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Styling Cardigans & Vests for Plus-Sized Women

One of the biggest winter fashion challenges is finding outfits that keep you warm, match your style and give you temperature flexibility. Whether you're attending school concerts, running errands or traveling for the holidays, you'll likely be in and out of cars and buildings — all with different temperatures. Planning an outfit that matches every step on your to-do list may seem impossible, but cardigans and vests have the versatility and style for the job!

Cardigans and vests are excellent tools to adapt outfits for every occasion. They're practical, and they don't sacrifice style or comfort. Despite their perks, it can still be difficult to style outfits with cardigans and vests. How can you incorporate these pieces into your wardrobe without wearing them over the same two or three shirts every time? To answer that question, let's explore the essential elements of styling cardigans and vests to their fullest potential.

Benefits of Layering With Cardigans and Vests

It's totally possible to plan your winter outfits and wear your coat over them when you're cold. But who wants to cover up the cute ensemble they picked out? Layering with cardigans and vests offers several advantages when styling winter wear.

Here are some reasons to consider wearing cardigans and vests:

  • Endless outfit combinations: When you add a cardigan or vest to a blouse and pant combo, it becomes an entirely new outfit. This principle significantly increases the number of potential outfits in your closet. One or two vests and cardigans create exponential outfit possibilities to combat staleness and inconvenience.
  • Functional warmth: You're not stuck with a one-size-fits-all solution when you wear a cardigan or vest. If you're in the car for a road trip, you can shed layers to stay comfortable with the heat. When you venture into the cold, you can bundle to stay warm. Customize your outfit on the go for an effortless and practical transition.
  • Added texture and dimension: Cardigans and vests are more than "outfit filler." These pieces add color, variation and visual interest to your ensembles. The shape, style and material of your cardigan or vest can take your outfit to the next level.
  • Pockets: Women's clothing consistently lacks pockets. Sure, you might get some shallow pockets in a pair of jeans or a jacket, but otherwise, you'll be left to carry a purse for all your essentials. Having your hands free can be one of the most underrated blessings during a busy holiday season. Fortunately, many cardigans and vests feature pockets — even deep pockets. Slip your phone or keys into the pockets to leave your hands free for whatever the day brings! 

No matter the style or length of the cardigan or vest you choose, there are some basic layering principles to know before you pair them with outfits.

Layering 101: Essential Items and Tips

Have you ever purchased an item of clothing and then realized you don't have the right shoes, pants or accessories to go with it? It's a common problem when shopping, and it could be the reason why your cardigans and vests go untouched in your closet year after year.

Neutral cardigans and vests match most any winter pants and shoes, so you shouldn't run into issues there. However, there are few essential items to have on hand to make layering as easy as possible: 

  • Base shirts: What you put under your cardigan or vest is arguably just as important as the cardigan or vest itself. The type of base shirt you use will depend on whether you're styling it with a cardigan or with a vest. Tank tops and short sleeve shirts are too cool for winter on their own, but they work well when paired with a thick cardigan. Three-quarter and long-sleeved shirts are warmer, and their warmth is amplified underneath a vest. The key to a great base shirt is a fabric that's thin enough to layer over, but not so thin that you'll be cold.
  • Accessories: Depending on the occasion, your cardigan or vest outfit may not feel complete without accessories. An open cardigan or vest leaves an exposed column that showcases scarves and necklaces beautifully. A mixture of scarf patterns and necklace lengths can add even more variety to your layered outfits.

In addition to outfit essentials, there are a few practical factors to consider while you layer:

  • Clothing weight and thicknesses: If you pair a thick, heavy base shirt with a cardigan or vest of the same weight, you may be sweating quickly. In addition, the thick fabrics layered on top of one another may create an undesired bulky effect. By the same token, if you layer two thin fabrics on top of one another, you may be stuck wearing your coat for heat all day. For this reason, it's a good idea to mix different fabric thicknesses. Thinner base shirts pair well with mid- to heavy-weight cardigans and vests to give you maximum comfort and temperature flexibility.
  • Your outfit minus the cardigan or vest: There's always a possibility you may remove your cardigan or vest during the day. Giving forethought to what your outfit looks like with and without the cardigan or vest can help you be prepared to rock your clothes in any situation. If you wear a plain white base shirt with jeans and remove your cardigan, your outfit may not maintain the same flair. But if you add a colorful necklace to the mix, your outfit will have a cohesive look with or without the cardigan.

