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How are Cardigans Supposed to Fit?

Wearing a cardigan close up

Watch any TV show, movie or video and at some point, you’ll see a cardigan. You’ve probably worn more than one in your life and you might even have one in your closet right now. Cardigans are such popular pieces of fashion, they have even been featured in song.

The biggest stars in the world have worn them or talked about them or sung about them. Everyone knows what a cardigan is and how it looks. But it seems like no one knows how to wear a cardigan. How are cardigans supposed to fit? You might be surprised by how many different answers there are to this question.

The Sordid History of the Cardigan

The cardigan is a hot and trendy fashion item that all the hot young A-listers have worn. You can get on social media right now and look at tons of pictures of celebrities wearing cardigans. But this item is not some hot new fashion trend that’s suddenly sweeping the style world.

In fact, cardigans are actually kind of old. They’ve been around for well over 100 years. And the only reason they exist is that the first guy who ever wore one became a nationwide laughingstock.

Trying on a cardigan

Major General James Thomas Brudenell was an Englishman and a nobleman. He was well-known for his attire. The Major General was a guy who liked fancy clothes, and as an actual Earl, he could afford them.

As fashion legend has it, he could even afford to buy fancy clothes for the soldiers he commanded. Brudenell was in charge of a group of British soldiers while England was engaged in a war with Russia. But as it turns out, he was not a good leader.

Brudenell and his troops encountered a group of Russian soldiers who were much better positioned and had a clear advantage. Much to his own men’s surprise, Brudenell ordered them to charge the Russian army. It was a suicide mission. The men were ordered to their certain death.

This horrible tactical decision was quickly immortalized in poetry as the famous “Charge of the Light Brigade.” In spite of being the one to lead the charge, Brudenell survived. As soon as he came against the Russian line, he turned around and ran back. The group suffered heavy casualties and the skirmish had almost no effect on the Russians.

Everyone back in England heard about the whole disastrous ordeal, in fact. Soon, Brudenell’s name was synonymous with failure and with bad decision-making. But this fancy noble title was soon destined to be synonymous with something else.

Because even though Brudenell was a bad leader, he was quite a good dresser. And even as they were marveling at his inept battle tactics, the people of England’s high society noticed something else: his unusual waistcoat. The waistcoat, which is simply a fancy vest, was made in a lightweight knit design that was quite different from the popular designs of the day.

Others began to imitate his style. And because Brudenell was the seventh Earl of Cardigan, the knitted waistcoat soon became known as a cardigan. Within a few years of the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade, sleeves were added to the knit vest, and it had become the modern cardigan as we know it today.

When Is a Cardigan a Cardigan?

There are lots of different types of sweaters and many different wrap styles of clothing. So what exactly makes a cardigan a cardigan?

By the traditional design, cardigans are knitted sweaters with a V neckline and have a button, zipper, or open front. Cardigans have long sleeves and no lapels. However, there are some variations on this basic design, and there’s still a lot of room to play around with these basic design parameters. There are many different types of cardigans…which means there are a lot of ways to wear cardigans.

Wearing a cardigan at night

Cardigans are sometimes made to be baggier or looser in fit, which is how they are more traditionally worn. The classic cardigan is somewhat blousy at the bottom, falling at least to the waist and sometimes lower. But cardigans are also made in more fitted designs that hug the body.

Some cardigans are very long, going all the way to the floor, while some designs are cropped to sit up high on the ribs.

When you have all these different styles, there is no one way that cardigans are supposed to fit because there are so many different ways you can wear them and so many different looks you can create. Answering the question of how cardigans are supposed to fit isn’t so easy. But once you know how to find a cardigan that fits you, then you can wear any type or style of cardigan you like.

How Are Cardigans Supposed To Fit?

How should your cardigan fit? While a lot of the fit depends on the style of the cardigan itself, there are some definite features you should look for when you’re trying to determine fit. Make sure what you’re wearing meets these benchmarks, and you will be wearing an item that fits you the right way.

So if you put on a cardigan that fits and you still don’t like how you look, try a different color or style.

