A cardigan sweater is a go-everywhere, do-anything essential for your closet that traces its fashion roots to the sweater girls of the 1940s and 1950s. The cardigan was named for James Thomas Brudenell, the Earl of Cardigan, in the 17th century and was designed to keep fishermen warm on gloomy days, but it became a trend that took off when movie star Jayne Mansfield showed off her famous figure by wearing a buttoned-up cardigan sweater. In the 1960s, Jackie Kennedy Onassis seemed to throw a cardigan over everything from her famous sheath dresses to capris.
Practical and pretty, a cardigan is handy for those days when you don't know what the weather will be like or what kind of chill the air conditioning will bring. It adds instant versatility and respectability to a tank or sleeveless top.
Every cardigan collection should start with sweaters in black and white; choose luxurious lightweight cashmere if your budget will allow, or high-quality cotton. Once the basics are covered, add your favorite colors. Beaded embellishments or sequins take the cardigan from everyday to special occasion. Cardigan lengths and shapes range from the traditional round jewel neck that hits near the waist to longer, hip-length V-neck versions, as well as swingy and cropped variations.