Cardigan--too tiny?
September 29, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Fashionista filter: I love cardigans and as a Librarian I have quite a collection. But one thing always bugs me, if your cardigan cannot button up comfortably does that mean that it is too small for you? I don't wear mine buttoned up, but I do see people that wear them open and it looks like they barely fit--and there is almost nothing worse than a too tight sweater.
posted by sandra194 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I love cotton cardigans. If they are snug, I stretch them to widen them before putting them on. I have a short waist, am 15 pounds overweight, and petite sizes fit way better on me. If it looks too small when you look in the mirror, try taking a picture of yourself. I can judge myself (harshly) in pictures better than in a mirror.
posted by theora55 at 11:27 AM on September 29, 2013

I almost always wear cardigans open, even though they close fine. If they are tight in the shoulders and arms then they would look too small, but otherwise I think it would look fine.

I also have cardigans that gap in the chest when I button them up, even though I don't have a big chest at all, so I especially don't button those, but they are fine on every other dimension.
posted by cairdeas at 11:27 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

If my cardigan does not button and leave ample room underneath, it is too small for me. Other people make different choices.

I don't like the look (and can't tolerate the feel) of extremely tight cardigans, but one sees them on high-fashion runways, so the idea that "there is nothing worse" seems to be an opinion not universally shared by people who care about fashion and style.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:29 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

The rule of thumb I was given is that yes, even if you never intend to button something up, it has to be able to. This goes for jackets and blazers too.
posted by bleep at 11:32 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think there has been a move in the direction of not requiring things to button, as long as they look flattering otherwise. In fact, I have seen a few teeny "cardigans" that were clearly cut so that they could not be buttoned. So, I think it's a thing now. Fashion blogger-turned-model Girl with Curves wears a lot of clearly too small cardigans, and ... they look pretty good once I stop thinking them of too-small cardigans. But they're put together really well and not just thrown on.
posted by wintersweet at 11:39 AM on September 29, 2013

I don't think they need to button comfortably, but they shouldn't look too tight.

I'll second cairdeas that it's all about how they fit in the shoulders.
posted by Sara C. at 11:40 AM on September 29, 2013

And none of the linked cardigans on the Girl With Curves page mentioned by wintersweet are too small, at all. Those are just right. Again, the key is the shoulders.

Right now there's a popular style of cardigan which is very thin and stretchy. They're meant to be worn just as Girl With Curves is wearing them -- with a few buttons done up, but not completely buttoned from neck to hip.

I think it's especially OK to leave buttons undone to create ease in the hip. Otherwise, I don't think most women could wear cardigans at all unless we're talking about only the baggiest, boxiest ones. Which aren't flattering on people with hips, anyway.
posted by Sara C. at 11:43 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am watching opinions in this thread with interest. I have a bunch of cardigans that I wear open, or just a few buttons buttoned, because I don't like the way they look when buttoned up all the way. I am a formerly plus-sized gal who has kept the giant chest even after weight loss, so my fit calibration is based on how well the cardigans fit in the arms and shoulders.
posted by matildaben at 11:43 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tight is what's in these days, in cardigans and in men's suit jackets. Have you seen red carpet pictures lately? Heaven forbid someone has to hail a cab...the sleeves will rip right off.
posted by xingcat at 11:45 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's the current lineup of Tory Burch sweaters. As you can see, they're not all meant to close in front.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:47 AM on September 29, 2013

I have a few cardigans that don't button fully that comfortably. That's usually because since I have wide hips, I have to leave the bottom few buttons undone or they stretch open. I think that if a cardigan can come together in the front then it's fine unbuttoned. If you can't even pull the front closed then that's a problem and it will probably obviously look too small on you, even open. Obviously having it fit where the buttons stretch open, then it shouldn't be buttoned.

However! There are many cardigan styles that don't even have buttons and are more of a shoulder shawl or wrap style that are meant to be worn more open. In that case I think they need to fit in the arms/armpits and not stretch too bad there.

I think women of any size should just follow the rule of not looking like you had to be poured into the outfit and it should fit properly when you move.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:52 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

If I bought cardigans that buttoned over my bust, they wouldn't fit anywhere else. I buy them so that they button appropriately for me, which means from under bust to just below bellybutton.
posted by plonkee at 12:58 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have plenty of cardigans that fit my arms and shoulders, and are the right length, but have huge gaps between the buttons if I try to do them up. So I either button the lower buttons, or just the middle one, or I leave it unbuttoned. And no one has ever told me to buy a larger size (which would result in it not fitting anywhere else). And don't even get me started on the difficulties of buying button-up shirts!
posted by hepta at 1:21 PM on September 29, 2013

For me, the sticking point was always the arms. The biggest clue that a cardigan or jacket or whatever doesn't fit me is that the upper arms feel tight or uncomfortable or weirdly clingy, like Spanx sleeves. You can leave smallish cardigans partly unbuttoned, but there's not much you can do about sleeves.

