12 fashion-forward cardigans that’ll change your mind about knits forever

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The fastest way to inject instant cool into your wardrobe? With a fashion-forward cardigan, of course. 

It’s official, the not-so-humble cardigan is having a major moment.  Forget any notions of stuffy knits, this season designers have elevated the wardrobe stalwart to new levels of cool with neon brights, statement buttons and ultra-flattering fits. The Stylist fashion team are firm believers in the power of a wear-with everything knit, and we’ve found the best cardigans to throw over any outfit to prove it. Writer Grace Cook explains.     

Some see frump, I see fashion. For I love cardigans. Always have, always will. Because there’s no outfit the humble cardigan can’t fix. Wearing a loose-cut floaty midi dress that a proper jacket would overpower? Throw on a cardi. Need an extra layer for that Lake Como wedding, for after the sun sets? A fine-knit cropped cardi is the answer. Or what about those days when the weather just can’t decide what it’s doing? Simple: t-shirt and a cardi, and a trench. 

My favourite piece in my wardrobe is a Comme des Garcons navy cardigan – a simple button-up with bracelet length sleeves. But it’s far from boring — this sweater also has spliced sides, with navy frills that give it movement and mean I can wear loose-cut tops, or T-shirts, underneath it without it looking sloppy or feeling uncomfortable. It wasn’t cheap, but cost per wear? Bargain bin. 

Like my Comme cardigan, the humble knitted button-up has been given a fashion-forward spin. Designers like Marques’Almeida, Gucci and Ganni are all offering versions — some printed, some plain. Some oversized, some neat-fitting. The Row do a maxi version, while Weekend MaxMara offered a cropped one. You see, the very best thing about cardigans is there really is a version for everyone. 

In the depths of winter, a chunky knit woollen cardigan is a failsafe and chic — a sartorial blanket, you could say. The neutral cardi is additionally a failsafe choice for mid-season months, when stylised lightweight jackets mean you would need a dozen different ones to complement the various outfits in your wardrobe. 

Spring is essentially within arms reach, and the versatility of the cardigan can’t be underestimated. Ashley Williams churned out a series of pastel, playful cardigans during AW19 which surely acted as a catalyst for the trend. Katie Holmes’ viral Khaite bralette/Cardigan hybrid moment last year further cemented the mainstay item. Not to mention, layering them across your shoulders Fresh Prince of Bel Air Carlton-style, remains a contemporary option the fashion circuit aren’t opposed to.

And contrary to popular belief, they’re really easy to wear. Here, Stylist has decoded the best cardigans to buy now — and how to wear them.

The Ultra-Luxe Cardigan

What could be more soothing for the soul than cocooning yourself in a layer of cashmere? This knit is so wonderfully soft that you’ll never want to take it off, which, thanks to Marni’s wear-with-everything colourblocking style, you’ll never need to. Button yours over a white-shirt and dark wash denim to channel the kind of laidback chic that brunch was made for. Looking for a more glamorous approach? Layer over a silky slip dress and add a chain-link shoulder bag for an elegant evening look. 

Shop Marni cashmere cardigan at Mytheresa, £720

The Instagram-Ready Cardigan

When it comes to statement-making fashion moments, few do them better than Prada. This maximalist cardigan is no exception, offering the kind of more-is-more approach to style that Instagram was made for. This thick cable knit channels serious grunge glamour with a fluffy faux-fur collar that makes for an eclectic touch. Wear yours with a faux-leather pencil skirt and square toed sandals for a directional look, then just sit back and watch those likes come in. 

Shop Prada faux fur-trimmed cable-knit mohair-blend cardigan at Net-A-Porter, £1,020

The Workwear Cardigan

Best cardigan: Ganni

This beige blend makes this cardigan the ideal work plus one. If your wardrobe mainly consists of monochrome colours, this cardigan is the perfect piece to add a splash of colour and break up your uniform without being too harsh. Additionally, it’ll work on the weekend for casual outings - think raw hem jeans, ankle boots and a roll neck. A 9am-9pm winner.

Shop cashmere knit cardigan at Ganni, £128

The Influencer-Approved Cardigan

Best cardigan: house of sunny

Already spotted on the incredibly stylish designer Maria Bernard and stylist Hannah Mw, we predict this sunset-inspired House of Sunny beauty will sell out. Ideal for transcending into spring, we’ve got this charming number on our radar - pair with white denim to really make this cardi shine.

Shop cropped cardigan at House of Sunny, £90

The Cardigan for Last-Minute Plans

Best cardigan: Gucci

For those evenings when you get random impromptu drink invites, this playful Gucci cardigan will do all there work. Team with dark jeans and minimal heels (perhaps a slick of red lipstick) and consider your outfit complete. After a more minimalist take? Slip on a black slip skirt and chunky boots for a non-fussy approach that’ll still maintain a stylish finish.

Shop Gucci cherry cardigan at Farfetch, £1,500

The Fashion-Forward Cardigan

Best cardigan: COS

If adding bursts of colour to your wardrobe is your ethos, shrugging on a kermit green cardigan taps into one of the most versatile yet striking trends set to command SS20: neon. Jacquemus had fun with the trend with his SS20 collection, weaving in fuchsia tones, yellow hues and a sprinkling of green. Get ahead of the trend with this apple green COS number.

Shop green cardigan at Cos, £69

The Wedding Cardi

Mid-season cardigans: & Other Stories nude knit

What to throw over an elegant dress for a wedding? A neutral — read, invisible — cardigan is a failsafe choice. 

This & Other Stories version is ideal, with a ribbed band that won’t hide dresses that cinch at the waist, and a cropped length that won’t distract from the silhouette of the dress. And best of all, it’s not so ‘wedding-y’ you can’t throw it on with your jeans afterwards. 

Shop cropped cardigan at & Other Stories, £65

The Statement Making Cardigan

Who says cardigans have to be wallflowers? This Marques’Almeida one proves otherwise. Knitted from a Crayola yellow wool and finished with plumes of ostrich feathers, this cardi is the perfect choice to throw on when you want to make a statement with minimal effort. 

Wear with jeans or trousers, or over loose-cut shirt dresses in summer. For those colour-shy, it also comes in a buttery cream. 

Shop Marques’Almeida ostrich-trimmed cardigan at Matches Fashion, £207

The Everyday Cardigan

Best cardigan: Ganni

This cardi is the equivalent of the Instagram money shot. Crafted from a soft wool-blend with a lightweight finish, this is the perfect cut of cardigan to wear with jeans — hitting just above the bum, with a v-neck loose silhouette that exudes a laid-back mood. Plus, the tortoiseshell buttons add a modern feature.

And, like all good cardigans, this one too comes in green. 

Shop pink cardigan at Ganni, £220

The Evening Cardigan

Off somewhere formal? You’ll need a cardi-dress then. This Miu Miu number is so Parisian and chic, particularly with the inclusion of jewelled buttons. Spun from cashmere, wear with jeans and thong heeled sandals.

Shop Miu Miu crystal embellished cardigan at Net-a-Porter, £860

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Images: courtesy of brands

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