How to Style: Basic Cardigan & Pencil Skirt Combo for Work

The J.Crew chiffon cardigans that almost every petite blogger ordered on sale have arrived, and I liked them but didn’t love them. Elle said it simply – the arms are snug but the torso is not fitted.

Worn plainly, it’s nothing to write home about:Β 
Cardi: J.crew Chiffon-Placket Cardigan sz XXS in “weathered wood” – buy here (sale extended)
This is what one size up (XS) looks on me (XXS sold out in Gold while in my cart…gah!):

I am returning this as it’s too big all around. See the same color in XXS on Vicky.

In the spirit of “making it work,” I spent an hour rifling through my closet for possible pairings, and ended up recording the following video:


Variation # 1 – Tuck it In


Variation # 2 – “X” then Belt


Belt: Ann Taylor Perfect Patent Skinny Belt in Granite, sz S (extra holes punched)
Vintage “Peri” Cameo pendant: eBay
Read Kelly’s analysis of the “X-shape” for cardigans.


Variation # 3 – Open & Accessorized


Readers – Which version is your favorite? Please share your own tips on how to style the cardi & pencil skirt combo : )

70 thoughts on “How to Style: Basic Cardigan & Pencil Skirt Combo for Work

  • Angie December 18, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    2 and 3 are definitely my faves. i watched the video and thought meh the torso is still not very fitted but then magic! you do great work with skinny belts πŸ™‚ this was a super helpful post! thanks jean

  • Vicky December 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Yes, Jean, the xs is way too big. I'm not very optimistic about my upcoming shipment. Are the sleeves on xxs too tight on you too? My favorite variation is definitely #2. Second favorite #3. I'm still not too much into tucked in cardi look, yet. πŸ™‚ I think this weatherwood color looks better on you than the gold one anyways.
    On another note, how did you take indoor pictures without having a shadow behind you? It's driving me crazy. I still haven't figured out the ideal recipe yet for indoor pictures. πŸ™

  • yourstrulypam December 18, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I love your style. It's so classy and elegant. I definately like style #2. You've made it fit really nicely.

  • milk tea + polkadots December 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    I like #2 the best. That's how I usually wear my cardigans. πŸ™‚

  • SugarNikita December 18, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Variation #2 is my favorite, but I think they all work wonderfully on you!

  • R December 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    My favorite is Variation #1. You're the first person I've seen to tuck cardigans into skirts and I think that's absolutely genius. So simple, yet unique and classy!

    I was also going to order both the Weathered Wood and Gold in XXS but I took too much time deciding on filler items that the Gold XXS sold out for me too!

    I am sending mine back because the arms are snug to the point that I can't comfortably wear a long-sleeved shirt underneath it (a must for me) and I'm weary about the delicate buttons on the ruffles. But you look so great in the variations that I just might reconsider, lol. By the way, I'm "RLLater" on Twitter.

  • Michelle December 18, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    For this particular cardign, I love 3 the best! It shows off the pretty ruffles of the cardigan. πŸ™‚

  • Eva December 18, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I love combo 2 & 3! i love your style!

  • The Little Dust Princess December 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    The "weathered wood" colour looks so fab on you! Definitely a keeper. I hope it shrinks a bit! I LOVE it tucked in!! My 2nd fave would be the belted outfit. πŸ˜€

    I need a nicely fitted pencil skirt like yours. I'm not actively looking for one, but I've been checking out a few stores for an affordable one. Yours fits you so well!

    xx The Little Dust Princess

  • Yvette December 18, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    The belted cardigan really suits you. In fact, I think I'm just going to cave and buy the cardigan in that great gold color. Can you tell me how the XS fits in the sleeves? Were they too long as well? They don't look too bad in the picture, but it's a little hard to tell.

  • Stylepint December 18, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    I think all three variations are good and perfect for work. For variation 1, I'd add a belt over the skirt so it's not so plain. And for variation 3, I'd probably shorten the pearl strands so it doesn't clash with the belt. Just personal preference.

    Great going with the how to style posts! =)

  • PetiteΓ©lΓ©gant December 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I like how you style it in #2.
    Is the pencil skirt that big in size xxs that you have it taken in? That's a lot of work for a pencil skirt. They should come in your size.

  • Alterations Needed December 18, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Ah yes…the "X" sweater trick…my fav. =)
    That's pretty much how the sweaters look on me too, but I love the colors, and they look nice 1/2 buttoned like you have it in variation #2, so I'm keeping them. The weathered wood really surprised me, and I think I like it more than the gold! Still have to take pics…driving up to LA totally messed up my photo taking schedule. =P

  • TinyInTX December 18, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Love 2 and 3!! I will probably wear mine all of these ways. Great job styling these!

