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Is a Cardigan Okay to Wear in Summer? With Shorts?

Wearing a cardigan in a gazebo in summer

When you need a little extra warmth in fall or spring weather, when you need heavy protection from winter’s cold, you reach for a cardigan. But what about in the summer? Is a cardigan okay to wear in summer? With shorts? When is it okay to wear a cardigan in warm weather, and when is it a huge style mistake?

Knowing how to style a cardigan well in the summer will set your fashion sense apart and make it easy for you to show your amazing personal style to the world. If you can pull off wearing a cardigan in the summertime, you can pull off any look you want.

What Makes It a Cardigan?

By the strictest possible fashion definition, a cardigan is a knitted garment worn on the upper body that has a V neckline, an open front, and long sleeves. It has no lapels, and in classic designs, it is made to be somewhat baggy and loose-fitting. This is the standard, traditional look of the cardigan that everyone imagines when they think about this garment.

However, the cardigan is a lot more than this definition. Sometimes, it barely even fits this definition at all.

But the cardigan’s style has evolved over the years, and there are many different designs and styles of cardigans worn now. Cardigans can be any length, from very short, cropped designs to floor-length designs that scrape the ankles. Cardigans can have button or zipper closures or may be open.

They have short sleeves or no sleeves at all and might be very fitted or made to be worn loose. Cardigans are almost always woven into a knitted construction, but they are made with a huge variety of different fabric types to create different textures and weights.

Standing on summer day in cardigan

There’s a lot you can do with the cardigan. The first person to ever wear one made a horrible mistake in it. Eventually, his fame for essentially inventing the cardigan would surpass the infamy he gained for making one of the worst decisions in history. The good news is that whatever you do in your cardigan, you probably won’t go down in history as someone who screwed up as badly as this guy.

The guy who invented the cardigan had two historical legacies, both pretty different. But oddly, they both depended on each other.

The Charge of the Cardigan

In 1854, the world was in the middle of what became known as the Victorian Era. This is because Queen Victoria was sitting on the throne of England, a country that was in the middle of a war with Russia. Thomas Brudenell, an English lord and military commander for Her Majesty’s army, was leading a group of men when they ran into Russian troops.

It wasn’t a great situation. The Russians had the better position and the better gear. They were on known terrain, and the British troops, by comparison, were not prepared. Brudenell ordered his men forward anyway…right into a suicide mission. The Charge of the Light Brigade became known in history as a horrible military decision and a horrific event, resulting in heavy casualties for the British troops.

And this was almost the only thing that Thomas Brudenell became known for. But as fate would have it, Brudenell fancied himself as a stylish gentleman. And even when he was on the battlefield, he cared about his appearance. He had taken to wearing a knitted waistcoat, a type of long vest, under his jacket.

Brudenell, who survived the disastrous charge, was noticed everywhere in England after his famous failure. News of the event spread, and he became infamous for the ill-fated military event. But Brudenell also became known for that eye-catching knit vest.

When others began to copy his style, they called it a cardigan. There’s a good reason for that. Thomas Brudenell’s official title was 7th Earl of Cardigan.

Fashion Lends a Hand

By the 1860s, sleeves had been added to the knit vest known as a cardigan. This was called a “cardigan jacket” for a while, but eventually, this simply became called a cardigan. The look was all ready popular and had spread all the way to the United States at this point. Even those in the fashion world noticed the cardigan.

None other than Coco Chanel is credited with bringing the cardigan into women’s fashion and into high fashion in general. She was a fan of knits and wore cardigans as early as 1913. The garment was already popular by then, but when Chanel wore something, others noticed. She introduced her own version of the cardigan through her fashion label, and the item quickly caught on.

What Chanel helped make popular, others copied. Soon, the cardigan was being released under lots of different fashion levels in many different designs. Cardigans were popular with men, women, and children. It didn’t take long for it to become a wardrobe staple that most people owned at least one version of.

The cardigan is definitely here to stay, and it’s a well-loved piece of clothing. But does that mean you can wear a cardigan in the summer?

