THIRTY YEARS ago (maybe more) I was shopping in Milan with my then-boyfriend, now-husband and our always-chic Milanese pal Paola Uccelli. The latter insisted we would have to go to her favorite store, M. Bardelli on Corso Magenta. And that’s where I found it—a stunning crimson cashmere, knee-length sweater dress, the quintessential one-and-done garment. Somewhere between moves from D.C. and Brussels and back it got the Kondo treatment. But what got me thinking about sweater dresses in general was when a friend of mine showed up last week for dinner wearing a charcoal-colored V-neck knit dress with a pair of high boots. For accents, she wore a rope necklace with turquoise pendants. Simple, right? Then I remembered a time when I met another fashion-savvy friend for dinner in New York City around the winter holidays. She also wore a knee-length sweater dress—in black cashmere—with black boots under a vintage Burberry trench. Classy, understated, right for so many situations.
For work, for family dinners, for date night, let’s just say for all but the swankiest occasions. Practical, yes, that’s the word. Pull it on over your head, belt it or not, wear it over tights or slim trousers. Accessorize with your choice of footwear—ankle booties, tough Doc Martens, trendy tall slim boots or sneakers or flats. Finish with dangly earrings or hoops or a stack of bracelets. These dresses are available in a range of price points and lengths. Probably best to avoid the mini versions unless you’re extraordinarily blessed with long, blemish-free gams or are wearing them over leggings.
See our picks below:
LEFT: I’m not always a fan of Kenzo designs, but this wool-cotton blend All Over Eye Sweater Dress ($575, Shopbop) with its watchful eyes, lacy eyelets and rhinestone and iridescent studs tickles my fancy. It’s on the subtle side of whimsical. CENTER: When you’re angsting over what to wear, slip on Scotch & Soda’s slinky ribbed knit Metallic Midi Dress ($178, Shopbop). Thumbs up for its svelte silhouette, midnight blue color and stripes at the neckline that add a sporty touch. And it looks terrific with sneakers, as shown. RIGHT: For a figure-hugging fit and vintage vibe, this ’70s-inspired ribbed knit Polo Midi Dress ($650, Shopbop), a blend of nylon, silk, cotton and spandex, is a flattering piece we’d be happy to own and wear all year long.
LEFT: Topshop’s ribbed Tie-Waist Long Sleeve Knit Midi Dress ($55, Nordstrom) reminds us of a comfy sweatshirt except that it’s sleek and sophisticated with flirty deep side slits and a waist-defining belt. CENTER: Sometimes girly is a good thing, as in this Brianna Tie Neck Long Sleeve Sweater Dress ($168, Nordstrom) with its extra-fine ribbing at the waist line, drapey sleeves and bow-tie neckline. Also available in dusty pink. RIGHT: This shapely, comfortable-looking Rib Long Sleeve Sweater Dress ($119) comes from Nordstrom’s popular licensed label Something Navy.
LEFT: If you’re in love with midi pleated skirts this season, here’s an idea: Instead of buying a turtleneck, too, invest in one piece—Massimo Dutti’s combination of a turtleneck with a mid-length pleated skirt ($130). Accessorize with jewelry, please. RIGHT: If you love florals, you don’t have to stop wearing them just because it’s getting colder outside. Just change the color palette to rich navy and maroon. Ribbed trim at the waist, hem, sleeves and neckline give Shoshanna’s Floral Knit Midi Dress ($398, Saks Fifth Avenue) the right frame.
LEFT: DVF’s Astrid Wool Cashmere Wrap Dress ($448) could just be the best friend in your closet. We’d spring for this soul-lifting yellow, but if you need it for more sober or more formal situations, it also comes in navy and black. Wear with your favorite style of boot. CENTER: Knit dresses can cling in all the wrong places, which is not the case with Talbot’s cotton-blend, season-spanning, easy-to-wear Heathered Shift Dress (reduced from $109 to $76.30). RIGHT: Red and pink color blocking was a big hit at the Emmys this September. Try it for yourself with Marimekko’s Puhuja Knit Dress ($350, Anthropologie).
LEFT: A minimalist like me would be head over heels for L’Agence’s Koller Sweater Dress ($350, Shopbop). CENTER: Everlane updates the turtleneck dress with a relaxed fit that’s equal parts cozy and chic. The Cashmere Turtleneck Dress is $165. Wear it over leggings or cropped pants. RIGHT: As is the case with Everlane’s dress above, Cos’s Raglan Sleeve Wool-Alpaca Dress ($125, Cos Stores) is more of a long sweater/sweatshirt than a dress. Wear it accordingly.