  • diaryofashopper December 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    That is too bad that those sweaters are not all that fitted. I ordered those as well and they haven't come yet. It does look super cute with the skinny belt.

  • PetiteLittleGirl December 18, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    You're right. There wasn't anything special about this cardigan in the first picture. You made it look very attractive. I love all the variations but my favorite is # 2. I sure will try to recreate that look with my cardigans. Excellent post. I love it πŸ™‚

  • Kellie December 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    "by underwear I don't mean dinky panties" LOL JEAN! You're so funny <3!

  • lil_budoy December 18, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    i love ur pencil skirt…the way u wear it looks absolutely perfect.i like how you combine each items…really nice.

  • lil_budoy December 18, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    i think i like style #2…i dont know…it looks simple but i love it…

  • AubreyOhDang! December 18, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Sometimes I still add a belt outside of the skirt when wearing it like Variation #1. Man, belts are so necessary in order to create that hourglass figure on petites.

    Since purchasing the belt puncher, I feel so fearless to walk over to the belt section and just go for the one I like w/o worrying that it wont fit.

  • Petite Mom December 18, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    I like how you styled the cardigan! I think you look terrific in all three variations. I like #2 the best, then #3, and last #1. #1 looks nice too but it's a little plain compared to the other two…it needs some accessory to jazz it up…hmm, maybe a chain belt.

  • Elle December 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    I like all three ways of how you styled it (especially the third, I think…hard to choose a favorite). The xs is much too big on you…in fact, the xxs seems rather big on you too but you've successfully masked that fact through the clever ways you wore this.

    I saw/picked up a few of the Gap cowl neck sweaters you reviewed a while back for $12ish ($19.99 and then additional 40% in stores) and got the larger sizes for my mom and then proceeded to show her your video. She is in awe of how pretty you are (I had to remind her that you have a very sweet bf…I have an older brother so I don't want to give her any ideas. πŸ™‚ )

  • Callandra December 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Hi Jean, Variation 2 is definitely my favorite! I'm a little worried after seeing that cardi on you because I ordered it last night in the same color! Hopefully it will be a tad more fitted on me….fingers crossed πŸ˜‰

  • Ada December 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    I loved variation 1! I never thought of tucking in cardigans, will definitely try that someday in the future.
    I'm a new reader of about a few months, and I'm so glad I found your blog! I've been VERY slowly building my work wardrobe (like yours!) but haven't found ways to make it look "exciting" and interesting yet. I love your style, and it's definitely given me many ideas on how to dress for work! Thanks for your posts, and keep them coming!

  • Thao December 18, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    I really like it open, but perhaps that's also because I really like the necklaces that complement it. With a belt also looks nice too.

  • Cee December 18, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    I love the 3rd look. It might be the clever accessorizing though. I also like the first look because tucking the cardi in seems to hide the bagginess. If you styled the first look with the accessories of the 3rd, that might be my favorite look!

  • SewPetiteGal December 19, 2010 at 12:09 am

    I like all 3 variations but #1 and 2 are my favorites! I got the same cardigans in the same colors but returned weathered wood because I was expecting more of a rusty red and mine looked brown. I wore my cardi over a shell but under a blazer to hide the loose torso (post to come!).

  • samanthaloves December 19, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Jean, I love love love what you did for #2. Small differences can make a HUGE difference! I think #2 looks perfectly proportioned and makes you look even taller.

  • mich LA December 19, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Aww that's too bad about the gold sweater selling out! Hate when something disappears while it's already in your cart! I really love the freshness of that color on you! Good work with this cardi though! I really like the vibrant pop of the pearls and belt in version #3 up there! They definitely brighten up the rest of the outfit.

    OMG, I need to stop procrastinating on getting my exotic skirt tailored. It looks so freaking good on you!!

  • Jen December 19, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Ohhh, I can see what everyone means by "okay but not awesome" on the fit. Oh well, that's how I've come to accept all cardis to be on me and I do like the contrast of the ruffle on the weathered wood, so hopefully it looks as nice in person too!

    #2 is my favorite as well!

  • PetiteXXS December 19, 2010 at 3:43 am

    My J.Crew shipment finally came too! I agree with everyone about the fit, it's surprising how tight the sleeve cuffs are. I loved the gold color, probably because I've never tried anything in mustard yellow on before and was surprised at how much I like it on me. For $21, I'd definitely keep at least one or two, but not sure which colors yet.

