This Party Cardi Is Transforming My Whole Spring Wardrobe

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Remember mid-pandemic when Millennial was more or less a bad word and there was that whole center part vs. side part, anti-leggings movement thing happening? Remember cheugy? Ugh. At the time, my gut reaction was just Shameless Defense.

Hello, I’ve been rocking a center part and a side part interchangeably for as long as I can recall! And did First Wives Club teach us nothing about timeless style? I don’t need a 19-year-old to tell me that trousers are a thing.

In hindsight, that was just all…so…icky. People were bored, I’ll give them that. I was, too.

But the current “trend” of just wearing whatever the frick you want feels so much better. So much healthier for all parties involved. And way less, just…mean. I’m over mean, honestly.

You know what I am into?

Being good. Feeling happy. Attempting to temper my innate cynicism with at least as much optimism and sunshine and human decency and good wine and fun. ass. fashion.

Farm Rio papaya knit cardigan sweater, Rebecca Minkoff denim quilted crossbody bag, Mother graphic tank top, Frame straight leg jeans

sweater (xs) | tank (s) | jeans (TTS, 25) | bag

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post calling out some happy pieces I’ve invested in lately, and since I’ve been wearing the punchy papaya Farm Rio cardigan almost every other day, I figured it’d be worth a little deeper dive into how versatile a sweater like this can be.

I waxed poetic about it in that previously mentioned post, but it’s worth recapping that this little tropical cardigan is one of the most unexpectedly lovely things I’ve bought in a loooong time. Formerly, I would have avoided buying something like this precisely because it feels almost too distinctive — “there’s Emily, wearing that loud, fruity top for the third time this week!” — so consider my low-key obsession a testament to both my mental shift and the magic that is this sweater’s design.

The Punchy Spring Sweater That Somehow Goes With…Everything

Farm Rio papaya knit cardigan sweater, Rebecca Minkoff denim quilted crossbody bag, Mother graphic tank top, Frame straight leg jeans

sweater (xs) | jeans (TTS, 25) | bag

First and foremost, the construction of this piece is stunning. Impeccable, really. I’m not surprised, of course, because it’s Farm Rio (and because, look, we’re spending some money here), but I’m still so pleased with the design, the details and the execution.

The pink and red papaya pattern is gorgeous, but it’s the contrasting embroidered trim, the oversized buttons and the smart proportions that keep me reaching for it over and over again.

It’s great open, over a tank (my fave, at the moment, is just $8); buttoned up, solo, as a top; even thrown on over a bikini with chambray shorts (which is how I wore it to the pool last weekend, even though I have zero photo evidence). In the size I bought (XS, which fits more like a small in my opinion), it hits just at the hip, so it pairs well with just about every rise of pants.

And something about the vibe — kinda vintage, kinda boho, kinda flirty, kinda funky — means you can get away with adding accessories from just about any genre and calling the whole thing eclectic. Yessss.

Farm Rio papaya knit cardigan sweater, Rebecca Minkoff denim quilted crossbody bag, Mother graphic tank top, Frame straight leg jeans

sweater (xs) | jeans (TTS, 25)

Obviously, I’m very partial to this exact Farm Rio cardigan, but in case papayas (or red, or pink, or rick-rack-inspired trim) aren’t your thing, I rounded up a handful of other fun, perky cardigans — all with similar proportions, so they could be styled up in much the same way.


Happy Dressing How-To: 5 Ways I’ve Been Wearing This Farm Rio Papaya Knit Cardigan

Speaking of styling, this is hardly a science, but here are a few outfits pulled directly out of the clean laundry to illustrate how I’ve been wearing this happy li’l sweater lately.

1. With Braided Waistband Jeans + Silver Heels

How to style a colorful sweater, Farm Rio papaya knit cardigan, Rebecca Minkoff denim quilted crossbody bag, Frame straight-leg jeans, Schutz silver metallic heels, outfit inspo

sweater (xs) | jeans (TTS, 25) | heels (TTS) | bag

The outfit that is made up entirely of surprisingly perky pieces (full post on everything I’m wearing here). This is how I initially envisioned wearing this Farm Rio cardigan — for an eclectic, brunchy/day date kinda situation — before I found myself reaching for it again and again and realized it’s actually so much more versatile than I’d ever hoped.

These jeans have a similar vibe to barrel jeans — cool seaming, darts at the booty and a slightly trousery feel — without the exaggerated silhouette. Gateway Barrel Jeans, I’m calling them, and they’re super comfy. The braided waistband is a pretty detail, too, when it peeks out from whatever they’re paired with. So special. Fit is true to size.


