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Shopping on a budget: Best cardigans

Categories: basics, tops


For the next few weeks, I’m taking your questions, because the whole point of The Working Closet is to get your closet in shape. This week, we’re revisiting the cardigan — on a budget.

When we talk about budget shopping, there are a few things to keep in mind. Rules, if you will. You’re welcome.

Spend smart. Resist the urge to buy any piece simply because of the price tag; unless you’re going to wear what you buy, you’re wasting your money, no matter how little — or how much — you spend. A bargain is only a good deal if it’s something that will work with your existing wardrobe.

Invest wisely. No matter how much you’re spending — $10 or $100 — the pieces you bring home should work for you; they should fit your body and your life and your style. Be open to investing in one really great piece rather than buying five so-so pieces; if you choose wisely, you will be able to wear that one sweater all the time, with lots of other pieces. And while you don’t have to spend $100 to get a great sweater, but the $10 needs to be as close to perfect as you can get.

Take care of your purchases. Treat that $10 sweater as though it cost ten times that; don’t just toss it in the laundry or on the floor. Make the effort to care for your clothes, and you will see a return on your investment. Hand wash, line dry, dry clean only when necessary.

Ok, lecture over! Let’s talk about where to find a great boyfriend cardi for spring. Here are my favs, all for under $40.


Old Navy has a nice selection of cardigans now, everything from super cute embellished cardis to classic boyfriend cardis. I love the cinch-tie cardigan pictured here because it’s a great alternative for curvy girls; it would be terrific with skinny jeans or a slim skirt, or Bermuda shorts (which are going to be huge for spring, by the way). This sweater is on sale right now for $20. That’s a deal!

Where else can you go for great sweaters on the cheap? Target has a good selection — I love this Mossimo Black boyfriend cardi ($24.99!) — in a range of colors and styles. Not all of these sweaters are available in store, but you can get all sorts of great deals on shipping, and you can return things to the store, which is huge.

Department stores are a terrific place to look for bargains, for three reasons: they often have their own in-store brands, which tend to be lower priced, they have a big turnover of merchandise, which means there is always a great sale rack, and they run constant specials, which means more discounts. Macy’s has a nice selection of sizes and styles; Marshall Fields is another good option. Department store shopping requires more energy and effort than shopping boutiques or single-label stores, but the payoff can be huge.

Your turn: what are your bargain shopping secrets? Where — or how — do you get great deals? And remember, if you have questions, ask away! Next week: building a flexible work/weekend wardrobe.

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5 comments so far...

  • Kohl’s is my favorite place to finds great deals. I usually wait until I have a coupon before I go shopping. The end-of-season clearance racks are usually packed with great buys. Now is the time to buy stuff for next winter. Check out their online sales, too. Sometimes these items are cheaper than the store. Sometimes the store is cheaper than online. Just don’t impulse buy, shop around, and sign up for the Kohl’s credit card to get some great deals! (No, I don’t work for Kohl’s!)

    Tara  |  March 5th, 2010 at 11:16 am

  • Looking for tips and places to buy a great classic white button down shirt. how to dress it up and dress it down.

    Triple H  |  March 6th, 2010 at 9:13 am

  • I just bought one of the Old Navy appliqued cardigans. Really, just 15 minutes ago during lunch! So cute. I’m a sucker for their prices, and I find a lot of bargain prices at Marshall’s/TJ Maxx.

    Lee  |  March 9th, 2010 at 9:41 am

  • I love cardigans–in fact, I’m wearing one right now! I blame Michelle Obama :)

    Ann Taylor LOFT has loads of adorable cardigans this spring ( They aren’t super cheap, but they’re all less than $100.

    The Gap often has cardigans in the mid-price range as well. And H&M sometimes has inexpensive ones.

    If you want to go old school, try LL Bean ( or Lands End (

    Heidi/Closet Coach  |  March 11th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

  • Any tips on where to buy a great raincoat? Something that could be worn with both jeans or even casual skirts/dresses? I have a cute canvas trench, but it’s not enough for the drenching spring rains right now.

    Emma  |  March 13th, 2010 at 7:36 am