How to Wear a Long Cardigan and Not Look Sloppy

Ahh, those skinny runway models. They always make wearing long, loose cardigans look like a breeze when for the average midlifer, it’s not quite that easy. Lumps, bumps, and aging shoulders that slope can make a swingy sweater look more like a frumpy old housecoat if you don’t know how to style it right.

If you’ve shied away from wearing long cardigans for this very reason, it’s time to take a second look. Here are 5 reasons to love long cardigans and tips on how to wear them without looking sloppy.

tan long cardigan

Reasons to Love Long Cardigans…

There are plenty of good reasons to embrace a long cardigan:

  • They’re warm and cozy. You’ll want to live in them all winter!
  • They’re a great way to deal with a sleeveless top, which I know many of you aren’t big on because you prefer to cover your arms.
  • They give an outfit more presence. They are not as commanding as a jacket, but since they are semi-structured, they do give you some power, albeit in a gentler way.
  • Long cardigans are also perfect for traveling. When you are on a plane, train, or in the car, you want something light, warm, and comfy, and a long cardigan is it!
  • If you steer clear of long cardigans because, in your mind, an oversize knit = ten pounds heavier, then know this: there’s are ways to wear a long cardigan that can actually be very slimming.

How to wear a long cardigan with jeans?

How to Wear a Long Cardigan with Jeans

Warm, wooly cardigans add an extra layer and bulky, but the right pants can counteract this look. Wide-leg pants or baggy jeans are worn with a long cardigan to make you look boxy and frumpy. Bootcut jeans that are slim in the thighs with a small flare at the hem can look great if you want more of a boho vibe, but even then, you need to wear heels to get the look right.

Slim, straight-leg jeans are fine, but the easiest and chicest look is to wear skinny jeans. A long cardigan over skinny jeans is slimming and modern.

Leggings are also an excellent choice and very slimming with a long, sweeping cardigan. And if you want to look edgy, make them faux leather leggings.

How to wear a long cardigan with a dress?

How to Wear a Long Cardigan With a Dress

A thin, fitted dress or a shirt dress looks fabulous with a long cardigan, making it look less dressy and cozier. A long cardigan with a summer sundress is a great way to transition into fall and get more mileage out of your wardrobe.


More Styling Tips for Wearing Long Cardigans…

how to wear a long cardigan

1. Avoid Anything Thick Underneath

Besides the fact that you’ll boil in a thick or heavy top, you will also look like a mama bear! Stick with a fitted stretchy tee-shirt with a V or scoop neckline, a very thin knit, or a pretty, silky blouse or crisp shirt.


2. Layer A Long Cardigan Over a Column of Color

This trick is especially useful for large gals who don’t want extra bulk or a petite gal worried about being swallowed up by a long cardigan. By wearing one dark color top to bottom, including your booties, and layering a plain or print cardigan on top in a lighter or brighter color, you create a color illusion that makes your body look long and lean.

The eye can’t help but go up and down that long dark vertical line down the middle. All one color as a base is also a great way to show off your long cardigan and let it take center stage. This trick works with dark pants+, a dark top, or an all-dark (i.e., black) dress.

how to wear a long cardigan

3. Wear Heels With Long Cardigan Outfits

Flat riding boots or mules look fantastic with skinny jeans and a long cardigan, but if you are concerned that a flat heel will make you look short and stumpy, try an ankle bootie with a heel. It doesn’t have to be sky-high.

Even a couple of inches will help balance the length and weight of a long cardigan and make you look tall and lean. This is a nice look for work.

Cardigans - Cream Cable

4. Belt a Long Cardigan

Push up the sleeves, grab a belt, and wrap it around your waist to show off your curves. The heavier the knit, the thicker/chunkier the belt should be. This can be a very cool girl look with the right long cardigan on the right gal.


Amazon - Work from home

mustard cardigan |tank | mules | Ponte leggings | bag

Cashmere Cardigans– Classic, fine, and always elegant

Grandad Cardigans – slightly rounded, oversized and a chunkier knit. Often ribbed.

Colorblock Cardigans – These are great for a fun, casual look

Waterfall Cardigans – These long cardigans are usually quite thin and drape and flow, flattering your figure.

Cableknit Cardigans – Classic, chunky, and always gorgeous.

