Winter Recap Part 2: How to Wear Cardigans with Buttons

How to Wear a Cardigan with Buttons

{ click to enlarge }

A common question from clients is about buttoning cardigans.  There are several options and a few considerations with each option.

1. The Case for a Top Layer

First, I want to make a point that top layers are essential even with cute striped tops.  Regardless of how the cardigan is buttoned (or not), the top layer adds a level of finish to the look.

OK, now we can look at the options.

2. Take It From the Top

Buttoning the sweater towards the top helps to enhance the shoulders and bust with a gradual drape over top of the hips, which could work for someone with a triangle shape to draw attention away from the hips.  On my rectangle shape, it creates some imbalance and pulls a little too snugly over the bust.

A few considerations:

  • Buttoning a sweater at the very top, a popular trend in the 90s, now looks matronly so opt for the second and possibly the third button.
  • When buttoning near the top with a collared dress shirt, the collar can be worn inside or outside.  Just keep an eye on the collar throughout the day.
  • Necklaces will look best if they sit above the top button as opposed to over top of the buttoned area.

3. All the Way

This isn’t exactly buttoned all the way, but you get the idea.  It creates a more balanced look and with a fitted sweater and is best suited to someone with an hourglass shape.  A belt over top of the sweater would be a great way to add even more emphasis to the waist.

Several considerations and details:

  • This look works better with a thicker cardigan material than what I am wearing OR a top that the sweater will lay better on top of like a dress shirt or silky fabric.
  • For sweaters that pucker between the buttons, use something like Hollywood Fashion Tape to seal up the gaps and create a smooth front.

4. Centered

Buttoned in the center is great way for hourglass and rectangle body shapes to emphasize the waist.

  • If you carry your waist in the belly area, button above/away from the belly so as not to emphasize it.
  • Try buttoning one or two buttons to help shape the sweater around your body.
  • Wear a shorter necklace than the one I am wearing in the photo to avoid a complicated look.

5. Unbuttoned

This is how I usually wear my cardigans.  It creates two vertical lines down the front of my torso for a slimming effect and works for all body types.

It is especially advantageous for inverted triangle shapes to de-emphasize the difference between the shoulders/bust and hips/seat.  When all else fails, go with this look as long as the sweater has some shape.

Last Words

  • Opt for cardigans that are shaped instead of a boxy cut.
  • Dry clean sweaters on an as-needed basis as opposed to machine washing to extend their life.  Freshen them up with a short dryer cycle in between cleanings.
  • In general, these same guidelines should work with both skirts and dresses but use your intuition to make adjustments as needed.
  • These guidelines are meant for the standard cardigan.  Use them with caution relative to cropped (at or above the waist) or long cardigans.

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