When the weather turns chilly you feel the need to buy something to keep you warm, but how can you decide among the dozens of types of cardigans on the market? A cardigan is your best friend on a cool autumn day as this is the sort of timeless garment that never goes out of style. It keeps you warm, but not too warm and it’s not as stiff and bulky as a true winter coat.
Choosing the right outerwear means understanding what type of cardigan suits your figure best and what you can pair it with.
In this article, we’ll be looking at various types of cardigans in terms of material and shape to help you decide what would best fit your style and your wardrobe.
By the end of it, you’ll probably want more than one, but that’s OK, you can never have too many cardigans and it’s not like they’ll be going out of fashion by next year!
Different Types of Cardigans
Open Front Cardigans
Open front cardigans are very trendy because they allow you to stay warm without making you look like you’re afraid of a bit of cold. This type of cardigan has no buttons or zippers and hangs loosely on you.
It’s perfect for the modern woman, always in a rush, who doesn’t have time to worry about mundane things like the weather. Most open front cardigans have a modern cut, with an asymmetrical line and pointy ends.
They’re also longer than traditional cardigans, which is great as you’ll be well protected against the elements. Open front cardigans go well with a T-shirt and a pair of skinny jeans and they’re very flattering for all body shapes.
Just like a regular cardigan, only longer! Tunic cardigans are not too loose, but they’re not exactly body-hugging either. They fall in a straight line, exactly like a tunic. The advantage is that they keep your back well-protected since such cardigans go down to mid-thigh.
Since they’re meant for cool weather they’re usually made of wool or polyester fibers, which means they’re soft and comfortable to wear. Tunic cardigans go great with pants or with a tight skirt that goes at least over the knee.
If you do wear such a cardigan with a skirt, put on a pair of long boots. The whole outfit will be very stylish and you won’t feel the cold.
If you feel that buttoned cardigans are something your grandpa might wear, try a zipped one. This type of cardigan looks more modern and it will keep you warmer especially on a windy day.
Zipped cardigans go well for both men and women and they’re the perfect choice for an informal outing on a mid-autumn day. Most zipped cardigans only go down to the waistline and they’re figure-hugging, so they’ll provide extra warmth.
They’re made of knit wool or synthetic materials. Some models also come with pockets, which might come in handy… when your hands get cold.
Long cardigans are quite long, head-to-toe long. Well, not quite that long, but they do go down to the ankles, so you’re well covered and protected against the cold.
They’re typically made of wool or polyester, but they shouldn’t be too bulky as that wouldn’t be too flattering unless you’re impossibly thin. Long cardigans go well with either pants or skirts.
They’re actually great over a skirt and thin stockings as the long cardigan adds an extra layer of warmth to the lower leg.
You should look for a long cardigan in a solid color, preferably something neutral which can be matched with various outfits.
This is a very feminine type of cardigan as it is tight-fitting and showcases both your chest and your waistline. Cropped cardigans go well over a thin blouse and skirt.
Such an outfit is dressy enough for a more formal occasion. The material should be thin so as to not make you look fat. Wool keeps you warmer, but polyester or cotton might be thinner which is exactly what you need in a cropped cardigan.
If you’re afraid such a cardigan might make you look too prim, accessorize it with a long colorful necklace and matching bracelets.
A belt on a cardigan serves both an aesthetic function as well as a practical one. When it’s rather cold outside, the belt will keep the cardigan close to the body, so you won’t be bothered by the wind.
Belted cardigans usually go down over the buttocks so they’re great at keeping you warm, especially if they’re made of knit wool.
On the other hand, keep in mind that the belt draws attention to the waist so this type of cardigan is not exactly flattering if you’re on the curvy side. Belted cardigans go well with either pants or a long thick skirt.
If you’re dressing up for the cold why not go all the way and choose a hooded cardigan, to keep your head warm as well? Hooded cardigans are popular among both men and women.
They are longer than traditional cardigans and often have an asymmetrical cut. Buttons are optional with this type of clothing, but it has more fabric than a regular cardigan so you can wrap it around yourself if it’s that cold outside.
Hooded cardigans can be made of wool or cashmere and they look most elegant on a pair of jeans or tight pants.
Cardigan vests are more about style than warmth, as they leave your arms unprotected. But they do look great with either pants or a long dress.
This is the sort of thing you want to wear when it’s getting a bit chilly, not when it’s downright cold outside. A cardigan vest in a single color goes well with a dress in a colorful print. If the cardigan vest only goes to the waistline you can wear it with a skirt as well.
Such an outfit falls somewhere in between casual and formal, so you might even wear a cardigan vest at the office and still look quite proper
Enveloping, that’s the best word to describe a wrap cardigan. Such a garment has lots of fabric, to compensate for the lack of buttons or zippers.
Most models come with a belt you can tie at the front, preferably not down the middle, but rather to the side, for a casual look. Wrap cardigans come in a variety of colors and fabrics.
Cashmere is great for such a sweater, but you can also find many made with regular sheep wool or synthetic fibers, which are also more affordable. You can wear a wrap cardigan with jeans and boots, or even high heels if the weather allows it.
This is a version of the cropped cardigan, only much shorter. A bolero should be at least an inch over the belly button.
A figure-hugging bolero cardigan adds a great finishing touch to a long summer dress, while one that’s a bit loose can be worn with high-waist jeans or a skirt.
Most bolero cardigans have no need for buttons, but sometimes one button or at least a hook can make them look more stylish.
Boleros are meant to be fashionable, they’re too short to keep you warm so the trend is for them to be thin. Look for something in a thin fabric, preferably made from cotton or silk.
An oversized cardigan can give a little bulk to a slender figure and all that extra fabric will keep you so much warmer. Oversized cardigans are usually made of knit wool, cashmere, or comfy polyester fibers.
