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How to Style a Cardigan Like It's 2014

Spoiler Alert: It involves a bit of a throwback ....

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Q: I've been trying for ages to figure out how to wear cardigans without looking like a mom. Any advice? — Elizabeth, Boston, MA

A: Mastering the art of the cardigan is a difficult trick. Fitted options can leave you feeling like a Stepford wife, while oversized ones can swallow you whole or make a polished outfit look way too casual. 

I've found that the secret to finding the delicate middle ground is to channel one of two decades: the '90s or the '50s. The '90s cardigan has that oversized, slouchy feel, but modern variants are often in smart silhouettes that pair with blouse as easily as they do with band tees. As for the '50s cardigan, it's really more of a top and looks amazing with skinny jeans or a high waisted skirt. 

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Check out the styling tips and shopping options for each below – by the end of this post you'll be a cardigan pro, I promise. 

The '90s Cardigan

Hello, Sasha Luss! The Russian model was papped outside the Paris shows in a navy cardigan coat that she paired with an oversize button down, skinny leather pants and combat boots. If this isn't the modern picture of a grunge-meets-minimalist ensemble, I don't know what is. 

The trick to wearing an oversize cardigan and not looking like a total throwback is to pair it with simple, modern pieces with a little edge like Luss did. Try it out with the five cardigans below. 

The '50s Cardigan

If a Beat poet and a pink lady had a child, it would probably dress just like Alexa Chung in this picture. And such is secret to the '50s cardigan. Keep it small, buttoned to the top button and paired with retro – but not too retro – pieces like cropped jeans, loafers, short necklaces and chain purses. The more embroidery or embellishment, the better.