    My favorite is #2, probably because I think the accessories were juust right, but I'd probably wear the other variations too πŸ™‚

  • Tara December 19, 2010 at 5:33 am

    I like options 2 and 3….I agree, that gold cardi definitley looks too big. Even though you weren't thrilled with the fit of the cardi, I think you still managed to pull it off and look great styling the weathered wood cardi! I own a similar cardi from there last year, I actually wore it the other day here:

  • The Girlie Blog December 19, 2010 at 5:49 am

    You look very good in all the ways you have styled the look, but I must say I like it tucked into the pencil skirt the best.

  • Annapurna December 19, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I like all three variations – it is really hard to pick one! Each has its own charms.

    I like #1 for its chic simplicity (I envision hair in a chignon and some pretty dangling earrings). #3 elongates you in a way that #1 and #2 don't. (Although #1 and #2 would accomplish this if the sweater was grey). #2 looks like the most comfortable for work (don't have to worry about bumps from tucking it in).

    I didn't think the XXS small looked too big on you but I generally prefer a looser fit for my cardigans. I agree with you that, to be paired with a pencil skirt and dresses, they look better fitted, but fitted, high quality ones are So.Hard.To.Find.

    I think J crew needs new petite fit models or at least a range. Who do they have who has stick thin arms but a thicker torso? Wait a minute – maybe their petite fit model is PREGNANT.

    I am due in March (a boy!). If you ever find yourself in the North End, shoot me a line. I think I should start a blog called "Plight of the Pregnant Petite." I already have two jobs and will soon have a third (mom!) – otherwise I would!!! Maternity clothes are Le Suck anyway and make me look like a knocked-up orphan. Necklines are too low, shoulders to wide, length is too long – yadayadayada. The only stuff that fits is $$$$$$ – and who wants to waste $$ on stuff you can only wear for a few months and when you don't "know" what size you will be. I couldn't even stomach the idea of paying $40 for an Old Navy coat because I knew I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole aftet Jr. arrives. Wish I could just wear a burka and be done with it.

  • curls-and-pearls December 19, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Excellent video Jean! I sent you an email πŸ˜‰

    I like all 3 variations but I think #3 is the most interesting to me probably because of the pearls πŸ˜›

  • Irene December 19, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Hey Jean – I am constantly amazed as to how you purchase things online and they look great on you! I guess it's all about really knowing your size (which is probably the smallest available in most stores), what suits you best, and not being fooled by how crazygood it looks on the model. I just have had horrible luck for the most part. ;_;

    As for the J.Crew cardigan – I am surprised by how much I love the tucked-in look! Fab! Also loving the skinny belt.

    Total BOO to things being sold out in your cart as you are purchasing. I have been a victim as well. -_-

  • kileen December 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    my favorite look is definitely #2!! i love the X-shape and find it that it's definitely the most figure flattering. the color of both cardigans is beautiful but the XS does look way too big on you. i get my order in on Monday and am anxious to see how it fits on me too — hopefully the arms won't be too tight!

  • yuri chung December 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    ive been a follower of your blog for a while and i love seeing your classic style πŸ™‚
    i was interested in the xs in the gold but its sold out online.. if you didnt send it back, wold you be willing to sell it?
    if so, let me know please at chungy3 at gmail dot com


  • Ping December 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    jean — i actually like all 3 combos! i think my favorite is the 3rd look and that is probably how i'd wear it. your hair looks really shiny and silky in the video btw — any secrets?

  • Jackie December 19, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I really can't decide between #1 and #2. I think They both look great on you and I love the colors in all 3 outfits. I never thought on tucking a cardigan in with my top before…

  • Mix and Match December 19, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I like all three looks. Gorgeous as always. It could look more edgy with a belt for No.1. Oh, you look so much better with weathered wood than gold I think. I'm glad I chose the same color. Can't wait for my shipment. πŸ™‚

  • Connie December 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I like look #2. I love to belt my cardigans; I think its much more figure flattering. I also like the way you looped your skinny belt in look #3…will have to try that next time.

  • fabulouslyfrugirl December 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I really like how you styled it in #2 and #3.

    Very flattering and definitely more interesting than the "default".

  • Cat at UW December 20, 2010 at 1:48 am

    Similar to everyone else, I also like #2 and #3. They are easy, tried-and-true looks. #1 is interesting. Have you thought of adding a medium to wide width belt?

