The cardigan has an archetypical Britishness to it. The kind that conjures up the nicest of stereotypes: scones on elegant porcelain, cricket games donned in crisp whites, Regattas, Oxford, a nice scotch biscuit. It’s this cuddliness, both formal and casual, that cannot be detached from the name. Cardigan, ironically, is an eponym for a less than warm and fuzzy character, James Thomas Brudenell, the earl of Cardigan. He led a disastrous charge in 1854 as the major general, where the particularly chilly winter called for warm knitted jersey jackets that would eventuate into the modern idea of a sweater with buttons. All soldiers wore these military issued knitted adaptations, but Lord Cardigan, being the ill-tempered ladies’ man with a stickler for sartorial elegance, made its name. The cardigan coat was created and eventually made its much appreciated way to womenswear.
The second obvious association is the elegant beginnings of sportswear. Ladies flying about tennis courts and golf courses in pleated skirts, tights, and in what could be describes as ‘jazz shoes’, all with a matching cardigan. This era introduced long knitted cardigans to suit the 1920s shape, often found with contrasting trims and monogrammed pockets. From there it took a high society gap year, leaving its European jersey wool constructs for the pearl wearing cashmere twinset and the American Social elite who adapted it. The Wasps took the cardigan and made it a delicate affair, posh pinks, pastel blues and splashes of mint tea green. Cardigans became the top half of any decent outfit prior to 6pm.
The modern day lady
The current day hasn’t caused a ruckus of indecency for the cardigan, it’s remained a consistently fancy affair. Still the finest choice for sea breezes and firesides, it’s spun from luxurious fibres and can be found in classic or ever changing shapes. It may have entered the modern world but it certainly hasn’t lost its air of high society. Our tendency to multitask across continents, social situations, functions and genres has forced us to keep our looks flexible and their quantity to a minimum. The three times a day outfit change is kept exclusively for fashion week only, no longer is formality so chic. This has worked particularly well for the popularity of cardigan coats, the soft structure allows for versatility. Style wise they can be thrown over anything from sequins to satin. They can handle impromptu ferry rides, high tea or a long haul flight and just about as erratic climate changes. A long black cardigan will take you anywhere, especially in the form of an Acne Studios variety made of mohair and wool. The black long cardigan can also be a little revealing, as envisioned by Haider Ackermann with a very loosely knitted cotton and mohair kind.
What to shop
It makes sense to pick ladies long cardigans sensibly, because you should by the best quality and wear it with looks you frequent the most. A long grey cardigan is a good starting point for the girl always in jeans it keeps it fresh and casual but also elegant in the way that reminds us of Danish women cycling about Copenhagen. Long cardigans in general have always veered towards the more laid back, but Gucci did mess with that system by creating a hip-length variety trimmed with fur and destined to wear over a metallic midi-length skirt with heels. Anything by Loro Piana will be an investment well spent, their longevity comes aesthetically as well as practically, a quality so rare. Battling the position of best quality next to Loro Piana would probably be Barrie, the Scottish mill purchased by Chanel who continues to knit the most luxurious fibres into regal shapes. For the everyday in every colour we would recommend Jardin Des Orangers. Neat shapes and fun colour tones are easy options for when a slight nip in the air hits. For something breath-taking Valentino and Alexander McQueen will supply the awe factor. These designers tend to utilize complex techniques, metallic or transparent fibres and opulent embellishments, resulting in a cardigan variety of a masterpiece. Now is probably a good time to start some new stereotypes surrounding the cardigan, it's about time for a new era. This means we need to get out there and do something noteworthy whilst being suitably non-outrageous wrapped in a cuddly cardigan. The Valentino cardigan it is then.