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A Million and One Ways to Style a Sweater

Pulling off a sweater all year long is easier than you think.

A Million and One Ways to Style a Sweater
Gus Stewart

On the hottest day of the year, with the sun baking the sidewalk and the air heavy with humidity, knitwear was not top of mind for most New Yorkers. But inside the converted Centre Street walkup, super baby alpaca scarves, soft cotton separates, and chunky hand-knit sweaters adorned the all-white ground-floor showroom. Despite 90 degrees of uncertainty and age-old prejudices towards "florals for spring," cult knitwear designer Lauren Manoogian reminded editors and New York’s favorite fashionistas that some things remain the same. In conversation with Miu Miu, Hermès, and many others, Manoogian’s Spring and Pre-Fall 2024 collection showcased the steadfastness of the answer to that single life and outfit-saving fashion question: yes, you need a light sweater.

While Jackie O., Cary Grant, and Sidney Poitier popularized the over-the-shoulder look, Alexa Chung and Bella Hadid re-imagined the classic prep style for the modern audience. But what of the other ways to style a cardigan or v-neck? With Francesco Risso channeling '90s skater-boy looks for Marni over the last few years and it-girls like Efron Danzig and Nicolaia Rips flaunting theirs like the gold medals of Downtown Manhattan, the versatility of the humble sweater proves itself more than just a feature; it's an invitation to explore your personal style, to mix and match, and to create something new, exciting, and infinite, in any climate.

As the perfect complement to tennis and preppy core—two of our favorites this summer—we’re paying homage to our favorite wherever accessory with a look at its myriad possibilities.

Mani Motarjemi, manager at Lauren Manoogian Soho, believes wrapping a sweater around the neck like a scarf or unbuttoning a cardigan and tying sleeves at the waist like a skirt are two of the more interesting ways to style the brand’s soft and versatile pieces. Motarjemi himself deliberately mismatches buttons and buttonhole colors to create artful asymmetry. As seen in Manoogian’s latest collections, sweaters atop sweaters and sweaters as waist wraparounds equip single looks for travel, tundra, and theatre.

Lauren Servideo as seen in Italy styled by Jo Rosenthal

Gus Stewart

Gus Stewart

At Vanderbilt Tennis Club in Midtown, players don theirs in different ways: over the shoulder, half on/half off, and even onto the courts like trophies when hitting tennis balls. Creative director Augustus Stewart, himself an avid tennis player, styles his sweaters with the ‘classic tennis’ over-the-shoulders look with either a tight knot or a loose loop. When dressing, he often goes for what he calls the ‘little kid at an amusement park’ vibe, his own take on the around-the-waist mainstay. For him, the sweater is purely tactical. He looks to brands like Ghiaia Cashmere and Ralph Lauren to set styling standards, and old Hollywood icons and pro athletes for how to personalize them.

House Of & SVNR founder Christina Tung wears a sweater out of practicality but believes they serve a higher fashion purpose. For her, wearing a sweater has always been a playful statement, whether it be with one arm out, draped, as a skirt, or even as a turban. Tung admires brands like Simply Retro, who style theirs simply—over basics and neutrals with pleated khakis or workwear bottoms—and advises a slung-over-the-shoulder look or layered with various tailored blouses.

When styling for New York indie favorites Jane Wade or Elena Velez, stylist Joe Van O says he loves the over-the-back, sleeves straight down across the chest look. “It feels like armor,” he says, when a sweater curves along the back of the neck, “as if a boy is hugging” him. At the same time, he says he feels constricted by the knot of a sweater and prefers to leave things free and open.

Native Agents founder Cynthia Leung opts for a snug “babushka style” instead. Her go-to is an old Uniqlo-U cardigan thrown around her head with the arms around her neck. Not only does it keep her long hair in place, but it also doubles as a neck pillow. This serves a practical purpose around the waist as well when hiking or traveling, whether it be an extra cushion when sitting down on a boulder or protection from a dusty city bench.

Getty Images

Getty Images

But her greatest sweater styling trick is wearing her cardigan as a skirt—a secret she shared that consists of stepping into the neck of the cardigan, wrapping the arms around your waist, and knotting them into a casual belt. “You can adjust the sexiness/matronliness of the sweater-as-skirt by unbuttoning or buttoning up the cardigan,” she explains. To her, anyone can pull it off with the same ease as a sarong, but with more possibilities.

Despite growing up in Chicago and being a longtime New Yorker, stylist Bunny Lampert has never been much of a sweater girl, although she knows how to style them in many ways. Her preference is to cut up an old dress or hoodie. In the colder months, says Lampert, a sweater can be an essential layer. But during the warm summer months, everyone still needs a "barrier for the bullshit." Whether it’s for AC or other people’s energy, she tends to use a scarf or a t-shirt as a method for the madness. As a mom, she says keeping an extra layer in her purse is handy when her daughter Niagara can’t stand the shivers. Her favorite sweaters come in the form of a Telfar track jacket or Comme button-up cut-up and made to look like a styled sweater.

This writer recommends a preppy, polished look, best achieved by layering your sweater with a collared shirt and letting the collar, cuffs, and hem peek out. For a bolder statement, particularly in the fall, a turtleneck takes things to sleek and chic new heights. Another idea often seen on the runways is to belt a chunky sweater at the waist for an hourglass silhouette. This technique works particularly well with oversized sweaters, transforming them into chic, dress-like outfits.

Wearing a slightly oversized sweater off one shoulder adds a touch of casual elegance, perfect for a relaxed-yet-stylish appearance. Paired with a high-waisted skirt, a fitted sweater creates a unique look: a pencil or mini skirt offers a Working Girl vibe, while a flared or pleated skirt adds a more playful, feminine touch. Layering a cropped or fitted sweater over a little dress is another option. This combination makes summer dresses wearable in colder months while adding depth to the outfit through its juxtaposition.

The half-tuck, where you tuck the front of your sweater into jeans or trousers while leaving the back loose, adds a laid-back, international vibe. Who doesn’t love to cosplay being French? When accessories like statement necklaces or chunky scarves transform the simple sweater into a standout, color blocking—pairing your sweater with contrasting colored pants or skirts—allows you to control your look’s modernity or classicism.

Whether you want to show off your personal style, underline your panache, or humbly understate your professionalism, comfort and control are the light sweater’s two arms. So if you’re hustling around the city, working your “hybrid” job, or simply watching the world crumble, consider not the season but your own creativity as the only limit when it comes to styling your sweater.

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