The Hunt: Red Cardigan Sweaters

workwear basic red cardigan sweaterSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

If you’re going to buy a single sweater to start expanding a work wardrobe that mostly consists of black/gray/navy suits and white/blue blouses, what should you pick first? In my mind I think it’s got to be a burgundy or red cardigan sweater — preferably in a silk blend so you can wear the sweater year-round(ish), wash it easily, and get a great drape if you button it and throw it around your shoulders — either on your summertime commute (after July 15 I’d say) or over a blazer as another layering piece in winter or spring (before March 15 I’d say). (So in other words, consider retiring it from March 15-July 15, but otherwise wear it all the other seasons.) It’s also festive for the holiday season and Valentine’s Day. You can pair it with oranges and pinks in the fall, and pale blues and even lavender in the winter. Ladies, what color cardigan do you wear the most?  What is your favorite cardigan brand and style? 

Note that the Lord & Taylor cashmere sale seems to be quietly happening today — lots of L&T-brand cashmere is marked down to $59-$69, including a nice red cardigan, pictured above, for $69 (was $174). 

First, some general round-ups for special interests:

August Silk Long Sleeve Basic CardiganThis banded cardigan from August Silk unfortunately has only two sizes left in the red (it was originally available in sizes S-XL, as it still is in a couple of other colors), but it’s on sale right now for only $22 (marked down from $59), so that explains it! (On a similar sale: this ribbed V-neck cardigan at Ann Taylor.)  The fabric is a blend of viscose/silk/nylon and is machine washable. The sweater is available at Century 21. August Silk Long Sleeve Basic Cardigan
Halogen Three Quarter Sleeve CardiganThis red cardigan from Halogen® has a “slim, contemporary” fit, 3/4 sleeves, and pretty grosgrain trim on the button placket. The sweater has 600+ reviews, which are overwhelmingly positive; Nordstrom says “94% of reviewers recommended this product” — and is hand-washable. It’s available in sizes XS-XL and right now is on sale for $27 (was $46). Halogen® Three Quarter Sleeve Cardigan
Talbots Jersey Stitched Charming CardiganThis cotton-blend, machine-wash cardigan is a great deal right now — today at Talbots you can get 40% off your entire purchase, which takes this down to just $38. It’s also nice that it’s available in four size ranges: misses, petites, woman (X-3X), and woman petites (although the red is only in stock in lucky sizes in the regular size range). It has 50+ excellent customer reviews, as well. Note that while the cashmere version of the Charming cardigan doesn’t seem to come in red right now, they do have a bolero-like “Charming dress cardigan” in red. Pictured: Talbots Jersey Stitched Charming Cardigan
Lands' End Red Supima Cardigan SweaterThis popular cardigan at Lands’ End is 85% Supima cotton (it includes 2% Lycra spandex for stretch) and is machine washable. It’s available in regular, petite, tall, and plus sizes and has an average rating of four stars from 1,500 (!) reviews. It’s $49-59 full price (and select sale colors are $24-29 right now).  The matching short-sleeved sweater is here. Pictured: Lands’ End Supima Cardigan Sweater
Kate Spade New York 'Somerset' Cotton Blend CardiganThis cotton-blend Kate Spade cardigan is now only in stock in medium in this “spicy red” color at Nordstrom, but all sizes (XXS-XL) are available in the “lollipop red” version, which actually looks bright orange on the model but seems more of a classic red in the fabric close-up. (Zappos has a different photo to look at — and if you’re intrigued, you may want to contact the famously-excellent Nordstrom customer service team to find out more about these two shades.) The washing instructions for this cardigan advise “dry clean or hand wash cold” for this cotton blend that includes a bit of cashmere. It’s $198 at Nordstrom; the “lollipop red” linked above is reduced to $118. Pictured: Kate Spade ‘Somerset’ Cotton Blend Cardigan
Brooks Brothers Cashmere SweaterThis classic, banded cashmere cardigan from Brooks Brothers has real shell buttons and grosgrain trim on the top and bottom plackets. It’s available in sizes S-XL and is marked down to $238 from $398; the matching shell is here. (The sweater is “dry clean” but apparently not “dry clean only” — check the label and proceed at your own risk before throwing it in the delicate cycle.)  Brooks Brothers Cashmere Cardigan

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  1. Paging "Indy here" :

    If “Indy here” is around this week, I’d love to take you up on some email communication regarding my upcoming trip to Indy. I can be reached here: leasethebmw atsign gmail. Thanks!

