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Fall Trend Report: How to Style a Sweater Dress

The sweater dress is a fall classic every year. But this year, the slinky sweater dress also has hot-trend status.

That’s great news for two big reasons. One, you can retrieve any knit dresses from the back of your closet and wear them again confidently. And two, if you need something new to work this trend, you have many styles available: minis, midis, maxis, belted, sweatshirt-style, v-neck, sleek, oversized, and more. You’re sure to find some that flatter.

Below is your guide to styling a sweater dress, plus nine outfit ideas and seven on-trend dress picks you’ll love.

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How to style a sweater dress 

No matter the occasion, there are four guidelines to follow when styling a sweater dress.

1. Choose the right size and fit

I’ll just say it: Knit dresses that are too tight look trashy. And, knit dresses that are too loose look bulky. So, this is a garment that demands you wear the right size and fit.

The right fit skims your curves, without stretching or pulling. If the dress hangs around you with little contact anywhere but your shoulders, it’s either too big or an unflattering shape. You can possibly fix shape with a belt, but don’t bother trying to alter a sweater dress that’s too big. 

You can spot a sweater dress that’s too small by comparing the dress’s color and weave around your curvy spots. If you can see your bra beneath the dress or the color looks lighter around your chest or hips, that dress is too tight. Get a bigger size or opt for a different style. 

2. Pay attention to knit quality and weight. 

You know I love my bargains, but I don’t advise going cheap on sweater dresses. Part of the appeal of this dress style is its luxuriously soft look and feel. A poorly made dress, at best, doesn’t have that luxury vibe. At worst, the knit is thin enough to look sheer when you step under a streetlight at night. Low-quality sweater dresses are also more likely to snag or fade in the wash. 

3. Plan what you’ll wear under a sweater dress.

Lots of women want to know: What do you wear under a sweater dress? As long as the dress isn’t see-through, you can:

  • Wear seamless panties and a t-shirt bra to minimize lines and lumps.
  • For the sleekest outline, opt for shapewear if you’re into that.
  • If it’s cold outside, add tights or leggings. 

4. Use layers, shoe choice, and accessories to dress up or down.

You can wear a sweater dress many ways and for many occasions. Be open to experimenting with complementary pieces to nail a look that perfect for whatever’s on your calendar. Also check the specific outfit strategies below. 

Sweater dress style for work 

When you’re building stylish sweater dress outfits for work, keep these strategies in mind.

1. Avoid v-necks and short hemlines.

The best sweater dresses for work have conservative necklines and hemlines. A mock turtleneck sweater dress works well, because it’s not too hot or too racy. You could also choose a modest boat neckline that lets your collar bones peek out.

As for the length, stick with knee-length or longer. If you work in a conservative office, you might even limit yourself to midi dresses or maxi dresses.

2. Add a blazer and lightweight scarf.

A softshell blazer looks amazing over a knit dress, especially when the dress has long sleeves. You can push up the sleeves of the blazer to let the sweater arms poke through. If your work environment is more creative, you could swap out the blazer for a long cardigan. Yes, you can double up on your knits! 

A pretty lightweight scarf is also a nice complement to a sweater dress. The scarf adds visual interest and softens the impact of your all-over knit. 

3. Try layering under.

Depending on the shape and neckline of the dress, you might add a collared shirt underneath. This can be a very smart look, perfect for the office.

4. Wear classic pumps.

You can wear your sweater dresses with ankle boots or tall boots, but classic pumps are usually the right choice for the office. If you don’t need a heel, a nice ballet flat is also appropriate. 

The spirit of these guidelines is this: Sweater dresses are sexy. So when you wear one to work, it’s best to play down that sex appeal with conservative accessories. 

Sweater dress style for play 

Dressing for date night? Then ignore the office rules above. Try these ideas instead: 

1. Belt it.

Belts play up your curves by accentuating your waist and your chest.

2. Try knee-high boots or over-the-knee boots if you dare.

A cable-knit dress paired with a sleek and simple boot is a tried-and-true date night combo. You can build this outfit with a mini sweater dress to show a bit of skin between the top of your high boots and the bottom of the dress. Or, if you prefer a more polished, cosmopolitan vibe, choose a midi hemline.

3. Alternatively, pair ankle boots or booties with tights.

I like opaque tights in this outfit; they feel more alluring and less childlike than solid-black tights. 

4. Stay warm with a cropped suede or leather jacket.

Since we’re playing up the curves, a cropped jacket is the right choice. Leather or suede can add an interesting textural element, too. 

