned, if you’re doing a dress or tunic with your long cardigan, it’s best to keep the hemlines as close as possible. Not vital that they match exactly, although as you can see here that looks clean and intentional. But within that magic 2″-3″ window will look best, and the closer the better.
Above is an outfit where I shirked this rule. Again, cute, but choppy. If the cardigan and dress had been closer in length, it would’ve worked better. This particular cardigan is short enough on me that it works best with top/pants outfits.
Belt with caution
Since long cardigans seldom have waist definition, there’s a strong temptation to belt them. It CAN work, but if the sweater is at all bulky, adding a belt will look a bit awkward. However, belting your INNER layer instead of the cardigan itself can give the impression of a nipped-in waist without the bunching caused by belting a big ol’ sweater.
Hope this was helpful to those of you struggling to make longer cardigan styles work!