Christopher & Banks

A history of the cardigan and the fabulous women who wear them

One of our favorite essential sweaters is the cardigan. It can easily be dressed up or down, keeping you warm without the bulk. But what are the origins of this classic sweater? It turns out that it has quite the interesting history.
Let’s go back to mid-19th century Britain, when military officers went to battle with a special style of knitted wool sweater that buttoned at the front. This type of sweater did not find itself adapted into civilian menswear until Earl of Cardigan, James Brudenell, became lieutenant general. Legend has it that he was known for his excessive confidence and was well-respected around the kingdom. After leading the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava, he was welcomed home as a hero (despite the British having lost). In his honor, this military-style sweater became known as the cardigan, and its popularity in men’s fashion skyrocketed.
The cardigan remained almost exclusively a functional male garment until the fabulous Coco Chanel began reinventing women’s fashion in the following century. Chanel’s approach to designing clothes for the modern women included adapting pieces traditionally worn by men, like trousers and, of course, cardigans. As a pioneer in the fashion world, she brought the cardigan into the spotlight as a staple sweater for any closet.
Today, cardigans are still synonymous with nostalgic warmth and comfort. As designers interpret the cardigan in their own way, it has become somewhat of a statement piece and a canvas to showcase unique knit techniques, embroidery, prints, and more.
From the fashion pioneer to who absorbed the cardigan into women’s fashion to some of our favorite celebrities, here are five iconic ladies who have been known to attend the cardi party:
 Coco Chanel
Couturier Coco Chanel is arguably the most famous name in women’s fashion, with her eponymous line still as popular today as it ever was.
Diana, Princess of Wales
Throughout her time in the spotlight, Diana Princess of Wales became a fashion icon. As notable wearer of fabulous sweaters she especially loved her cardigans.
Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge
Following in Princess Diana’s stylish footsteps, Kate Middleton has made a name for herself as an approachable fashion icon, also frequently spotted wearing cardigans.
Michelle Obama
Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama was perhaps the most approachable First Lady to date. While she certainly could pull off any high fashion look, she has also been credited for saving the cardigan with the Obama Effect.
I decided to style it with their gorgeous Stripe Combo Sleeveless Dress. This is dress is amazing.  The material is dreamy.  It’s soft and the dress just lays right on you.  I love how they mixed the patterns, giving this dress just the right amount of edge. Jacket and dress are available in both Missy and Women sizes.
Amal Clooney
Renown international human rights lawyer and wife of George Clooney always looks “buttoned up” with classically elegant style. At court or on the red carpet, she always oozes sophistication. Who else could make a cardigan so chic?
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