Whatever happened to the shrug cardigan? I had a black one that was basically the cornerstone of all of my going-out looks in the aughts — it was sort of thin and drapey and just basically covered my arms and upper back — and then we all just stopped wearing them. And replaced them with…what?

GUYS. What replaced the shrug??

[S riffles through pages and pages of old articles….]

Pashmina? I think that one actually died first (and tragically — I’m still a fan).

The grandpa cardigan? Doubtful. For every dress that *might* work with a grandpa cardi, it ruins eight others, so…I’m going with no.

A leather jacket? Possibly, but I don’t want to wear the thing inside (faux-fur jackets have the same limitations).

One of those long and drapey Free People cardigans? I mean…sure. If you don’t need an actual jacket because then you’re stuffing all of that fabric into something much smaller or letting it trail beneath. Or you’re buying a coat for that very specific instance and I don’t see us all walking around in oversized duster coats.

But seriously…what have we been doing to stay warm and be fancy?

According to The Mom Edit archives, I’ve been wearing a turtleneck. Which makes sense, I suppose. I nursed for a total of almost 6 years (42 in dog years #wildlyunhelpfulmath), got a mad case of cardigan PTSD, turned to the turtleneck and never looked back.

Well. Until now.

An Argument For The Cropped Cardigan (aka Shrug)

Besides, it’s February which is The Month of Hating Everything In Your Closet Or More Accurately On The Floor of Your Closet Covered In Dog Hair And Despair (we don’t have a dog, but I included for dramatic effect, because, FEBRUARY)…so why not go back (wayyyy back) to a simpler time, when a girl could just wear a shrug and be done with it?

Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.

Warning: the shrug I’m wearing is almost sold out.

I told you guys to snap it up. I did, here. Proof. But if you didn’t quite listen, I found a few places that seem to have some sizes/colors in stock…along with one other shrug that looks like my old one, but in navy. (I’ve rounded up a few additional cropped cardigans at the end of this post which are NOT shrugs, I KNOW, but might work.)

The Best Shrugs For All The Dresses


One Shrug, Styled Three Ways

Just for fun, I’ve styled up this shrug three different ways, including over two trickier dresses. I think shrugs work so well because the shape lends them a bit more…elegance?…than the typical cardigan, but they’re still, fundamentally, a cardigan.

Outfit 1. Shrug + Slip Dress

I’ve been wearing this slip dress over — you guessed it — a turtleneck lately (or a white tee)…but I’m kinda loving the shrug. Sexier, for sure.

Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.
Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.

dress (xs) – more sizes in black, or Kat rounded up some really good slip dresses, here. | tights | booties | vintage bag – here’s similar


Outfit 2. Shrug + Swing Dress

Now THIS is where a shrug really shines. I absolutely adore this dress (in no small part because it is SO. COMFORTABLE. TO. WEAR.), but I’ve been wearing it alone, just under a jacket. I love that the shrug works, even over the statement sleeves.

Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.
Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.
Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.

dress (xs) | tights | shoes | similar bag


Outfit 3. Shrug + High-Rise Jeans

I love how the shorter shrug so easily warms up high-rise denim. Graphic tees + mom jeans (of any kind) are my go-to pairing, but they never look quite as good if the waist isn’t shown off properly.

Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.
Just for funsies, we styled up this shrug 3 ways — 2 over trickier dresses. The shape lends them a bit more...elegance?...but they're still, fundamentally, a cardigan.

tee (small) | jeans (26) | boots | bag


Shop Shrugs & Cardigans

A Few Other Cardigans That Aren’t Shrugs, But Might(??) Work Over Dresses

I did include the shrugs in here, too, for comparison purposes. But in general, for a cardigan to work well over *most* dresses, I think a cropped shape and a little more room in the arms (well, under the arms) is key.

xo,

S

8 COMMENTS

  1. I do love a shrug!! (Especially now I’m getting older & my skin isn’t as elastic as it was, I love innocuously covering up my arms with a cute little shrug. 😉

  2. So what’s the difference between a shrug and a cropped cardigan? Is a shrug just shorter than a cropped cardigan?
    I love any excuse to cover my arms while still showing off a high waist, so yes, I support your campaign to bring back the shrug! My favorite is probably that Free People navy one, most of the others look too long.

    • The difference is the construction of the sleeves and the very front of the sweater. The front of a cardigan is straight lines, like a square. A cardigan’s “panels” (or whatever) hang vertically from shoulder to waist, but a shrug has panels that are cut on a sharp diagonal. The panels basically are cut to go under the arms. And the arms of a shrug are often a little more dolman sleeve-esque than a traditional cardigan – there should be more room in the arms of a shrug.

      A bunch of retailers are selling these tiny little cropped cardigans and calling them shrugs…but because the lines are too much like a cardigan, they’re actually cropped cardigans, not shrugs. Like this, for example: https://shopstyle.it/l/bdrXX

      You could also call those boleros, I guess. Like this: https://shopstyle.it/l/bdrY0

      In contrast, a shrug is alllllllmost falling off your shoulders. It doesn’t, but looks like it could. It’s easy to shrug on/off a shoulder or two.

  3. I have some vintage shrugs (read I kept them from the last time they were in style). I have cashmere ones so I never got rid of them. My go to instead is a very “Paris” look. Because honestly I can’t get enough French girl styling tips. I wear a very tiny dress with a very large coat. It makes the whole outfit look instantly chic. Also I use my shrug under my leather jacket and coat because cashmere and they keep me warm. Love this article <3

    • I will forever and always love the tiny dress + big coat combo. But do you freeze when you take off the coat? That’s always my problem. (Which I typically solve with a turtleneck, haha).

  4. I sell accessories for a living, and I’m here to tell ya… the pashmina hasn’t gone away, never will. The crazy trend from the 90s when pashminas were the rage has died, yes. But If you are going to a wedding or black tie event, most women will take a pashmina vs a shrug. The outfits featured, while all great, are not the same as a Mother of the Bride or Bridesmaid dress. Plus, I wear my pashmina as a big scarf: it gives that ‘full’ effect like a blanket scarf without the weight.

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