(Data point: I have basically no bust, so fit there isn't an issue anyway.)
posted by dekathelon at 1:27 PM on September 29, 2013

Agreed that it's all about the shoulders and arms. I definitely have some sweaters that COULD be buttoned in the front, but that would look terrible if I did it (gaping, too tight, whatever). But if I sized up, the shoulder seams would be halfway down my arms and the sleeves would be too loose - and since I don't usually button my cardigans anyway, that's a way bigger deal than not buttoning properly.

On the other hand, when I wear those cardigans, I'm pretty sure you can't tell that they don't button properly. If you can tell that these people's sweaters don't button even when they're open, I'd imagine the fit is bad in other places, too.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 1:45 PM on September 29, 2013

See, I try to rock this look and I have REAL curves. She has no stomach! Except for the horizontal stripes of course, no way am I putting my hieny in horizontal stripes! This look makes me look like my entire outfit is way too small--now if I was skinny and no bust--sure I'd go for it!
posted by sandra194 at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2013

[Answer the question or move on, folks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:29 PM on September 29, 2013

So what were you looking for in this question, exactly? It is certainly true that some outfits look better on some bodies than others, but it's not universally true that a cardigan looks bad if it doesn't button. Is the question whether or not YOUR body would look good in an unbuttoned cardigan? That's hard to answer with no pictures. It is true that her outfit might not look good on you - it would not look good on me - but that doesn't mean that generally unbuttonable sweaters look bad.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:30 PM on September 29, 2013

I'm kind of a stickler about things being able to button. My husband thinks I care about it too much but it matters to me, especially with blazers and jackets. That said, I almost never button cardigans. I also don't wear button-down shirts because I don't want to have to worry about gaps and I don't like ironing. But I really like this look.
posted by kat518 at 4:47 PM on September 29, 2013

My rule in choosing size of cardigans, blazers and coats is based on the words of a marvelously fashionable woman: if the designer designed it to button, then that is when the garment looks best. Not that I won't wear a cardi or blazer unbuttoned, it is a guide for sizing. I also like the option of button/unbuttoned when I'm putting my outfit together. For that reason, yeah, buy ones that fit you. Try on a bunch of labels, there is one for you that works both ways.
posted by Lornalulu at 5:11 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It depends on the cut of the cardigan, too. I'm wearing a 3/4 sleeve cardigan that's meant to be worn buttoned up all the way, to from a crew neckline, and if you left the buttons unbuttoned the sweater would still shape itself around you. The hacks that work on this cardigan (eg, leaving the top two buttons undone and wearing a cami underneath to avoid an awful gap) wouldn't always work on a style with a different -- say, Mr.Rogers -- cut.

I personally don't care for some of the examples posted here; rather than just looking like she's rocking a cardigan, to me it says she may be rocking it, but it's still a too-small cardigan. I think you could design a cardigan that's meant to be kept open at the bottom to begin with and it would look good and fit better. In my mind it's more about the fit than a style preference.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:03 PM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Looking at the Girl with Curves pictures, if you have a belly, those stretchy cardigans may accent it, and it sounds like that's not your style. Can you button fewer buttons so that the line the sweater creates is closer to an empire waist? I think it's less about fit and more about body type.
posted by momus_window at 6:21 PM on September 29, 2013

I agree with Lornalulu. If a cardigan is designed to button, it's going to look better if you wear it in a size that actually buttons on you without excessive pulling or stretching. If that's not possible without the arms being too big, then that cardigan is probably not the right cut for you.

Also, those Girl With Curves cardigan pics do not look great to me. The last (longline, stripey) one is not bad, but the other ones? Personally, I think she looks awkward.
posted by Salamander at 7:26 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pft, No! I have cardigans I've purposely bought small because I want to wear them in the summer to cover my arms but don't want excess material around my waist/hips. They really would strain to be done up but that doesn't matter because they never will be.
posted by Ness at 2:52 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

It depends on the style of the cardigan and the rest of the outfit.

Yes, in the strict technical sense, a cardigan is "too small" if it can't be buttoned, just as sleeves on a dress shirt are too long or too short if they are outside of a narrow range.

People are wearing them unbuttoned because they are avoiding the look of having a too tight sweater over the bustline. Maybe their bodies aren't the same shapes as most cardigans are sold to fit. Many women wear shirts with buttons completely or partially unbuttoned, because they do not fit properly over the bustline or other areas if they are buttoned, but do fit other parts of their body just fine. Not everyone knows how to knit or can afford a custom cardigan that will fit them properly, and as you have noted cardigans are considered quite appropriate for certain jobs, so they are stuck with having the cardigan not fit properly somewhere, and went with the option that sits on the shoulders well, looks good from the back, has arms the proper length, and doesn't have a lot of excess sloppy looking fabric.

There are also styles of cardigan that are not designed to close in front. If it is fitting as it was designed to, it can't be considered too small, even if you feel that it has been designed with a type of cut that you feel is unflattering in general. Cut is not the same as fit. I suppose you could call it skimpy.
posted by yohko at 11:49 AM on September 30, 2013

Hmmmm maybe I should create a Pinterest board of looks of curyy girls with cardigans.
posted by sandra194 at 6:00 PM on September 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't necessarily agree with everything they say, but here are some thoughts on how to button your cardigans.
posted by mimo at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2013

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