As we round out October and plunge head-first into the holiday season, getting dressed often means wearing what’s comfortable, easy, and quick. And there’s nothing that achieves that more easily than a sweater dress. At least in theory.
Versatility is a sweater dress’s superpower, but harnessing it for a given occasion (the office, city walks, date night, etc.) takes finessing. With a little bit of creativity, a sweater dress can be styled in a range of outfits that are so unique from each other, nobody would even notice it’s the same dress.
As we do our best to look styled, feel comfortable, and stay warm this season, here’s how to style a sweater dress seven ways. Plus, the best sweater dresses out there from brands I love and trust for comfort, durability, and fit.
1. Keep It Classic
Nervous about pulling off a sweater dress? Dip your toe in with the fool-proof combination of a long sleeve sweater dress and knee-high boots. A midi length that’s fitted (doesn’t need to be bodycon) or has a tie-waist is your best bet as it will minimize the likelihood that your shoe choice creates unflattering proportions. Knee high boots with a slim or fitted shaft—like this—pair beautifully with almost any long sweater dress. Add a bag of choice, your everyday jewelry, and you’re out the door in five.
2. Layer a Blazer
One way to play with layers in a sweater dress outfit that feels too “simple” is to use plaid, leather, or wool to break it up. Try pairing a leather jacket, wool sweater blazer, or plaid blazer—like this one—with a midi sweater dress and ankle boots for a look that’s cozy and office-friendly. Alternatively, swap in sneakers on the bottom to keep things casual. This is a gorgeous example.
3. Dress It Down
Not all sweater dress outfits are meant to be seen. Embrace their convenience by throwing one on with shearling mules for your home office, or pair it with crisp, white sneakers (Veja, Frye, and Sam Edelman are a few favorites) for a sharper look if you’re venturing out. This is an example with a maxi dress, and this is an example with a mini cable knit sweater dress.
4. Dress It Up
Elevate a sweater dress (literally and figuratively!) with heeled boots. I’m a firm believer that fabric and fit are huge factors when it comes to looking “dressy.” So swap chunky knits and oversized sweater dress styles for tighter, smoother fabrics (rayon, nylon, viscose, wool blend), and look for details that add polish, like ribbing, flared cuffs, tie waists, and pleating. Midi or maxi is the way to go, and stiletto heel boots look dressier than block heel varieties. This is a great example.
5. Belt It
The most flattering sweater dresses will have a close fit over the bust and waist with a more free flowing bottom. But if you find that your curves are still getting erased by the fabric or you simply want more definition, add a belt like this one to cinch your waist. This look also works beautifully over a bump for expecting mommas, as seen here.
6. With OTK Boots
If the goal is to stand out, over-the-knee boots are a less common pairing that pack a punch. A mini sweater dress with thigh high boots is sexy, polished, and sophisticated, as long as you nail the proportions. Knowing that a few inches is the difference between looking chic and awkward, play with dress and boot combos until you find one that feels right. This and this are excellent examples of this look gone right. Stuart Weitzman makes the only pair of boots I’ve tried that are flattering and stay put.
7. Layer It
The most practical way to wear a sweater dress into the cooler months is to use the sweater dress as a base and let a great wool coat, long cardigan, or trench coat stand out on top. Even cashmere sweater dresses need an extra layer for ultra cold weather. What’s great about this look is that not only will the long layer lengthen your figure, but it’s an easy way to squeeze more wear out of short sleeve and sleeveless sweater dresses that would otherwise leave you feeling chilly.
Shop Sweater Dress Favorites
Below I’ve included sweater dresses at various price points from brands I love and trust. Click any dress to shop it directly. The turtleneck sweater dress is in my cart for the holidays, and this is my favorite sweater dress for everyday wear.
Click any image to see details of the look.
Additional Sweater Dress Styling Tips
How to Choose Shoes to Wear with Sweater Dresses
There’s no hard rule for what shoes to wear with sweater dresses. However, proportion and silhouette are vital to a flattering look. What looks best on you will depend on how you’re built, your height, and other factors. As a general rule, I find that pairings that show no skin (see here and here) and a little skin (see here, here, and here) work best, as opposed to sweater dress looks that expose a significant portion of your legs (see here).
How to Choose the Right Sweater Dress Neckline
Turtleneck, mock neck, cowl neck, crewneck, v-neck, hoodie—the list goes on and on. So, how do you choose the right one for a given outfit? I find that cowl neck sweater dress and turtleneck sweater dress styles look best on their own. Crewneck and v-neck dresses layer most easily with blazers, cardigans, and coats. A mock neck sweater dress is a nice between option that adds a little warmth and interest to the neckline but won’t look too bulky with outerwear on top.
A Simple Tip for Nailing Sweater Dress Style
Look at yourself in thirds: you either want one-third on top and two-thirds at the bottom or two-thirds on top and one-third at the bottom. Examples of this include a mini dress with OTK boots and a midi dress with suede ankle booties. Try different shoe styles and layers until the proportions feel balanced to you.