The Cardigan Comeback

Katie Holmes in a beige cashmere bralette and cardigan combo from Khaite

Cue the return of the cardigan. Last month, an image of Katie Holmes stepping out onto the streets of New York City, raising her arm to hail a taxi, in a pair of perfectly worn-in jeans and an oatmeal-coloured cashmere cardigan, the latter of which had fallen just far enough down her shoulder to reveal a matching knit bra, went viral. Internet searches for the $1,540 cardigan and $520 bralette soared, the unaccessible price-tag leaving us with a cardigan-sized hole to fill in our wardrobes.

With the revival of 70s-style dressing, the cardigan’s preppy yet nostalgic feel and ageless character means it effortlessly slides into the current fashion landscape as one of the most covetable items of the moment. Sported by fashion A-listers among the likes of Kaia Gerber, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, the celebrity cardigan phenomenon illustrates flawlessly the power of the button-down knit as an effortless, inconspicuous yet undeniably stylish wardrobe staple.

Kaia Gerber, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner alongside an Alexander Wang AW19 cardigan

At once laid-back and indulgently chic, French girl Jeanne Damas’ collection of quintessential Parisian-inspired cardigans in fresh sorbet and warm neutral colour palettes seems to be constantly sold out, with every woman in pursuit of the Parisienne aesthetic on its waitlist. Among the sellout pieces of the highly anticipated Leandra Medine’s collaboration with Mango was a grandma-chic-style floral embroidered cardigan. Perhaps the secret to the cardigan’s comeback is its pulling power as a cross-seasonal essential, the combination of a cardigan, worn buttoned up with nothing underneath, effortlessly paired with a pair of denim, is a transitional dressing phenomenon - aesthetically pleasing and cosy in equal measures.

It may have been the Katie Holmes ‘bradigan’ moment that got us all talking about the sartorial sex-appeal of a matching bra and knit combo, but appearances of the humble cardigan on the runways the past two seasons were equally plentiful.

Its appeal lies in its ability to send a thousand sartorial messages, to work in a thousand different contexts, all while retaining its ultimate comfort power and timeless endurability. A basic, dependable wardrobe mainstay, a timeless staple that never ages or tires.

Slide along of AW19 collections from Alexander Wang, Molly Goddard, Celine, Christopher Kane, Max Mara, Miu Miu and House of Holland

Basic, however, doesn’t mean boring - and the eclectic knitwear on the AW19 catwalks proved that cardigans are only as boring as you make them. At Christopher Kane, an oversized red cardigan worn as a dress with a plunging neckline comprised an entire look, while the runway at Miu Miu featured a matching camouflage cardigan and shorts combination. Celine took the cardigan back to basics, with the traditional French-style knit layered over preppy shirts with foulards in looks offering the perfect source of autumn-winter office inspiration. Molly Goddard’s upsized argyle knit offered a take on grandad-inspired style, inspired by a jazzy 70s nostalgia. Alexander Wang unveiled a tweed mint green cardigan with silver hardware buttons, injected with a dose of grunge audacity layered over biker-black leather. The myriad of iterations of the cardigan that featured on the runways doubtlessly offers evidence enough of its versatility as a staple with the power to go from office attire, to grandma chic, to subtly-sexy.

Words by Ruby McAuliffe

Graphics by Katie Janes

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