Shirts for wearing with cardigans/blazers?
September 12, 2015 7:12 AM   Subscribe

Fall closet turnover has uncovered a bunch of cardigans and blazers I rarely wear because I don't know what to put under them. Can you please show me specific examples of what to pair with them, and (bonus) how to incorporate scarves?

I like cardigans and blazers, but have realized that I have no idea what to put under them, or how to style them.

* I am petite, short-waisted, and busty, so try to steer clear of button-up shirts. I do have a couple of plain white oxfords that I love.
* Scarves! I have a few square silk scarves I like (they keep the back of my neck warm), and would like specific advice about how to pair them with blazers and cardigans, and how to tie them.
* I am not in an office setting, so a casual approach is fine. I'd be wearing these top layers with skirts and pants, but would prefer something more polished than a turtleneck.
* Washable materials are better than dry-clean only (at-home dry-cleaning kit treatment is OK)
* I like warm autumn (scroll down) colors. Warm autumn, with a question mark: think chocolate brown, chestnut, terra cotta red, dark orange, etc. I find color confusing, but feel best in chocolate brown.

Images? Guidelines? Specific examples? Resources? Help? Many thanks in advance for your advice.
posted by MonkeyToes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Sleeveless tops are pretty easy to pair with cardigans and blazers. Another example.

You might try perusing some style blogs for examples.
posted by bunderful at 7:29 AM on September 12, 2015

Thanks, bunderful. Some of my top layers are a bit scratchy on bare skin, so long-sleeved suggestions are also welcome.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:33 AM on September 12, 2015

My go-to (goes-to? go-tos?) are these L.L. Bean sleeveless cotton shells. They have short- and long-sleeved versions too. I especially like them with scarves because the neckline is fairly high, so you don't get the gap of skin between scarf and shirt.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:58 AM on September 12, 2015

There are a gabillion web sites and books that can tell you how to tie scarves; however, if you run into the same problem I did consulting them (i.e., you get information overload and have a hard time separating wheat from chaff), look for this book, which was the best one such that I found. And some of these ways to "tie" scarves are pretty damn simple - one of my go-to's is to fold it on the diagonal, drape it so the point is in your front, then wrap each end around your neck and back to the front again and let 'em lie there. You do need a kind of big scarf for this, but you don't need to "tie" it as such, and it's a good, casual, "I just threw this on" kind of look that I kind of rock. The book has some other looks that are more formal or "polished", too. As to "how to pair them" - just get a plain t-shirt or jersey top, put it on under the blazer or cardigan, find a nice scarf that coordinates with them, and tie it in a way that strikes your fancy.

I actually pair plain t's with cardigans or blazers a lot - if I don't wear a scarf, I have longish necklaces that I wear instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 AM on September 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like to wear fine gauge cotton cardigans. I have worn one under a blazer or even another cardigan. I also look for tshirts with a nice neckline to go under cardigans. Lands End has petites, great quality, and I watch like a hawk for sales, as well as frequent discount offers in email. Ditto LL Bean.
posted by theora55 at 8:11 AM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, seconding theora! One of my favorite late-fall outfits is a lightweight cotton cardigan over a t-shirt, a heavier cardigan over that in a contrasting color, and a scarf over all that to pull it together.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 AM on September 12, 2015

Oh, another idea for "outfit ideas" - check out the site Polyvore. It's mainly pitched to people who want to create Pinterest-ready collages of outfit ideas, but you can also just look at other people's sets. Something I've tried is to search for a type of clothing item on the site ("black blazer", "white ribbed cardigan", or whatever) and you'll get a bunch of hits from people who've put such a thing in their collages, and you can often get ideas from that. You can even try to do a search for your specific item by brand ("white Uniqlo cardigan") and see the same thing.

I actually ended up signing up with an account to do some playing-around on my own; I don't post any of the things I do, but it helps remind me that "Oh, yeah, that vest did look funky with that plaid blouse".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on September 12, 2015

Some years ago, another MeFite put me onto Woolovers and my bank account hasn't been the same since. Their sweaters and tops have become my preferred layering pieces and platforms for showing off a pretty scarf. I'm particularly fond of this cashmere/merino Vneck (only $42!) for winter and have recently added a few of these lace-trimmed camisoles for warmer-season wear. Their website lists the specific dimensions for each size of a garment so you can be sure that whatever you order will fit.
posted by DrGail at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2015 [5 favorites]

If you are going casual you can do short and long-sleeve t-shirts or tanks. Examples of casual cardigan look with scarf one, cardigan with t-shirt.

