What Jewelry to Wear with a Lightweight Cardigan Sweater

When it’s hot and sticky outside but the air conditioning is blasting inside, a lightweight cardigan sweater is the perfect accompaniment to keep away the chill. The August 2010 issue of InStyle magazine contains a two-page feature highlighting a selection of beautiful lightweight cardigan sweaters in delicate fabrics such as chiffon, cotton, cashmere and silk.


Not only can these sweaters serve a utilitarian purpose; they also can “fill in as a dressy wrap or a casual topper,” notes InStyle. These sweaters are also excellent for layering. The sheerness of such a sweater allows it to be worn “over any dress or under any coat without causing you to overheat or overbulk.” The magazine further suggests one might leave the sweater unbuttoned “to maximize the flowy effect.”


As add-ons for a lightweight cardigan, InStyle suggests that one or more long pendant necklaces will emphasize the vertical lines of the sweater. Alternatively, suggests the magazine, “try pushing up the sleeves and slipping on a chunky pearl-encrusted or rose-gold cuff.” 



Illustration: From InStyle, photographs of vee neck and crew neck cardigans.


Use the neckline of the sweater as a guide for your optimal choices in necklaces. Thus, a vee shaped neckline, seen in all but one of the sweaters shown in the magazine, is perfect for a pendant necklace. Because a pendant necklace repeats the shape of the vee, the necklace can be of whatever length, heft and size you prefer, with two caveats:



  • If you intend to wear the sweater buttoned some or all of the time, you will want the necklace to work with the neckline of the sweater. If the vee fastens quite high, there’s no point in wearing a long pendant necklace that won’t be seen.

  • If you intend to wear the cardigan open, be sure that the pendant doesn’t fall at an awkward length relative to the underlying blouse or top. If the pendant barely extends past the upper edge of the top, chances are it will want to slip inside the garment. Unless the top is quite low, you will most likely want to choose a long pendant necklace that extends well over the top edge of the underlying garment. This will, as InStyle notes, emphasize the vertical lines of the cardigan.

Multiple “nested” pendant necklaces, so popular today, can be an excellent choice of accessories for a cardigan sweater, particularly when it is worn open. Similarly, long necklaces of chains or beads can be attractive worn with an open cardigan sweater. InStyle pictures Jessica Alba in this look:



For a cardigan that would fasten into what would be a jewel neckline or crew neckline, a pendant necklace will be less successful, because most of the necklace will be obscured by the sweater.  For this type of sweater, a short necklace or choker would be a good choice. Here’s a photograph of First Lady Michelle Obama wearing a jewel-neck cardigan with a short double strand necklace:



If the cardigan has short or three-quarter length sleeves, bracelets are a beautiful accessory. If the sweater is fragile, be sure to wear bracelets without prongs or other details that might catch on the sweater.


If you like to push long sleeves up, be mindful of the fact that this will stretch out the bottom of the sleeves. If they become too loose, in some cases, you may be able to have a tailor take in some of the material near the bottom of the sleeves to tighten them up. Wearing bracelets that won’t snag is particularly important if there is a chance the sleeves will fall down over the bracelet from time to time.


A third styling option is pinning one or more brooches to the cardigan. A brooch may be a stylish addition to a cardigan, but be certain that the sweater has enough body to support the weight of the brooch and also be very careful not to snag fragile fabrics. If you have any doubts, skip the brooch and go with a necklace or bracelet instead for less chance of damage to the sweater.


For a fun retro look, consider classic “sweater guards,” a pair of clips that attach to each inside edge of the cardigan to allow you to wear the sweater over your shoulders. The same effect can be created on some sweaters with a pair of brooches attached by a chain.


If you do choose to wear a brooch or sweater guards, don’t forget that you have a piece of jewelry attached to the sweater should you take it off and stash it away.


Finally, don’t forget that earrings, wristwatches and rings provide additional options for finishing an ensemble. With a lightweight cardigan and a bit of well-chosen jewelry, you can enjoy both comfort and style in the most freezing air-conditioned environment on the hottest summer day.