Monday 30 September 2013

Cardigan Geometry: How to Highlight or Disguise Your Boobs with a Cardigan

With September drawing to a close, we're getting into Autumn weather. I wanted to talk a bit about the various ways that cardigan sweaters (jumpers) can be worn. Cardigans are often considered to be one of the 'tricky' items for full-busted ladies, and as a result companies like Pepperberry have made them with extra boob room:

Pepperberry V-neck Cardigan
This is great if you're looking for a sweater to wear buttoned-up, but that's not how I like to wear my cardigans. I prefer to wear them open. What I'm about to suggest is a little unorthodox, but hear me out.

The key to flatter a full bust with an unbuttoned cardigan is to SIZE DOWN. You should think in terms of buying a size that would NEVER button over your boobs, and maybe wouldn't even button over your waist. The function here is to eliminate flapping, bagginess, and shapelessness that can come as a result of wearing an unbuttoned cardigan. When the size is significantly 'too small' for you, the entire body of the cardigan will sort of contract around/behind you and just gently lurk around your body without any issues of draping or hanging. I tend to be a size Medium in tops, but I favor an Extra Small in cardigans for this reason.

When sizing down this much, you can just let the cardigan hang down under your arms and it will look fine. But you can also pull the top of the cardigan over your boobs and let it sit there. Here's where things get interesting. Cardigans that have a gently tapering neckline--or in other words, what would look like a V-neck if buttoned, will play up, highlight, or create the illusion of an hourglass figure.

In this diagram, you see the lines that are created. The cardigan tapers in at the waist, and out at the neck and hips.

While some of us like to highlight an hourglass figure, others of us prefer to conceal or downplay the size of our boobs. I'm definitely one who has plenty of days where I want to balance out my boobs and disguise the comparative smallness of my waist. To achieve this look, use a square-neck or boat-neck cardigan--one where it buttons all the way up to the neckline.

Compare the different lines created by this cardigan. The smallest opening is at the bust, and it gets more open through the waist and hips. This visually tricks the eye into seeing the bust as smaller.

How do you like to wear your cardigan? Do you like to play up or camouflage your boobs? If you have any thoughts or other tips for cardigan use, let us know in the comments!


  1. All this is absolutely true. I'd never thought of these effects as highlighting or downplaying the bust, though. Brilliant observations, BIHAL!

    Those of us who are very petite overall would probably need to get children's cardies to achieve the first effect. I'm always trying to distract from my broad shoulders. Sometimes it seems my boobs do a good job of that, whereas other times it seems like shoulders and boobs together just make me look top heavy.

    Hey--I tried the Freya Cha Cha bikini in white because of your review. I'd never have thought it worth the effort otherwise. Anyway, because of your notes on sizing, I got the 30E, a size down from what I'd normally order in bikini tops, and it fits great! It was on sale and almost sold out everywhere, so...thanks!

  2. I never thought of wearing a cardi that is too small for my bust as a way to flatter my bust. I've always bought ones that just have to lower buttons so I wouldn't have to deal with trying to button up.

  3. Ha - I do exactly the same as you with cardis! It's all about sizing down and letting it hang ;-)

  4. This is blowing my mind. Any actual photos of this extra-small-cardi trick in action? I want to see a regular size vs. xs and see how they compare...

  5. I size down also as I don't think cardigans do anything for me buttoned, and a medium unbuttoned looks like a sloppy sack and too dang big. If I can find them in juniors, small works. Misses sizing is an extra small or extra extra small if I can find it.

  6. I do that too, though I never filth formed the reasoning behind it. Also works with suit style jackets and blazers! I have a bunch from before pregnancies and the are tiny in the chest, do I wear them open and look very slim. The trick is to pull them closer to slightly cover the boobs on the sides. I even go as far as secure them with a double sides tape to make sure they stay that way. The slim silhouette is created by the vertical lines of the jacket/cardigan, especially if worn with a contrasting top.

  7. I ran into the drapey/hangy/formlessness thing the day before you wrote this! I'm going to have to try your solution. My solution was to belt the cardigan.

  8. I mostly buy layering cardigans (because Target is my friend...) so they're a more rounded neck. But I only button them to below my bust, which emphasizes the hourglass too.

    I do, however, have a gorgeous boucle cardigan with fringe that is longer in back and v-necked. It's a little too small for me, so I wear it open.

    I've never tried the too-small thing,. but I feel like I would run into issues with my broad shoulders and somewhat-heavier upper arms.

  9. I never thought to do this, what a great idea! All this time I get rid of sweaters that I can't button or if they pull just a bit, time to get rid of them. Thanks for the post!

  10. I have been following your blog for about six months now and I wanted to tell you that your blog was the start of my new "bra hobby" as I like to put it. Thank you so much for your posts! They have helped me pick which bras to order according to my shape. Any time I am interested in a bra I check to see if you have done a review on it.
    That being said I have recently found a bra of interest, mostly because of the review, that I thought you might be interested in trying too. I found the bra in a post on bratabase.
    Let me know what you think!

  11. You really share a great idea with us. I never think about this. Hats off......

  12. After reading this it's like I had this epiphany. Why try your hardest to button a cardigan if it still looks good unbuttoned? I feel equally as warm with an unbuttoned cardigan as a buttoned one, and I look better with an unbuttoned one. The thing is that I need different sizes for my bust, waist and hips. I need an M for my bust, XS for my waist and S or M for my hips. XS is best for my short upper body and my short arms. XS actually has a smidgeon too long sleeves for me most of the time. Therefore, the solution to choose the smallest cardigan and just forget about buttoning it has been awesome for me. I actually bought a cardigan using this tip today, I look great in it and I had BIHAL's tip in mind when I grabbed it from the rack, I would've just skipped it if it wasn't for her because I've always thought "cardigans don't fit me" before. Great tip! I bought a cardigan that creates the second look, not intentionally though but I like feeling a bit down-played in bustyness. I like to switch it up a bit.

  13. So I've read nearly every singly one of your reviews and I think they are brilliant. Your blog is my go-to whenever I want to know more about certain bras. The only thing I would love to see is a picture of how the bra looks under clothing. This would be extraordinarily helpful!