When you think of autumn, pumpkin lattes, Halloween and changing leaves may permeate your thoughts, but what are you likely to be wearing as you annually encounter these cold weather experiences? Even in your fantasies of fall, you are probably snuggled up in a cozy sweater. Sweaters are staples of the change in season—and for good reason. They are versatile, classy and can be made casual or dressy just by pairing them with the right accompanying articles of clothing and different matching accessories.
Read on to learn more about these classics and how to wear them fashionably and properly!
The Many Types of Sweaters
Let’s start with the basics. Here are some of the major sweater silhouettes that pop up in some form each year:
These are the new kids on the block, having really only been around since the 1990s, but they have made a great impression and are definitely here to stay. Hoodies are sporty, casual and cozy—and pair beautifully with athleisure wear, which boomed in the early 2020s.
Cable knits will always be timeless. They’re the quintessential throwback to the times when sweaters were hand-crocheted. These heavy pullovers also remind many of a comfy night by the fire at a ski lodge
Turtlenecks have an extra flap of material at the neckline, folded in half, facing outward, while the mock turtleneck has the same added material at the neckline, yet it is shorter and does not require folding.
Both looks are reminiscent of the 1970s, when they saw their peak. However, this retro look is back in style with a vengeance! They may seem minimalistic, but these styles add length to the neck area. This is important if you have a round, wide face.
Sweater dresses are simply sweaters with more length than average. They are designed specifically to be dresses. They are not the same as oversized sweaters, though those fashion classics can be belted and worn as dresses, as well.
That said, actual sweater dresses are both classy and comfortable. And these knitted frocks are surprisingly flattering to all figures!
Cardigan sweaters are characterized by being open in front. They may or may not contain buttons or a zipper as closures. They are not as structured as jackets or blazers, but may function as either, yet leave a softer impression. These sweaters can transform the sleeveless or short-sleeved tops of summer into fall and winter wear as well—nearly doubling your cold weather wardrobe. Longer cardigans have made a huge comeback after fading from view around 2002.
The Most Common Sweater Material
Material and its thickness, or gauge, make all the difference with sweaters. Lighter sweaters are perfect for layering, while thick sweaters make great tops all by themselves. That said, here are some of the most popular sweater fabrics:
As the most luxurious sweater material, cashmere is also quite delicate and necessitates special care, such as handwashing. Cashmere is so popular due to its many complementary characteristics. It is strong, yet soft and comfortable. It is also light and fine, while still being able to effectively maintain your body’s warmth.
There are many types of wool sweaters, and each has unique properties. These include merino wool, which wicks moisture from skin while regulating your body temperature, and sheep wool, which is used in heavier knits, but can be somewhat prickly.
Conversely, silky, soft alpaca wool is much less scratchy. Lacking the lanolin found in sheep wool, alpaca wool is also found to contain far less allergens. Lastly, the wool of angora rabbits is fluffy, yet smooth and is favored due to its soft texture.
Cotton sweaters are versatile and easy to maintain since they are mostly “wash and wear” items. That said, they probably need air drying to prevent shrinkage. While they do tend to provide less warmth than the aforementioned materials, they are usually more affordable and accessible.
Nylons, polyesters and acrylics are synthetic, man-made materials that are not usually used on their own, but are instead blended with natural fibers in order to lower the prices and increase the durability of sweaters. Also, the use of these materials allows the sweaters to be safely machine washed.
How Should a Women’s Sweater Fit?
There are many differences between a man’s typical sweater and a woman’s. Besides a distinction in size, due to the genders' different builds, the shapes of men’s and women’s sweaters are completely unique, since their body shapes differ extraordinarily. Rather than a square, boxy shape, ladies need sweaters that contour to their bodies' curves and cling to their skin. Sweaters should not be loose unless the style calls for it.
Proper sweater fit is really important when it comes to looking completely put together. That is why the following list of proportion points should come in handy when sweater shopping:
Unless it designed to be overly-long, or if it is meant to be cropped, a typical sweater’s hem is meant to hit your mid-hip area, right at your pelvis. It should not end past the crotch of a pair of trousers, because it will close off and shorten your legs.
