How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Yes, cardies are sexy

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Yes, cardies are sexy… if you show some skin!

  • Shane Watson shared her tips for staying stylish while wearing a cardigan 
  • She explains women can wear them like unstructured jacket against bare skin
  • There’s an appeal somewhere between a casual jacket and a luxurious sweater

Probably the first moment we sat up and paid attention, the point when cardigans crossed over from being the steadiest of knitwear options into the Sexy Top bracket, was when Katie Holmes was photographed crossing a New York street back in August 2019.

She was wearing a grey cashmere cardigan, slipping off one shoulder, and underneath it, clearly visible, a matching knit bralette.

Women everywhere saw that picture and thought: ‘That looks good.’ But then the sensible ones among us reminded ourselves that the cardigan wearer was a 40-year-old actress with an all over glossy tan, and we put it out of our minds.

Katie Holmes was photographed crossing a New York street back in August 2019. She was wearing a grey cashmere cardigan, slipping off one shoulder, and underneath it, clearly visible, a matching knit bralette

Well, five months later and we have reason to be reconsidering the flirty cardie, if not the bralette, because these cardigans are cropping up everywhere.

Fashion-forward women are wearing them like unstructured jackets against bare skin, or cropped over dresses, or shrugged over vests, belted or half unbuttoned. 

They have an appeal somewhere between a soft casual jacket and a luxurious sweater.

Plus, this time they have sex appeal. On Miu Miu’s spring catwalk, cardigans were worn off the shoulder, Bardot-style, with flared skirts and knee boots. 

The idea of a cosy cardie that’s also a flirty cardie is now in full swing.

The Katie Holmes cardigan that first got us hooked is by Khaite, and retails at a cool £1,461 in case you were getting any ideas.

But taking it as a template — the flirty cardie of our dreams — and working backwards, here’s what we need to be looking for: 

  • A deep V-neck, not essential but much the best bet. Round-neck cardigans are much primmer.
  • Softness. The look relies on showing some bare skin. You’re not wearing the flirty cardie over your old shirt or anything much, unless it’s a camisole or a vest, so texture is all important.
  • Patch pockets (because it automatically feels smarter) and good-quality buttons (tortoiseshell are best). The ideal number of buttons seems to be three.

You also want your cardigan to be cropped on the hip or even higher, and fullish in the sleeves (the Khaite cardigan sleeves are wide and long, but puffy and three-quarter works well, too). 

Fashion-forward women are wearing them like unstructured jackets against bare skin, or cropped over dresses, or shrugged over vests, belted or half unbuttoned

Whatever else, this cardigan is not skimpy. So where to start looking? Topshop does a waist-cropped soft black cardigan with full sleeves (£32, topshop.com) and Zara does a similarly cropped off-white cable knit (£29.99, zara.com).

Sezane has a chunky textured knit cardigan in rust, again cropped with the ideal tortoiseshell buttons (£115, sezane.com) to wear half undone with a midi or jeans.

And Other Stories does a puff sleeve, cropped cardie in bright pink (£85, stories.com), which doesn’t pass the button test but could still look good with black. Even better is its beige wool blend, cropped cardigan (£85).

As far as colours go, greys and neutrals are smarter, but bright sky blue or daffodil yellow or pink were a big hit with designers. 

The rules: Sexy cardigans 

  • The Flirty Cardie is cropped and slightly unbuttoned.
  • Sleeves should be soft and sloppy and pushed up.
  • Go for a plain colour not a pattern.
  • You need skin showing, the top of a camisole at most.

It’s probably better to steer clear of those pastel colours that can look a bit like a bed-jacket (to those of us who remember them).

If you like the look but want to keep it a little more office-appropriate, then Cos do a sailor collar cotton/wool cardigan (£69, cosstores.com) that’s more jacket than cardigan.

The alternative is to get a longer, looser cardigan in a bold colour and belt it — with a chain if you want to be bang on the fashion money.

The idea is you wear a soft roomy cardigan, open, with the sleeves pushed up, belted over a fitted short dress or trousers — a bit like a deflated Eighties power jacket.

And if you want to go for the full flirty cardie look, but a bralette seems a step too far, Zara do a wool blend crop top (more of a vest really) which you could flash under your cardigan were you so inclined. The new twinset.

Come the warm weather, cardigans are going to be taking over from denim jackets and khaki shackets, and you may be surprised to find yourself wearing one — slipped off the shoulder optional — one balmy evening. 

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