It’s easy to think of sweaters as fall garments. And if you’re talking about cozy wool pullovers and chunky cable knits, you’re right. Unless you like to be overheated, heavy, bulky sweaters are best worn in fall and winter.
But in a lightweight, fine gauge knit, a sweater can put the perfect finishing touch on a summer look!
Not convinced? Here are our favorite lightweight summer cardigans for men and women that you can wear for day, night, work, play and every occasion in between.
Why You Need a Lightweight Cardigan for Summer
There are a few reasons why we love summer cardigans.
Reason number one: air conditioning!
The hotter it gets outside, the more time we tend to spend indoors. And when you're in a room with AC pumping on full blast, a lightweight cardigan is the perfect way to warm up without feeling (or looking) too hot.
Reason number two: summer nights can get mighty chilly.
If you live on or near the water or the beach, you know just how chilly summer mornings and evenings can be. Keep a lightweight cardigan nearby, and you’ll always have an easy layer to throw on when the sun goes down.
Reason number three: we just love the look.
Regardless of the season, a cardigan can add texture, depth, and attitude to an outfit. An extra layer on top always makes an outfit look more put together, whether you’re going to work, hanging out with friends or heading out for a nice dinner.
Ready to do some shopping? Here are our favorite lightweight summer cardigans for women:
Loose Knit Cardigan, $12.99
At only $12.99, it’s almost a crime not to pick up the H&M Loose Knit Cardigan in at least two colors. Super lightweight in a poly/viscose/elastane blend, this stretch cardigan is so soft and light that it’s nearly sheer. It's simply perfect for a summer night that requires an easy, lightweight layer.
This long cardigan features an open front, long sleeves, and a longer length that looks great with skinny pants or short shorts.
Elbow-length sleeves make the Boden Favorite Crop Cardigan perfect for a summer day. With buttons down the front and a rounded neckline, this lightweight cardigan looks great layered over a sundress or paired with a tank top and shorts.
The slim fit is ultra-flattering to wear. The lightweight feel is ideal for a chilly day in an air conditioned office or a cool summer night by the water.
The Nic and Zoe Lightweight Four-Way Cardigan is so light that it’s sheer – exactly what you want in a summertime layer. In a draped silhouette with an open front, this cardigan can be worn in a variety of different ways.
Wear it as is (with the front open) or tie the ends into a knot or a twist at the hem. It also features little buttons at the hem, so you can also wear it as a chic wrap silhouette. We love it with jeans, over tailored trousers in the office, or with casual day dresses.
Light V-Neck Cardigan, $29.90
Adding a layer doesn’t get any easier than this. The Light V-Neck Cardigan from Uniqlo is simple and stylish in a super-relaxed silhouette. It's detailed with long sleeves, a V-neckline, and five buttons down the front – classic but with a modern attitude.
Wear it open over a button-down blouse. Wear it buttoned up over a bodysuit or cami. Wear it half-buttoned over your favorite tee. This cardigan goes with anything and everything, regardless of the season.
Cotton Jersey Cardigan, $12.99
Have enough cardigans with buttons down the front? This Cotton Jersey Cardigan from H&M is a playful alternative with a fun, feminine attitude.
This cardi is made from a soft cotton jersey and features long sleeves, a V-neckline and a tie front closure that adds a girly touch.
Lettuce edging around the hem adds a ruffle effect, making it perfect for layering with everything from a tank top and shorts to a sexy little dress.
Pointelle Cardigan, $84.00
An open knit pattern gives the Pointelle Cardigan a versatile look that you can dress up or dress down in any season. This White House Black Market cardigan is made from a lightweight rayon/nylon blend that gives it a smooth, soft feel. It features a slim fit with long sleeves, a V-neckline and front buttons.
The pointelle stitching gives it an airy, breezy look, while the slender fit makes it a great layering piece for day or night. It’s designed to hit at the waist, so it’s easy to wear over a dress or pair with a cami and trousers.
Essential Summer Cardigan, $149.50
Lightweight but not flimsy, the Essential Summer Cardigan from Club Monaco is about to become your year-round favorite layer.
Undeniably comfy in 100% cotton, this cardi features long sleeves, an open front silhouette, dropped shoulders and a soft, textured stitch.
The easy, breezy open front cardigan silhouette is ideal for pairing with a tank top and shorts on a summer night. When the fall weather starts to roll in, it looks equally as cool with skinny jeans and boots.
Pointelle stitching makes the BB Dakota Gimme Shelter Sweater a must-have for cool summer nights. This cardigan sweater features long sleeves, an open front silhouette, and a loose fit that you can throw on over any tee, tank or crop top.
In a poly/linen blend, this crochet sweater is soft and light, yet super cozy. Without buttons or fasteners, the slip-on fit makes it an effortless addition to any casual look.
Our favorite way to wear it? With a simple white tank and denim shorts.
In acrylic/nylon, the Textured Lightweight Open-Front Plus Size Sweater offers equal parts style, comfort, and versatility.
This Old Navy sweater features ¾ length kimono sleeve cardigan, draped front patch pockets, and an open front.
It’s so easy and effortless you can throw it on over a tee shirt and jeans or wear it over a chic jumpsuit. The textured fabric gives it a unique feel, while the relaxed fit makes it oh-so-comfortable to wear.
UO Freya Ribbed Cropped Cardigan, $39.00
Short and shrunken, the Freya Ribbed Cropped Cardigan from Urban Outfitters is ideal for a summer day that requires a super cute look. A little bit sexy in a slim fit with a cropped hem, this cardi features short sleeves, a V-neckline and five little buttons.
