Style Notes: White Cardigans

I own four white or off-white cardigans.

I like knitwear – it’s easier to size compared to blazers and it’s just more comfortable. My personal style preference tends towards soft/romantic but textured, rather than sleek and sharp, so I gravitate towards anything with a cable knit.

I’ve been working from home since March, and while I enjoy getting dressed for the sake of it, I’m also not going to be wearing proper structured jackets indoors, even if it was cool and crisp instead of apocalyptically hot. So in wearing them more often, I’ve come to appreciate some of the finer distinctions between the cream colored items in my sweater hoard, even if I didn’t necessarily buy them knowing the exact roles they’d each fill.

Of course, no one needs four white cardigans. I’m definitely not writing this to encourage everyone to go out and buy some. I don’t subscribe to the Every Woman Needs philosophy for any specific item. But I thought it’d be a fun sort of show-and-tell which would also go through cases of how you can understand what niche a piece of clothing plays in your wardrobe, and if you own some similar maybe there are some styling details that you might like to try out.

Hey everyone – I’m still around. I thought I’d do a blog post with normal content before putting out a general life and wardrobe check-in post, but that’s coming up next.

Longline chunky cardigan

  • Knee-length
  • Chunky cable-knit
  • Balloon sleeves
  • Open front
  • Acrylic, does not seem too prone to pilling

This is a Topshop item from the 2018 Anniversary Sale, but I got it on Poshmark last month to scratch the Nsale hype itch. I was actually interested in getting one when it first came out, but the cream ones were all sold out in my size! But I guess it’s been long enough that they’re showing up at more reasonable prices secondhand online. I’m normally a size US8, but I had to get this in a US2.

To me this reads are more of a casual style due to the chunky rough yarn and the almost distressed effect from the open cabling on the back. With thick white knee-length cardigans, things can quickly start getting into literally-a-bathrobe territory, so to avoid looking like The Dude, I’d generally wear this with boots or dressier shoes.

Low key

Let’s face it, 85% of the time I am probably going to wear this with black straight-leg jeans and a fitted black scoop neck top, because that’s what I wear by default when it’s cold. (Scarf for actual warmth to show up in Jan/Feb, if I ever get out of the apartment then).

But despite its simplicity, some details I like here are the braided belt mirroring the cardigan’s cabled designs, the woven leather on the derby shoes coordinating with the leatherwork in the belt without being too matchy, and the scrunchie and lipstick continuing the pops of reddish brown.

Trotters “Lizzie” derby shoe, US7.5 wide (runs narrow)

Boots and beret

I styled this one specifically when trying out different outfits for this post. While I think it’s a solid outfit on its own merits, the beret with the combat boots just gives the whole thing a little too much “brunch at 11, coup at 12” vibes for my personal taste but I thought I’d include it.

Here since the pants are wide and the boots are chunky, I felt that it really needed some kind of hat to balance it out. I didn’t get any photos styled like this, but I think if I wear this out this winter I’ll probably just be adding a normal knit pom-pom beanie and a scarf for more ISO cozy-chic.

Cinnamon bun

Pointed-toe block heel boots, brown wide-leg canvas pants, and a textured white top is very much an mgetsdressed standby, and this cabled cardigan version feels pretty good.

I’m wearing a gigot sleeve shirt under this which causes the silhouette to be slightly lumpy, but on the whole I think these are loose and thick enough that it’s not noticeable enough to distract.

While it might seem tricky to style a heavy long cardigan over wide leg pants (especially in winter with a scarf and hat) without feeling like a sentient laundry pile, I find that generally as long as the lines in the outfit send attention primarily vertically, it doesn’t feel too stodgy. While these pants have a wide leg, they have a clean silhouette and don’t have any embellishment, and same for the shoes, which are additionally pointed-toe.

Compare here to when I tried out the heavy cardigan with loose fit, slightly tapered trousers with an oversized cuff (not so much by design as they’re just too long and I haven’t hemmed them yet). Even though the shape of the pants is theoretically more streamlined, the cuffs and sandal strap add more horizontal emphasis causing the overall look to feel less sharp.

A moment of silence for the predecessor to this cardigan, a Ralph Lauren monstrosity purchased off ebay that was approximately 65 pounds of pure wool. It was too warm for here, and since it was so heavy and designed for a taller person, it always laid oddly and I only ever managed to make one outfit that I liked it in. Given that, I couldn’t justify the space it took up, but man, it was glorious. I don’t have a literal top 5 outfits of all time list off the top of my head, but this is definitely in it.

