Cardigans are among the most practical and timeless garments out there. They can be worn in any setting, and the styling possibilities are virtually endless. Unlike other women's sweaters, the cardigan is more of an all-seasons type of piece. You might opt for a T-shirt-weight model to wear in the warmer months before switching to a thicker, more substantial material during fall and winter.
Of course, nothing tops the humble cardigan when it comes to comfort. For those who tend to feel a little chilly at work even when it’s hot outside, a button-down sweater is practically a wardrobe requirement. And because it’s so easy to stash inside a tote bag, a desk drawer, or the backseat of your car, it’s also highly convenient. Here are a few styles that you can easily add to your professional wardrobe.
Depending on where you work, you might be able to get away with something relaxed and less structured. The jersey cardigan is lighter than its counterparts, yet still provides a much-needed layer of warmth to lock in some extra body heat when the air conditioning is on full blast in your office. The beauty of the style is really in its fluid shape, making it graceful, lightweight, and subtle in its style.
It can be worn in so many ways, too. Pair it with leggings and a light top and step into ballet flats for an effortless look that makes a smooth transition to happy hour with your co-workers. You can even slip it on over a fitted dress and add a pair of booties to create a slightly more pulled-together look. Since jersey is more of a casual material, this type of cardigan is best reserved for creative environments with casual dress codes.
Nothing says luxury quite like a women’s cashmere sweater. The material stands alone: it’s incredibly plush to the touch, feels as soft as a blanket, and elevates the look of anything in your closet. More importantly, it’s versatile enough to wear anywhere from the office to date night.
That it exudes a more dressy appeal than its fellow button-front sweaters also makes it a great choice for a more reserved work environment. You can slip it on beneath a blazer, for example, on a colder day. During spring, it makes a great choice because it’s just substantial enough to keep you warm as the breeze picks up. Cashmere sweaters look right at home with everything from women's jeans or black trousers to sleek pencil skirts.
The open cardigan, which is sometimes referred to as a flyaway, is one of the most simple and effortless options available. Free of buttons and other closing mechanisms, it’s the type of piece that you can simply throw on and go as you’re rushing out the door in the morning. During spring, it can serve as a substitute for a lightweight jacket, and it’s great to wear beneath your coat for an extra layer of warmth during cooler months.
There are several ways to give your cashmere cardigan a more professional spin. One way is to make clever use of a belt. Put on a comfortable midi skirt, select your favorite blouse, and finish with an open cardigan of your choice. Pull it together by cinching your waist with a wide belt. The result is almost suit-like, especially when you select complementary colors for your top and bottom. Another option is to pair it with a silky top and a pair of wide-leg, tailored pants. Pin the top of the cardigan with a brooch to create a sophisticated, graceful look from top to bottom.
Sometimes you just need to bundle up. When the office is really cold, opt for a more substantial cardigan made with cable knit fabric. This style is more warm and toasty than others and is appropriate for a casual dress code.
One way around that is to choose a style in a neutral color, like black or charcoal. It’s easier to pair with your standard workplace neutrals, and it’s something that you can quickly slip into and out of as needed. If you work in a more relaxed environment, though, you can play around with colors and patterns to create fun looks that brighten dark fall and winter days.
Everyone should own at least one classic cardigan. What defines a true classic? Think in terms of performance and silhouette. The sleeves are long, and the neckline is either rounded in a crew shape or extended downward in a V shape. The buttons are usually tonal to match the sweater’s color, creating a more seamless look without much ornamentation.
This relatively simple style plays well with almost everything in your closet. You can layer it beneath a coat in the winter and wear it on its own during spring and summer. It’s not especially thick, so you don’t have to worry about added bulk.
Ultimately, the cardigan that you choose for workwear should fit in neatly with the rest of your professional wear and keep you comfortable—and cozy—throughout the day.