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How to Style a Cardigan—Plus 7 Sustainable Options to Try

Cardigans are a classic layering piece. These looks (and eco-friendly sweaters) will help inspire you to incorporate the storied staple.

how to style a cardigan
Written by
Calin Van Paris
Cardigans are the epitome of classic cool. The
—knit with a button or zip closure at front—has long been a favored fashion item, but was originally worn as part of a military uniform. Invented by
James Thomas Brudenell
(the seventh Earl of Cardigan) in the 1800s, the sweater eventually found a fan in Coco Chanel, and eventually evolved into a light layer worn by, well, everyone in the 1950s. Couple that with the '90s oversize grunge era, the cardigan exudes demure and irreverent—and becomes even more stylish when sourced sustainably.
Wool and cotton cardis are a feature at
thrift stores
everywhere, the varied and easy-to-style toppers available in virtually every hue and from every era. Plus, hand-knit options abound, both online and elsewhere. Slip on over a
slip dress
, button up and tuck into
high-waisted denim
, or wear open with trousers for an instantly complete ensemble.
Need a bit of guidance on your journey to cardigan cute? Here are seven ways to style a cardigan—and some sustainable staples to get you started.

How to Style a Cardigan: 7 Must-Try Looks

1. For a Brightly Colored Moment

Brightly colored pants are cool. When paired with a coordinated cardi? Even better. Style a set of saturated trousers with a cropped sweater in a similar shade—bonus points if the purse matches, too.

Quince 100% Organic Cotton Oversized Cardigan, $50

Quince says this 100% organic cotton cardigan is meant for "busy days, cozy evenings, and chill vibes"—and we couldn't agree more. Plus, an added bonus: it has roomy front pockets.
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2. With a Skirt

Style up a peasant skirt with a candy-colored cardigan—preferably with a blouson sleeve. The balance of fits and texture makes for an interesting silhouette that's sure to turn heads.
how to wear a cardigan

Everlane The Cashmere Cardigan, $200

This recycled cashmere cardigan is as sumptuous as the regular stuff, with 90% less raw material carbon emissions. Reach for this rich bubblegum for an option that spans seasons.
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3. Layered Over a Dress

how to style a cardigan
A skin-skimming midi dress is elevated with the simple addition of a classic cardigan. Go monochrome, or reach for an in-step, subtle shade for a more casual look.

Cameron Boyfriend Cardigan, $450

Outerknown's Cameron Boyfriend Cardigan is destined to become a go-to piece. Made from 95% recycled cashmere and 5% extra-fine Lana Merino wool, it boasts 96% CO2 savings, 92% water savings, and 82% energy savings.
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4. At Ankle-Length

Even the most casual of outfits becomes a full-on look with the addition of an ankle-grazing cardigan. Pair with boots, sneakers, loafers, or even sandals.
how to wear a cardigan

Patagonia Women's Recycled Cashmere Long Cardigan, $239

This layering piece is designed to last a lifetime. Recycled cashmere and virgin wool blend for a soft and strong piece that will earn its place in your rotation.
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5. For Some Printed Punctuation

Add some playful print to an otherwise neutral outfit with a crochet cardigan. We love the floral motif, but any shade will do! Think clouds, leaves, geometrics, and more.

Chunky Floral Cardigan, $140

You can't get more sustainable than handmade. This balloon-sleeve sweater is made from wool and cotton and is even customizable.
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6. For a Winter White Look

When in doubt, go all-white. The strongest single-colored looks are a study in shade, and this bone white cardigan looks best with a bright white pant—before or after Labor Day.
how to wear a cardigan

Patagonia Women's Recycled Wool Cardigan, $149

Recycled wool + recycled nylon = your new favorite cream-colored sweater. The warm blend and a fisherman stitch makes it ideal for winter (or evening) wear.
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7. Over a Flannel

Go grunge. A pair of oversize trousers, sneakers, and a
look suddenly complete (and oh-so-'90s) when topped with a roomy cardigan.

Reformation Giusta Oversized Cashmere Cardigan, $278

The Reformation is working to eliminate virgin cashmere with a 90% recycled build with 87% less carbon impact. The perfect oversize piece for lazier days.
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