7 Ways to Rock a Chunky Cardigan in 2021 (& 2 to Skip for Now)

·4 min read

Leather pants, baguette bags and plaid blazers may be top fall trends for the moment, but there’s one cool-weather staple that surpasses them all in terms of comfort and staying power: the chunky cardigan. These cozy, oversize knits are the kind we reach for year after year to layer over everything from silky date night minidresses to basic T-shirts with jeans and even button-ups and suit trousers. But what’s the best way to wear a chunky cardigan in 2021? We’re glad you asked. Here are seven super stylish, fashion forward outfits we can’t wait to wear ASAP, plus two ensembles we’d rather avoid for the time being.

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1. Pair Casual Clothes with Special Accessories

Button your cardi up to wear as a shirt and tuck it loosely into some straight-leg jeans or cargo pants, then get fancy with pearls or sparkly jewelry, a sleek handbag and some sexy shoes for a undeniably chic, if unexpected, combination.

Shop similar styles: Everlane cardigan ($150); ASOS Design pants ($43); Gorjana necklace ($75); Boss bag ($198); Nina heels ($99)

2. Spice Things Up with Some Statement Boots

The trendiest looks right now all have one thing in common: a duality of comfort and pizazz. Combine your favorite cardi and jeans with some bold red snakeskin boots (or gold lame or sharp white) and what might’ve been a rather basic getup is now right on trend and ready to take you through whatever the weekend has in store.

Shop similar styles: Iets Frans cardigan ($74); Gap tank top ($17); Agolde jeans ($168); Object bag ($76); INC International Concepts boots ($100)

3. Wear a Maxi Cardigan as a Dress

Sweaters than can double as robes (and vice versa) have become a staple of our day-to-day wardrobe ever since we started spending so much time at home in early 2020. But we love this posh twist on such a comfy piece. Add a few layered necklaces, a thin belt and some pumps or pointy-toe ankle boots and you’re suddenly ready for dinner out on the town.

Shop similar styles: Tory Burch cardigan ($498); Lulus dress ($44); B-Low the Belt belt ($155); Pieces necklaces ($23); Linea Paolo heels ($140; $98)

4. Pair Neutral Knits with Patterned Pants

It doesn’t matter whether your bottoms feature a natural-looking snakeskin print or very unnatural pink-and-orange zebra stripes, a cable knit cardigan in a neutral hue (cream, gray and black are all good choices) will help to ground such a statement piece. Keep the rest of your ensemble similarly simple, though you shouldn’t be afraid to add an extra splash of color by way of a monochrome mini bag.

Shop similar styles: BDG cardigan ($64); Everlane tank top ($90); Jen 7 pants ($99); Bottega Veneta bag ($1,675); Franco Sarto heels ($109)

5. Use Bright Colors to Jazz Up Casual Basics

We love the cozy combination of dad sneakers, mom jeans and an oversize knit, but so many casual pieces in one definitely runs the risk of making you look a little sloppy. One simple fix is to add in a few bold pops of color, like a bubblegum pink cardigan or lime green top, and at least one more polished piece, like a fitted bodysuit or pointy-toe flats instead of sneakers.

Shop similar styles: Naadam cardigan ($275); Bandier tank top ($68); Agolde jeans ($198); New Balance sneakers ($185)

6. Try a Matching Knit Set

Sweater sets of any and all varieties are gearing up to be one of the biggest trends this fall and winter. This includes long, robe-like cardigans and coordinating knit dresses, which in turn pair beautifully with the lace-up ankle boots we’ve been seeing everywhere lately. Coincidence? We think not.

Shop similar styles: Nordstrom cardigan ($99; $60) and dress ($129); ASOS Design tights ($12); Dr. Martens boots ($180)

7. Give Sporty Bike Shorts a Preppy Twist

Bike shorts are only growing in popularity, even with temperatures dropping, but how can you make this summer staple feel more appropriate for fall? Turns out all you need is a hip-length cardigan and a coordinating T-shirt. Opt for a sweater that ends at least two or three inches above the hem of your shorts, and we highly recommend swapping those stilettos for either some flat sandals, loafers or even sneakers.

Shop similar styles: One Grey Day cardigan ($218); Outdoor Voices T-shirt ($38); BP shorts ($10); Tory Burch bag ($698); Converse sneakers ($55)

8. Skip: Super Chunky Knits with Slinky Slip Dresses

This is not to say that there is no combination of silk dress and cardigan that will work. It’s just that there is simply too much disparity between kitchy, oversize knits and slinky slips. Go with either a thinner knit or a more voluminous dress to strike a more stylish balance.

9. Skip: Oversize Everything

We touched on this earlier, but layering a chunky cardigan over loose jeans and accessorizing with chunky sneakers and a large tote is just too much fabric for one body. You’ll wind up looking like you’ve been swallowed whole by your laundry basket.

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