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12 best women’s cardigans, from chunky knits to cashmere designs

For a true It girl look, these are the sartorial staples worth investing in for autumn and winter

Eva Waite-Taylor
Tuesday 20 October 2020 18:36
To find the pick of the bunch, we prioritised comfort, warmth and ease of wear, as well as making sure each one was bang on trend
To find the pick of the bunch, we prioritised comfort, warmth and ease of wear, as well as making sure each one was bang on trend

No longer considered the dowdiest item in your wardrobe, the humble cardigan has been revamped and has even hit headlines. Shedding the former preppy persona, they’ve garnered a fan base of It girls.

It all started when Katie Holmes was papped in the Khaite cashmere off-the-shoulder knit and matching cashmere bra underneath, which proceeded to sell out in a matter of minutes.

Model Kaia Gerber followed suit and carved out a new role of herself as a cardigan influencer as she fashioned a simple cropped cardi forgoing anything underneath, triggering something of a sartorial revolution and resulting in the birth of a new trend: the “sexigan”.

The fascination doesn’t stop there. Taylor Swift dropped her surprise lockdown album, Folklore complete with the lead single “Cardigan” and some appropriate matching merch – a cream knit featuring an embroidered applique and black piping.

Not just a staple reserved for A-listers, cardigans can offer the ideal throw-on layer for the changeable British weather. To find the pick of the bunch, we prioritised comfort, warmth and ease of wear, as well as making sure each one was bang on trend.

We’re certain it’s going to be the most versatile item in your wardrobe: pair with joggers to nail the WFH uniform; throw on over a slip dress; or wear buttoned up tucked into jeans for a nod to the Nineties.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

River Island light purple knit cardigan and bralet set

You’ll likely have seen iterations of this twin set across social media as it has been a popular choice for many, and we can see why. Cosy and warm, the crop top and cardi combo is a nod to Holmes’s set that nearly broke the internet. Wear with high waisted straight leg jeans and trainers. We just wish there was a pair of matching trousers, because what a loungewear set that’d be. 

Everlane the texture cotton cardigan

Featuring relaxed saddle shoulders, a clean buttoned front, and a cropped hem, this has a cool and easy fit. It’ll make for a warm and cosy addition to your wardrobe that you’ll be thankful for even when the temperatures really drop – in this instance, wear a contrasting coloured polo neck underneath to keep the heat in. Made from a cotton-nylon blend, the large chunky knit design makes it feel as though it’ll stand the test of time – a key consideration when investing in knitwear.  

Wyse London Amelia pocket cardigan

A simple, yet perfect layering piece, it’s made from a wool (70 per cent) and cashmere (30 per cent) blend, so it’s soft and cosy. Slightly boxy in fit, this is a wardrobe staple worth investing in that will go with just about everything you already own – from midi dresses to lounge pants. While the most expensive in this round-up, it’s a piece you’ll cherish, and it’s certainly made to last. 

Weekday tone cardigan

For a Kaia Gerber take on the trend, it’s got to be this cosy cardi from Weekday. A close-fitting style with a cropped length and a V-neck cut, it’s an ideal piece. Enhanced with alpaca (13 per cent) and wool (13 per cent), it’s warm enough to forgo wearing anything underneath. It is worth noting that it is slightly scratchy so may irritate sensitive skin. 

& Other Stories bouclé knit cropped cardigan

With knitwear going to be the main item on repeat in our wardrobes, there’s no harm in opting for something with glitzy detailing – and that’s where this & Other Stories number comes in. Featuring large, gold-toned buttons, this fluffy knitted cardigan has a cropped and boxy silhouette and dropped shoulders. This will look lovely during the festive season with a pair of leather trousers.  

H&M fine-knit cardigan

You simply cannot go wrong with a simple fine-knit cardigan, and thankfully H&M’s offering comes in a great range of colours and is totally affordable. It’s the perfect layering piece, that’ll see you through the cold days, as well as summer evenings once the sun’s gone down. We’d advise going up at least a size, if not two for a more oversized fit.

All Saints vika cardigan

A relaxed silhouette, this has dropped shoulders and a slightly cropped fit. Undeniably soft and cosy, this scored highly on providing the perfect layer of warmth. The grey colour looks lighter on the website, so bear that in mind. We’d also suggest sizing up for a more oversized, comfortable fit.

Zara contrasting knit cardigan

As always, Zara’s winter offerings are stand out this year, and this wool-blend V-neck cardigan is no different. The velvet trims and lapels will add another dimension to your outfit.  Fitting true to size, it has a slightly cropped fit – so we wore with high-waisted denim jeans so as to keep the warmth in. What better way to cheer up a grey winter’s day than by wearing pink?

Na-kd light knit buttoned cardigan

This is another nod to the It girls that like their cardis worn with nothing underneath. Featuring a rounded neckline and ribbed knit design, it’s obviously not as warm as the others in this round-up but it makes up for it in style points. We’d advise sizing down for a closer fit.

Mango button knit cardigan

Another easy to wear cardigan that undoubtedly deserves a spot in your wardrobe – soft, oversized and the perfect V-neck cut, it ticks all the boxes. While the camel colour is the perfect throw on and go, it also comes in yellow if you fancy adding a pop of colour as the perfect antidote to grey winter days. We loved this worn over a big collared shirt. 

Asos Design co-ord chunky cardigan

Asos is an obvious favourite for all things fashion, and this slouchy fit cardi offers an affordable way to layer this season. Soft, warm and versatile, it easily transcends trends and you’ll be reaching for it month after month. Invest in it now along with the coordinating bralet (Asos, £12) for a true Katie Holmes-inspired look, you won’t regret it. 

M&S pure cashmere crew neck cardigan

On the hunt for great cashmere? This is it. Featuring in last year’s round-up too, you can trust that it truly is second to none. Available in a full range of colours – from cream to blue, there’s bound to be something to suit your style. A great choice for adding warmth to your wardrobe, and in our opinion, a slightly oversized look is best, so don’t be afraid to size up.

The verdict: Women’s cardigans 

All are deserving of a place in this round-up thanks to being warm and versatile, but also trend-led. But, for something truly Katie Holmes, the River Island knitted cardi and bralet takes the crown – it’s cosy and a little different.   

For more autumn fashion ideas, read our review of the best women’s leather pieces to invest in now

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