How to Style a Cardigan Sweater

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13 Ways to Wear a Cardigan Sweater

smiling woman wearing cardigan sweater
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A cardigan sweater is one of those staples that almost every woman has in her wardrobe. This fashion workhorse can be styled from preppy to edgy with the right accessories. See our favorite ways to wear a cardigan sweater right now.

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Go Belted

Dior belted look.
Dior belted look. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

One easy way to give a cardigan instant shape is to add a belt. Place the belt at your true waist (the smallest part) to create a sexy hourglass shape.

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Open Up for Softness

Katherine Heigl in an open cardigan sweater
Jeffrey Ufberg / WireImage/ Getty Images

Get a soft, flattering look from a cardigan that doesn't have any fasteners. These open cardigans give your look a fluid, easy look and also create a strong vertical line so you look taller and thinner. When paired with a bow blouse, like Anne Archer has done, the effect is really feminine and flattering.

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Opt for Layers

Barbara Lennie in cardigan
Barbara Lennie in cardigan. Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

Add a long tee or tunic under your cardigan for a short-over-long play on proportion. This is a great way to keep a cardigan from looking too boxy or frumpy. It works best with a fitted cardigan.

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Add a Pop of Color

elizabeth mcgovern in cardigan
Elizabeth McGovern in blue cardigan. Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Add a brightly colored cardigan to make an instant update. Cobalt, grass green, hot pink and yellow all make a great addition to any outfit.

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Ground a Print

Taylor Swift in a printed dress and cardigan
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Take a bold print like a stripe or dot and "ground" it by adding a solid cardigan. This technique also makes busy prints -- like florals -- look more sophisticated.

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Add Drama

Mandkhai Jargalsaikhan street style London Fashion Week.
Kirstin Sinclair/ FilmMagic/ Getty Images

Take a basic look and add a dramatic touch with a long, patterned cardigan. Longer, chunkier cardigans are best on taller women. Complete the dramatic look with equally dramatic accessories like bold necklaces, earrings or a cuff, or a brightly colored purse.

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Make It Sexy

Olivia Munn wears a cardigan sweater with black shorts, tights, and booties.
Bryan Steffy/ WireImage/ Getty Images

Want a sexy, relaxed look? Wear your cardigan buttoned up with nothing underneath like Olivia Munn has done. Or wear a camisole underneath with a little lace peeking out for a sweet touch.

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Throw in Some Texture

Olivia Palmero wearing a textured cardigan and dress with tights.
Dimitrios Kambouris/ WireImage/ Getty Images

Crocheted, lacy and open-knit cardigans can add lots of visual interest to an outfit; so can chunky knits. Olivia Palmero pulls it off by adding texture and keeping it in the same color family.

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Dress Up Jeans

Jamie McCarthy/ Getty Images North America/ Getty Images

Cardigans are a great way to dress up everything from khakis to jeans. Wear a matched twinset, graphic tee like Emma Stone, or mix it up for variety.

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Go Ladylike

Katy Perry in a cardigan.
Katy Perry in a cardigan. John Shearer/Getty Images

Prim and proper works with cardigans. Add a ladylike bow and a sweet shade of pink like Katy Perry to complete the look. Twinsets are very ladylike but can be aging over age 50 (when you're better off opting for mixing fabrics and/or colors.)

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Get Preppy

Preppy cardigan
Preppy cardigan. Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Give a plain cardigan a preppy modern twist by wearing it buttoned up over an untucked shirt with skinny jeans. Accents like plaid or bow ties complete the look. 

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Make It Work for Maternity

Sarah Drew in a cardigan.
Sarah Drew in a cardigan. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

A cardigan makes the perfect maternity layer: it's lightweight, stretchy, comfy and a longer cardigan worn open creates a strong vertical line.

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Try a Schoolgirl Twist

Schoolgirl vibe with cardigan.
Schoolgirl vibe with cardigan. Larry Busacca/Getty Images

The cardigan can also add a cute uniform vibe when paired with things like a tie, flippy plaid skirt, and white shirt. You can also go schoolboy by adding khakis or boyfriend jeans paired with a cardigan (just remember to add at least one feminine element.)