Animal Print Cardigans – Super trendy, very popular, a great way to make your wardrobe roar!

My favorite? This Leather Cuff Wool Cardigan!

Did you see the beautiful cardigan I just bought? See more of this long red cardigan here.

Join the Conversation

17 thoughts on “How to Wear a Long Cardigan and Not Look Sloppy

    1. Yes, you mean a long cardigan with t-shirt that has a design such as a floral print. That’s fine so long as the tee is a quality tee that has some shape.Look for a tee with some stretch and a V-neck or scoop neck would look best too. A regular boxy tee with a high crew neck and no stretch is not flattering with a long cardigan. It usually looks very bulky and frumpy. Cheer, Deb

  1. Deborah, I’m struggle with what to wear to my 55th high school reunion on May 4th. This is in mid day with BBQ and trimmings. I can’t wear sleeveless. Chicco’s has a striped, cotton blend fabric, lace up sleeve cardigan. I want to pair it with blue cotton blouse and white skinny jeans. Will the sweater look too fall or winter?

    1. Hi Vivian, I think it will be fine since it is a cotton blend, and you are pairing it with white skinny jeans. Maybe opt for a chunky block heel sandal to bring a spring feel to it, and you should look great. Have a wonderful time. Cheers, Deborah

  2. FINALLY! Someone who “gets” fashion for – well OVER 40. I’m 73, but still like to look fashionable and not frumpy. The struggle is real. Boobs have gone south, arms are not attractive, mid section suddenly fluffy. You wake up one day and the 23 inch waist is GONE!!! Leg texture is, well OLD. I was shopping with my young teen granddaughters and past a store window and could not believe how my body has changed – I must embrace who I have become…. but I am not going down without a fight… Thank you for your wonderful advice. I’m soon to head to my 55th high school reunion. The dress is casual, but I feel sure there will be some beauties that STILL can pull of the sleeveless dresses and they are skinny as can be. I eagerly read your blog for help in knowing how to be “fabulous over 70”.

    1. Hi Vivian, I love your attitude! Why not look the best you can for the age you are! When you look good, you feel good and life is so much more fun. Enjoy your reunion and knock’em dead glam gal!

    2. Embrace being 73. I know many women in their seventies who simply enjoy life, and not worry about the natural aging process, and still look beautifully styled, and are still rocking it. I don’t think I have ever known anyone over 40 with a 23 inch waist. Lol. Enjoy your new curves!!!

  3. What about a maxi cardigan; it seems even harder to wear. I bought a long black one (just above ankle length)) and am regretting it.

    1. Hi Sara, Maxi cardigans are tricky especially if you are petite or have short legs as they can swallow you up. My best advice stand tall and wear heels! You can also try cropped jeans that come above your ankle or roll up your jeans to expose some ankle. Showing some skin will take away the heaviness at the point where the maxi ends

  4. Wow!
    Thank you for this great post. I have been struggling with this very thing. You really helped me get a grasp on how to feel confident in the long cardigan trend .

  5. Deborah,
    When wearing a cardigan over a dress which should be longer? The dress or the sweater? I’ve asked this question several times but never receive any answer. :(

    1. Hi Janice, So sorry this is the first time I’ve seen your question. The bottom line is there really is no rule. It’s just a different look when you wear the cardigan shorter than the dress- more sporty I’d say and sometimes women wear it shorter and open with a belt going across the middle. I find a shorter cardigan puts most of the focus on the dress. When your cardigan is longer, a couple of inches or much more below the dress, I think the look is more sophisticated and elegant. The emphasis is more on the sweater coat. It’s a long, lean look. Both ways are fine, just different feels. Hope that helps. Cheers, Deborah

  6. This is a great look for someone tall. For us petite gals the long cardigans make us look shorter. Not a fan of this look.

  7. Deborah,
    What a great post! Please answer this question! When wearing a long cardigan with a dress which should be longer? The dress or the sweater?

    1. Hi Deborah, There’s no right or wrong just different ways of styling for different looks. I like my sweater a little longer over my dress by a couple of inches. I find it to be an elegant look. Some gals prefer theirs much longer than their dress, almost to the ankles worn with boots or booties and this is more of a funky, boho look. Some gals like a sweater coat shorter than their dress left open, or left open but belted. This is more of a sportier, casual look. So it really depends on what you are after. Hope that helps!

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