I can be a bit of Shana’s fashion nightmare at times. A few weeks ago, I brought up my oh-so-important “struggle” of searching unsuccessfully for the absolutely perfect layer to wear over summer dresses. Shana of course quickly rattled off a list of brilliantly stylish solutions.
How about a lightweight leather jacket? Or a cute, soft denim jacket?? Would you ever wear a knit blazer?
Shana…you know I want a cardigan.
Another long pause.
And then a long sigh from Shana.
Of course she knows I want a cardigan.
I don’t do leather jackets. They’re not me. I’m not that edgy. Knit blazer? No way. No, no way. Too tailored. I also don’t do denim jackets. Again…just not quite me. Denim is probably more my style than leather or blazers, but most denim jackets feel too constricting for me. Shana offered me hers to try, and although it is SO SO SO cute and feels super-soft, I wouldn’t even put it on. Seriously, I wouldn’t indulge her a bit. Remember, I willingly admitted to being a bit of a fashion nightmare. Luckily, Shana is beyond patient with me.
My perfect top layer has to keep me somewhat warm on cool nights, be VERY comfortable, be fairly casual, be sort of interesting (or at least not totally boring) and not have too precious of a vibe. I know, right? Nightmare! So demanding. So very, very demanding.
I decided to try some new cardigans, but also a few other options just for fun (AND to prove to Shana that I’m totally open and flexible to all sorts of new and exciting experiences). I mean…I got pretty crazy switching out my beloved cardigans for a few pullovers and a lightweight jacket below. I’m such a risk-taker, guys! *There’s a heavy dose of sarcasm in this paragraph, just in case it’s not coming through.
Finding the Perfect Summer Layer
So to the dressing room (i.e. giant selfie mirror in my bedroom) I go. I tried everything on with three of my regular spring-summer “looks” (a bright playful dress, a dress with more earth tones, and jeans and a tee). If I find the perfect top layer, it will look great with all three. One last note before we get started: I will not be offended if you want to quickly see all the options on models instead…the clickable boutique of everything I tried on is at the bottom of the post. For everyone else, here we go…
My Spring-Summer Outfits Before Adding a Top Layer
A bright playful dress – This red dress can be worn off-the-shoulder or not. I try not to make these types of dresses too precious, and instead wear them both dressy and casual. Too fun to save only for special occasions.
An earth-tone dress – I’m so in love with this Voloshin dress in the middle…on sale right now and still available in a couple sizes. If your size is sold out, this style is available in several other fabrics as well.
Jeans and a tee – Madewell tee and jeans (only some sizes left, but other options at end of post)…I wear this outfit basically all year long, and you know I love my various clogs (spring, summer, fall and winter). I was going to take photos of all the cardigans with this woven bag (that it SO cute with everything!) but it sold out quickly. Boo! Here’s the smaller version that’s still available.
4 “Pretty Good” Top Layers
1. Little Black Shrug
This was cuter than I thought it was going to be. I surprisingly really like it with the jeans and tee. I like the little pop of t-shirt showing below the bottom of the shrug. Because of the shorter length, I think it works really well with a variety of dress styles. I wish it came in other neutral colors. I have a lot of black sweaters.
2. Pullover Soft Sweater
This was the biggest surprise of my try-on sesh. Shana said she usually wears a pullover sweater instead of a cardigan if she’s going to do a sweater over a dress. I dismissed this “wild” idea initially, but then decided to give it a try. I liked it way more than I thought I would. This particular sweater is REALLY soft and I like where it hits as well as how it drapes. I would still prefer to wear a cardigan (so that you can see the top of a dress under the top layer), but I’m keeping this sweater as another option (and because I just really like it).
3. Cute Tie Sweater
I think I’m keeping this one. It’s perfect for right now, but is a little heavier than I want for my ideal top layer (especially a little heavy for travel). It IS very much my style, though, and I’ve found myself wanting to reach for it several times in the mornings. A good sign it will be worn regularly.
4. Shower-Resistant Jacket
I like that this jacket is shower resistant, but doesn’t totally look like a rain jacket. A nice cute option for if it’s really windy or if it’s actually going to rain. It’s soft and flexible enough to still meet my comfy requirements. I maybe should have sized down, though. This is a size 6.
3 “Fine” Top Layers
5. Black Drapey Cardigan
I like this cardigan, but I have several similar ones my closet already. If you click through to Anthro’s pics, you’ll see that it’s shorter in the back, which is a cute feature. If you zoom in, you can also see that it has a nice texture that’s more interesting than many black drapey cardigans. Also comes in a pretty pink.
6. Little Blue Cardigan
I think this cardigan actually looks the best with everything of all the options I tried, but it’s a little boring. I’m okay with boring, though, sometimes. Especially with the dresses since they have enough going on that a simple little cardigan is sometimes just what I’m wanting.
7. Another Shower-Resistant Jacket
Same jacket as the navy, but in army green. I thought this might be an interesting neutral to throw in the mix, but the navy is more me. I’m debating whether I should have gone down a size, though. Wearing a size 6 here.
The 3 “Terrible” Top Layers
8. Long Pinkish Cardigan
Ahhhhh! So bad. So so bad. In so many ways. The color’s not good for me, way too long with the dresses; I don’t like the shoulders…the list can go on and on. If this is your color, and maybe if you’re taller (?), click through and look at it on the Anthro model. There are really cute wooden buttons on the sides that initially made me interested in this sweater.
9. Easy White Hoodie
This was the most surprising fail of the try-on sesh. I bought this from Athleta, and I thought it was going to be perfect. It’s a nice change up from my usual cardigan. It’s a neutral color that goes with everything, and it’s super-soft, but no. At home, I didn’t like it with anything.
10. Soft Gray Sweatshirt
I love this sweatshirt. I like the sleeves, I like the cut, I like the length, but I do NOT like it with the dresses. Oh well.
All The Summer Layer Options, All Together
I don’t know guys. I don’t think I found my absolutely perfect top layer. Everything felt a little meh. Pretty good, totally fine, but a little meh. Maybe I’m being too critical? Thoughts? I’m keeping a few of the items because I do like them, but I don’t think I found one that REALLY met all my requirements.
Okay…it’s your turn. You’re enjoying your weekend with your family, you want to wear a midi or maxi dress with flat sandals to the park and then the local pizza place — a very casual outing — and it’s supposed to get cooler later. What’s your go-to? Please share.