As you hunt for cardigans and vests to build outfits, keep these essentials in mind. With a few tips and tricks, you'll be ready to style your new pieces like a professional. We'll start with an in-depth look at cardigan styling best practices and some trendy ways to put them into action!

Best Practices for Styling Cardigans

Fashion is subjective, but many stylists agree on do's and don'ts to use as guidelines. Styling cardigans is no different. Specific cardigan lengths, styles and designs look best when paired with a little fashion knowledge. 

Here are some best practices to consider while styling cardigans:

  • Consider cardigan length: Where your cardigan falls makes a big difference in the way you pair it with base shirts. For example, pairing a waist-length cardigan with a top that extends to your upper thigh isn't as flattering on your body. In general, it's a good idea to keep your cardigan longer than or the same length as your base shirt.
  • Pair solids with patterns and vice versa: If your cardigan has an interesting pattern or multiple colors, it's a good idea to pair it with a plain base shirt. But if your cardigan is a solid color, you can add interest to your outfit by pairing it with a fun print. Solid on solid can get stale, just as print on print can get busy. Aim to strike a balance between solid and pattern in your cardigan and base shirt combos.
  • Select the right pants: Cardigans are extremely versatile when it comes to matching pants, but there are certain combinations to avoid. When wearing a long, loose cardigan, opt for a fitted pant. Loose pants or skirts underneath a flowy cardigan often appear baggy and hides your curves. To style cardigans with flare or bootcut jeans, opt for a snug, waist-length piece. The goal is to avoid an unintentional frumpy look by ensuring the cut of your pants truly accentuates the outfit.

Whether you've scouted out some new cardigans for the winter or you're pulling some beloved favorites from the closet, here are some trendy ways to style them!

How to Style a Cardigan for Plus-Sized Women

Styling women's plus-sized cardigans is simple with a little outfit inspiration. For an everyday look, use the best practices to pair your cardigans with a blouse, skinny jeans and the footwear of your choice. To shake things up and try a new style, consider one of the following options.

1. Cinched With a Belt

Perhaps the comfiest quality of a cardigan is its loose, flowy design. In the midst of winter, wearing a cardigan can feel like wrapping yourself in a cozy, fashionable blanket. One downside to a loose cardigan, however, is that it can mask your curves and give your body an undefined silhouette. To add instant definition and accentuate the smallest part of your waist, add a belt over your cardigan!

Here are some tips for wearing this look:

  • Consider cardigan thickness: Certain cardigan weights may work better than others for this style. Thick, heavy cardigans often have a lot of fabric, and cinching them at the waist may bunch that fabric together too much. Opt for a mid- to light-weight cardigan to ensure your belt doesn't gather additional fabric around your curves.
  • Pick the right belt: Depending on your body type, your waist is likely smaller than your hips. This means the belt you use for your jeans won't work well for cinching a cardigan at your waist. Shop for a designated waist belt to ensure it fits and doesn't slip off while you're wearing it. Select a thickness, style and color that matches your cardigans for maximum versatility! 
  • Position your cardigan: To cinch, you can either pull the edges of a cardigan together to create a buttoned look or leave them apart. Leaving your cardigan open under your belt captures the look of a classic cardigan outfit but also shows off your curves. This style works well with a variety of cardigan lengths. Pulling the edges together under the belt creates a polished look best suited for longer cardigans.

2. Tied in the Front

For a cinched look that doesn't require a belt, try tying the front edges of your cardigan together. This look adds visual interest to your outfit while also showing off your waist and hips!

To tie your cardigan, grab the front corners and pull them to the center of your body. Tie a double knot that leaves several inches on each knot string. You can either position the knot at your waist or a little higher. Wherever your knot falls, make sure your base shirt does not extend too far past the edge of your cardigan.

This style may not work with all cardigan types. Here are some ideal cardigan qualities to look for when tying:

  • Stretchy material
  • Mid- to light-weight
  • Hip or upper-thigh length

If you're not sure whether a cardigan will work for this style, try it out! If the material is difficult to knot or the knot is too bulky, opt for a different cardigan. Regardless, this simple trick can add a stylish twist to your winter outfits!

