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I see hardly any images in the styled annals of Pinterest and style blogs, which makes me wonder if people see it as outdated.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…)

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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:

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The Corporette Guide to Stylish Cardigans for the Office


2018 Update: We still stand by this guide to stylish cardigans for the office — but you may also want to check out our recent roundup of jardigans!

We shared our first Corporette Guide to Cardigans way back in 2010, so we figured it was time for an update — and the timing is just right for those of you who freeze in your air-conditioned offices during the summer, or are shopping for easy layering pieces for the fall.  We’ve talked about how how to button cardigans for work in the past, as well as how to buy seasonless cardigans.

Ladies — which is your favorite KIND of cardigan to wear to the office? Do you have a favorite brand or style that you keep buying, or have stocked up on recently?  What are your biggest struggles with finding stylish cardigans for work, or styling them to look appropriate for work? 


stylish cardigans for office1. Banded. These cardigans have some banding at the bottom and (usually) on the sleeves, which makes their shape a bit blousy or boxy. They can come with a matching shell for a twinset look, or be worn by themselves with, for example, a button-front shirt or blouse, or a nice tank or tee (such as the cardi pictured, Saxxon Wool Cardigan, available at Brooks Brothers in nine colors for $148). Because these kinds of cardis have their own shape, they’re less than ideal for wearing with dresses, and, for our $.02, best with pants. Ideally you want full-length sleeves so that you can easily wrap it around your neck if you need to — that said, three-quarter length sleeves are very popular, such as this Halogen cardigan (20+ colors, regular, petites, and plus sizes, for $27-$56). If the twinset is very boxy (think a more Jackie O cut), then they can be worn over your shoulders, almost like a cape. Other examples: reader favorite Supima Cardigan at Lands’ End ($19-$89, a zillion colors and prints, regular, petite, and plus sizes), reader favorite Charming Cardigan at Talbots, $19-$99, this merino cardigan in 12 colors for $39 at Uniqlo, or this J.Crew cashmere cardigan (16 colors!, sizes XXS-XXL; pictured at very top). One of my budget favorites has always been August Silk — look for them at spots like TJ Maxx, but Amazon also carries them, as does Macy’s.

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How to Look Stylish and Professional at a Business Casual Office

how to look stylish and professional at a business casual office

2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to look stylish and professional at a business casual office, but you may want to check out The Ultimate Guide to Business Casual for Women.

When you’re used to dressing conservatively for work and your new office is much less formal, how do you put outfits together to look casual but still professional and stylish? Some women would react to a dress-code switch like this with a “Score! Jeans and comfy shoes EVERY day,” but others are bigger fans of dressing conservatively in a casual office, like Reader J, who wonders…

I just started a job as an in-house attorney at a tech company. Before this, I worked at a big law firm with a conservative dress code. Now I’m in the dilemma of having a closet full of clothes that are too dressy for my job. I enjoy dressing up, but I don’t want to look too stuffy in this new environment. My boss wears hoodies everyday, and I was told that I’d be teased if I dress up too much. Any suggestions for where to shop for casual outfits that are still cute and classy?

In the past we’ve talked about wearing jeans to work and what to wear for a big meeting at a casual office, as well as the stories linked above.  Now let’s revisit some of that advice and take a look at several examples of how to look stylish and professional at a business casual office:

(Pictured: Nordstrom’s very popular open front cardigan by MOD.lusive by Bobeau, $25-$42 in lots of colors and regular and petite sizes.)

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Brrr: Staying Warm in a Freezing Office

freezing office2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to look professional but stay warm in a freezing office, but you may also want to check out our most recent thoughts on what to wear to work in the winter.

How should you dress this winter when you work at a freezing office, and your trusty back-of-the-chair cardigan just won’t cut it? What are the best ways to keep warm while still looking professional and stylish?

Reader J wonders:

My office is freezing cold in the winter — some of the assistants and paralegals keep huge blankets in their office spaces and wrap up in them, or alternatively wear Northface jackets around. As an associate, I can’t get away with cuddling up in a warm blanket or wearing my Northface — it doesn’t exactly scream competent and professional. Do you have any recommendations for sweaters or wraps that look professional but are also very warm?

We talked about how to stay warm in a freezing office a looong time ago (and, more recently, staying warm in a subzero office when the A/C is blaring), but now is a great time to readdress it. While gloves, space heaters, and wraps-as-lap-blankets can help when you’re in your office, here are some thoughts for people who are moving around a lot (e.g., during meetings) during the day, or those who just don’t have the option to wear gloves or sneak in a space heater:

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Tuesday’s TPS Report: ‘Staccato’ Ribbed Cardigan

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

Classiques Entier® 'Staccato' Ribbed CardiganI know the peplum trend is getting a little tired — but I think this is a gorgeous wool/cashmere cardigan. I like the low buttons, and the almost slouchy feel to it — so many of the peplum tops look as if you either a) have to have a perfect bikini body or b) be Spanx’ed within an inch of your life to wear them. This cardigan seems like a much more relaxed nod to the trend (and I, of course, love the purple). One thing I don’t love: the cowl neck tee it’s styled with here. Maybe it’s me, but I almost never like a cowl neck underneath a jacket or cardigan — it always just looks fussy and weird. Thoughts? The cardigan sweater is $178, available in both purple and black, at Nordstrom. Classiques Entier® ‘Staccato’ Ribbed Cardigan

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