  2. I’ve owned the August Silk one pictured above (in a 1X from Macy’s) for about 9 years, and it still looks brand new. Washes easily, I hang dry, and it’s the perfect weight for winter or summer.

  3. I’m surprised Woolovers didn’t make the list- I really love the quality of their silk-cashmere blend cardigans

  4. Anonymous :

    Am I crazy to think about taking my small dog to Cancun, Mexico? She would fly with us in the cabin (American Airlines and a few other airlines allow this) and I found a dog-friendly resort. She’s a great traveler (has been on ~25 domestic trips, including longer flights than this would be, with us already) so I’m not worried at all about the plane flights or leaving her alone in the hotel room while we go to the beach or dinner for a couple hours, since we’ve done this many times in the US and had no issues. My parents are convinced she will contract some terrible Mexican disease, but they’re excessively paranoid about these things and don’t think Mexico is very safe for people either (I know Cancun is totally safe). I don’t see how she could get sick if we feed her bottled water and dry dog food brought from home. She’s not the kind of dog to drink from a puddle on the street, in fact, we actually have trouble getting her to drink when traveling because she’s very distrustful of anything that’s not her regular water cup. But maybe I’m missing something. Would love advice from people who have traveled internationally with pets, especially in less developed countries.

    • Wildkitten :

      Are you going to be at a resort the whole time?

      • Anonymous :

        Yes, plan is to stay at the all-inclusive resort for the whole trip. We’ve both been to Cancun before so no desire to do anything besides lie on the beach and snorkel from the hotel beach, and maybe do a half-day snorkeling trip somewhere else.

        • Wildkitten :

          That sounds fine as long as you check all the issues Anon mentions below.

    • The dog will be fine, but have you double checked you won’t be required to get a vet’s certification before bringing her back into the U.S. or anything like that?

    • I would be concerned that there could be an issue with the dog’s records and they would deny it reentry or quarantine it. If you decide to do this, I would check with your vet and get the dog vaccinated for anything the vet recommends.

  5. I hate red :

    Anyone else who doesn’t wear red (even though technically it should “look good”)? I have dark hair and dark skin and most people my complexion love red, but I really dislike it on me. Feels way too “loud”. I have no problem wearing hot pink or emerald or royal blue but I always feel very garish wearing red. Maybe it’s because I’m a “spring”?

    • Red is pretty much the only color I don’t have in my wardrobe – I have much cooler undertones and I don’t think it looks right paired with that and my red hair.

    • hoola hoopa :

      I also hate red. Aside from a spatula, I honestly can’t think of a single thing that I own that’s red. I definitely don’t wear it.

    • I agree! I love emerald tones and saturated colors and my skin looks good in them, but I hate red on me and won’t wear it. It looks lovely on other people, though.

    • TO Lawyer :

      +1 – I have a gorgeous red cardigan from BR but I never wear it. It just feels off to me. I also feel the same about red lipstick for some reason.

    • Anonymous :

      Which red are you wearing? I also do not love the brighter/tomato reds (even though I just bought such a shirt on sale and like it), but I am a huge fan of burgundy – a little dark, not so in your face, but still a sense of power and presence to it.

    • I feel the same way. I don’t have any red in my closet or my house – red is a color that immediately brings on feelings of anger (why I could never drive a car that has red dash lights). I can manage deep blue-reds like burgundy, but I don’t think of those colors as red.

