The Cardigan – dowdy or elegant?

Cardigans hit the news last year when it emerged that Ayesha Vardag, boss of a leading family law firm, had mentioned them in a list of items that she deems unsuitable office attire for her female staff. 

Setting aside the questions that this raises about office dress codes and the imposition thereof (particularly on women) and the fact that it is just quite amusing that the word “cardigans” should feature in newspaper headlines in any context, we think the cardigan has been unjustly maligned.

True, if you want to portray a dowdy woman, an old or shapeless cardigan in a dull colour will be you go-to. There is a good example of this in the 2020 BBC drama, Life, in which (spoiler alert!) Gail, a late middle-aged woman played (brilliantly, of course) by Alison Steadman, breaks away from her limiting marriage for a while and later goes back to her husband. While she is away, Gail gets a stylish haircut and dresses in fabulous fuchsia. When she returns, what does she put on? A shapeless grey cardigan, naturally.

But cardigans can look refined and polished. An elegant, lightweight cardigan is ideal for the office. And smart, elegant, lightweight cardigans do indeed exist.

That said, the cardigan really comes into its own as leisurewear and, particularly, as loungewear. A chunky, stylish cardigan is a thing of joy. Yes, chunky and stylish. Two words that do not often go together, but look at this one from The White Company: thewhitecompanychunkycardigan and think of it with soft cashmere loungewear trousers and some elegant slippers. A perfect about-the-house outfit, no? Check out this longer one from Ralph Lauren too; it would look wonderfully relaxed but stylish with a simple pair of good quality leggings johnlewisralphlaurencardigan.

In case you need more persuading that the cardigan is a timeless loungewear style hero whatever your age, look at Jane Fonda playing Grace in this still from the Netflix show, Grace and Frankie ( ).  Fonda’s Grace seems to have an endless collection of gorgeous loungewear but, notably, no stylish slippers – she is always wearing shoes around her TV set house. Grace needs some luxury slippers!

Slippers have tended to have a similarly dowdy reputation to the cardigan. They are often thought of simply as scruffy footwear for schlepping about the house in. No doubt that is at least partly because pre-Shaffay, there was a striking lack of elegant women’s house shoes around. A gorgeously stylish cardigan and a pair of luxuriously soft slippers are perfect home wear for stylish women.

(Photo by Nadin Mario on Unsplash)

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