I usually try to avoid looking like The Dude, but if you’re gonna go for that dgaf grocery run energy, why not go all out?

I don’t think the effect will be quite the same with this more trendy style, but hoping I can recapture some of this come colder weather.

Cropped balloon sleeve cardigan

  • Cropped (actually hits at the waist, even on me)
  • Fluffy cable knit with unique leaf design
  • Exaggerated puff sleeves with long cuff – it’s halfway between a balloon sleeve and a mutton sleeve
  • V-neck with jewel buttons
  • Acrylic, I suspect this will pill easily

I also got this via Poshmark in a size small. I don’t usually shop at Zara because their quality seems pretty shoddy, but I saw this while browsing and felt that the design was sweet enough that I’d be willing to put up with potentially babying it.

When I put this on, I think “ah yes, now this is fashion”.

I see myself mostly pairing this this with slightly dressier shoes like my derby shoes or pointed-toe flats, or at least more  streamlined shoes like my pointed-toe boots. Because the details create an overall effect that’s a little more dainty, if I were to pair it with docs, I’d probably choose a fitted mini skirt to make the silhouette less bulky and tie them together.

While I’ll definitely wear this in at-home outfits once it cools down, I think for outside outfits I’d consider this more of a weekend or going-out sweater. Not because I think extra should be saved for special occasions, but because any bag or backpack I’d need to use to lug my work laptop around would probably pill it beyond wearability immediately. But given that I’m WFH for the next several months (and even after that – our physical office doesn’t have enough space for everyone we’ve hired now, so even if it did open up we’d probably be on a desk/WFH rotation) I think I should be able to get enough uses out of this to make it worth it.

Lightweight cropped cardigan

  • Slightly cropped (can hit at the waist with some fussing)
  • Fine cable knit
  • Fitted sleeves, but they’re a couple inches too long for me
  • V-neck with hidden buttons
  • Cotton-acrylic blend
  • Lightweight

This is the Free People “Moonriver” cardigan, which I also have in a burnt orange. I don’t tend to reach for this one as much because I think the color washing me out (I just look a lot more alive in the orange), but I tend to reach for it when I want a little extra warmth with my favorite linen-blend button-down camisole. They both have slightly antique style elements so together they can make a simple look feel a little more romantic.

Because the sleeves don’t fit (and frankly the waist was meant to hit a little higher – I’m not Free People’s fit model) I find it lends a more casual air to the sweater, so I try to be careful not to pair it with a silhouette that’s too unstructured to avoid feeling sloppy.

Storybook style

This is probably one of my favorite ways I’ve worn this cardigan. The cropped length works well with high waisted loose trousers, and while sometimes the ill-fitting sleeves just make a look feel kinda blah, here I think it fits right in with the rumpled-cute cottagecore sorta aesthetic. I also like having a lighter weight top against heavier trousers, to avoid making everything feel stodgy.

Generic chic

Aka “simple but accessorized”. This doesn’t feel super “me”, but I wanted to try and zhuzh up a basic outfit with earrings, a necklace, barrette, and purse. With a super plain cardigan, having the same accessories might relatively feel like overkill, but here since the reverse cable knit texture has some visual interest, I think the whole thing still feels kinda low-key.

Library trip

This is the same base outfit as in the Zara cardigan outfit above, but just swapping out to a slightly more subtle sweater and some derby shoes completely changes the aesthetic from a Going Out look to a quieter almost light academia style. This was kinda fun, since one of the classic cardigan associations is collegiate style. This would be really cute with a brown leather crossbody purse.

Old-school cardigan

  • Classic fit (hip length, fitted but comfortable sleeves)
  • Argyle pattern cable knit
  • V-neck with faux covered leather buttons to complete the grandpa look
  • 100% cotton with pockets

Flower Power

As with basically every purchase, I thought this was the greatest thing since sliced bread when I first got it. But after a while I found that the length was not compatible with most things in my closet. When paired with loose fit pants, it divides the silhouette in half while also obscuring the waist, and when paired with short skirts or shorts, the angling at the hem always bugs me. The argyle pattern on a non-fitted hip length garment also gives everything a boxy effect overall which I’m not a fan of.

I did like it with this lightweight floral mini dress though, as all the clashing cream fabric and ruffles was a delightful amount of girly sartorial chaos. (I still do like this, but I haven’t worn it recently because I’ve been procrastinating on repairing the broken button closure on it).

