Style + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Essential Cardigans


It’s Ask Belle Week here at CHS.  This means that the regular posts will be suspended so that I can clear out the Ask Belle e-mails that have piled up over the past few months.  So if you mailed in a request for advice in the past few weeks, you may see the answer here.
Hi Belle,
I appreciated your recent post on the three scarves everyone should own. I am cleaning out my closet full of cardigans and wondering what are the cardigans everyone should own? Thank you for your help!

Cardigans are a Washington, D.C. staple.  Maybe too much of one, but more on that later.  It’s easy to stockpile cardigans in different shapes, lengths, textures and styles, but which ones do you really need?



Long Splendid Cardigan: Net-a-Porter ($72) Crewneck “Jackie” Cardigan: J.Crew ($62) Drape N. Peal Cardigan: The Outnet ($142)

In my view, every woman should have a long v-neck cardigan, a mid-length crewneck cardigan and a draped cardigan.  All of these cardigans can be worn casually or with a professional ensemble.  They look equally good with denim and boots as they do over dresses and heels.  You can belt them or leave them free, dealer’s choice.

If you already own all three of these, I would recommend a printed or striped cardigan, a jacket cardigan and a chunky knit cardigan.  But let’s go back to what I was saying above, the women of D.C. are wearing too many cardigans.

I love a cardigan as much as the next woman.  They’re versatile, warm and add pop when colored, printed or sequined.  However, if you work in a professional environment (esp. the Hill or K Street), and you are wearing cardigans more than blazers, you need to evaluate your wardrobe.  

Wearing cardigans in equal measure with suit jackets and blazers is fine.  But I know staffers who wear cardigans four days per week and blazers only sporadically.  While a cardigan pulls an outfit together, it is not as professional as a blazer.  So take a minute to think about how often you’re wearing cardigans and if your office is the kind of place where stepping it up a notch could be beneficial to you professionally.

Remember, dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.


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  1. cginyc says:

    I was guilty of too many cardis when I lived in DC. But when I moved to NYC a few years ago, I found myself buying more blazers… it seems to be the uniform here. Doesn't help with wanting some color in your outfit though. I have hit sample sales for good quality blazers to invest in. But I have also had a lot of luck with Zara blazers – they are quite good in terms of quality and come in fun colors. And believe it or not, I have had luck with scoring great blazers at Macy's of all places – the INC brand has some great ponte knit blazers that are very structured but drape like a cardi. Also they are very clearly NOT suit jackets so don't look “incomplete” when I wear them. I have picked up three so far!

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. Virginia says:

    Belle, thanks for resisting the urge to call me out directly in this post. My name is Virginia, and I wear too many cardigans. At least I admit that I have a problem and am attempting to add more jackets into my wardrobe (said while wearing my favorite drapey cardigan.) The Jackie cardigan by far is the best – and worth the higher price tag, as it wears well wash after wash.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  3. Belle says:

    Frankly, I was doing it too. I, however, consider this simply the lingering effects of your influence. Apparently, cardigans are contagious.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  4. Anna Louisa says:

    I'm definitely guilty of this too, but working in a DC office with a more relaxed dress code – plus I'm always cold! I'd like to kick the cardigan habit, but I haven't found a substitute for instant color and warmth. Scarves, maybe?

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  5. Lisa says:

    I never buy the long v neck cardigans because I've heard that having all that extra fabric around your butt and hips make them look even bigger and accentuates a muffin top. How do you recommend wearing a long cardigan?

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  6. amy b.s. says:

    great advice.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  7. R says:

    I have the Splendid cardi in several varieties and its wonderful.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  8. L says:

    Perhaps a spin-off post: Where do we find blazers? I don't like the look of splitting a suit because the jacket always looks like a “suit” jacket rather than a “blazer”. I, too, have been trying to kick the cardigan habit. They're just. So. Easy.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  9. R says:

    I second L's question regarding where to find blazers. I am a cardi addict as well. I would like to add more blazers to my wardrobe — would love it if you did a companion post on blazers, Belle.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  10. r says:

    I 'third' the blazer question as well. I went into a dozen + stores this weekend looking for a blazer in a color other than gray, navy or black, and no luck!

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  11. BC says:

    I “fourth” L's question. What are your recommendations for blazers? I have some J. Crew 120s suits, but don't like how the suit jackets look on me. I'm petite and feel like I'm playing dress up in mom's suit, even though they fit fine and I've had them professionally tailored. I go for the Jackie cardigan several days a week. Do you have some suggestions for some affordable blazers and how to wear them? I'm a hill staffer, but I think the intern suggestions are generally more in my price range.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  12. Jessica says:

    5th the blazer question… but more-so on price. I don't want to spend $150, but I don't want to spend $30 either. I want to spend $70 on a good piece, that I can dress up or down. I'm asking too much, aren't I?

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  13. Belle says:

    Jessica- Not possible. A blazer is a complex piece to build correctly. A skirt is two pieces of fabric sewn together, so it can be $30 or $70 or $150. I, for one, do not believe that there is ANY possibility (unless you hit a sale) of finding a quality blazer that will last you more than six trips to the dry cleaner, without spending $150.

    This is what we call an investment piece.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  14. No Drama Mama says:

    Totally agree about the cost of a blazer! Theory and J.Crew make good ones; wait for a sale if you have to (I always do). Definitely worth the cost. I have two Theory blazers and three J.Crew blazers, and they have withstood the last 6 years, no problem. I can't say the same for the $85 department store brand blazer that lasted one season before the cuffs frayed. Belle, please do a post for blazers!

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  15. Whitney says:

    Another Jackie addict here, although I'm slowly trying to build up my collection of J.Crew blazers. I'm lucky that my mom and grandmother are always willing to pool their resources on birthdays/holidays if it means that they can help me with my work wardrobe. I'll second your “investment piece” comment, Belle…I have yet to see an inexpensive blazer that didn't also look just plain cheap.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  16. KLM says:

    Two sources of “classic” blazers: Lafayette 148 (not cheap, but often go on sale) and the Calvin Klein separates available at many department stores.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  17. KC says:

    While nearly all quality blazers start out at or above $150, I have found I can get just about anything I want on sale at a steep discount if I watch it and wait long enough. Banana Republic often has blazers and jackets on sale in the <$100 range, which easily hit $70 if you have a coupon. Antonio Melani blazers at Dillards (and maybe other places?) end up under $100 when on sale too. You can find less expensive blazers, it just takes more time.

    October 17, 2011/Reply
  18. Brigid says:

    I second Lisa's question about the longer cardigans. I recently bought my first long V-neck cardigan. If I wear it buttoned up, it accentuates my already kind of large butt. Do I just wear it open/unbuttoned then?

    October 18, 2011/Reply
  19. Kaylee says:

    For those wo (like me) aren't fans of the way Theory suits are cut and find that J. Crew seems to be declining in quality, Classiques Entier (available at Nordstrom) usually has some good options that aren't necessarily 1/2 of a suit. Boden also typically has some great stand alone blazers, many in colors that will add a little bit of a pop to an outfit.

    October 18, 2011/Reply
  20. Erin says:

    Jessica (and others looking for affordable blazers) – Check out Filene's. I've gotten beautiful suits from designers like Tahari ASL, Nanette Lepore, and Calvin Klein for under $100. The one on Connecticut and the one on F St both usually have a good stock of both suits and separates.

    October 19, 2011/Reply