Confessions of a cardiephile

Posted by on April 13, 2015 in Blog, Living today | 5 comments

*knitting book 1960s/**tWo pInK pOSsuMs**/flickr

*knitting book 1960s/**tWo pInK pOSsuMs**/flickr

‘Cardigans are victim!’ declared a famous (at the time) American fashion consultant/personal shopper back in the 90s. Presumably no woman who wanted to get ahead in the corporate world could afford to be seen in public in something as yielding, as unstructured – as unstrategic! – as a cardie, even with the addition of killer shoulder pads.

Well, I love a cardie, and when I’m shopping I’m more tempted by a cardie than anything else (most recent purchase a £10 black and grey spotty number from Costco, since you ask). A cardie can take you from babyhood in a lovingly knitted matinee jacket to dotage in a lavender crocheted bedjacket and is a suitable garment for every conceivable occasion in between – see the helpful cut-out-and-keep guide below:

Event Cardie type
Job interview Chanel style, naturally
First date Cropped cashmere in a jewel colour
In the witness box/dock Grey, with a collar
At football/rugby Knee-length, with a high collar
At the opera Angora shrug
On the beach Improvise a windbreak with sticks through the sleeves
In the nursery A marl knit will camouflage regurgitations
Camping Take at least three that will fit over each other, one to have a hood


So our US fashion friend couldn’t be more wrong. I suspect she was attached to an armour-plated Thatcher style of jacket, but if you haven’t got the infrastructure to support such rigorous tailoring, the right cardie will be a much better fit, making you look sleek and soignée rather than as if you are camping out in someone else’s clothes. (Of course, you could just head for Savile Row to get a decent jacket, but you probably need to be a non-dom to afford this option.)

Somehow, there is a lot more mileage in a cardie than in a jumper. It offers opportunities for exciting colour contrasts, and in so doing is probably the nearest thing we have now to a slashed doublet. And you don’t risk looking like a scarecrow whenever you take it off or put it on, which was doubtless why it was invented in Britain.

You can also be genuinely creative with a cardigan. I have seen one worn tied round the waist over a long skirt, so that it looked like an elegant bustle. Children can be converted into caped crusaders in an instant by removing their arms from the sleeves and leaving only the top button done up. In fact, you don’t even need to wear them: a cardie can be a pillow, a sack for gathering windfalls, or a gentle projectile to throw on a mouse so that it can be humanely removed from one’s premises.

Olivia Newton John did the garment a great disservice in Grease, using it as the signifier of her primness and discarding (see what I did there?) it triumphantly in favour of black leather in her transformation, but it’s time for the cardie fightback: wear yours with pride.


  1. I love them. My absolute favourite garment and have a wardrobe stacked full of them. Just bought a plain bright lemon one and a white with red and blue flowers to freshen up the summer wardrobe, with orange and lime green version waiting in the wings. Then there is the navy with hood (yes for rugby watching and dog walking on the beach), plus the staple plain black and navy ones. Now on the hunt for a chocolate brown cardie. Verity, do you know of good one?

    • Have you tried the Woolovers website? They are offering a free pilling comb with orders received before 17 April! I haven’t ordered anything from them but they seem to have a huge choice (including brown cardigans) and masses of satisfied customers.

      • Thank you Verity. In seventh heaven and 4 items just purchased including the chocolate brown number.

  2. Verity, loved your article…cardies and hoodies, too. I have been attached to many, but finally they wear out at the elbows and get chucked out, although they are still grieved for. Yesterday I was given a pair of wrist warmers: cut-off sleeves of hand-knitted patterned socks that had worn out at the heel. The repair is done with a knitted edge in a contrasting colour. They make for a great layered look at the sleeves worn with a cardie!!

    • Thanks, Helen. Don’t suppose we could have a selfie demonstrating your wrist warmers, could we? (Even if it’s only the wrists!) It’d be perfect for a blog next week loosely on the subject of thrift.

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