    • Meg Murry :

      My mother always said I looked best in red and dressed me in it a lot as a kid. But I don’t prefer it and rarely buy it for myself. I tend toward purples/lilacs, blues and maybe a little burgandy as my go to colors with a black and gray as my main neutrals, plus a little navy and tan occasionally.

      I don’t know, red is just a little too “look at me” for my tastes, even if it is technically a “better” color for me than my go-to purples.

    • Anonymous :

      reading this thread, I’m wondering if it’s bad that red is my favorite color.

      • I like red a lot. I like pink/purple/burgundy but I like red and also love it on other people.

      • Aunt Jamesina :

        Can I sit with you? Red is virtually the only real color in my wardrobe that’s all neutrals. I love red and it flatters me.

      • Red is my favorite color, too. I gravitate toward it. If it comes in red, I most likely own it in that color and have to consciously choose another color. My car is red. My couch is red, etc.

    • Unrelated, but I was amused by the reference to your color season. Do people still do that? I explained the concept to my 14 yr old daughter recently and she thought the whole thing was cray.

      • Ha, i think the season thing is outdated but I personally found it pretty useful. I checked out a bunch of books from the library and figured out I was a spring — which is contrary to the traditional view that someone with my complexion is a winter. It helped me understand why I don’t like certain colors (red, black).

    • I know how you feel–I love a red dress for a special occasion, but when it comes to separates, it’s an exhausting color to build an outfit around. It just doesn’t play nicely with other colors and often ends up looking… trite?

    • I love red and the managing partner loves me in red. In fact he paid 100% of the red wool suit Margie picked out for me at Lord & Taylor! Now I must wear it next week with my 4 inch red pump’s when I meet the judge for New Year’s Eve drinks in Chambers. Fortunately the manageing partner will be there too. The judge has some very expensive liquor in stock, the manageing partner says. I do not drink but will sampel a littel in honor of 2016. Yay!!!

      • Be careful. When these 2 horn bags get a few belts in them, look out. You could find yourself on the wrong end of their turkey basters! FOOEY!

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t look good in red. I have blonde hair and pale skin with pink undertones so I look really washed-out in red.

  6. Sydney Bristow :

    I’d recommend the Eddie Bauer Christine cardigan. I own a ton of them. They wash well and the red one I own is a really deep pretty red.

    It’s probably my coloring, but I always gravitate toward green as my first accent color. I also find it easier to style without looking dated as red and black can appear.

  7. Anonymous :

    It’s customary where I work for lawyers to give a bonus/gift to their assistant. The firm gives them a bonus and they also get a decent amount of time off (during which I will be working) but lawyers do something extra.

    Quite frankly I dislike my assistant. She has done her job badly and to a large extent not done her job. I do a lot of it. I didn’t give her a good performance review which means she may not get a raise in the upcoming raise. She is finally being transferred from me after months of requests.

    I know assistants talk so word will spread if I give my assistant nothing. However, I don’t want to buy her anything. Thoughts?

    • Wildkitten :

      Give her the normal thing and appreciate the good karma you will have bought yourself.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I think in this situation, where it’s plain you two are not a good match and she is on her way out, it’s okay to skip the gift.

      On the other hand, you could see it as part of her compensation and part of your work-related expenses and give her something small but not so small as to be insulting (i.e. if the usual assistant gift at the firm is in the $100-$300 range, give $100. If it’s $20-50, give $20). Not really any skin off your nose.

    • I feel the same way, my admin is useless and has taken more vacation days in the last 6 months that I’ve taken during my career. I’m looking at my gift to her as my fee for not having to risk looking rude, or out of touch with office culture, or inappropriate, or any other type of faux pas. Risk mitigation. It’s all crap, but I’d rather pay $50 than look like a cheap jerk in front of a partner.

      • Anonymous :

        I find it comforting that someone else has a bad assistant. So thanks.

  8. anonforthis :

    Think I am just looking for hugs today…

    My uncle, with whom I was quite close, died very unexpectedly over the weekend. About twelve hours after I found out, my boyfriend of 6 months dumped me. He was supposed to watch my dog over Christmas, and we were planning a weekend away over New Years. Now all of those plans are scratched and instead I am making funeral plans and feeling so sad, trying to comfort my grieving family and scrambling to find a pet sitter.

