Dump the Frump With These Classy, Cozy Cardigans

Less serious than a jacket and more pulled together than a simple top, a cardigan layered over your outfit can up your style factor, big time! A cardigan in a modern color and/or silhouette is a quick and easy way to dump the frump and look fabulous in a casual, classy way.

Deborah Boland Cashmere cardigan

Here’s a look at 7 styles of cardigans that are trending right now.


grandpa-cardigan- RUST

1. The Grandpa Cardigan

Forget the prim little cardigans we wore in our 20s and 30s. Loose and relaxed is the modern way to go. This wool and camel hair shrunken grandpa cardigan from Leith is a perfect example.  I love the gorgeous rust cider color, and the blend of wool and camel hair gives it great texture and will keep you warm this winter. You’ll wear it like crazy with jeans and a t-shirt but consider wearing this grandpa with a silk or jersey dress, the slinkier, the better, for an eye-catching and fashionable juxtaposition.

statement sleeve cardigan - gray

2. The Statement Sleeve Cardigan

I chose this oversized statement sleeve cardigan sweater for the way it says a lot without being loud. First, I love the cuffed statement sleeves that are on trend without being over-the-top. The scalloped edging is a pretty and unique detail. And the soft heather grey is sophisticated and classy for a gal over 40. This is a great sweater with jeans for the weekend, black pants for the office, or with a summer LBD that’s begging to be transitioned into fall.


3. The Tie Sleeve Cardigan

Long Cardigans are an easy way to add more presence to casual jeans and t-shirt outfit. Isn’t the color of this tie-sleeve cardigan stunning?

It’s a great example of how you can work the lace-up trend over 40 without getting yourself tied up in knots.


4. The Chenille Cardigan

This plush chenille cardigan is much more than your basic cardigan. Do you see how the blouson sleeve ups the style quotient? This is dressy enough for lunch or brunch out but given the super soft chenille; I’m guessing you’ll never want to take it off. Such a pretty color too!



5. The Ruffled Cardigan

I’m always looking for pieces that are versatile and give you more mileage for your fashion dollars. This ruffled cardigan fits the bill.  You can easily style this sweater for the weekend with jeans or leggings, a t-shirt and boots or booties.

For work, swap out the jeans for a pencil skirt, and you’re ready to go. Or, if you’re going out to dinner and want a little extra warmth, layer it over the top a slim fitting dress and heeled tall boots.


6. The Embroidered Cardigan 

If you’re looking for a classy way to jazz up your solids but are afraid of pattern, this embroidered cardigan is a great option. The embroidered sleeves add visual interest without being overwhelming.



7. The Fringe Cardigan

This faux leather fringe cardigan is a cool piece for the over-40 gal. It is funky, and probably most appealing to those with an artsy fashion personality, but take a closer look. The colors and pattern are sophisticated, and the faux leather fringe adds some nice swing. This is one eye-catching cardigan outfit!

Join the Conversation

24 thoughts on “Dump the Frump With These Classy, Cozy Cardigans

  1. I love most of the outfits you put together but have to say I am not a fan of open, sloppy sweaters. I have some, but will be glad when they are out of style. My 28 year old daughter pushes me to try new things, but I always feel better in nicely tailored clothing. I went to a shower in a cardigan and pearls and realized I looked like a dinosaur among the hip women in fur boots. Trying to land somewhere in between is a challenge sometimes, and that’s how I discovered your blog.

  2. Take a look at Chicos- while their models may be just at/over 40…they are still not “real sized” but at least they demonstrate a more mature sensibility.

    1. Hi Christyn, Yes they’re doing a good job with that. I hope other retailers follow suit. It would be nice to go to a department store site and not have to imagine how something might look on a mature woman. Thanks for this. Cheers, Deborah

  3. Hi Deborah, I just love your site, Deborah, and enthusiastically look forward to receiving your great emails. However, I find that although these long sweaters look great on the 5’10” super thin models, they definitely do not flatter the shape of the “average” woman. I am only 5 feet tall so these sweaters would hit my mid-calf or even near my ankles. Oh, not a pretty sight! However, I agree totally that we should all look at ourselves in the mirror and make a determination as to whether an outfit looks good on us or not. BTW, as a rebuttal to the commenter who advised “older” women not to wear leggings…….again, we should be the ones to decide what looks good and what doesn’t. She is not the fashion police!

    1. Hi Christie,
      You are right. It is all about proportion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear this trend. A petite woman would need to find a shorter, less voluminous version of these.
      As for the comment by my other reader, I understand where she is coming from. Perhaps she is referring to women who try to wear leggings like pants (with a short top) and expose too much. That can look bad.

