It’s here: the season where fashion meets the standards of both comfort and style. Sweaters are the hybrid of class and ease that is the essence of great style. They are effortless, versatile, and perhaps the most timeless of garments.
Now don’t get me wrong—each season brings a new shape and/or fabric as the new “it” thing for sweaters (remember when balloon sleeves had their moment in the spotlight a couple of years ago? How about eyelash sweaters?). But I’m finding myself less and less interested in investing in these. Trends come and go, and good quality sweaters are generally fairly pricey.
I’ve definitely bought my fair number of cheap one-season-only pieces from H&M and the like, but I find the long-term frustration undermines the short-term pleasure: cheap sweaters get destroyed in the wash (lose their shape and texture, pill terribly, you name it!), and I hate discovering that, when fall rolls around again, I somehow have no sweaters in good condition. It’s also worth considering the ecological impact from purchasing and discarding new garments every season as an additional reason to buy quality pieces.
Luckily, sweater trends are really more about styling than about style. The same chunky turtleneck stays trendy for 10+ years, but what makes your look contemporary is what you pair it with, whether and how you tuck it, and how you accessorize it.
Most of all, sweater wearing is about proportions: an oversized boyfriend sweater can go from hobo to hobo chic with the right bottom. So Instead of investing in a flurry of of-the-moment sweaters, pull out your staples (or, if you don’t have them, invest in these! Some of my favorite quality companies are Everlane, Aritzia, and J.Crew.) Here are three fun combinations for contemporary and flattering looks.
01. The Chunky Knit
We’ve done chunky sweaters with skinny jeans for years, and more recently we’ve done chunky sweaters with straight-leg mom jeans—but this season we’re doing chunky sweaters with even wider silhouettes. When you’re looking for tops to pair with your midi skirts or wide-leg pants, instead of reaching for your classic slim knit, opt for that oversized sweater you love to lounge in. Worried you’ll look like a potato? Never fear! It’s easy to turn your outfit from couch potato to street style chic. The key is the “French tuck.” Letting the sweater hang loose totally obscures your figure, but doing a full tuck with a chunky sweater will likely be uncomfortable on your waist and might add bulk in strange places. The French tuck—tucking in only the front of the sweater—shows off your waist while sparing you the chunk-discomfort. As the sweater drapes down around the tuck, it creates lovely slimming lines around your hips while at the same time making your legs look miles long. This works well with either a clearly defined color-blocking or a modern monochrome look.
This look is about balance: the lightweight but chunky sweater is balanced by the weight of the tiered, dark patterned skirt.
This look’s monochrome palette further elongates the body and adds to the trend-factor. The high-shaft booties also help to streamline the look.
The contrasting colors in this look are inverted with their shapes: the wide-leg pants in winter white are a great complement to the simplicity of the dark sweater. Booties again help elongate this look.
These slacks drape nicely, which makes the outfit already more figure-flattering than a denim or twill bottom. The neutral monochrome is both modern and classic, and the darker belt both grounds the outfit and further defines the waist.
02. The Long Cardigan
Thank heavens for cozy cardigans! Whether you go full-duster length or a boyfriend blazer length, sweaters that cover your bum are a fantastic wardrobe addition. They pair easily with denim, midi skirts, and dresses. They’re great transitional pieces too—toss one over your favorite summer T-shirt dress for an instant fall look. The piece in my wardrobe I wear the most is a long cardigan like this that I got at J. Crew four years ago. It has a blazer vibe in its length and overall styling, which is perfect for my lifestyle. When picking your own, think about what you do most often and what will pair with most things, because once you have one, trust me—you’ll wear it all the time!
This look goes “full duster” and is eminently flattering. It’s best to pair this length sweater with a slim denim or a form-fitting midi skirt.
A more knee-length cardigan is a cute off-set to a short skirt. The unexpected play of lengths is modern. I also find that a mini skirt can make your legs look shorter, so pairing with a streamlined long cardigan can elongate you once again.
A cozy cardigan in a nice neutral color is what I’ll be wearing at home all winter long. Cream and gray are classics, but a light mauve adds interest to your daily basics. You won’t be ashamed to wear this out and about either, which is a real perk in my book.
Slip dresses have been everywhere this past year, and while their texture makes them feel winter-luxe, they’re extremely thin for chillier weather. Help stretch their lifespan by pairing them with a long cardigan. The combination of textures is delicious and simply oozes taste and class.
03. The Classic Cardigan
I’ve been a bit surprised to find myself loving this look. Maybe I like it for its timelessness. Maybe I like it because of the versatility (wear it buttoned or unbuttoned, forward or backward, casual or business). Maybe I just like it because it’s trendy! But either way, short cardigans are definitely in this season. Make them more contemporary by pairing with on-trend denim (hello cropped wide-leg pants) or a satin midi skirt, or go full-vintage and pull out your A-line and pencil skirts. Whatever your personal style, there’s a cardigan for you!
Trust Jeanne Damas to show us how to wear old school in a totally modern, sensual way! If pastels aren’t your thing, look for a sweater like this in neutral colors. Combat the frumpy edge with on-trend denim and shoes. Keep your hair simple and your jewelry modern and minimalist.
This piece could also read as too literally retro, but pairing it with high-waisted denim in a contemporary cut saves it from feeling costume-y.
Pearl buttons, delicate knit—this is a truly classic piece. It’s something your grandmother would have worn, in the best of all possible ways: paired with the right bottoms and simple modern hoops, this is utterly on-trend for the present day.
This is a variation on the classic. A delicate, detailed sweater like this can run the gamut from casual to winter luxe depending on what you pair it with.
I love the fun of a new garment, but just as fun is the play of mixing your pieces together in unusual ways. And if you do find yourself wanting to invest in some new knits this season, the above items are sure to do you well through this and many winters yet to come!