Yes! Once you try it and master some style tips for wearing a summer cardigan, you will know how to create lots of different warm weather looks featuring this garment.

What To Look For in Summer Cardigans

If you’re going to wear a cardigan in the summer, don’t choose the thick, heavy cardigan that you wear in the winter. Cardigans can be made in lightweight, loose knits that don’t hold in heat or create a lot of warmth. Choose a lighter-weight cardigan that’s going to be cool and comfortable.

You may even want to look for a cardigan made with cotton or polyester, as opposed to one made in insulating wool that will hold in your body heat instead of allowing it to naturally release. You want your skin to stay breathable so you can stay comfortable in the summer heat.

Wearing a cardigan studio background

A tight weave or a heavy fabric is going to make you feel hotter. Choose a cardigan that is lighter and loose. This will allow airflow to keep you cool. Natural air flow helps prevent sweat and keeps your skin dry so you won’t feel the effects of the summer heat so much.

How to Wear a Summer Cardigan

Cardigans can be a great item for summer wear. This is a perfect additional layer for cooler summer evenings, beach outings, and other summer gatherings taking place outside. There are several ways to play around with a cardigan as warm weather wear.

Master them, and you’ll always be able to create a fashionable summer style that others will notice and envy.


YEMAK Women's Cropped Bolero Cardigan – Short Sleeve V-Neck Basic Classic Casual Button Down Knit Soft Sweater Knitted Top HB2137-BLK-L Black

Cropped cardigans are pretty much made for summer. These cardigans will be shorter than waist length. A cropped cardigan with short sleeves is a perfect additional summer layer. It’s a great way to add a little extra coverage and warmth to a tank top, for example, so this is a great transition from day to night wear. Even in long-sleeved designs, a cropped cardigan looks great on top of any summer outfit.

If your cardigan isn’t cropped, you can always give it a cropped look by tying it up around your waist. This creates a casual look that’s a little bit custom, too. Style trick: you can make anything cropped if you fold it up a little bit and tie it into a knot! Tie the knot at the front of your body, the back, or even off to the side.

Dressy Extra Layer

GRACE KARIN Womens Essential Solid Open Front Long Knited Cardigan Sweater Black M


Wear a cardigan on top of a summer dress. Whether the cardigan is cropped, waist-length, or longer, this can be a great way to add an extra layer to your look. Wear the cardigan buttoned to make it the focus of the outfit.

You can top this with a belt, if you like, to define your waist and show off your shape. Or, unbutton most of or all of the buttons, so the dress still shows underneath the cardigan.

This can be a good way to wear a summer dress even in cooler weather, such as the case with evening events. If you’re spending time on a beach or near a lake or river, there might be cooler breezes that make the cardigan a nice addition. You can also wear a cardigan like a wrap and tie a fabric belt around your waist to emphasize your shape.

Sexy Style

KANCY KOLE Womens Button Down Short Sleeve Cropped Bolero Cardigan Sweater (M,Black)

A cardigan can be a sexy summer look if you wear it on top of a cropped tank top.

Wear the cardigan buttoned just over the tank top, with buttons undone at the bottom, to show off some skin. You’ll look like you haven’t got anything on under the cardigan, and that’s a sexy summer look that will wear well in most casual summer gatherings. This way of wearing the cardigan will help you stay cooler in the summer heat, and it creates a great look.

This casual and sexy summer look is perfect for an evening on the beach or out and about in the summer weather. It works well for an indoor party, too.

How To Wear a Cardigan With Shorts

Can you wear a cardigan with shorts? Yes! In fact, there are many ways to wear shorts with a cardigan that will really add a lot of extra style to whatever you’re wearing. Play around with some different looks and practice your cardigan and shorts style. When you add a cardigan to a shorts outfit, you can elevate your look and do things with your style that are interesting and unexpected.