3. Layered Over a Dress

A majority of professional and formal wear includes dresses and skirts. These items are cute and fun in the warmer months, but they can be a pain during the winter. Sleeveless dresses are too cold for snow and wind — and don't even get us started about tights. Unfortunately, formal events don't stop when it gets cold. That's why layering a cardigan over a dress can be a stylish solution to tricky winter outfits.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when pairing your cardigans with dresses: 

  • Match your dress silhouette: Form-fitting dresses have the perfect silhouette for a cardigan. The cardigan will add warmth while still showing your figure underneath. Fit and flare dresses don't mix as well with cardigans. Putting a long cardigan over a full skirt creates a bulky look from the back and dampens the skirt's fun body. Opt for a waist-length cardigan for your fit and flare dresses to keep your shoulders warm while letting the dress showcase its skirt.
  • Consider cardigan length: It's best to match the length of your cardigan to the waistline or hemline of your dress. Cardigan lengths in between those markers may create odd shapes or make the outfit appear mismatched.
  • Play with colors and patterns: If your dress is solid-colored, don't be afraid to pair it with a bold cardigan! If your dress is sequined or patterned, balance the outfit with a solid cardigan. Formal events don't need to be stuffy and boring, so use your cardigan to shake things up!

4. Paired With a T-Shirt

T-shirts are inevitable. Whether you acquire them from supporting your kids' school, sports teams or at work, odds are you have a stack of t-shirts to wear for specific occasions. On their own, t-shirts may not feel as fun and stylish as a sweater or blouse. And in the winter, t-shirts may not be enough to keep you warm. So how can you style those t-shirts when it's cold? Add a cardigan!

This match-up may seem less obvious, but it can be extremely versatile. Whether you're wearing a cotton t-shirt or a graphic tee, you can add a cardigan to dress the outfit up. Solid, neutral-colored cardigans match a variety of t-shirt designs or colors, making them a great option for this pairing.

Waist-length cardigans are the perfect length over t-shirts. Add a pair of your favorite jeans and booties for a functional and cute outfit for any sporting or work event. Mid-thigh length and longer cardigans also work well with a t-shirt. If you opt for a long cardigan, ensure the length difference between your t-shirt and the cardigan is several inches so the length pairing looks intentional. 

5. Paired With a Button-Down

For the ultimate preppy look, pair your cardigan with a collared button-down shirt. Cardigans the same length or longer than your button-down create a cute and polished look.

Follow these steps to achieve the button down cardigan look:

  1. Find a button-down that fits well. Ensure the shirt allows you to move your arms comfortably and that the neck isn't too snug. Also, make sure the shirt has enough room so that the buttons don't gap, especially around your bust.
  2. Put a cardigan over the button-down. As you put the cardigan on, secure the button-down sleeves in your hand so they extend outside the cardigan sleeve.
  3. Add finishing touches. Flip the button-down collar up and secure your cardigan against it. Place the collar outside the cardigan for that cute preppy look. Unbutton the wrist buttons and cuff them outside the cardigan sleeves. You'll create a layered effect and use the button-down to its full potential!

Best Practices for Styling Vests

Vests present unique styling challenges compared to cardigans. Since vests are sleeveless, the base shirt you wear underneath them is prominently displayed. Vests also come in a variety of thicknesses, which you should consider when creating outfits.

Here are some best practices to considering while styling vests:

  • Pair with longer-sleeved shirts: Vests keep your core warm, but they leave your arms exposed. Especially when wearing vests in the winter, it's best to pair them with three-quarter or long sleeve shirts. This looks the best and keeps you warmer. 
  • Consider the thickness of your vest and base shirt: You can put a variety of shirts underneath your vest, but its best to consider how thick each item is. Puffy vests paired with thick sweaters may create an overall bulky look. Aim to keep your base shirt thinner than your vest for a flattering outfit pairing.
  • Match the length of the vest with your base shirt: There's a little less wiggle room for the length of the base shirt under a vest as opposed to cardigans. A shirt that extends several inches beyond your vest hem may appear mismatched. For this reason, try to pair vests with base shirts that are the same length or shorter.

Vests are equal parts trendy and functional. Here are some styling ideas to put them into action this winter!

How to Style a Vest for Plus-Sized Women

Women's plus-sized vests can add color, style and warmth to your outfits. In some ways, you can style vests similarly to cardigans. An everyday vest look might include a patterned long sleeve base shirt, a solid vest, skinny jeans and the boots of your choice. To mix things up a bit, try these trendy styling ideas. 

