How to Style a Sweater as a Layering Piece

how to style a cardigan as a layering pieceI recently saw some interesting photos at Banana Republic of sweaters styled as a layering piece, and since it IS that season where you may or may not need a sweater or cardigan, depending on temperature, wind, humidity, office AC, etc., I thought it might make an interesting discussion. If you’re not actively wearing the sweater, how do you style it? Do you wrap it around your shoulders or your waist, or do you just carry it in a bag? This can be very office-specific as well as location-specific, but here are the basic questions: Are there ways to style a cardigan that are “classic,” or does the sweater-as-accessories-look read a certain way to you, like preppy, casual, or (ahem) dated? Do you prefer to just throw a cardigan in your bag for your commute if you’re not wearing it? (In the past, we’ve talked more generally about cardigans in our guide to stylish cardigans for the office, and we’ve also discussed ways to button cardigans.)

For my $.02, I think both looks above are way too casual for a conservative office. If I needed to shed a layer before returning to my office I’d be far more likely to throw both arms of the cardigan over my shoulders, like below. But while I see a lot of this look in real life (enough that I’d call it classic!), I see hardly any images in the styled annals of Pinterest and style blogs, which makes me wonder if people see it as outdated. (Refinery 29 has their “cool girl” take on how to style sweaters that includes a very sloppy version of the below looks…)

how to style a cardigan as a layering piece

Pictures above via East Coast Southern Soul / Preppy in Pastels / Unknown! (Please shout it out if you know who this is.)

Personnally, I will note that I probably wouldn’t do the looped cuffs as shown in image 3, and in image 1 I would probably have buttoned parts of the sweater to avoid the cape-like look and to make it look neater, like in image 2. One of the reasons I’ve always liked the cardigan-over-the-shoulders look is because you can do it on TOP of blazers if you’re really freezing, even if you’re already wearing a sweater underneath the blazer. For me it’s always been a functional look rather than an intended part of my look for the day — I’ve found that my sweaters get damaged if I throw them in my bag so I prefer to wear them around my shoulders if I’m not actively wearing them.

What are your thoughts, ladies? How are you styling sweaters as layering pieces these days, whether for work or play? Are any of these part of your “look” for the day, or are they always just a means to an end for commuting or networking events/work-related cocktail parties where you don’t want to end the conversation to put your sweater down but don’t want to wear it anymore? 


  1. Is this a for real topic of discussion? 😉

    • It is! I wear it around my neck if it is to hot to wear but if it is cold, I wear it the way it is suposed to be worn. I got a new honey colored cashemere sweater that I will wear as soon as it’s cool outside. Right now it is so muggy that I could NEVER wear a sweater, especialy a cashemere sweater. Frank says he can not wait until I wear my sweaters! He is such a letch! His own wife is actually pretty and he should NOT be waiting to see what I look like with my new clotheing. FOOEY on him!

  2. Squiggles :

    I carry it until I can place it on the back of my chair.

  3. I like to put my arms through the sleeves,. I guess I’m not very fashion.

  4. Are you kidding? My teenager ties her hoodies around her waist. This is on the level of using rubber bands to put in a rough ponytail. I carry my cardigan or fold it and put it in my bag.

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