    On top of that I have a major major job interview tomorrow. Frantic end-of-year stuff at work. And then it’s Christmas! Holidays are hard enough – I just feel absolutely utterly emotionally overwhelmed.

    Therapy appointment this afternoon, but do you guys have any other survival/self-care tips? How can I focus on everything that needs to get done? Trying to avoid booze (/hooking up with strangers), which are my usual go-tos. Blah.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m sorry to hear that! If you are comfortable sharing what city you are in, maybe some dogwalker recommendations count be shared?

      • +1 It’s a long shot, but I would be happy to watch your dog (I’m in Nebraska). I love booze, but have a general rule to avoid it when I’m sad/angry, as it usually makes things worse. If it was me, I would take it out at the gym, get some extra sleep, and hang out with positive people (friends/family that are supportive).

    • I am really sorry. Big big hugs. Be kind to yourself.

    • Wildkitten :

      Can you tell the job interview folks that you had a family emergency and they can reschedule it for January? I can’t imagine they are actually planning to move on filling the vacancy in the next two weeks.

      • Wildkitten :

        And frankly, if booze and strangers are what you need right now, you do you, girlfriend.

    • anonymous :

      If you’re in the DC area, I would love to watch your dog.

    • S in Chicago :

      Hugs to you. I am so, so sorry. I know it probably doesn’t help to hear but anyone who breaks things off days away from Christmas–yet alone right before a job interview is just not spouse (or even friend!) material anyway. (And if he knew about the death, that’s just a whole other level.) Heck, he knew about the dog sitting. Who does that to another person and a helpless animal?!? If it’s hard to be mad at him for yourself, be mad at him for your dog.

      And then try to be kind to yourself. Make your favorite food, read your favorite book/watch your favorite movie, go for a brisk walk, talk a long hot shower and loofah your heart out, and then get to bed early. It won’t change the big things but it may help them feel a little more manageable.

      Last advice: See if any of the vets in your area can recommend a reputable dog sitter. They usually know how to navigate last-minute need.

    • So sorry to hear of your loss(es!). My best tips for self-care are 1) don’t comfort your family so much that you are neglecting yourself – it’s your loss, too! and 2) allow yourself to think “weird” thoughts or feel “weird” feelings. I found that when I lost my aunt suddenly, whom I was also close to, I was in such shock that I was blaming myself for not grieving “the right way” and all sorts of strange thoughts were passing through my mind (banal things that I blamed myself for thinking about during a time I should be grieving, uncharitable thoughts about other family members that I felt guilty about, etc etc) and it was a life lesson to teach myself to just acknowledge whatever, and let it go. Maybe no one else has had that experience, but it’s something I’ve kept with me. You’ve had a few big shocks, and it’s a tough time of year, and just be kind to yourself and keep your mind a judgment-free zone.

  9. Anonymous :

    This reminds me of Target. My bff pharmacist for them- now CVS- but she had to dump like 15 red cardigans and sweaters. All the target stuff ruined red cardigans for me.

  10. DisenchantedinDC :

    Going to see my dad’s family for the first time since my grandfather passed in Christmas 2013 this Saturday. Feeling meh. Currently not speaking with my narcissistic mother and not sure if I’ll try and patch that up before the holiday, we had a fight over her insisting I come visit her parents when I’m in town.

    Pros: best friend is driving up with me, saving the new season of Serial for the drive back.

    Raising a glass, and probably a Xanax, to everybody else dealing with family BS this holiday season.

  11. Does anyone around here know the difference between Boston and NYC biglaw? I’m a 2L in NYC, and I have a couple of questions:

    1) Is Boston even marginally less competitive than NYC? I have a decent profile (law review, relevant experience, merit scholarships, but only a 3.42/25th percentile), which to my understanding wouldn’t really get me into biglaw in NYC. Is Boston more of an option, or is it the opposite because of differences in those markets? (I’m not starry eyed over biglaw, I’m certainly considering medium sized firms, but I’d like for it to be an option if possible).