On your off days

You can also wear a sweater dress on your off days — when you have no one to intimidate in the office or impress on a first date. To cruise around, in simple comfort and in style, team your sweater dress with sneakers and a denim jacket. 

Sweater dress outfit ideas 

And now for nine real-life sweater dress outfits you can try on your own. 

1. With a long cardigan 

The neutral combo here is on point, but you could also recreate this look with any color scheme. 

2. Blazer and peep-toes

You can’t go wrong with this combination. Chic and wearable, this outfit tells the world you mean business. 

3. Add in knee-high boots 

Oohla_voo shows us you can style a sweater dress the same way you style your favorite sweater — only with no pants required. Team your dress with a cozy scarf and a slouchy boot, grab yourself some tea, and sink into fall. 

4. Anchored by combat boots 

For a simple but edgy style, combine a bell-sleeve dress with a lug sole boot. The softer sleeve balances the harshness of the boot perfectly. 

5. Sweatshirt style knit dress and sneakers 

On low-maintenance days, slip into a sweatshirt-style dress and anchor the look with sneakers. That’s it. You’re ready for anything. 

6. Mockneck midi with boots 

Often, the right dress choice makes the outfit options easy. This dress flatters thanks to the black band at the waist. Aspectsoftinsaye could wear this dress with nearly anything and look amazing, but her choice of a relaxed, knee high boot is a good one. 

7. Moto, mini dress, and boots 

This simple brown dress looks fierce when accessorized with a moto jacket and matching boots. 

8. Oversized sweater dress and sneakers 

Who says a knit dress has to be body-hugging? A maxi hemline and cozy silhouette keeps you warm and looks incredible too. Add a pair of sneakers and you’re quickly on the go.

9. Mix-n-match

Sweater dresses are often styled in monochrome, but you can shake things up too. Adding a patterned scarf or tights (or both!) is an easy way to elevate that favorite sweater dress you’ve already worn dozens of times. 

There you have it. Nine ways to wear a sweater dress, straight from the feeds. 

Dress picks to shop now 

Ready to go shopping? The time is right, because sweater dresses are trending hard this fall. That means you have tons of options,  no matter what look you’re targeting. Below are seven picks, ranging from an alluring, date-night dress to a professional piece you can wear to work.

1. Classy 

Model wears classy sweater dress with one-shoulder style.
Source: Revolve.

Steve Madden’s Lori Knit dress has an elegant feel to it, with its draped, one-shoulder design. Wear this with delicate heels and understated makeup, whether you’re headed out for a date or to a fundraiser.

2. Affordable 

Model wears black sweater dress with white collar and cuffs.
Source: Forever 21.

Leave it to Forever 21 to bring us this sweater dress that’s already styled with a fake shirt underneath for less than $40. Just add a neck scarf and ankle boots. You could also update the shape of the dress with a belt.

3. Chic

Model wears chic sweater dress with dolman sleeves.
Source: Lulus.

This wrap-style dress with dolman sleeves and a thigh slit is chic as can be — and flattering on many shapes. Accessorize with boots, sandals, or heels, depending on the occasion.

4. Professional 

Model wears work-appropriate sweater dress.
Source: Gap.

Here’s your work dress — a midi turtleneck with a shape that’s just relaxed enough. You can easily add a belt or scarf to liven things up.

5. Belted 

Model wears belted midi sweater dress.
Source: Macy’s.

Lauren Ralph Lauren’s take on the turtleneck sweater dress is so polished, yet effortless. You can adjust the ties to flatter your shape, too.

6. Sleeveless 

Model wears sleeveless midi dress.
Source: Macy’s.

A simple, sleeveless dress like this one from Macy’s can be a fun canvas to accessorize many different ways. Dress it up with diamond studs, a pretty shawl, and heels. Or dress it down with sneakers and your best denim jacket.

7. Alluring

Model wears gray sweater dress with side cutouts.
Source: Nordstrom Rack.

Body-skimming with peekaboo cutouts at the sides, this dress will have your partner drooling in no time. Long sleeves provide warmth without giving up any sex appeal. If your toes are done, wear this dress with any open-toed heel and a simple earring.

Wearing sweater dresses this fall and winter

The beauty of a sweater dress is its versatility. Have fun experimenting with different silhouettes and accessories and you’re sure to find more than one look you love.

Alex Parish

Wednesday 26th of October 2016

Great blog!

Catherine Brock

Wednesday 26th of October 2016

Well thank you!

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