Cool casual summer outfit toppers: cardigans and boleros!

Heartbreaker Betty Bolero
Heartbreaker Betty Bolero.

Summer’s hot, but that doesn’t mean you’re comfortable baring lots of skin. Whether you dislike your arms, like to maintain modesty, feel like every outfit deserves a finishing touch, or simply want to avoid sun damage, there are ways to top your sleeveless and strapless looks without going all wool crewneck on yourself. Personally, I’m a fan of lightweight cotton cardigans and boleros, but shrugs are another good option for folks looking to maximize ventilation without going sleeveless. Here are some of my favorite options (almost all are available in plus sizes, too!):

Talbots has been around since the 1940s. Their contemporary offerings are classic, with one foot in the mid-20th century and another in the 21st. While not all of their clothing is retro-able, much of it will blend seamlessly with your vintage or vintage-inspired wardrobe. The Talbots Charming Cardigan (hovering around $60 in price, though often on sale) is a high-quality pima cotton-blend sweater that comes in a veritable rainbow of colors and prints. This one’s my favorite warm-weather cardigan because the knit is beefy enough to keep its shape (and prevent translucency) without overheating you. It has perfect 3/4 length sleeves. The regular length hits at just above the hip. If you’re long-torsoed, the petite length may fit like a crop.

Talbots Charming Cardigan
Talbots Charming Cardigan.

My personal favorite version of the Talbots cardigan is this “Water Flower” colorway, now on sale…

Talbots Water-Flower Cardigan
Talbots Water-Flower Cardigan.

If cropped cardigans are what you crave, you might like Old Navy’s Cropped Rib-knit Cardis. They’re very lightweight, inexpensive ($15!), and come in a variety of colors. That said, the light colors are also very see-through. Since the knit is so thin (and 100% cotton), the collar may slouch unattractively a single wear after washing. For the price, though, these 3/4 sleeved babies are definitely worth a try! Note that these may run a size or so bigger than you’re used to.

Old Navy Cropped Rib-Knit Cardis
Old Navy Cropped Rib-Knit Cardis.
Unique VIntage Short Sleeve Pointelle Cardigan
Unique Vintage Short Sleeve Pointelle Cardigan.

Another excellent cropped cardigan option is Unique Vintage’s Dainty Pointelle Short Sleeve Cardigan. This one’s a slightly dressier pick, with faux pearl buttons and subtle pointelle designs in the fabric. It comes in red, pink, white, ivory, black, and navy.

Heartbreaker Sweet Sweater
Heartbreaker Sweet Sweater.

Those who wish to avoid the button-up look of a true cardigan, the Sweet Sweater from Heartbreaker Fashion ($34) could be your baby! It’s crop-length with a waist tie, which makes it an attractive alternative for those who like a fitted look. Be advised that this one’s more of a jersey knit than a true sweater knit. Comes in white, black, red, and leopard.

For those who are looking for a more bolero-style look, Heartbreaker’s Betty Bolero ($34, pictured at the top of this article) might get you there. It has a bodice-baring shrug shape with a cute little string tie at the neckline In navy, red, black, and white, there’s a color available to match most of your outfits.

If you want a short, bolero-style topper with a bit more structure, Pinup Couture’s Perfect Pinup Bolero ($48) is your solution. Available in both black and white, this knit wonder has a subtle standup collar and enough class to dress up your day and evening ensembles effortlessly.

These are some of my favorite summer outfit-toppers; what are some of yours?


Pinup Couture Bolero
Pinup Couture Bolero.


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