    2) Setting aside biglaw, if I were to work in Boston the summer between 2L and 3L, would that essentially blacklist me if I wanted to come back to NYC to apply to jobs for after graduation? Does it look flaky? I like NYC, but I’ve always considered living in Boston, and it seems that a summer associate position would be a good way to test the waters – but if that’s going to make it so I can’t really come back after, I wouldn’t do it.

    Sorry if these are dumb or vague questions; I’m not from either of these areas originally and don’t have any family in the profession so I just don’t really have a sense of things.

    Thank you!

    • I worked in Boston biglaw for 4 years. I can’t exactly speak to comparative competitiveness. However, Boston is competitive in a unique way. You must have a pre-existing connection to the city. The firms with which I interviewed (and worked) were very protective of Boston (that’s the only way I can think to explain it) and wanted a firm connection to the city. I went to law school in Boston, and during law school, simply attending a Boston law school was not sufficient. For some reason, after law school, graduating from a Boston school is sufficient.

    • I don’t know anything about NYC Big Law but I was in Boston Big Law for 4 years.

      Cracking into the Boston market will be tough if you don’t have a tie to the area. Unlike NYC or DC, where no one cares if you have a local connection, Boston firms really care about hiring people who have a connection in Boston and will stay in the area. In my case, I was not a local but my “tie” to this area was that DH was moving to Boston for a job. The lack of ties to the area combined with your grades will make it difficult for you, at least for Big Law. The big name firms like Wilmer, Ropes, etc. are pretty snobby on the grade issue, unfortunately.

      Why have you always considered living in Boston? I would play that up in interviews A LOT. Also definitely consider some of the medium size or small firms in the area.

      • Diana Barry :

        +1. In my case I was here for college and was from New England, so the firms ‘got’ why I was coming back. I also summered in Boston after 1L and 2L summer.

        You could reference some relatives or a significant other in Boston, but otherwise it would be tough.

    • R in Boston :

      As others have stated, the markets are competitive in different ways. To that end, I don’t know if working in Boston between 2L and 3L will blacklist you in NY, but working in NY that summer could definitely blacklist you in Boston. Also, the reality is that you will end up working wherever you are that summer. I don’t know a lot of firms that regularly have people summer in one office and end up permanently in another. But for sure, our hiring team is suspicious of anyone without a Boston tie because we assume they will city-hop at some point.

      My two cents on the big distinction between the cities is that NYC is ground zero for the crazies. If you are looking to work at one of the big, super prestigious firms for two years and then go to a small firm/in house/etc., I don’t think it matters. If you are planning to stay with a firm long term, I think Boston is a little more livable. Yes, you will have a lot of late nights and ruined social plans at any big firm, but my friends in NYC have done much more of the take a cab home at 5 am, have it wait downstairs while you shower and change, and then go right back to the office routine. Whenever I have been on a deal that ruined people’s holidays/vacations/whatever, the lawyer motivating that was in the NYC office of whatever firm.

    • Boston brahmin :

      Don’t bother with Boston. You don’t have a local connection, they won’t hire you. I’ve seen this time and time again, including with candidates who had stellar grades/credentials.

      I’d also stay away from NYC biglaw, I don’t think I have met a single happy attorney in big law in NYC.

      What about DC? You don’t need a local connection and there are a ton of good firms (big, medium, small). Not to mention all of the gov’t agencies that do interesting work.

      • Anonymous :

        When I was in DC BigLaw, I’d be on the interviewing trips to my non-DC law school and they always made us look for a DC connection (which is odd — DC is everyone’s dream city, no? what is a small town girl to do?). Even though they expected that most people would leave before they were a 4th year. Crazy — you can’t win!

