Ask the Strategist: Where Can I find an Office Cardigan That’s Not Offensive?

Pam from The Office, wearing an office cardigan — The Strategist reviews better office cardigans.
Pam, in her Pepto Bismol–colored cardi. Photo: NBC/NBC via Getty Images

In our advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with one of your own — we’re here to help.

“Is there any fashion item worse than the ‘Office Cardigan?’ And where can I find one that’s not deeply sartorially offensive?” The question came from one of you, Strategist readers, and it’s a timely one: Summer is imminent, and for office dwellers, the months of May through September are marked by frigid indoor temperatures that keep us patting down raised arm hairs and taking frequent trips outside the building to warm up in clipped three-minute intervals. For us women, this problem is particularly acute — so much so that the Washington Post once aptly described us as “sun-seeking turtles.”

Office cardigans are the most important line of defense against aggressive summer air-conditioning. They’re also a much-maligned category of clothing: Mostly, I suspect, because they’re worn out of obligation, whether you’re a kid in a school uniform or a grown-up shivering in a cubicle. Usually, they’re lumpy, stretched out, or pilling. Are office sweaters even office sweaters if they’re not, say, sent from an unstylish great aunt? Or dredged from the bottom of a sales bin? It’s understandable: Why should you care about a sweater purchased to live on the back of your task chair?

I have a reason: You’re going to be wearing these things eight hours a day for some 80 days straight this summer. Conveniently, though, cardigans are trendy right now — so long as they’re slightly cropped and worn buttoned up to the neck (if you need some inspiration, the Cut’s Emilia Petrarca in a red Agnès B. button-up should help). Here’s a list that I’ve compiled for you, our sweater-curious (but confused) friend.

Agnès B’s snap cardigan is such a classic that, in 2013, it was the subject of an entire photography exhibit in Singapore. It’s cult status is well-deserved: The fabric is heavy and structured, and the hemline ever-so-slightly cropped. I hate to say these words, but this sweater is the answer to “How do I dress like a French girl?”

There is no real surrogate for the Agnès B., but worn buttoned up to the top and tucked into high-waisted pants, this J.Crew sweater could achieve a similar effect.

A cropped cardigan for the lady turtles who prefer high-waisted pants.

And a sweet little collared version you can also wear on cool summer nights.

This is nice enough that you could bring it along to summer weddings!

A very pretty, very on-sale plus-size sweater that comes in a really great cherry red, a pretty millennial pink, and a summery sky blue.

I prefer a crewneck, but I am powerless before both ribbed things and orangey-yellow things.

Hesperios, which just opened an exceedingly lovely shop in Soho, makes the softest Peruvian wool sweaters.

And in case all you want is a blanket with arms — well, this should do the trick.

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Where Can I find an Office Cardigan That’s Not Offensive?