Welcome to Reality Check: a new regular series from ELLE fashion editors asking the question: how well do the season’s biggest trends really work in nature? This week we’re unpacking the rise of the cool girl cardigan.
Can a cardigan be cool without being Miu Miu? That’s the question I ask myself as I click back and forth between two browser tabs: One shows off the brand’s trend-spawning logo creation, the other shows off Arket’s plain cashmere option. One undoubtedly excites me more, but as my finger hovers over the big BUY NOW button, my finances come to mind and I wonder: Can I do it? Really Do you like buttonholes, or am I blinded by the label?
It’s no secret that Miuccia’s hand is uniquely skilled at transforming the most mundane pieces into a seasonal headpiece (think Prada’s whimsical A-lines and girly pinafore dresses), but the revival of the cardigan is something that’s hitting the mainstream with particular force.
In the real world, as Arket’s tight black cardigan flies towards my address (it was nice to dream for a minute, but the outcome was always going to be like this), I ask: is the cardigan really cool now? Or is this a reflection of a podium victory? If you lose the logo, do you also lose the sense of irony that goes with fashion?
To be honest, it took me a while to crack the cardigan code. Jeans and sneakers felt too casual (when you’re five feet tall, this whole carefree, off-duty model thing looks more like ‘disheveled toddler’) and the midi dress felt too formal and appropriate.
But in the real world, there are ways to style a button-down knit that feels fresh and (really) cool. Consider ditching the layers and wearing yours unbuttoned at both ends. The result is sexy but unpressured: Katie Holmes’s 2023 evolution that fashion historians will soon dub the Khaite Moment.
High-waisted jeans might be an obvious match for a cocoon-cut cardigan, but consider a low-rise, wide-leg tailored trouser instead: enhancing the hemline that skims the waist and revealing flashes of skin, creating a new silhouette that feels equally masculine. and feminine.
Another instant win is teaming your cardigan with another crowd-splitting piece of the new season: the schoolgirl mini. To balance your silhouette, choose a size larger than you normally wear and complement it with loafers (Because have tea perfect pair) to emulate Miuccia’s glam without emptying your bank account.
As for me, I’ll keep the cute Arket knit, eliminating the underwear-geek connotations by pairing it with masculine tailored trousers and a pair of pointy boots. Your librarian could never do this.