There's a cotton sweater (of if you hail from the UK, "jumper") out there for every woman. The diversity of cotton sweater styles, from light sweaters to women's winter sweaters, could make this a very long article indeed, so for the sake of simplicity we're going to focus our selection on four beloved classics: the classic cardigan twinset, the mid-weight cotton crewneck sweater, the longer cotton cardigan, and the dress cardigan.
You can thank Jackie O for elevating this simple cotton cardigan to icon status (even though it predates the one-time first lady). Among the many things that the classic cardigan twinset has going for it are its button front, crew neckline, and the matching short-sleeve shirt underneath.
The genius of the classic cardigan twinset is that it is a light cotton sweater that's in fact two distinct pieces: the cardigan shell, and the short-sleeve shirt. When worn together, the cardigan twinset creates a clean, visually unified look that gains a slightly elevated appearance thanks to the unity of color and the layering effect of the cardigan, which can appear like a less formal blazer.
But the twin nature of the cotton sweater means it can also be "broken" apart and worn as separates. Do you feel like wearing the short-sleeve shirt by itself on a warmer day? Go ahead, it's your call. Likewise, you can layer the cotton cardigan back on top if you start to feel a slight chill. The separates factor also opens up the possibility of wearing each part of the twinset on its own with other clothing, which has the possibility of turning it into a much more casual garment.
There's a reason the mid-weight cotton crewneck sweater has earned a permanent place in the pantheon of prep essentials. Its crewneck cut means it can be perfectly layered over an oxford cloth button down in the fall, or tossed casually over a t-shirt during those last few days of summer. And when wintertime rolls around and the first ski cabin weekend appears on the calendar, a mid-weight cotton crewneck sweater with a cable front pattern is a natural choice.
The greatest strength of the mid-weight cotton crewneck sweater is that it can be as casual or as dressy as you wish it to be. As mentioned in the example above, there's no downside to simply pulling it over the first t-shirt your morning comes in contact with. Conversely, it can be layered over a collared, button-front shirt with jeans or trousers for an instant dress look that's never too formal.
Our own model is called The Drifter, and it's been a part of the Lands' End family since 1982. While the details of its cable design may vary, it has always been made with a crewneck a mid-hip length, and boasts a mid-weight, 100% cotton fabric that soaks up color like nobody's business—and fades just beautifully with the passage of time. This is one you'll reach for again and again, from one season to the next.
Think of the longer cotton cardigan as being the more modern, casual cousin to the classic cardigan twinset. Its expanded length makes it a touch less formal, and creates the sort of laidback feeling that's perfect for long summer days on the porch or cozy winter mornings spent on the couch with a good book.
There's no single model of the longer cotton cardigan to point to, and the details of one longer cotton cardigan can vary wildly from the next. You may find a longer cotton cardigan that is lightweight for breezy summer wear, or a mid-weight model that can serve as a woman's winter sweater. You may also see longer cotton cardigans with a smooth, flat front design, or a textured cable pattern.
And then there's how you plan to wear a longer cotton cardigan. Keep it open over t-shirts for a casual look, or wear it partially buttoned with a button front blouse for an outfit that's workplace ready.
But that's not to say you should be putting too much thought into the way you plan to style your longer cotton cardigan. After all, the greatest advantage of the style is just how easily it serves as an instant third layer, able to complete outfits in a snap and elevate even the most basic of looks.
Cardigans are often thought of as existing on the casual end of the cotton sweater spectrum, but that doesn't have to be the case. A dress cardigan can complete and elevate simple outfits much in the same way that a longer cotton cardigan can, the key difference being that a dress cardigan brings formal appeal to sleeveless dresses.
As is ever the case when it comes to cardigans, the category of dress cardigan is rich with different options. Will you choose three-quarter sleeves, or full-length? A v-neck, or a crewneck? Do you plan to wear it buttoned, or opened?
Enjoy the bevy of options—and the simple, formalizing touch that comes from one of our very favorite cotton sweaters.