        • Lorelai Gilmore :

          I don’t think you have to have a strong DC connection, but you have to have a good answer for “Why do you want to live here?” I don’t care if you have a preexisting connection, but I want to see that you have some reason for living in DC or SF or NYC other than “I thought it would be cool to tour this city for a summer on someone else’s dime.”

      • Anonymous :

        DC can actually be a pretty tight market. When I was (fairly recently) a 1L, career services pushed NYC over DC because it was a much safer bet.

    • Do you have offers in either city? In my experience, BigLaw is done hiring by now for the upcoming summer. Since you’re a 2L, that means that you should have done OCI and gone through the BigLaw recruitment process this past summer and early fall. December is when midlaw picks up hiring.

      I’m not in either city but interviewed extensively in NY BigLaw and with 2 firms in Boston about 3 years ago. I have no ties to either. Anecdotally, I got offers in NY and none from Boston. NY does not care about ties but it seemed that Boston did. Although I can’t confirm that this was why I was rejected.

      • Agree with Doodles, if you don’t have offers from NYC or Boston BigLaw now (and it sounds from your question like you don’t), you’re not getting one now as a 2L. I’d concentrate on secondary size city MidLaw now if I were a 2L without an offer.

    • Thank you all! This is… disappointing, obviously, but I appreciate the insight!

  12. Wait, you shouldn’t wear a red cardigan in the spring/early summer? That’s news to me…

    • Basically Rash :

      I’ve never heard rules about red . . . I mean, it makes sense that it’s more appropriate in the summer through Christmas time, but I’ve never heard that it’s not okay in the spring. I generally avoid super feminine stuff at work so a lot of typical “spring” colors don’t really show up in my work wardrobe. Except yellow.

      • Basically Rash :

        Then again, this is part of why I think I’m trash, I clearly have no idea how to be classy. classy women know what colors are okay for each season and follow the rules perfectly, I’m over here wondering why I can’t wear white around Christmas time.

        • Winter white around Christmas time is totally okay!

        • false. Classy women know what looks good ON THEM and wear it. They don’t chase trends and they don’t follow rules perfectly. Stupid meaningless rules that make people feel bad make me want to BASICALLY HULK SMASH.

          • Same! I firmly believe in dressing in a manner appropriate for your job, but outside of work and within the boundaries of work, to dress in a way that suits you regaring colors, silhouettes, and prints.

    • anonymama :

      Yeah, does anyone actually do this (rotate seasonal wardrobe), aside from, like, things that are inappropriate because of weather? Maybe because I have always lived somewhere with a fairly mild climate (or where it is warmer in spring/fall than in summer), but it seems slightly absurd and old-fashioned to be like, I can’t wear red in the spring. And even if you do follow such antiquated rules, I can imagine a number of very spring-like outfits that involve a red cardigan (e.g., with a red-and-white flowered dress, navy and white striped shirt with white pants, with black or navy polka-dots)

      • Anonymous :

        I love, love, love red. In the spring, I do tan and white with red accents. Or red and white with tan accents. With my coloring, I can’t wear pastels and need a bit of contrast.

        I also adore turquoise or light blue and white with a hint of red or dark coral.

        Know what works for you and adjust for the season. But I love red throughout the year. Different fabrics (silk v merino) and different cuts, but it can work.

    • Aunt Jamesina :

      I think some reds can seem a bit heavy in the spring, but you could definitely wear a red with orange undertones. Burgundy and lipstick red don’t seem like they’d work as well that time of year.

  13. Anyone have any suggestions for “Tall” cardigans — both for more length in the body (I am very long-waisted) and more length in the sleeves? The Lands’ End Supima cardigans are the only ones listed here that have Tall sizes, and while they fit me reasonably well, they pill (tiny little pills, but still very noticeable) after 2-3 wears — no matter whether I wash them in cold water/delicate cycle and block to air dry or pay for dry cleaning. So I’m done paying Lands’ End for those . . . .

    Bloomingdales’ own cashmere line (C by Cashmere?) used to be long enough, but they shrank all their sizing 2 or so years ago and the sleeves are 2″ too short even in an XL (which is way too baggy in the body).

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