  • Stephanie "DSK" Nguyen December 20, 2010 at 3:09 am

    I love PAG, nuff said πŸ™‚

  • Anonymous December 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    No mention about a JCREW classic ? Jackie cardigan and shell deserve some spot lights too. The twin set is a JCrew stable and a whole set is on sale for a little under $50.00 now. JCrew had updated the cardigan with a shorter body length and 3/4 sleeves. The fit (xxs) is TTS without overly form fitting.
    5 ft. barefoot, small bone and weight 98 to 100 lbs.

  • Rainy Days and Lattes December 20, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Variations #2 and #3 are my favorite although #1 is really eye catching as well πŸ™‚ It's nice to see all the accessories in 3 to make it flirty and whimsical πŸ™‚ It's like taking a whole new step to cardi-wear! πŸ™‚ The belted x-shape is prim and proper πŸ™‚ Perfect for work in the morning where you can easily transform to #3 after work πŸ˜€

  • Anonymous December 20, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Hi Jean,

    I have a question for you: you are modeling all the work clothes with beautful pumps, but how do you wear pumps to work in cold Boston winter?
    do you wear boots to work and change aonce inside at work? do you your wear boots at work? or do you walk outside with pumps?

    This is always a dilemma for me..

  • I am Khatu December 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I like number 2 & 3, but that's because I hate a naked neck. πŸ™‚ when is the next PFC by the way?

  • Gjee December 20, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    Love 2 & 3 the most! 2 is really stunning to me though. very classy and chic! love how the gold necklace gives an extra little "oomph" to the ensemble. πŸ™‚

    you always look so amazing in your pictures! lol stop making others feel bad! jk.. sort of. πŸ™‚

  • *ms.angela89* December 21, 2010 at 12:05 am

    That color cardigan doesn't match you. :/ I think you look best in lighter warm colors like purple,pinks,and blues. That orangey color just washes out your face. But that's just my opinion. You always know how to work your pieces of clothing together. πŸ™‚ You give me tips to dress up my skirts with tops.

    I like style number 2. Cute with a simple belt.

  • Sandy a la Mode December 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    i love love love #2 and #3!!! i think belts are such a great accessory!! and that cardigan is super cute… and cheap too!! i might just have to buy myself one!!

  • jamie December 21, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Thank you so much for this WONDERFUL post. <3 It gave me lots of good ideas and solutions, things I've never thought of before.

  • PetiteAsianGirl December 22, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Thank you guys for all your lovely comments and suggestions!

    @Vicky That's strange…it has to be where you're standing relative to the sun. The sun does not pour in through my windows so there are no shadows.

    @R this R or RL? Sorry I was confused : ) And ah, yes it would be very hard to wear a long sleeve top under this cardi. I never do tho…always sleeveless shells. I'm sorry it didn't work out!

    @Yvette Hi Yvette! Sorry for my late response but yes the sleeves of the XS were a little longer than the XXS (I laid them on top of one another to compare), but you can scrunch it up easily because the sleeves are so fitted/slim, it will stay up.

    @Stylepint Great tips Jess…I agree with the belt added for #1. I had it there but wanted to save the belt tip for #2 and #2 to not be too redundant…lol! I'll have to be more keen about where the long pearls end. I see what you mean : )

  • PetiteAsianGirl December 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

    @PetiteΓ©lΓ©gant I have yet to find a fitted pencil skirt that doesn't need alterations of some sort. The 00P was too big in the waist and hips.

    @Kellie haha…in HS I loved tiny panties…now I gravitate towards boy shorts and spanx-like…gotta combat gravity!

    @AubreyOhDang! Jess/stylepint suggested that too…I definitely agree a belt spices it up but I wanted to save that tip for #2 and #3 lol. So glad you got the puncher. I wasn't sure wehther you did or not so I punched your j.crew belt for you…hope that's ok!

    @Petite Mom Good idea! And little peanut looks adorable in your profile pic : )

  • PetiteAsianGirl December 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

    @Elle lol!!! I love your mom. According to Sydney those sweaters are now an extra 50% off lol…so probably $10. I wanted to buy for my mom too but couldn't find anything bigger than an XS regular.

    @Callandra Can't wait to see how you style yours! It should definitely be more fitted on you, but then the arms might be too slim.

    @Ada Thank you for your comment, Ada! Happy to help and have fun slowly building up your wardrobe and adding fun pieces to it.

  • PetiteAsianGirl December 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

    @Cee Done and done…pearls & belt with tucked in sweater : )

    @samanthaloves Thank you Samantha! It really depends on the cardigan length too..easy to be come overwhelmed by longer cardis or stumped by shorter cardis.

