How to wear shawl collar sweaters: Women's edition
Updated: Dec 24, 2022
When you look up ‘shawl collar cardigan’ on Google, you see mostly images of men in shawl cardigans. Although it may be true that men tend to wear shawl neck sweaters more than women, this is still a look women can sport during the fall or winter months.
When I think of a shawl collar cardigan, I immediately picture an image of Daniel Craig as James Bond, casually heading off to save some woman in desperate danger.
Shawl collar sweaters make any look more preppy and lends an aristocratic vibe to an outfit. I imagine this is what billionaires wear during the colder months to sit by their fireside, reading their favorite novels. If you are either looking for a great shawl cardigan or seeking ways to style your favorite shawl collar sweaters, then this post is for you.
Before we dive into the styling of shawl neck cardigans, let’s briefly cover what they are, which dress code they fall under and who typically wears them. This would give you a better sense of when you can wear them.
What is a shawl collar cardigan?
For a cardigan to be considered a shawl collar, it needs to have a turned-over collar that combines with lapels forming an unbroken curving line. The image below shows a depiction of a classic shawl-collar sweater.
Can a shawl collar sweater be worn to a formal event?
Shawl lapels consist of an unbroken shawl of fabric around the collar of a jacket. Typically, this style of lapel is reserved for dinner jackets. As shawl lapels are generally considered the most formal type of lapel, this makes them a great option for dinners and other more formal events.
What shirt goes with a shawl collar cardigan?
Unlike crew neck and V-neck sweaters, shawl sweaters typically rise higher towards the neck. As such, white t-shirts or a button-down shirt in neutral colors tend to be paired with them.
I think the takeaway from this is that shawl collar cardigans and sweaters are typically worn for more formal occasions. This includes dinner parties and business meetings but also work environments that have a business casual or more formal dress code. I can also see shawl cardigans being worn for a weekend in the Hamptons or any time you feel like going for a less casual look.
Without further ado, let’s talk about the different ways to style a shawl-collar cardigan for various occasions.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, at no cost to you.
1) With a pair of black pants (or black leggings)
A classic way to style a chunky shawl neck cardigan is with a pair of black dress pants. This look gives major preppy vibes and could be worn for an out-of-office business meeting when you don’t feel like wearing a dress and heels. Adding a pair of loafers as footwear completes this comfortable yet more formal outfit. If you’re wearing your shawl sweater on a particularly colder day, opt for a pair of ankle boots instead of loafers.
Image source here
What I love about this look is that it works for different body types as shawl sweaters are neither too loose nor too form-fitting and everyone owns a pair of black pants that flatter their figure. During the winter months, you could opt for a cardigan in a darker color, especially if the dress code is more formal. You don’t necessarily have to wear black so try shawl cardigans in rich browns, greens and burgundy colors to add some fun to your wardrobe. Seeing as black pants are a more formal pair of bottoms, a white dress shirt could be worn underneath to keep the formal theme going.
Image source here
However, if the shawl collar of your sweater is really high, a simple white shirt could be worn underneath. Usually, no one would notice the difference thanks to the long sleeves and high collar of your cardigan. Note the that leggings could be worn instead is pants if your cardigan is longer.
2) With a pair of culottes
Opting to wear a shawl collar during the slightly warmer months? Try pairing them with culottes, which are just cropped versions of pants that flare out towards the bottom. Culottes typically come in neutral colors and so they would be easy to pair with shawl cardigans in different colours. An easy way to style them would be to add a shawl sweater in a complimentary color and a pair of flats in a neutral color to create a preppy look appropriate for the office.
Get the look here
To create more casual outfits out of your shawl neck sweaters, go for less formal footwear such as open toe flats, platform sandals and sling backs. Since we can’t change much with the outer layer, you can focus on the bottoms and footwear to switch up your shawl sweater looks. If you wish to add some outerwear to this look, a trench coat or longline coat would pair nicely. Just be mindful of creating more bulk to your look by adding more layers as shawl collar sweaters tend to be thicker than a lot of sweaters, especially when made from merino wool.
Get the look from Banana Republic HERE
3) With a pencil skirt
Let’s face it, shawl collar cardigans have more of a masculine flair to them. If you want to give your shawl collar sweater a more feminine edge, the first thing you can do is choose cardigans with smaller collars. The second thing you can do is pair them with more feminine bottoms such as a black pencil skirt. This keeps the more formal theme going while also maintaining a more feminine look. Bonus points if you throw on a pair of heels t your overall look.
Get the look here
This is such a good alternative to the blouse and skirt look a lot of women typically wear to the office. With this option, you’re staying warm and professional all at once and don’t have to worry about your top being unprofessional or not. This is also a look that could take you from boardroom to date night if you don’t have time to change after work.
Image source: extrapetite.com
4) With a pair of dark wash jeans
An easy way to put your shawl collar sweater to work on casual day is by pairing it with dark wash jeans. This could be dark blue denim or black jeans. I specifically mention dark denim because casual office days usually request that the denim be dark wash and not light. I even have an entire post on 10 ways to wear dark blue jeans which provides some more insight on how to style your dark denim.
Get the look HERE
If your jeans are skinny jeans, you can choose a pair of ankle or knee-high boots as footwear. Other options for footwear would be high heels if you’re putting together a dinnertime look or a pair of flats if you feel like staying closer to the ground. Another type of shoe that would surprisingly work well here would be a pair of white sneakers. You already know how much I love wearing white sneakers with everything and so I could not forget to add them to this list.
Image source here
Just a tip: dark wash jeans look particularly amazing with brown boots so I dare you to go for this color instead of black the next time you’re wearing a pair of dark blue jeans. For outerwear, you could wear a long leather jacket, a teddy coat or a puffer jacket to complete your look.
I hope I’ve been able to provide some great cardigan outfit ideas you can use to style your shawl collar sweater. I know you typically find these types of posts geared towards men looking to dress like Steve McQueen or Pau Newman but shawl collars can also be worn by women of different sizes. To make this look more feminine, avoid thicker knits and choose smaller collars which are less overwhelming.
Think of these sweaters as your regular chunky knit, just with a more formal collar. Do not shy away from wearing a shawl collar sweater to the office, especially if the dress code is more formal. This would also give you a break from your usual V-neck sweater.
Be sure to check out my post on the best handbag colors to go with everything, if you’re wondering which bag to carry with this outfit.
I also have a post here on the best work outfits to go with flats.
For inspiration on styling a leather jacket with a dress, check out my post: 8 ways to wear a leather jacket with a dress.
Checkout your guide on how to wear a sweater dress with boots on my post: 5 easy ways to wear a sweater dress with boots.
Until the next post,