The Oversized Cardigan: Outfit Ideas, Style Tips and Shopping Advice

Oversized cardigans are underrated in my humble opinion. I believe they are perfect for fall and winter weather, keeping you cozy and comfy while looking stylish at the same time. However, it needs to be the right cardigan, in the right shape, that isn’t too oversized.

I see too many women wearing big slouchy sweaters that don’t afford any shape to the body and look sloppy, or they are paired with oversized pants making them look frumpy, rather than stylish and polished. So don’t forgo this cold-weather staple, just make sure you get one that fits appropriately, is the right length, and is in a knit or pattern that works with your whole outfit.

Let’s take a look at some of the dos and don’ts of oversized cardigans…

Oversized Cardigan Length

Length can be one of the trickier aspects of an oversized cardigan to contend with, particularly if you are petite, like I am. Typically oversized cardigans hit just below the hip and can be as long as mid-calf. If you are on the shorter side, it’s advisable to keep the length right around the knee or above. For you taller ladies, you can run the gamut from hip to calf.

The length may also be dictated by what you wear with the cardigan. With pants, any length looks good. With skirts, keeping it slightly above or below the hem of the skirt will work best. Because dresses are one continuous piece of material (as opposed to a blouse and skirt), your best bet is a few inches above the hem, at the hem, or mid-calf if you are wearing boots. (NOTE: A shorter dress with over-the-knee boots and a mid-calf cardigan is a great pairing and oh so sexy.)

Oversized Cardigan Sizes

The word “oversized” means different things to different people. When it comes to cardigans, it doesn’t mean buying one a size or two bigger than you are, or borrowing one that belongs to your boyfriend. You need to shop with your correct size in mind and make sure that the shape of the sweater itself doesn’t swallow you up. Sleeves should hit at the wrist or just slightly cover the hand. Do not wear a cardigan as mittens!

Going big with your sweater means you need to pair it with a more form-fitting outfit. That means skinny or narrow pants, leggings, skirts, or dresses with a tapered waist or belt.

NOTE: Pay particular attention to sizing and wardrobe pairing if the cardigan is a cocoon or batwing style, as these visually add volume around the middle and require more fitted clothing.


An oversized cardigan doesn’t mean it has to be made of a bulky material. If you are petite or plus size, stick with oversized cardigans made of thinner material. The drop shoulders, length and slight oversized middle of cardigans in these fabrics will not overwhelm a small frame or add bulk to a larger one. Thinner oversized cardigans are also more appropriate for the workplace as they look more polished than their bulky counterparts. You can even take them one step further and add a skinny belt to close up the cardigan and keep the chill out!

That’s not to say that everyone should eschew cable knits or heavier sweaters; they are great for casual outfits. In fact, taking a heavier oversized cardigan and pairing it with skinny jeans and a form-fitting shirt is super stylish. Dress it down with flats for a weekend outfit or dress it up with booties, boots or heels for date night or Sunday brunch.

Cashmere, wool blends, cotton and cotton blends are all good choices. These will breathe the best and tend to keep you warmer.

Cardigan Patterns

While the majority of oversized cardigans are solid in color or come in a marled knit, there are other options. Stripes, Fair Isle, argyle, ombre, and other prints are available and can be a fun and stylish addition to your wardrobe. These are best worn with solids (pants, tops, skirts, and dresses).

Oversized Cardigan Pairings

Here are a few classic pairings for oversized cardigans to give you some inspiration:

Classic Stripes with Oversized Cardigan

Pair denim with a classic long-sleeve striped tee and top it all off with a knee-length cardigan. Perfect for a fall day, the outfit you see in this post pairs wedged black booties, black denim, with a blue and gray striped tee, and a gray open-front gray cardigan. Neutral, classic and easy to wear. You could just as easily wear blue denim with a blue-and-white tee and a red or green cardigan. Let your closet and your imagination dictate the colors!

Boyfriend Tee with Oversized Cardigan

In this image, I’m wearing the same gray cardigan, but paired it with denim, booties, and a short-sleeve V-neck boyfriend tee. You could also pair it with knee-high boots, colored denim or even add a colored or embellished tee. Add a scarf for some visual interest or warmth.

Plaid with Oversized Cardigan

Blue and gray are paired perfectly in this outfit, featuring blue denim, blue plaid shirt, and the gray cardigan. Pair with the leopard print flats you see here or, for a more casual look, a pair of white tennis shoes.

Denim and Oversized Cardigan

For a more casual look, I’ve slipped on a pair of leopard print ballet flats, blue denim jeans and a boyfriend tee, all topped with the gray oversized cardigan. I love the animal print shoes, which add visual interest to the whole outfit.

Skirt with Oversized Cardigan

Some might be hesitate to pair a longer cardigan with a shorter skirt, but as you can see, they work perfectly. I’ve paired a neutral suede skirt with heeled knee-high suede boots, a boyfriend V-neck tee with an oversized cardigan. For a colder day, swap out the tee for a turtleneck.

For more inspiration check out my post on 80+ Cute Fall Outfits.

So it’s time to get stylish with an oversized cardigan. Send me some pictures of your pairings and what you like to wear with this fall and winter wardrobe staple.

Stay Stylish

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