    @PetiteXXS Can't wait to see them on you…the Gold wasn't exactly like mustard yellow…if you like the GOld you must continue looking for a true mustard yellow cardi…my favorite!

    @Annapurna Enjoyed your commentary as always. You should have started that blog earlier…come March-April you will be back in the grind of non-pregnant clothes. Have you tried F21 maternity online? I know it sounds awful but it seems like a nice economical option for the latter months of pregnancy.

  • PetiteAsianGirl December 22, 2010 at 11:34 am

    @yuri chung Hi Yuri! I'm very sorry but the XS in gold is gone…maybe one of the other petite bloggers may be selling it!

    @Ping Lol! The secret is low-quality videos uploaded on to Youtube. On my computer the hair does not look silky…after it is pixelated from being uploaded onto YT there are suddenly new dimensions of shine.

    @Cat at UW Sure did…I think a skinny-med might be the winner. I added on a wide belt and it looked a little too segmented…like top, middle, and bottom.

    @Anonymous Hi there! I reviewed the jackie cardigan a while back in regular XS (I can see how the XXS would be a perfect fit on tiny petites) and it was small. It's just a bit plain…I'm hunting for pieces that have more punch but are still semi classic, like this ruffle cardi. I wear plain skirts and plain pants, and sadly don't have too many print/patterned tops, so another plain Jackie cardigan would send it over the top to plain-dome.

  • PetiteAsianGirl December 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

    @Rainy Days and Lattes Glad you liked it, Jen!

    @Anonymous Hi there! Apparently this depends on what city/town you live in, but in NYC and Boston it's quite common for women to commute in boots and flats, then change into pumps which are left at work. If it's snowing/raining I wear wear black rainboots (from Dav, frequently found on sample sale sites). If it's just plain cold I'll wear uggs, or if it's normal weather I'll wear tory burch flats (which I find at the end of seasons on sale) for commuting. All the women I work with do the same, but apparently in non-city places it's quite unusual to commute in certain shoes then change into nicer ones later. Hope this helps!

    @I am Khatu Welcome back! It's in early – mid Jan, hosted by Cynthia of Shorty Stories. Check the AlterationsNeeded forum for exact details : )

    @Gjee Aww, you are a sweetheart but NOT TRUE at all ; )

    @*ms.angela89* Ah I can see your point…I'm not too shrewd on finding colors that match my skintone lol : ) Hopefully this will look a little better with some summer glow! I had to stay out of the sun for about one year and it was painful to do…

  • PetiteAsianGirl December 22, 2010 at 11:41 am

    Sandy – it will probably go on sale further in the less popular colors

    Jamie – thank you for reading! I'm glad it was helpful : D

  • unee cakes January 2, 2011 at 11:12 am

    the belt and over accessorize are great ideas! i always have trouble as to how to wear a skirt properly.. especially pencil skirts! i need to go invest in more belts now! πŸ™‚

  • C. January 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Wow, the video tutorial is so informative, thank you! Really appreciate the thorough explanations, and I'm fascinated by the "X" approach. New fan! πŸ™‚


  • Justine January 9, 2011 at 3:50 am

    I think my favorite is #3 then #2
    The pictures aren't showing up on my screen. I only see the Flicker in place of the pictures

    Just Better Together

  • Christina January 26, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I bought this cardigan in weathered wood as well and wasn't really impressed with it. Unfortunately, it was final sale + I was stuck with it (I considered giving it to my mom!) but now I think I'll keep it!

    I tried #1 this morning and it looks great! I'm just as curvy as I am petite & I think this is a good look/fit for my frame. #3 also looks like a classic look. Thanks!! πŸ™‚

  • Rosie February 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Hey! I just noticed this cardigan is still in stock on in 4 colors in XXS for $30.

    You've inspired me to try look #2 tomorrow.

  • annunci lavoro hostess September 13, 2011 at 1:16 am

    I love your pencil skirt and I really like the necklaces that complement it. I will probably wear mine all of these ways. Great job styling these!

  • Ceren B. October 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Thank you ..I add pencil skirts my blog.Please visit.

  • Anonymous September 3, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I have many ideas to remix my dresses and cardigan after reading this. πŸ™‚ I am loving #2

  • Johanna May 15, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    So well done! I recently discovered your blog and have had a couple of Ah-ha! moments already! I am very very particular about the fit of my clothes, for the same reasons that you are, and I was so thrilled to learn a couple of your tricks. Thanks so much!

  • Kriscq September 6, 2014 at 2:41 pm

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