I know that some people don’t quite get what I mean by appropriateness in clothing. So today we’re talking about how to choose an appropriate cardigan (because it’s winter in Melbourne) by discussing why I have two red cardigans in my wardrobe. You can get more information in my book Build Your Signature Wardrobe.
The Place of Style
But first, let’s talk about style; your style is the other half of the wardrobe equation. It combines your body shape and proportions, favourite colours, personality, courage and any signature elements you incorporate into your look.
In the picture above, you can see two crew neck red cardigans. Stylistically, I like red. I only wear crew neck cardigans because I find collars irritating, and don’t feel warm enough in V-necks. It took me a while to figure that out.
- The one on the left is a bright red 100% British wool. The fibre is thicker and stronger than named breeds like Cashmere or Merino. It is around crotch length on me, and shapeless with an Aran cable pattern and two pockets.
- On the right is a dark red 30% cashmere 70% merino blend which makes a smooth and soft fine thread. It’s around hip-length, slightly fitted with no pockets.
What Makes it an Appropriate Cardigan?
Appropriateness is the stuff that makes it the right cardigan in the right place at the right time, and it’s as personal to you as your style is. When you consider your appropriate, some of the things you need to consider are:
Clothing Care (How much care are you prepared to give? Will you make the time to hand wash, or are you prepared to pay for dry cleaning?) These cardigans are both machine washable. That is it for the Aran, but as the Cashmere Merino is a finer fibre it pills, and these need removing periodically.
Climate (Do you need hardcore warmth or just a little something to take the chill off?) Melbourne is at 37° 49′ S, which is in the mediterranean climate range. We have warm to hot and dry summers and mild to cool wet winters along with Hamilton (NZ) at 37° 47′ S, Bahia Blanca 38° 43′ S (Argentina) and Temuco 38° 45′ S (Chile). And Athens at 37° 58′ N, San Francisco at 37° 47′ N, and Fukushima at 37° 46′ N in the northern hemisphere.
Region: (Are you a city, country or somewhere in between dweller?) I live in a city so I’m never far from a shelter of some description, and often in and out of climate controlled buildings.
Health/Age/Pregnancy: (Special needs not shared by the majority, like allergies, arthritis proof buttons or something looser at the hem for wrapping around you?) I feel the cold (it’s a kidney failure thing), so I wear a cardigan of some description all year round.
Faintheartedness: (Are you concerned about what other people think, or will you wear what makes you happy regardless?) I’m not concerned a great deal by what other people think.
Activities: (what you will be using it for). See below.
For this comparison, both pictures were taken with the same white t-shirt and black wool crepe pencil skirt.
In early-twentieth-century terms, this is my “house” cardigan, and I wear it for my house and garden chores. You can see that it is has a relaxed, casual air about it and doesn’t look right with the skirt.
It is durable; it doesn’t matter if a thread gets pulled because the pattern is chunky and you can pull the thread back into the knit.
The knit is loose so while it’s not good for standing around in the wind, it’s excellent for active work as the looseness of the knit prevents you from overheating. The thickness of the thread and cable pattern gives you the illusion of extra warmth and sometimes that’s all you need.
The length and shapelessness of this cardigan make it impractical for wearing under other garments, though there is room for extras underneath if they are required.
The pockets are useful for stuffing tissues in, as well as tools or other things you might need as you carry out your chores.
My “street” cardigan, worn outside the house for lunches, the odd office job, and appointments. Its smooth finish gives it a more formal appearance that matches the skirt.
It is less durable; it has a very tight knit, and a pulled thread would probably break and start unravelling. Even if you could pull the thread back into the knit, it would be obvious that a snag had happened.
The tight-knit makes it warm when standing or sitting around in the cold, but too hot to be very active.
The fitted shape and shorter length makes it a neat fit under a jacket or coat.
I prefer not to have pockets in my street clothes as I carry a bag, and I like a smooth, unbroken line in my street clothes.
Other Appropriate Cardigans
I am an 80/20 dresser, that is, I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time. (And I’m trying to stop buying the 80%). But if you’re not like me, you can have as many red cardigans as it takes to meet your needs. Maybe you’d like a long coat-like cardigan for watching sports matches, one with sparkles for events, or one with spots just for fun. The key thing is to only buy what you love and will wear.