Fall Cardigans: How to Make them Stylish

Fall Cardigans

With fall approaching, it will soon be time to break out the stashes of cardigans we have been collecting over the years while probably also buying more.  Fall cardigans have become as common in women’s wardrobes as jeans and t-shirts, and for good reason, they’re basic and easy, provide arm coverage, function as outerwear pieces in the early days of autumn and layering must-haves in the winter.  Simply put, cardigans, particularly easy drapey no-fuss ones, rock.

Yet, the cardigan over <fill in the blank> look can become a bit stale over time if it isn’t changed up.  Yes, our beloved cardigans become like security blankets for many of us. Speaking for myself, after too many months of my go-to repetitive look of throwing a cardigan over a slim top and jeans my style begins to feel like I am wearing a uniform.   In today’s One Item, Five Fashionable Ways I want to address how to continue wearing  fall cardigans this upcoming season using this cashmere simple style from J. Crew that comes in a variety of colors.  In this post I will be using five of the colors it comes in because my guess is that you probably have a variety of colors in your stash.  I know I do.

Fall Cardigans: How to Make Them Stylish

Outfit #1- With a statement necklace

You could easily put my head on this outfit as it is very representative of what I look like all fall and winter.  Nothing is easier than a cardigan over a t-shirt, like this one from Modcloth, a pair of skinny jeans and boots.  If this is also your look, I suggest trying it with a statement necklace because a cardigan, tee and jeans is like a blank canvas that allows a statement necklace, like this one from Vince Camuto, to shine.  With the whole goal of a cardigan to be an easy piece, a statement necklace can add punch without taking away from the comfort level of the outfit.  To finish this look I added a MICHAEL Michael Kors handbag and cognac Pikolinos boots.

Outfit #2- With a printed scarf

Wearing a cardigan with a scarf is certainly nothing new.  In fact, in my typical uniform look of jeans, a t-shirt and cardigan, once the weather gets even cooler I usually break out my scarves and wind one of the many I own around my neck.  However, you may not be using your scarves to their maximum capacity by treating them like little color maps that can give you direction on how to add some additional colors to a look.  This outfit is an example.  Using this colorful scarf from Nordstrom a colorful palette is created which can be expanded upon in the coordinating components.  If you are feeling boring in a cardigan and scarf outfit, look to something like this.  In this outfit, using the grey colorway of this cardigan, I added a pink pair of Boden skinny jeans, a burgundy J Jones top, grey Jessica Simpson handbag and grey flannel flats.  What I also added was this necklace from Anthropologie that also picks up all the colors in the outfit so if the scarf is removed there is still a piece that pulls everything together.

Outfit #3- Adding a belt

A way to change up the look of a drapey cardigan entirely is to belt it.  Here this black and white outfit gets a splash of red using a reversible contour Tory Burch belt.  A tip about long cardigans and skirts; it’s all about proportion.  Longer cardigans usually look best with shorter skirts, like this black and white one from Reiss, and often the entire outfit needs to be tried on to make sure the proportion works.  What also may help the proportion, if the skirt is a little long, is to add a pair of heels, like these heeled black suede booties.  To give this outfit a lean look I added a pair of black tights and finished the outfit using a black and white Banana Republic handbag and red bib necklace.  Lastly, if you don’t like the belt over the cardigan, you can use it to belt the top and simply drape the cardigan on top.

Outfit #4- As a transitional piece

Using a cardigan is one of the best ways to extend the life of your summer clothes.  Here, for example, I am using the turquoise color of this J. Crew cardigan to layer it over a sleeveless tunic from Modcloth.  Instead of styling this top with a pair of white pants (which would look great in the summer), I used an olive pair instead.  Like the printed scarves, printed clothing can also be fun road maps for combining color.  Warming up this outfit using the cardigan, I chose a pair of coral sandals from Anthropologie to create a fun transitional, it’s only mildly cool outside, outfit.  Lastly, the ensemble is finished with a colorful pair of earrings and olive reversible tote bag from Nordstrom.

Outfit #5- Creative color combinations

Bored with your neutral cardigans?  Wishing you could do something to jazz them up without losing the ease of wearing them?  The simplest way to do this is to think creatively about color combining.  Here this cardigan in a very simple and timeless navy gets a lift with the colors it is paired with, a yellow Boden dress, burgundy heeled sandals and a burgundy handbag.  There is nothing extra special about the pieces used in this outfit but what makes it exciting is how the colors work together.  Sometimes this is all you need to do.  Taking the outfit one last step further towards being creative I added these fun earrings to the outfit.

Shop for cardigans

Looking to add to your cardigan collection?  Check out these other great styles, at all price points, here.

  • cardi

    Great combos! From the cardigans in your links it looks like you prefer the waterfall, buttonless type of cardis; I find the lack of structure to be a bit mumsy. I know they available everywhere so am I wrong about the message they send? The conspiracy prone side of me believes that missing buttons and not adding structure like waistlines is just another way that manufacturers are making more money.

  • Dot

    I’m always looking for new ideas with navy, so I liked that look in particular. What are your thoughts on flowy cardi lengths like the no. 6 gray Ann Taylor that dips in front? I’m short, short waisted and apple shaped and sometimes feel swallowed by them.

    • I think the cascade might be a bit much for someone petite. But Ann Taylor does sell petite so you might want to see they sell it in this style.

      • lasallepal

        I am petite and I agree that too much cascade will overwhelm my frame. However, the number 5 style from Nordstrom is similar to a couple of my cascade like cardigans. If nips a bit in the waist or ties at the waist–so much better. I actually had a felted cardigan like the Number 5, taken in a bit at the tailors and it worked.

        • Dot

          Thanks to both of you for the tips re the cascade look.

  • lasallepal

    Gorgeous color combinations! I was looking for ways to style a sleeveless tunic and you did it with the green I love best. I am pulling my cardigans out now and playing with the different lengths. How you pulled that turquoise color out of the tunic top and highlighted it with the cardigan is brilliant. I am now looking at the different colors in some of my tops and will try to get a similar result. If I had occasion to wear dresses more often I would order that Boden dress in a heartbeat! Very impressive combos today! Bravo!!!