Wear/When/Why: Cardigan Inspiration

Can we talk about how it’s already the middle of November when it feels like summer just ended two days ago?

Maybe because it’s been awhile since I was here last, but to me time has been flying at 99.99% the speed of light.  Unfortunately, it seems like every time I get excited about planning a series of articles, a mountain of work which absolutely must be completed this moment appears and keeps me from focusing on Optimal Outfits. Thankfully, I’m here now to change that.

After weeks of back-to-back exams, mid-day deadlines for homework on differential equations I cannot actually differentiate, and my photographer having a life outside of following me around with a camera, we finally found the time to run around Forest Park and shoot this amazing set.

Today’s inspiration is all about color-scheming a layered outfit – which I don’t think I need to explain. It’s been almost two years since I first declared that layering in the fall/winter is the way to go, so there is really no excuse at this point for not layering and strategically accessorizing for when the temperature starts to drop. Unless of course, you haven’t been listening to me, in which case fair enough.

In other words, or should I say pictures, we’re about to see how to wear an entirely monochrome outfit in blue without personifying how the mid-semester grind may have you feeling. Additionally, we’re going to take a look at how one of the more divisive pieces I enjoy implementing – scarves – can add a pop to your outfit to make it more visually interesting/appealing.

First picture.jpg
“Just show them the pictures already”

Immediately, the blue in the outfit should grab your attention, specifically how the unique shades of each piece compliment each other to form one cohesive theme. Underneath my cableknit cardigan from Gap we have the sky-blue OCBD from J Crew which I’ve worn multiple times before on this blog (two springs ago, almost every day for a month) and off it. The bottom half of the outfit features my medium-blue chinos (also J Crew) and moc toe Sperry boots.


jacket layer
When it gets too cold for the sweater/shirt/scarf combo, just add on a jacket

At the risk of looking like one of those ridiculous magazine ads where companies have their models wear an inane amount of clothes/layers at the expense of practicality, I tossed on my quilted jacket over my cardigan. Funnily enough, even after all of this, I sometimes still end up feeling cold when I cross campus at 8:50 AM to make it to class on time. Don’t interpret that as a slight on the jacket, which is also from J Crew (someone help); I’m just a naturally cold person.

I think a navy jacket (not that I own one) would be over kill at this point, so the grey works better at keeping the outfit from getting too blue.

headshot 1
Scarf detailing

The scarf I’m wearing is made of 100% cotton and is my most frequently worn scarf of the three I own. The more outdoorsy readers might have alarm bells ringing after reading the fabric composition; cotton is a horrible material for warmth in the winter as its insulation properties become effectively 0 if it gets wet (e.g. if it snows/rains). However, I chose to live my life on the edge (of grade cutoffs) so I try my best to make due. I don’t take it with me when I go swimming, and it’s a thickly woven knit which is great at keeping the wind off my neck. The following photos do a nice job of showing that off.


I promise I did not actually try to count trichomes on the fern

full body
Full outfit shot: Gap/J Crew/J Crew/ Sperries

This cable knit cardigan I copped from Gap last December has ended up being one of my most worn sweaters. The “cable knit” in the description refers to how the sweater appears to be knit from bundles of cables wound together. In effect, this creates an extremely thick weave which is great at keeping the wind/cold out.

The “cable knit” in the description refers to how the sweater appears to be knit from bundles of cables wound together. In effect, this creates an extremely thick weave which is great at keeping the wind/cold out. 

The versatility of cardigans is another reason why I ended up loving mine.

Here I have mine on top of an OCBD, but it just as easily can be worn over a tee shirt for a more casual look. In fact, I generally only wear it with an OCBD during the school week; on the weekends I’m almost always wearing it on top of a white tee shirt. 

The construction of this cardigan may not be comparable to a European fashion house’s, but it’s definitely worth more than what I snagged it for. There has been absolutely no pilling around the shoulders and back from rubbing against my backpack, the stitching of the buttons hasn’t loosened one bit, and the signs of wear are almost nonexistent despite wearing it for a full day at least twice per week.

The second best part of photoshooting is it allows me to hit 10k steps without cheating

We can finally get an unobstructed view of how everything in the outfit goes together.

The blue cardigan is similar in color to my chinos which creates a clean palette allowing for the complimentary sky-blue OCBD to pop from underneath. My tan boots underneath offer a break from the monochrome above and contrast the blue hues. This is one of my most worn outfit combinations – I wear it almost once per week according to the spreadsheet – and this is a great explanation of why.

As an aside, the history of cardigans – like most of male fashion – draws from militaristic origins.

On October 25, 1854, Lieutenant General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, undertook an operation which would forever change the trajectory of male fashion (and after one century, female fashion). . .  in addition to helping the British army eventually win the oft-forgotten Crimean War (1853-6).

Lt. General Brudenell’s family was one of moderate nobility (hence he inherited the title Earl from his father) which undoubtedly allowed him to quickly rise through the ranks of the British army. Despite his quick progress in title, his military knowledge never grew in proportion which resulted in him leading the infamous “Charge of the Light Brigade” in the Battle of Balaclava. Miscommunication resulted in Brudenell leading his lightly armed cavalry unit in a frontal assault against a heavily defended Russian artillery unit who predicted their arrival.  Out of 497 mounted soldiers, only 195 returned alive from the devastating charge (118 killed, 127 wounded, 60 captured).

Keep in mind, the men leading the charge were wearing cardigans. Seems fairly badass to me. 

This failure of command entrenched the prevailing view of the enlisted/drafted soldiers that their officers were incompetent gentry who had not earnt their positions. Yet, to the defending Russians and the bystanding French, the enlisted/drafted men who still followed their officers’ command to certain death was exalted. So much, that Lord Tennyson commemorated them in a narrative poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, which brought to attention James Brudenell.

At the time, he often wore a knitted sweater which was open in the front except buttoned up, the cardigan. Over the next few decades, the cardigan entered popular fashion houses and by the 1920s was a mainstay of university fashion in both England and America.

Later in the 20th century, Coco Chanel popularized the cardigan for women when she realized it was impossible for her to wear a sweater (at the time solely designed with men in mind) without ruining her hair.  

At this point, I’ve covered most of what I wanted to say about what I wore, when I wore it, and why. I appreciate those of you who stuck around to read through this and as a reward, I have another dozen or so photographs from our photoshoot which were wonderfully taken by my WashU photographer, Kate.

Coincidentally, while we were out shooting, we ran into the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Jennifer Smith, with her family and two giant dogs. Her family has some neat characters and amazing dogs, Aspen and Juno, who didn’t run away from me when I snagged a photo with them. It’s funny how sometimes I try to escape school for a bit, but it ends up following me around wherever I go. Keep that in mind next time you see me working on school stuff when I’m back home (Hint: that means I don’t want to have to be doing it, but I didn’t have a choice).

All of these photographs were taken by Kate Wardenburg who has really stepped up her game recently and improved her techniques. (Kidding, she’s always been good at this) She’s earned her place in the “About us” page which you can access here. I think I’d be amiss if I didn’t tell you guys to check out her VSCO link from her bio – she claims it’s worth a peek.




top half

top half 2
Staring into the sunset is difficult without squinting; holding it for the picture, even more so


When you have nothing else to say, just walk away

That’s all for today, readers. Once again I want to talk all of you guys for keeping up with my busy, boring life and the clothes I wear. I genuinely appreciate it!



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