Fashion’s Secret Weapon Right Now? It’s The Cardigan – But Not As You Know It

How did the cardigan go from frumpy to It knit, asks Hannah Banks-Walker.

Gigi Hadid wearing a cardigan

by Hannah Banks-Walker |
Updated on

If you're looking to make a powerful statement regarding your fashion nous this season, you may be surprised to know that the answer lies with the humble cardigan. Banish thoughts of frumpy knitwear and your grandmother's wardrobe – the cardigan has metamorphosed and is now a status symbol of sorts.

It started on the catwalks, as these things tend to. Fashion's most influential players – Chanel, Dior, Loewe and Miu Miu – made them longline, V-neck, worn tucked into knitted knickers or thrown over party bras. They were at 16Arlington, Molly Goddard and Prada, too, proving that not only had the cardigan staged a comeback of epic proportions but there's also myriad ways in which to wear it.

Miu Miu
Miu Miu AW23 ©Getty

But's the cardigan return to the spotlight isn't all that recent. In a fashion move nobody saw coming, Katie Holmes made a beige cashmere cardigan and matching bra go viral (both were by the quietly luxurious label Khaite) in August 2019. And in an even bigger plot twist, they both continue to sell like hot cakes, despite the fact that the cardigan costs more than £1,000. Khaite has also just been named American Womenswear Designer of the Year at the CFDA Fashion Awards in the US.

Incidentally, 2019 contained another cardigan-related activity of a surprising nature. In October 2019, Kurt Cobain's green, cigarette-burned cardigan that he wore during Nirvana's Unplugged performance on MTV in 1993 sold at auction for $334,000 (£260,000). The mohair cardi was, alarmingly, unwashed, and now boasts the title of the most expensive jumper ever sold at auction.

Kurt Cobain cardigan auction
Kurt Cobain in his cardigan in 1993

That a cardigan has such enduring power over time is testament to the fact that sometimes, the simplest things really are the best. Just ask Gigi Hadid, who's been wearing her own take on the trend in New York. In case you didn't know, the supermodel has her very own knitwear label, Guest in Residence, which has some of the most delicious cardis we've seen in quite some time.

Gigi Hadid
Gigi Hadid ©Getty

Earlier this week, she wore a tomato style with the matching crew-neck jumper for an extra maximalist approach to sweater weather. And just like that, the cardigan became cool.

SHOP: The Best Cardigans

Gigi Hadid's knitwear brand is famous for its bright colours, but this black cashmere cardigan is a staple that there's no way you'll get tired of wearing.

This patchwork cardigan feels suitably autumnal, thanks to its earthy colour palette of cream, brown and black. Note that it has a larger fit than usual when ordering.

'Chanelegant' cardigans have been increasingly popular on the high street - probably because they look so polished with the simple outfit of jeans and pumps. M&S' version, available in white and black, is made of a recycled-cotton blend that has been respun from textile waste.

Hush's relaxed ombre cardigan has a heavier gauge that means it's great for throwing on over long-sleeved tops or even finer knits if it's really icy.

Aligne's V-Neck cardigan is made from a recycled polyester and wool blend (the brand is committed to using at least 50% conscious materials in 100% of its collection).

This loose-fitting cardigan is made of a blend of alpaca, wool and cotton, meaning it's a supremely warm choice this winter. It's also available in three lovely shades: mint, navy and pumpkin.

Everlane, The Good Merino Wool Cardigan
Price: £88 (£126)

Is this the sharpest tangerine shade you've seen for a while? We thought so. Everlane's wool cardigan will certainly make a statement, whether you wear it for work or play.

Give it up for balletcore! Arket's cashmere-blend wrap cardigan is one of the chicest takes on the trend we've seen, appropriate for the office, en route to the gym - and anywhere in between.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us