8 Different Types of Cardigans

Learn more about one of the most popular, versatile, and comfortable knitted garment of today by getting to know the different types of cardigans that you can wear to stay cozy yet on-trend.

A woman wearing a gray knit cardigan.

A cardigan is a type of knitted sweater that’s traditionally made of wool and designed with an open front. This popular garment wasn’t worn until around the mid-1800s so it has a short history. It’s named after James Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who was also a British Army Major General and participated in the Crimean War.

According to Richard Rutt in his book “A History of Hand Knitting,” it’s more likely that Brudenell only started wearing the cardigan during his later life when he lived in the English countryside at Northamptonshire. The term “cardigan” also first appeared in a knitting context in 1868 when Brudenell passed away.

1. Belted Cardigan

A gray belted cardigan on a wooden surface.

Belted cardigans are very fashionable and they are usually fairly long, but that doesn’t mean they don’t keep you warm. Most of these sweaters are made out of materials such as knitted-wool, linen, cashmere, and linen-cotton. The only potential disadvantage of the belted cardigan is that it should be avoided if you are plump or overweight because the belt calls attention to your midriff area. This is why only people with well-toned, slim bodies should wear a belted cardigan because it calls attention to all of your less-than-perfect areas.

Belted cardigans can be long or fairly short, so you can find them in a variety of lengths. In addition, they look great with stockings, jeans, leggings, dress slacks, and high boots. Depending on their length and what they’re made of, these cardigans go with both casual and dressy clothing.

2. Cardigan Vest

Cestyle Open Front Vest, Women's Sleeveless Dressy Cardigans Basic Solid Spread Collar Comfy Soft Cotton Sweaters Vests Wine Medium
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These cardigans are sleeveless and are perfect when the weather is cool, but you aren’t in the mood to wear a long sleeve or heavy sweater. Cardigan vests are fashionable and look great on both men and women, and they can even present a dressy look when worn with the right clothes. They are usually made out of cashmere, cotton-wool, thick sheep-wool, or linen, and they usually come down to the waistline, hip-line, or at the knee. Cardigan vests also come in a wide variety of colors and designs, so they are made to match and complement anything else you are wearing that day.

3. Cropped Cardigan

Lark & Ro Women's Crewneck Cropped Cardigan Sweater, Blue, Medium
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As the name suggests, these cardigans usually reach right below the chest area, and they are often made of lacy or very thin materials. They are mostly meant to go with long dresses that have printed fabrics, where their solid colors accent the dress; and with nightgowns. More often than not, cropped cardigans have buttons or hooks down the front, although many of them are designed to be left open.

Cropped cardigans are usually made of materials such as knitted-wool, lace, linen, linen-cotton, and even cashmere. Depending on what they’re made of, they can go with either dressy or more casual outfits, and they often have three-quarters or even short sleeves. The longest they are is usually waist level because they are meant to be an accent of some sort.

4. Jacket/Hooded Cardigan

Mens Hooded Cardigans Draped Long Sleeve Hoodie Comfort Draped Cardigan Little Grey XL
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A jacket or hooded cardigan is usually open in the front and often resembles a jacket. They can have a zipper as well, and if you’re aiming for a casual look, simply wear one of these cardigans over blue jeans. Nowadays, many of these jackets also have hoods, giving them a sporty look and often called hoodies. Great when worn over jeans or sweatpants, jacket cardigans can be waist length, knee-length, or hip length. They can be made of materials that include linen, knitted-wool, linen-cotton, lace, and even cashmere.

5. Long Cardigan

A lady wearing a long purple cardigan.

These are very similar to open cardigans, but they are much longer. They usually reach down to your ankles or maybe just below the knee, and they are perfect when used as a substitute for long coats. In fact, if you don’t wish to carry around a bulky or extra-large overcoat, a long cardigan is likely to offer the same advantages, and they are much easier to carry as well. They usually have either a zipper or large buttons on the front of the cardigan, and if you are lean or thin, they will look just right. In fact, long cardigans are usually very dressy, even though you can also wear them to casual events.

Long cardigans can be made out of knitted-wool, polyester-wool, or even cashmere, and they look great with almost anything, including leggings, jeans, regular trousers, and even stockings.

6. Open Cardigan

Urban CoCo Women's Drape Front Open Cardigan Long Sleeve Irregular Hem (2XL, Dark Green)
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There are many different styles of open cardigans, but they are characterized by a front section that is without buttons or zippers. If you want to close the front of the cardigan, you have to pull the opening together with your hands.

Open cardigans come in various colors and styles, from very basic solid-colored cardigans to those with fancy geometric designs on them, but they never close with buttons, zippers, or snaps. They are usually made out of polyester wool, linen cotton, or knitted wool, and they look great with tank tops, tee-shirts, and jeans. They are usually made in a length that goes down to your knees.

Similar to the open cardigan, wrap cardigans wrap around you like a shawl but offer a bit more protection from the elements. A big hit in fashion nowadays, they look great when worn with skinny jeans or leggings and boots. In addition, if you want your weight hidden, wrap cardigans can help.

7. Tunic Cardigan

A woman wearing a purple tunic cardigan.

Source: Chadwicks

Tunic cardigans are extra long and can come with or without buttons. They look just like a basic cardigan but usually come down to right above the knee, and they are usually made of materials such as knitted wool, polyester wool, or linen cotton. They look fabulous with jeans or stockings, especially if paired with long boots. Tunic cardigans also offer the advantage of covering more of your body than a regular cardigan, thanks to their length, and they come in a wide variety of styles, colors, and designs. Unless it is extremely cold outside, tunic cardigans can suit your fall or winter needs.

8. Zipped Cardigan

H2H Mens Casual Slim Fit Knitted Cardigan Zip-up Long Sleeve Thermal with Twisted Pattern Beige US 3XL/Asia 4XL (CMOCAL034)
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Zipped cardigans can look a lot like jackets, and in addition to zippers, they usually have large pockets as well. They are usually waist length and are appropriate for both casual and formal wear. Although they are designed to keep you warm, in recent years they have also become fashion statements because they are considered outerwear.

This means their selection of colors and designs is vast, so you should have no problems finding the cardigan you love. Zipped cardigans look great with tee-shirts, blouses, jeans, or even sweatpants, and they are usually made out of polyester wool, linen cotton, or knitted wool.

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