I like Merona and Mossimo t-shirts and tanks from Target, also JCrew and Gap. Some of the t-shirts have changed at JCrew so you may want to try on in person. I always choose inexpensive t-shirts (especially in the color white (yellows) and black (fades) because they get washed so frequently, there is no need to spend top dollar for something that doesn't last.
posted by Fairchild at 9:15 AM on September 12, 2015

I have a hard time finding clothing for all reasons "petite." I can still fit in kids clothes, so finding thinner, smaller pieces to put under a cardigan can be a challenge. I understand how it's hard to find pieces to layer under a cardigan and I'll be watching this thread for future reference! Personally, I've discovered that a boat style neckline looks best under a cardigan, because it follows the line of the cardigan - if that makes sense? A crew neckline, in contrast, looks like it's too high for the cardigan. I wear mine unbuttoned, though. If you button it up, it probably doesn't matter.

Is paring down which brands work and which don't a challenge for you? Like, do you know which brands work for you? This is a challenge for me, especially since styles seem to change year to year (I'm looking at YOU, perfect tee from J. Crew!) and for this I'd suggest high end consignment shops. Personally, traipsing all over town to shop isn't my forte, and I really like ThredUp for finding a bunch of different brands to try on all at once. When I find one I like I keep an eye out for it online. The clothes on ThredUp are second hand, but you can search for "like new" and "brand new" items as well, at a fraction of the cost. If you're looking for a bargain and trying on many different styles at once, ThredUp is a good bet. I update my wardrobe every season for less than $100. And no, I don't work for them! : )

Good luck, and thanks again for posting this!
posted by onecircleaday at 12:30 PM on September 12, 2015

LOFT and Ann Taylor have an abundance of these styles. Fewer sleeveless shells now that it's fall clothing season, but they have a ton of really easy care and inexpensive options. Always hold out for the 40%+ off though, those sales are so frequent.
posted by belau at 1:26 PM on September 12, 2015

Any guidance on which fabrics are OK to mix, and which not to? (Boiled wool blazer + ? Cotton knit cardigans + ? Suede front/knit sleeve zip-up + ?) I don't have a sense of what looks OK together.

The boat neck cut makes sense to me as a neckline for layering, but a V-neck cami doesn't. How would you put those together?

onecircleaday, no particular brand works for me; I range from XS stretchy pieces to a M/8-10 in buttoned cotton shirts (and gap even so). Most of my cold-weather at-home wear is Patagonia long underwear, and my closet woefully under-prepared for going out, even casually. I can't quite bring myself to do long underwear as a layering piece, though.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:47 PM on September 12, 2015

A scoop neck long sleeved cotton knit top (think nice t-shirt without any graphics) is pretty standard under a cardigan or a blazer. With a structured blazer, a scarf might seem like a bit much. But with a cardigan, you can easily wear a scarf. Having said that, square scarves can be tricky. Mostly with cardigans I wear long, rectangular scarves.

Here's a long cardigan with a simple tee.

A very structured cardigan with a tee.

Cardigan with white button-up.

Talbots has many more examples in their petites section.

Since square scarves can be tricky, here are some ideas.

Also this blog post has a few examples of blazers and cardigans with tees, one with a nice scarf.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:44 PM on September 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like wearing lightweight, silky blouses under cardigans, especially if they're also getting tucked in (which is a good look for short-waisted people). Cotton button-downs can be too crisp/bulky and create weird bulges under a thin cardigan-- look for something that drapes. If you can find actual silk, instead of poly, you'll also have a better time staying warm and comfortable in winter. This J. Crew blouse in ivory is a good example and would go with virtually anything; you can also look for short-sleeved or more embellished versions.
posted by nonasuch at 9:53 AM on September 13, 2015

Oh! And re: mixing fabrics: My personal rule is that you don't want an outfit that's all the same weight/texture-- if your blazer is very structured, wear looser, drapier pants; if you're wearing a skirt made of heavy woven wool, pair it with a blouse made of thinner, drapier fabric. If one piece is shiny (satin, velvet) other pieces should be matte.

Can you think of anyone whose personal style you admire? That can be a really useful starting place-- I've been trying to perfect Chuck from Pushing Daisies' wardrobe for years.
posted by nonasuch at 9:58 AM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Short waisted plus sized girl here, who lives in tees, cardigans, scarves and skirts all winter long. My tip for scarves is to buy infinity scarves. There's no guessing how to tie it, just put it on, loop it once or twice and done. I even sew my long, open ended scarves together to create an infinity scarf. Square scarves are horrible to work with!
posted by sarajane at 11:12 AM on September 14, 2015

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