1. Cinched at the Waist

Though you could achieve a cinched vest look with a belt, there are several other options to show your figure. The way you cinch your vest will depend on its structure.

Here are some recommendations for common vest types:

  • Zipper vests: Zippers are a common feature in vests of all thicknesses. They are practical for when you want some extra warmth, but you can also use them to style your look. Zip the vest half or three-quarters of the way to create definition around your body.
  • Snap or button vests: In place of zippers, many vests feature snaps or buttons. You can cinch these vests by snapping or buttoning the area up to or at your waist. This will create definition and add extra warmth!
  • Cinch ties: Many vests incorporate a bungee cord or tie system around the waist to allow for custom definition. Adjust this system to a comfortable tightness to show off your waist without the need to close the vest.

Whichever mechanism your vest features, you can use it to add accent your body shape. Pair this styling with a thin to mid-weight base shirt for best results.

2. Layered Over a Dress

To add a unique flair and warmth to a long-sleeved winter dress, add a vest! Long duster vests make great additions to dresses because they tend to fall above, at or just below the knee.

Here are some ways to accessorize this look for any occasion:

  • Add a belt: Using the principles we discussed in the cardigan cinching section, pair a belt over your vest and dress. This can add dimension to flowy dresses and create interest with fun colors!
  • Add a scarf: Small scarves like an infinity style that hang close to your neck can add warmth and style. Choose a scarf that adds color and texture to create diversity within your outfit. 
  • Add statement jewelry: A vest frames an open column down your torso, which serves as a perfect window for a statement necklace. Choose a piece that pops with your outfit to pull the look together.

3. Paired With a Turtleneck Top

Turtlenecks are trendy this season, and for a good reason! Their practical design keeps your neck warm without a scarf, and they're just plain comfortable. For added warmth and style, pair your vest with a turtleneck.

Styling turtlenecks with vests is fairly straightforward. When selecting a turtleneck, opt for one that is form-fitting and mid- to light-weight. Play around with colored and striped turtlenecks to accent solid vests. The main area to consider is the neck of your vest. Some vests don't have a collar at all. This style lays flat against your shoulders and doesn't compete with the turtleneck. Other vests have a collar or a mock neck — that is, the fabric stands up like a collar but doesn't fully fold. Mock neck or collared vests may not pair well with all turtlenecks. Aim to pair thin fabric turtlenecks with mock neck or collared vests to avoid an excess of fabric around your neck.

4. Paired With Sporty Attire

The beauty of vests is that they can be as dressy or as casual as you want! Give your vest a casual look for weekend sporting events or errands by pairing it with sporty attire.

Here are some outfit essentials to achieve a sporty vest look:

  • Baseball cap
  • Sneakers
  • Cotton long sleeve shirt
  • Your favorite jeans
  • Team hoodie or crew neck

Plain-colored puffy vests work well for this look, but any solid-colored vest will do! Customize your outfit to your desired level of warmth, and don't be afraid to add a fun scrunchie or earrings to the mix. Whether you're watching a football game, running to the grocery store or relaxing at home, this look provides stylish comfort and warmth.

5. Paired With Bold Sleeves

There's no reason the base shirt you wear under your vest has to be plain! Since a vest primarily showcases your base shirt's sleeves, try pairing it with a blouse with bold sleeve design. This can be a creative way to wear those adorable spring blouses while giving them the warmth they need for fall.

Here are some sleeve types to consider pairing with your winter vest:

  • Bell sleeves: Sleeves with a flowy flared bell shape at their ends
  • Angel sleeves: Sleeves that emulate a loose, triangular wing shape
  • Cold shoulder sleeves: Sleeves with cutouts around the shoulder area
  • Bishop sleeves: Sleeves that are fitted near the elbow and flare toward the wrist with a cuff
  • Slit sleeves: Sleeves with open slits running down them

This pairing may work best in fall or early winter, before things become bitterly cold. Keep your warmth in mind as your pair your vest with thinner blouses.

Shop Plus-Sized Cardigans and Vests at Perfectly Priscilla Boutique

No matter where you're headed this winter, you can rock a cardigan or vest. Style your cold-weather wardrobe with skill to stay warm and look fabulous all season long! At Perfectly Priscilla Boutique, we've curated a selection of women's plus-sized cardigans and vests to add a unique and practical touch to your outfits.

To expand your closet with clothes that fit your body, shop our collection of stunning cardigans and vests today! 

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