      I think it’s hard to generalize about what to wear or not to wear at any age because the world is changing and so are women. Styles don’t have an age attached to them anymore. What you wear is much more about who you are, your body, your personality, your confidence level etc. I may have preferences as to what I think looks great over 40, but I don’t believe in handing out rules for what to wear. There’s always someone who can pull off wearing something you might not of thought of and look fab. My only goal at 40, 50 and beyond is to dress in a way I think is elegant, tasteful and modern. Thanks for your comments Christie. I love chatting with you all. Cheers, Deborah

      1. Hello again Deborah! I was delighted to receive a response from you. I am not sure if you can receive this particular tv channel in your area or not (I live in Rhode Island). One channel in particular is the Hallmark channel, which airs the wonderful episodes of “I Love Lucy”. In addition to being a classic and beloved comedy show, I just love seeing the great fashions worn by Lucille Ball and her various female guests. My all time favorites are when the Ricardos and Mertzes went to Hollywood. Not only are the story lines classic comedy, the Hollywood fashions during that era are also classic and beautiful. Oh, how I wish some of those fashions would come back into vogue! Thanks again for your response. Keep your great emails coming!
        Best regards,

  4. I love your tips. It encourages me to get out there and try things on! Shopping with a goal in mind is helpful and these tips get me going. I totally agree with you about leggings by the way. I seen classy elderly women here in L.A.and New York that look amazing in leggings, boots, and a long sweater. Keep up the great work!

  5. In reading this article, I am still left questioning if the short button up cardigans are a no-go for woman over 40. Are you saying they make you look older?? It seems as though there were a ton of options for those shorter sweaters WhiteHouseBlackMarket) this season in prints. I purchased a couple because I typically wear the longer style. Should those be given to goodwill?

    1. Hi Doreen,
      Keep your short cardigans! They’re classic pieces that never go out of style. You can wear them, no problem. They’re more on the traditional side.
      Long cardigans worn with skinny jeans or leggings are more modern. Since they are the latest trend you will look hip and updated. Cheers, Deborah

    2. You should NOT give them to Goodwill. You should wear what you like and fits your lifestyle. Nothing is a “no-go” based on age, in my opinion. Maybe size/shape/personal comfort level, but not age. Your outfit would dictate the best kind of cardigan to wear. For example, I have a pair of grey boot-cut trousers I bought for work this year. The overall fit is slim but a long flowy cardigan looks kind of sloppy with the boot cut legs. A shorter cardigan looks better for that outfit. I might not wear it for a night out on the town, but it’s a good look for the office or a more conservative social gathering. Your outfit should suit the occasion and your body/style preference.

  6. I’m having trouble with the long sweaters, even the ones with a somewhat empire cut are too long this season for this 5’1″ woman! I can pull the old one from the back of my closet and it still works! Each season the styles get cut bigger and taller–Sweaters don’t lend themselves to being altered!

  7. Love them all! Just ordered an animal print cardigan!!! Can’t wait for cool weather….this will be my ‘coat’ for our south Louisiana winter! :)

    1. Hi Cathy, I don’t hire models but I do post some photos of readers in stylish outfits from time to time. You can send in a photo of yourself in a current outift and if the photo quality if very good and the outfit goes with a theme we are working on we might just post it. No headshots please. Mail photos to Cheers!

  8. Hi! I love the long cardigans, but honestly, nothing screams “frumpy old lady” like that “cascading” sweater pictured in your article. While I’m at it, please please please discourage anyone over 40 to wear leggings of any style. It’s a very young trend and the end result simply doesn’t match the face, no matter how toned the body. Call it what you will, it still looks like a mini dress over tights.

    1. Hi Cathy,
      Gee, I feel quite differently. I’ve seen lots of women over 40 who can pull off leggings and look fabulous in a cascading sweater. It’s such an individual thing. All I would say is if something doesn’t feel right for you, it isn’t. Go with your gut (and your mirror!)

  9. If the women wearing these cutesy cardi’s were like your toothpick thin models this trend might be passable, but most ladies I’ve seen look a bit like sausages stuffed into casings that are a bit too small.

  10. So feminine! Very pretty selections. My personal dress code is “sexy feminine” a combination of bold with feminine…very very feminine. I get the bold or more mature look with high quality fabric selections and well-cut pieces, but I always look for flirty or feminine touches like a ruffle, shirring, scallops, buttons, etc. Cardigans like this fit that style matrix.

    Any of you watch the movie Blind Side? I like Sandra Bullock’s look. What a babe. She has bold-cut clothing, high quality fabrics, but softens her look with jewelry, belts and ooo those skin-tone-colored slings! I need to get me some of them! I call her “sexy feminine”. That’s what I’m after…we are the same age and share the same name. But…that’s where the comparison ends. he he….


  11. I love the cardigans on the models, but not on me. I’m a D cup with a small waist… and cardigans worn open are a disaster (hang on either side of the “girls” like a theatrical curtain and closed they look either too boxy (even fitted ones) or they gap. I’ve actually tried on several of the ones pictured here. Unfortunately, they didn’t look so hot on me! Takes a certain body to carry them off.

    1. Hi Magdalene,
      You make a very good point!! It is true that not everything looks good on all body types, however, if you leave the cardigan open you might be able to pull it off a little better. Nothing looks worse than a top that is closed and the buttons are “straining”. But, back to your point, if you don’t think you look good in this then do stay away from it!