Hotouch Women's Loose Cardigan 3/4 Sleeve Cardigans for Women Beach Summer Casual Cover Ups Orange L

How can you make a summer shorts outfit look infinitely more glamorous? Put on a long, floor-length cardigan in a lightweight knit. A cropped top, a pair of shorts, and a long cardigan that is left open is a stunning and glamorous looks. It’s boldly stylish and sexy. This look is revealing but not overt, and it will definitely keep you cool in the summer heat while still giving a look of class and glamor.

See Through

Gnpolo Lightweight Summer Cardigan for Women Spring Netted Crochet Cardigans Sweaters Beige

Use a cardigan to make any summer outfit more interesting. A cardigan made in a very loose style, such as a crocheted design with lots of big holes, will allow your outfit to show easily, even under the cardigan. The cardigan adds a lace-like extra layer to bring that extra “oomph” to anything you want to wear. This little touch of style can set your look apart when everyone else is wearing the same old stuff for their summer wardrobe.

Summer Top


SheIn Women's Long Sleeve Open Front Crop Cardigan Drop Shoulder Solid Outerwear White Medium

Wear a short-sleeved cropped cardigan with only a bra, bikini top, or tube top on underneath, and button one or two buttons to wear your cardigan like a revealing summer top. Wearing an open and short cardigan like this won’t leave you feeling too hot in the summer heat. This is a great look for the beach, for the pool, and for outdoor summer gatherings of all kinds.

Is a Cardigan Okay To Wear in Summer? With Shorts?

Once you play around with some of these outfit ideas and stick to cardigans that are appropriate for summer wear, you will find that sometimes, a cardigan is just the right thing to wear in the summer months.

It looks great with a pair of shorts, and there are so many different ways you can style it. Play around with cardigans in the summer, and soon, they may become one of your favorite garments to wear during the season.

Wearing a cardigan on a summer day


There are lots of different ways to wear cardigans and many different things you can do with them. There are plenty of ways to wear cardigans in the summer, whether you’re going to wear shots or some other summer attire. In fact, cardigans are so versatile, and there are so many ways to wear them, you might have questions about them.

Get the answers to the most common questions about cardigans and get to know more about these fashion items.

Can you shrink or stretch a cardigan?

Cardigans are knitwear, which is notoriously difficult to machine wash and dry. This is because heat can cause the material to shrink. Harsh treatment of the material can also cause damage. In some instances, the knit can stretch out or become loose. This will cause the garment to lose its shape. So that means you can shrink or stretch a cardigan on purpose?

Cardigans can shrink in the presence of hot water or hot heat, say from a washing machine or a dryer. They can also stretch out and become misshapen, sometimes, when they are hung up.

However, intentionally trying to shrink or stretch a cardigan is tricky at best. Results will vary. It’s better to purchase a cardigan that already fits you properly, rather than trying to alter the shape of an existing cardigan that doesn’t. Nothing can substitute for clothing that fits your body.

Only clothing that fits will flatter your natural shape well and keep you comfortable. If anything is off with the fit, it will change how you look, how you feel and even the level of confidence you project to others.

What makes some cardigans so expensive?

You could notice wildly different prices when you’re shopping for cardigans. The same style of cardigan from two different stores could cost $25 in one place and $2,500 in another. What’s the difference? What makes some cardigans so expensive? There’s a good reason cardigan prices can fluctuate so wildly, other than the presence of designer labels of course.

The difference is in all in the materials used to make the cardigans. A cardigan made of cashmere, very high-end wool, is going to cost quite a bit more than a cardigan that looks very similar that is made from polyester. The difference in the material of cardigans can make a huge difference in the final price of the item.

What are cardigans made from?

Cardigans are made from many different types of materials. Wool of all kinds is very popular in cardigans. Some wools, such as Merino, are considered to be more high-end than others and, therefore, cost more. Other materials are commonly used for cardigans as well. Cotton, linen, silk, and synthetic materials, such as acrylic, are all used to make cardigans.


The Dreamstress – Terminology: the history of the cardigan

Lands’ End – 6 Ways To Style a Cardigan With a Summer Dress

WhoWhatWear – I Have a Weakness for Cardigans—Here Are My Favorite Summer Versions