The shoulder seam of a pullover or cardigan should sit approximately on the bend of your shoulder. This remains true even when you are choosing a flowy or loose sweater, such as a long, waterfall cardigan. Going too far past the shoulder will give you an awkward silhouette with broad-looking shoulders.
Sleeves should begin right at your shoulders, not past them. The sleeves’ opening, style depending, should not be overly tight, just snug. Be sure that each sleeve ends just a tad beyond the wrist bone, by the fleshy area of your palm. Of course, if you have three-quarter sleeves, ensure there is no tightness around your elbows.
Chest and Torso
There shouldn’t be too much tightness around your arms and torso if you plan to use a sweater to layer. That said, the button-down fronts of cardigans present different challenges. They need to close without stretching and gaping. Regardless of your bust size, if the cardigan gapes in any way, it is necessary to purchase the next larger size.
What About Oversized and Cropped Sweaters?
Of course, oversized sweaters have a different silhouette, and this leads to different dimensions that break all the rules listed above. First of all, being oversized is the general style of such garments, and they should still be purchased in your usual size. They may slink off the shoulders, be longer than average and drape in distinctive ways, but that is what they were fashioned for.
Cropped sweaters have a much shorter hem and sometimes the sleeves’ length follows suit. Again, these sweater choices are outside the usual guidelines when it comes to finding a fit that flatters. Just know that you should stick to your regular size when purchasing.
Which Sweaters Best Fit Different Body Styles?
Know that the best sweaters for any body type are those that fit the specific body type best. It cannot be stated enough how important it is to find the most appropriate fit. Here is each body type, and the corresponding most appropriate sweater, broken down:
Pears carry most of their weight in the buttocks and the hips, so embellishments toward the tops of sweaters and eye-catching necklines are best. These styles divert attention from the lower parts of the body. Scoop necks and boat necks draw eyes to the shoulder zone primarily. And, don’t count out cowl necks and turtlenecks that also beg to be noticed while distracting from the hips. Chunky knits may balance your natural shape, as do longer lines.
Apple gals carry excess weight in the middle and lack a definitive waist. That is why sweaters that are loose in the torso area, such as empire styles and waterfall cardigans, are very flattering. Just be sure they are long enough to hit the hip bone, as this will elongate your figure. If the sweater is a bit tighter in the arms, this makes for a stunning contrast as well.
U-necks and v-necks capture onlookers’ attention and distract from the waist. For a luxurious look, try a v-neck in cashmere. The material is thinner and light as air, as opposed to chunky knits that add bulk where you really don’t want it.
Rectangular ladies have the same measurements around their waists, busts and hips. It is best to draw attention to the neck and shoulder areas with a turtleneck or another type of design. Chunky knits also add dimension to the upper half of the body that is otherwise not there. Try a crew neck to widen the top half of the body. However, if you have broad shoulders, a v-neck is a better alternative
Curvy hips, thin waists and large busts are what makes an hourglass figure. Long cardigans or oversized styles with belts accentuate petite waists and downplay chests and hips.
A light, body-skimming style is also sure to look lovely, especially with either a scooped neckline or a v-neck. Just avoid crew necks which will emphasize your busts and will make you appear stumpy.
Not all sweaters are flattering to plus-sized women. However, longer sweaters, especially long cardigans and tunic sweaters, are quite attractive on these body types. They create a hard, vertical line that flatters the body, making it sleeker. Fitted sweaters can work as well, as long as they are not too tight. They provide a waistline where there really is no definition.
V-necks, boat-necks and wrap styles open up your neckline, decrease your busts and soften your shoulders. Avoid turtlenecks and mock turtlenecks that do the opposite.
If you are petite, which means you are on the shorter side and your body is in proportion to your height, you should avoid both longer and oversized sweater styles. This is so you don’t appear to be drowning in fabric. As a matter of fact, cropped sweaters will look great on you.
Also, avoid dolman sleeves, commonly referred to as the “batwing.” While your sweater doesn’t need to be skintight, it is best that it is fitted so your body does not appear to be overwhelmed in material. These sleeves are made from an abundance of fabric, and, for you, it may be too much.
Your measurements must be taken into consideration. Try higher shoulders, shorter sleeves and hems, and camouflage your height with a v-neck, known for stretching you vertically. Also, if you belt your sweater, use a skinny belt, as wide belts isolate and shorten the upper body.
