The best short-sleeve cardigan

Megan Oster

If you want to wear your short-sleeve cardigan during the cold season, stick with fabrics like wool and cashmere.

Short-sleeve cardigans might not be in abundant supply like their long-sleeve counterparts, but they’re an ideal sweater for seasonal transitions. Short-sleeve cardigans are usually made of lightweight fabrics that are cooler than the heavyweight materials used in many long-sleeve cardigans. These sweaters also allow you to show off bracelets. 

Your skin will thank you if you choose the Adaniki Short-Sleeve Open-Front Cardigan With Pockets. This sweater is constructed of super soft modal fabric and has a stylish draped hem. The longline silhouette is streamlined and two front pockets give you a place to stash your stuff. 

What to know before you buy a short-sleeve cardigan


A short-sleeve cardigan can be the perfect finishing touch on an outfit. While functionality is always important, when it comes to the fashion aspect of a cardigan, you should choose the style carefully. Fortunately, there are a large variety of style options with short-sleeve cardigans:

  • Classic: Hits at the natural waist and is slightly fitted, but never tight
  • Shrug/bolero/cropped: Hits 1-2 inches above the waist
  • Duster: Has a relaxed fit and falls to the ankles
  • Belted: Sold with a belt and typically fits loosely
  • Hooded: Designed with a hood and sometimes referred to as a sweater-jacket
  • Tunic: Hits right above the knee and can can be slightly fitted or relaxed
  • Wrap: Has a surplice neckline that allows the cardigan to wrap around the body
  • Draped: Designed with a draped neckline and open front that fall against the body in layers

Open front vs. closures

The majority of short-sleeve cardigans sold have an open front, meaning they’re designed to be worn open exclusively. However, some secure with closures. There are two types of closures: buttons and zippers. 

Buttons are the more traditional choice. Since short-sleeve cardigans are intended to be worn by women, the buttons are typically on the smaller side. This gives the cardigan a dainty and feminine appearance. 

Zipper closures have a sleeker look. They’re also easier to open and close in a pinch. That said, some people prefer the classic look of buttons to the modern look of a zipper closure. 

Tops to wear with short-sleeve cardigans

Short-sleeve cardigans go well with many different types of tops, from lightweight blouses to pared-down T-shirts. Tank tops also complement a short-sleeve cardigan nicely. With a sleeveless style, you don’t have to worry about the sleeves of your top sticking out past the short sleeves of the sweater. 

Short-sleeve cardigan features

Sweater weight

Not all short-sleeve cardigans can stand up to chilly winter days or nights. In fact, many of these sweaters are deliberately constructed of lightweight materials. They’re meant to be worn as the seasons transition, rather than in the bitter cold of winter. 

If you want to wear your short-sleeve cardigan during the cold season, stick with fabrics like wool and cashmere. These materials have a robust insulation level. Fabrics like cotton and modal are lightweight and don’t have the insulating power of wool and cashmere.


You’re not stuck with one length when it comes to short-sleeve cardigans. In fact, you have several options: 

  • Cropped lengths hit at the point above the belly button by 1-2 inches
  • Classic lengths hit at the waist or hips and have the most traditional look
  • Longline lengths hit at the mid-thigh
  • Tunic lengths hit right above the knee
  • Duster lengths hit anywhere from mid-calf to the ankle 


Few short-sleeve cardigans have a figure-hugging, body-conscious fit. The majority are slightly fitted, closely following the contours of your body. Some have a completely relaxed fit that hangs loosely on your frame. 

Short-sleeve cardigan cost 

You can find many short-sleeve cardigans in an affordable price range, starting at $35 on average and topping out around $75. 

Short-sleeve cardigan FAQ

Are elbow-length sleeves the same as short sleeves? 

A. Elbow-length sleeves are a type of short sleeve — so yes, they’re the same. Short sleeves range from cap sleeves to elbow sleeves. The only difference, aside from a few inches, is the point at which the two lengths draw the eye to the body. Elbow-length sleeves lead the eye to the waist, while shorter lengths lead the eye to the bust and your décolletage. 

Can you wear a short-sleeve cardigan during the winter?

A. The answer depends on how far temperatures drop in your neck of the woods. Residents in sunny, subtropical southern Florida can probably get away with it, even during the region’s coldest months. People who live in Massachusetts, on the other hand, would find a short-sleeve cardigan grossly inadequate for keeping them warm in the winter season. 

Which short-sleeve cardigan should I get?

Best of the best short-sleeve cardigan

Adaniki Short-Sleeve Open-Front Cardigan With Pockets: available at Amazon

Our take: The modal fabric of this longline cardigan sweater will feel ultra-soft against your skin and the classic style is versatile. 

What we like: Constructed of 100% buttery-soft modal fabric, this sweater looks and feels great. The lightweight cardigan is designed with a slim silhouette and a draped hem. It also features two generous pockets in the front for convenience and comfort. The sleeves of the cardigan have a relaxed fit. 

What we dislike: Dissatisfied buyers felt the sweater looked different in person than it did in the picture online. 

Best bang for your buck short-sleeve cardigan

24seven Comfort Apparel Open-Front Elbow-Length Sleeve Cardigan: available at Macy’s

Our take: Elbow-length sleeves with a wide cuff and an open front with a hemmed detail give this cozy cardigan a dash of style. 

What we like: Hitting mid-thigh, this longline cardigan has what it takes to become a wardrobe staple. A wide cuff on the elbow-length sleeves and a hemmed detail on the open front add interest. The relaxed fit of the sweater allows for layering clothing with thick or thin materials underneath. 

What we dislike: People who prefer a streamlined silhouette might find this cardigan too loose-fitting. 

Honorable mention short-sleeve cardigan 

Nina Leonard Open-Front Crop Bolero: available at Kohl’s

Our take: The cropped cut of this feminine bolero sweater will define your midsection and highlight your bust. 

What we like: This bolero sweater is a great alternative to a full-length short-sleeve cardigan. Hitting just above the waist, the lines curve upward to form an hourglass shape that flatters your figure. This style looks particularly nice with a dress. You can choose from versatile white or black, or sunny lemon. 

What we dislike: The cropped hem can be polarizing, with some people loving it and others despising it.

Megan Oster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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