First, pay attention to how the cardigan fits through the shoulders. The shoulder seam of the cardigan should be sitting right at or near the bend of your natural shoulder. The seam shouldn’t be sitting off your shoulder with lots of extra fabric sticking out.

On the other hand, the shoulders shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t fully and freely move your arms. If the shoulder seam of the cardigan is way down on your upper arm, try again. You need a cardigan that fits your body better. Even in designs that are meant to be loose and baggy, the shoulders of the cardigan should still fit.

Wearing a cardigan outside

How do the sleeves fit? This is very important because if your sleeves don’t fit the right way, you’re going to be uncomfortable. You’ll find yourself making constant adjustments, and you’ll feel just a little bit off the entire time you’re wearing the cardigan. When you stretch your arms out right in front of you, the sleeves of the cardigan should still cover your wrists.

If the cuff slides back and exposes your arm, it’s because your cardigan doesn’t fit you well enough. This doesn’t apply to sleeveless and short sleeve cardigan styles, of course. But to that end, the armholes and the sleeves, if present, should fit comfortably. They shouldn’t be pinching your skin anywhere.

What about the length? Cardigans can actually be any length, from very short cropped styles to floor-length designs. However, the way the cardigan closes also matters. The cardigan shouldn’t twist or bunch up or ride up or feel uncomfortable or tight on you when it’s buttoned or zipped all the way up, or when the front is closed.

When your clothing fits well, you will feel better. You will be more confident. This will automatically make you look better and make other people feel more comfortable around you, which in turn makes you more attractive. No matter what you choose to wear, make sure it fits you the right way.

Your body is always going to look better in clothing that fits, no matter what size you are.


Do you still have questions about wearing cardigans? The cardigan is not as simple as it first appears. There’s a lot to know about this seemingly simple garment.

Get the answers to the most commonly asked questions about cardigans and you’ll know what you need to know to wear this not-so-simple piece of fashion just like a pro.

ZESICA Women's Long Sleeve Open Front Casual Lightweight Soft Knit Cardigan Sweater Outerwear,Grey,Medium

How should you store cardigans?

Should you hang cardigans or should they be folded up? This is an age-old fashion question and this is what many cardigan owners end up asking themselves. Well, the answer is easy. It’s both.

REDHOTYPE Women's Cardigans with Pocket Casual Lightweight Open Front Cardigan for Women, Light Gray, Large

Cardigans that are made with a heavier knit construction should not be hung up because they will become damaged by their own gravity.

The heavy cardigan will sag against its own weight when placed on a hanger. Gravity will cause the knit to stretch out. Heavy cardigans, therefore, should be folded and put in a drawer or on a shelf. This will allow them to maintain their shape, so they keep looking good and fitting you properly.

Cardigans made in a lightweight knit, however, are fine to put on a hanger. These items aren’t so heavy that they will sag. You can choose to hang or fold them as you like.

How should you wash cardigans?

Sweaters are notoriously difficult to wash because there’s a great fear that they will shrink, pill, or otherwise, be ruined by the machine washing and drying process. But sometimes, you’re going to need to wash your cardigan. When you want to clean a sweater, consult the care label first.

This should provide detailed instructions for washing and drying your cardigan. If this is not present, you can still wash and dry your cardigan.

Astylish Womens Fashion Winter Fall Thick Cozy Open Front Long Sleeve Chunky Knitting Ribbed Cardigan Sweater Small Size 4 6 Yellow Brown

To prevent shrinking, cardigans should be washed in cold water only and dried on the lowest possible heat. Use gentle settings where possible. You can also lay cardigans out flat to dry on towels so they can air dry.

Do not hang cardigans to dry. The knit can stretch out and ultimately damage the cardigan if it’s left to hang while wet.

Can a cardigan have a hood?

Though the traditional cardigan design does have a certain look, there are many variations of the cardigan. That includes hooded designs, zip-up designs, sleeveless designs, and more. Sometimes, cardigans have hoods, cowl necks, and other features that aren’t considered traditional.

There are a lot of different styles to play around with, so have some fun with them.


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