How Do Women Wear Sweaters?
With the huge, COVID-19-inspired trend toward athleisurewear, bike shorts made a huge comeback this summer—and that trend is still going strong into fall. Oversized or chunky-knitted sweaters over shorts have also inspired the cozy combination of hoodie sweaters over track pants, sweatpants and joggers. Style inspired by comfort, such as this, is sure to reign for a while.
Stacked and Layered
Layering is simply placing one piece of clothing over another to create the perfect ensemble. You can contrast, coordinate or complement colors and styles between each layer. You can look preppy, put-together and polished, or bright, bold and daring, depending on your fashion preferences on a given day. Here are some examples:
- Place a thick cable knit over a cotton turtleneck to keep warm.
- Try a collared shirt underneath a wool pullover.
- Try a cashmere cardigan over a silk camisole at the office.
- An oversized white or cream sweater looks sexy beneath a leather jacket.
- Just about anything paired with Denim
With a Sophisticated Skirt
On Top of Leggings
Oversized, slouchy sweaters, along with sweater dresses, were just made to be paired with leggings. The silhouette also harkens back to the 1980s with the bulk on the top half of the body and a diminutive bottom half. It was referred to as the inverted triangle in those days, and now it is back in fashion.
You can dress your sweater up or down by switching out your footwear and changing your leggings’ fabric. For example, leather leggings with heels can certainly make your sweater appear more chic, while suede leggings and knee-high boots make your sweater look more casual. However, if you are planning a really laid-back day, cotton leggings or jeggings with clean, white sneakers practically transform your sweater into loungewear!
Monochromatic Color Schemes
Even if your bottoms don’t really match your favorite sweater, they are still appropriate to wear together if they are actually the same color. In other words, if you assemble a monochromatic, solid-colored outfit, it is automatically trendy this season. This is true whether you prefer the neutral colors of autumn, such as beige, brown, cream or white, or if you select a more vibrant choice, such as canary yellow or tangerine orange.
How Do you Accessorize a Sweater?
You could go two ways with this. You can punch up a more neutral-colored sweater with statement jewelry. This specifically means statement necklaces and earrings! They add a spicy bit of fun to your outfit by adding colorful and decorative touches to your sweater with ease. Contrast your jewelry with your sweater and you are sure to project confidence.
The alternative is to complement dainty sweaters with delicate jewelry. This means real gold or silver chains along with gemstone or diamond earrings. This sweet ingenue-like look projects innocence and purity. With this style, cashmere or delicate knits are a must.
Sweater dresses and knit dresses under long cardigans look charming with slick heels, such as stilettos or dress ballet flats. However, skirts can definitely benefit more from the autumn power combination of sweaters and boots.
Sweaters and boots work well with skinny jeans and leggings. Boots can be calf or knee length, or just above the ankle. The latter, along with ankle-length “booties,,” are more for wearing with dress pants and trousers, underneath the pants’ cuffs. Whether in leather, suede or sheepskin, they complement sweaters in every way.
You might also consider a printed loafer. These bright, bedazzled delights will punch up any coordinating sweater—similar to statement jewelry
Fall hats can be used to bring out the pattern or color of your sweater with ease. Try a timeless beret or a floppy hat that is feminine and flirty.
Scarves help keep you warm and toasty. But when it comes to fashion, they are an indispensable accessory that can be used to style one single sweater in many distinct ways.
There are lightweight scarves made from silk, cotton or synthetics. There are also heavy blanket scarves like pashminas and chunky medium-weight sweater scarves. There are even shorter neck scarves, inspired by the French, that can be used to add a pop of color to an otherwise neutral outfit. Each of these can change the entire look of the same sweater.
Belts work well with sweaters, especially extra-long cardigans and oversized types. A belt cinches in the waist, defining it so the material is not too overwhelming. Wide leather belts are best for tall girls and thinner belts do wonders for hourglass figures. Others may prefer chain belts or fabric sashes. Your belt’s chunkiness should correspond with the sweater’s knit.
In conclusion, there are many types of sweaters, based on style and fabric. Each can be accessorized, layered or matched to create different styles and outfits. Hopefully, this guide can help you style the many types of sweaters.