It’s a perfect layer over a tank top or bralette on a cool summer night, but it also looks cool buttoned up and worn on its own. In 100% acrylic, this is the cardigan you’ll want to wear all throughout the spring, summer, and early fall months.
Don’t worry guys, we didn’t forget about you! Here are our favorite lightweight summer cardigans for men:
Linen Blended V-Neck Cardigan, $39.90
In linen/nylon, this casual blend cardigan from Uniqlo is perfect for pairing with shorts, jeans, or dress pants. Lightweight yet cozy, the Linen Blended V-Neck Cardigan features a timeless silhouette with long sleeves and a button front placket.
Wear it over a t-shirt on a chilly summer night or layer it over a long sleeve top on a crisp fall day.
With short sleeves and a spread collar, the Topman Revere Knitted Shirt is part cardigan and part camp shirt. Knitted from 100% cotton, this casual cardigan features a slim fit (that’s not too tight) and contrast tipping at the collar, sleeves and hem.
Wear it buttoned as an alternative to a polo shirt or wear it open over a tee to create a variety of cool, casual looks.
Cotton Cardigan, $29.99
A button-front cardigan with long sleeves is a must-have in every guy’s wardrobe. And this Cotton Cardigan from H&M is a classic.
This fine gauge knit is easy to layer over a simple tee, a button-down shirt or a long sleeve knit top, depending on what the weather calls for.
In the summer, leave it open over a tee to create a cool, laid-back look that still looks poised and polished.
If you refuse to settle for anything less than luxury, you’re sure to love the Brooks Brothers Fine Gauge Silk Cardigan Sweater. Crafted in Italy from 100% silk yarn, this cardigan sweater is incredibly lightweight. It's a great year-round option that you can wear on its own or layer beneath a blazer or jacket on a cool day.
Designed to fit slim with a V-neckline and five buttons down the front, this men’s cardigan pairs easily with dress pants, casual trousers or even shorts.
We realize that the Kiton Men’s Wool Zip-Front Sweater comes with a bit of sticker shock, but it’s just too good to leave off this list.
This sweater is made in Italy from super lightweight wool. It’s so light that it’s almost semi-sheer, and it features a two-way zipper so you can zip it up or down. A stand-up collar gives it a sporty yet sophisticated look, and it’s finished with rib knit trim at the hem and cuffs.
Wear it over a t-shirt, a button-down shirt or even a polo to create a perfectly luxe look for day or night.
Two-Way Zipper Cardigan, $57.95
If the Kiton style above is a bit out of your price range, don’t worry – here’s an alternative that will cost you less than $60. The Two-Way Zipper Cardigan from PJ Paul Jones isn’t quite as lightweight or nearly as luxurious. But it does have the same vibe with a stand-up collar and a double zipper.
Available in a variety of neutral colors, this cardigan is made from a viscose/acrylic blend. It features plenty of stretch that makes it super comfortable to wear both zipped and unzipped.
How to Style a Cardigan
There are lots of different ways to rock a cardigan.
For guys, cardigans are a great way to dress up a t-shirt and jeans combo. Unbuttoned or buttoned, a cardigan is THE perfect topper to any outfit that needs an extra layer of style.
Men can also wear a cardigan over a button-down shirt with pants. Need to look a bit more polished? Add a tie for a perfectly put-together look for a business meeting or a night out on the town.
When it comes to cardigans, women have tons of options, and that’s partly because there are so many different cuts and silhouettes. Wear one open over a dress. Wear one buttoned up with dress pants. Wear one partially unbuttoned over a tank or a pretty blouse.
Depending on the fabric and silhouette, a cardigan can put the perfect finishing touch on any outfit for day or night.
What Are the Best Summer Cardigans?
Everyone should have at least one or two summer cardigans in their wardrobe. Why? Because they’re not just for summer. You can wear them at any time of year!
Upgrade your go-to hoodie or crewneck sweatshirt for a nice lightweight cardigan.
Summer items have longevity. So when the fall or spring seasons roll in, just layer your favorite summer cardigans with long sleeve tops underneath. Summer cardigans are versatile and transitional. From lightweight cardigans to duster cardigans, there's something for everyone's styling needs.
If you don’t already have one, now is the perfect time to add one (or more) to your wardrobe.
You might also be interested in: 8 Of Our Favorite Lululemon Leggings (And The Lowdown On Which Fabric Is Best For You)
Our 16 Favorite Lightweight Summer Cardigans [For Men & Women]:
- Loose Knit Cardigan, $12.99
- Boden Favorite Crop Cardigan, $75
- Nic and Zoe Lightweight Four-Way Cardigan, $98
- Light V-Neck Cardigan, $29.90
- Cotton Jersey Cardigan, $12.99
- Pointelle Cardigan, $84.00
- Essential Summer Cardigan, $149.50
- BB Dakota Gimme Shelter Sweater, $99
- Textured Lightweight Open-Front Plus Size Sweater, $47.99
- UO Freya Ribbed Cropped Cardigan, $39.00
- Linen Blended V-Neck Cardigan, $39.90
- Topman Revere Knitted Shirt, $50
- Cotton Cardigan, $29.99
- Fine Gauge Silk Cardigan Sweater, $498
- Kiton Men’s Wool Zip-Front Sweater, $1,894
- Two-Way Zipper Cardigan, $57.95