Extra casual

However, on the whole it’s a pretty inoffensive style, really comfortable (100% cotton light but not delicate knit), and has pockets, so it’s mostly used as a “trash cardigan”, i.e. it takes the place of a zip hoodie in non-technical (e.g. not hiking/workout) outfits. It’s just as meh as a hoodie in what it does for sweatpants and an old t-shirt, but it has a retro/thrift store vibe. My philosophy is if it’s not going to be conventionally flattering, it should at least have a personality, and I feel like replacing my use of techie logo hoodies with more off-fit cardigans has been pretty satisfying.

I don’t take fit pics of lounge outfits, but here’s one that’s very “wasn’t wearing real pants but needed to step out” sort of casual vibe.

I occasionally also wear this with the tan wide-leg pants, but since I got the Free People cardigans I’ve found that I tend to reach for those. Still, it doesn’t make me sad that this doesn’t get featured on Instagram much, because it’s great at just being an easy layering piece that’s a little more joyful than a free gray tech logo hoodie, and what more could I ask of it?


All said, the answer to “why do you have so many white cardigans?” is that

  • white/cream is a nice contrast neutral for my wardrobe (which is mostly darker or midtone colors)
  • I have a long statement cardigan and cropped statement cardigan to jazz up plainer base outfits when I need a layer and feel like the look needs a little more cozy visual interest,
  • and a lightweight casual cardigan when I want something that goes with jeans, miniskirts, and my most-worn tops,
  • and a “dgaf cardigan” that’s a little sturdier to throw over loungewear.

One of the dangers of considering fashion a hobby is that it’s easy to get into the “well I need one for a, b, c, d” situation and “w, x, y, z” outfit silhouettes for basically every category of item. Coats, skirts, blouses, shoes, etc. I try to keep that sort of thing to my workhorse items like black boots and personal favorites (white sweaters). Things like jeans that I just don’t get excited about, I’m cool to just alternate between 3 of basically the same one. Do you have a type of item where you have a whole collection so you can wear one for any situation?


  1. That long cabled cardigan is a great replacement for your wool one! It seems to fit you better through the shoulders and arms, and definitely conveys the same idea (at least in pictures). Something about a long cardigan over pants and boots makes me think of a gallery owner or museum curator, somebody who appreciates both art and practicality. Definitely a wine drinker.

    I have several blue-grey knit dresses in different weights and silhouettes. They feel a little redundant, but none of them is exactly right. I’d be happy to downsize if I could find The Perfect Dress, but thus far it’s proven elusive.

    Happy to see you back!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I see how all four of these cardigans fill a different niche or play a different role in building outfits! (Though I’m also historically someone who buys a lot more cardigans than most people. I find them so much more comfortable than blazers or jackets, even if the blazers or jackets would suit the formality of my industry much better…) Oh, and I love those Trotters shoes, they’re really cool!

    And I can definitely imagine the difficulty of styling that Ralph Lauren cardigan! One of my COVID-time purchases was a much heavier, chunkier wool sweater than I’m used to and it’s… A whole lot of look and will be challenging to style for outside-the-home outfits even though the weather technically gets cold enough for it here. When a sweater’s that thick and heavy it’s tough to layer.

    Hope you’re holding up alright with all the poor air quality days because of the fires :(. I grew up in the Bay Area and remember forest fires always being a thing in summertime somewhere out there in the farther reaches of norcal, but never to the extent of the past year or two.


    1. Hey Xin! Thanks, I’m alright, all things considered. Which, all things considered, still sucks, but I’m still thankful we have our jobs and there haven’t been any fires in the hills here.

      Ahh extreme chunky sweaters are the worst temptation. When it’s cold enough to wear them, you probably need to layer something over it too and then everything is lumpy lol.

      Hope you’re holding up okay too!


  3. Love your new blog layout.

    You look beautiful and your commentary is thoughtful as always. My favourite is with the flowered dress.

    I missed your posts! They make me feel normal!

    I wondered if you knew of Giedre Kavaliunaite on Youtube.


    1. Thanks, Charlotte! It’s been pretty quiet but I’m trying to get back into more regular posts (even if they aren’t quite as long as the latest one).

      I hadn’t seen Giedre’s channel before. I love her presentation, and there’s a lot of info, though I do wish that she would present things more as generically applicable concepts rather than taking a wholly prescriptive approach and calling them “style mistakes”.


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