2. With Horseshoe Jeans + Mesh Ballet Flats

How to style a colorful sweater, Farm Rio papaya knit cardigan, black tank top, quilted crossbody bag, Anthropologie Pilcro barrel jeans, Target mesh ballet flats, outfit idea

sweater (xs) | tank (s) | jeans (TTS, 25) | flats (TTS) | similar bag

I’ve worn almost this exact outfit three times in the past two weeks, once with black ballet flats swapped in (oooh, fully restocked), and another time with these barrel overalls in place of the jeans. In the cooler months, I love the idea of adding a top coat (much like I did in this post) and letting the punchy papaya sweater add a playful pop of color underneath.

It should also be noted: these mesh ballet flats — currently on sale for $24 (!!) — are mind bogglingly on-trend but also absurdly comfortable, with a flexible, memory foam insole; a soft adjustable strap that doesn’t rub; and a soft, comfortable back that doesn’t irritate my notoriously persnickety, narrow heels. Annoyingly, they’re very close to being out of stock (if not already, by the time we publish), but they were restocked fairly quickly the last time that happened, so use the little “Notify Me” button if that’s the case for your size. It’s such a handy feature. True to size.


3. With Railroad Striped Cargo Pants + Converse

Spring outfit inspo, knit cardigan, black tank top, Rebecca Minkoff quilted denim bag, Converse white low-top sneakers, Target striped cargo baggy jeans, outfit idea

sweater (xs) | tank (s) | jeans (size up one for slouch, 4) | sneakers (TTS) | bag

These railroad stripe cargo jeans — soooo supersoft and ideally midweight — are another recent wardrobe addition that has me feeling positively gleeful. They are, easily, the most exciting thing to happen to my vast collection of white and black tank tops and tees. Little white tee, these pants, just about any topper (this cardigan, a nubbly patterned fleece, a sweater duster, a sherpa trucker jacket — the list goes on…) and some kinda low-profile sneaker or flip flop? Yes, yes, yes…and yes. Excellent quality, too, despite the fact that they’re about $30. I’m typically between a 0-2 (or a solid 25) — went with a 4 in these so they’d be a little extra slouchy.

Another appearance from this quilted denim bag balances the utilitarian vibes with a little femininity.


4. With Cutoffs + Mesh Ballet Flats

Spring outfit inspo, knit cardigan, Rebecca Minkoff quilted denim crossbody bag, Levi's 501 denim shorts, Target mesh ballet flats, outfit inspo

sweater (xs) | shorts (TTS, 25) | flats (TTS) | bag

Is this where I insert a plea for tanning drop recommendations? To be fair, we’ve had, like, four-and-a-half sunny days in 2024, but even after having lived on the foggy coast for more than six years, I’m still not used to seeing my legs quiiiite this shade of pink. It’s like I’m wearing…someone else’s pantyhose? But I digress.

Yes, these 501 cutoffs are little. No, yours don’t have to be. But I do love the flirtiness of a fitted-sweater-meets-fitted-shorts moment, plus we’re leaning hard into some sweeter accessories (again). I know. Who am I.


5. With Parachute Joggers…And, You Guessed It, Mesh Ballet Flats!

spring outfit inspo, knit cardigan,  Mother white tank top, Rebecca Minkoff quilted denim bag, cargo joggers, Target mesh ballet flats

sweater (xs) | tank (s) | similar pants | flats (TTS) | bag

Ooooh, a Saved The Best For Last situation, because this is easily my favorite look of the bunch. I’ve worn these pants for everything from hiking and errand running to a fancy pants dinner complete with black cashmere and strappy heels. This combo with the Farm Rio cardigan falls somewhere in the middle — the kind of outfit I’d wear to a matinee showing at a community theater, which is exactly what I did.

Sadly, the pants are seasons old. Happily, parachute-y pants are everywhere at the moment, and these have a similar drape; these are likely a little swishier but come in a crapton of cool colors; and these look surprisingly elevated (and are weirdly affordable!?).


Here’s to leaning into happy this season!

xo,
Em

Friends! Follow me on Instagram for accessible, easily adaptable recipes; sneak peeks of The Mom Edit content (and sales!); and more snippets of our life on the Northern California coast. And if you feel so inclined, pop over to my personal food + lifestyle blog, The Pig & Quill, where I share salty scribblings from my kitchen and home life. Byeeeeee!

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