Muted colors are great if you want something you can wear with various outfits, but on the other hand, an oversized cardigan in a bright color, something red or yellow, will definitely draw all the eyes on you and your smashing figure.
As always, if the top is oversized, make sure to match it with skinny jeans or leggings, to create a powerful contrast and underline the fact that you’re not actually fat, it’s just the oversized cardigan.
A boyfriend cardigan is very similar to an oversized one, but there’s a very subtle difference. While an oversized cardigan is quite feminine, a boyfriend one tends to have a more masculine cut.
It’s meant to look like you’ve just raided your boyfriend’s closet and this is what you got. Obviously, if the sweater is loose-fitting, you’ll want to contrast that with a very feminine outfit, like a silk blouse or a cute T-shirt in pastel colors.
Boyfriend cardigans go well with jeans and sports shoes, to create the perfect ensembles for a casual outing on a chill autumn day.
If you’re looking for an elegant look, you cannot go wrong with a classic cardigan. Such cardigans are figure-hugging, but not too tight. You want to show off your figure, without overdoing it.
A classic cardigan is something you can wear on various occasions so a nice wool or cashmere one is a great investment. This goes for both men and women, as anyone can look sharply dressed with a stylish cardigan.
A classical cardigan will become your go-to sweater with many different outfits so choose something in a muted color that you can easily match with the rest of the items in your closet.
You can wear a furry cardigan at any age, as they’re extremely comfortable, keep you very warm and look quite fun. They’re perfectly suitable for both men and women on a rather cold day when you’re going for a teddy bear look.
If it’s cold outside, figures you should put on your fake fur. A furry cardigan can be made of wool, but synthetic fibers are very versatile and they’re great when you want to create that fluffy look.
Furry cardigans are sort of bulky, so it’s best if you wear one with a pair of tight jeans or a pencil skirt.
What is it that waterfalls do? They flow, just like this type of cardigan which is characterized by having plenty of fabric that drapes nicely on any type of body.
You cannot contain a waterfall, which is why such cardigans cannot be bothered with buttons, that would totally ruin the elegant look.
To create a more stylish impression, the front part of the sweater can be longer than the back one. You can wear a waterfall cardigan over a simple T-shirt or a thin sweater if the weather is quite cold.
A waterfall cardigan in thin material, made of cotton or silk, is excellent for a cool summer night and will keep you nice and cozy even if you’re wearing a short dress underneath.
This type of cardigan is perfect for a cool summer night when you basically want something over your shoulders, but nothing too warm. Since they’re made for good weather, you don’t need one made of wool.
Try something made with cotton or linen fibers, or even cashmere which is well-known for its thermal isolation properties. Since it’s highly breathable, cashmere won’t make you feel hot and the soft fabric will feel luxurious when you put it over a strap dress or a sleeveless top.
You can wear a short sleeve cardigan with anything you want – from your preferred pair of jeans to a skirt or even a pair of shorts.
Front Pocket Cardigans
A traditional cardigan doesn’t have pockets, but there are so many instances when you wish it had. First of all, pockets are great when it’s cold and your hands are getting numb.
On the other hand, pockets are very useful especially for a casual outing when you don’t want to carry a bag with you. Just slip your phone, keys, and credit card in your pocket and you’re ready to go.
A cardigan with front pockets might be short, as in reaching just to the waistline, but this model works better with long cardigans, which look more like a coat than like a sweater. This type of cardigan goes best with jeans or tight pants, but you might also wear one with a mid-calf skirt.
Who says you need buttons on a cardigan? If you’re going to wear it on a chilly day, you might want to keep it firmly against your body but you don’t need buttons or a zipper for that.
A light summery cardigan can be tied with two ribbons or even leather strings and will look more youthful than your regular buttoned-down cardigan. A thin cardigan with a simple tie knot looks incredibly sexy when you wear it directly over your bra.
On the other hand, a tie-front cardigan can also be worn with a tight-fitting top, like a T-shirt or a tank top. A tie-front cardigan in a light color can look quite stylish on a loose summer dress with a colorful print.
When you’re shopping for a new cardigan you’ll be looking mostly at the material or the length, but it’s often the buttons that make the cardigan. If you buy a traditional cardigan in a single color, take a closer look at the buttons.
Simple plastic buttons are OK, but some colorful wide buttons might make all the difference. A comfy wool knit cardigan will look way better if it has large wooden buttons.
At the same time, a trendy cardigan with an arresting print will look even more stylish with fabric-covered buttons, if the material reflects one of the dominant colors in the sweater’s pattern.
Irregular cardigans are playful and youthful. They’re an improvement over the traditional cardigan because they have spunk. Why be boring when you can make a sweater with the weirdest lines?
For instance, a cardigan that is longer in the back and irregular lines on the front, like triangles of various lengths. Irregular cardigans are usually longer, with bits reaching down well under the knee, because why not?
Such a cardigan works best with skinny jeans, but you can also wear it with a short, tight-fitting skirt and colorful stockings.
What types of shirts can you wear with cardigans?
For women it’s pretty easy, you can wear whatever you want with a cardigan, starting with a basic cotton T-shirt and down to the most precious silky blouse.
Also, a nice linen shirt tastefully unbuttoned at the top will look great with a classic cardigan. As for men, the type of shirt you should wear with a cardigan depends on the occasion.
For a casual outing, a T-shirt with a funky print will do. However, if you need to look more classy, you might want to put a regular shirt under a cardigan. If your cardigan goes up to the collarbone, make sure the collar of the shirt is nicely tucked under the sweater, for a more modern look.
Let it show, but just a bit. For a V-neck cardigan choose a shirt with a small rectangular collar or no collar at all.