Ask Belle: Cardigans on a Budget

Aug 12, 2016

Hi Belle,

I have been following your blog for a while now and wanted to get some advice on cardigans. I recently moved back to the mainland and am in dire need of replacing old sweaters. 

A family member recommended J. Crew’s Jackie, but given the reviews on their website I am a little hesitant to spend the money if the quality has declined. I was hoping you could recommend a 3/4 length sleeved cardigan within the $50-$75 price range. 

Thanks for your guidance!   -Em

My feeling on the J.Crew Jackie is this: It used to be epic, it’s not any more.  The J.Crew Factory Clare cardigan is almost as good, and it’s half the price.  So buy the Clare, and join the legions of women who pray to the baby Jesus for a day when J.Crew gets its head out of its ass.  Amen.

If this solution doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of other cardigans in the sea.  For quality at a reasonable price, don’t count out the “old lady” brands: LL Bean and Land’s End.

The Supima Cotton Cardigan from Land’s End comes in a wide range of colors and wears like a dream.  It also comes in tall, petite and plus.  Their Waterfall Cardigan is also a big seller.  LL Bean makes 31 styles of cardigan; they’re the Baskin Robbins of sweaters.

But if you must have 3/4 sleeves, Halogen is the place to go.  Halogen makes their classic cardi in 16 colors and patterns, regular and petite, sizes 00 to 18.  The quality is good, and they seem to last for a while.

Need v-necks? Halogen makes a longer, lightweight v-neck that’s worth a look.  Banana Republic also makes a good quality Merino wool cardigan.

If none of these staple styles tickle your fancy, I put a few more options in this widget.

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  1. Lucy says:

    Not 3/4s, but I have a few Boden cardigans that fit nice and slim and have held up really well:

    https://www.bodenusa.com/en-us/womens-knitwear/knitted-cardigans/wu065/womens-favourite-crew-cardigan

  2. Alicia says:

    I second the J Crew Factory Clare cardigan. It is my wardrobe staple. It comes in so many colors. And you can always get a J Crew Factory sale to help the price go down even further.

  3. Terri says:

    I own the Halogen brand in every style. They wear like iron. My “go-to’s” get daily wear and for the price cannot be beat. Feel the same about the J Crew Factory Clare and with sweater sets coming back they are on my wish list in the new seasonal colors

  4. Meg says:

    The J Crew Clare cardigans have not held up for me, have had too many issues (seam at the shoulder coming apart?! frustrating). They seem to attract lint and the buttons look cheap. So when I found the Halogen classic cardi, I was instantly converted. For the price, wear, quality and fit, it can’t be beat.

    • s says:

      good to know, i was curious about the clare cardigans – thank you! i have unreasonably high expectations for cardis

    • SSC says:

      Seconded. I washed mine on the delicate cycle and ran them through the no heat cycle in the dryer, and within about ten washings the band was up around my waist. Not an attractive look. Halogen FTW.

  5. s says:

    i, too, wish j. crew would bring back the old jackie cardigan. i recently bought several of them used just to relive old memories (well, to replace a lime green jackie cardi i wore out – and wear them until i cannot anymore – i apparently cannot let go). JCPenney also has great work cardigans – i think i bought a worthington or st john’s bay cardigan there on clearance for about $7 a couple of years ago. i’m not sure if they had 3/4 sleeves or not, though.

    actually, though, it would be nice if j. crew went back to being as amazing as it was in like, 2010. sigh…

  6. Jess says:

    I second the suggestion for Lands End cardis and don’t overlook Target. I’ve been buying their Merona brand cardigans for years and they have always held up.

  7. Laura says:

    I’ve had good luck with Talbots cardigans. They have 3/4 and full length ones and usually come in a variety of colors. Although the colors vary by season, they usually offer 8-10 options at a time. I do not put them in the dryer though to avoid shrinkage.
    Also, surprisingly, I have H&M cardigans that have really held up!

  8. Addie says:

    They’re not 3/4 length unfortunately, but Macy’s August Silk cardigans are amazing. Super soft, hold their shape, never pill, fit slim but not tight and they’re reasonably priced. All of mine are at least a year old and still in great shape

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