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How to Style a Sweater Vest in 2021 So You Look Chic, Not Dowdy

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We’re not going to lie—we really didn’t see the rise of the sweater vest coming. This wonderfully nerdy staple, beloved by such comedic (but not fashion) icons as Doug Funnie and Chandler Bing has been steadily growing in popularity since the beginning of the year, or even earlier, and is only becoming more ubiquitous now that fall has officially arrived. If you’ve found yourself wondering how to style a sweater vest and not look like an old college history professor (no offense to them), you’re not the only one. We’ve rounded up ten incredibly stylish, fashion-forward ways to rock this classic preppy knit—and one look to avoid—that are sure to impress even your most sartorially advanced friends. Here’s exactly how to style a sweater vest with aplomb in 2021.

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1. tuck A Sweater Vest Into Some Flared Jeans

This works best with sweater vests designed with a slimmer fit. To avoid looking like an all-out ‘70s replica, add a few more modern pieces, like pointy-toe heels or flats, a chain necklace or two, or even a ‘90s-era baguette bag.

Shop similar styles: Wilfred sweater vest ($110); Grlfrnd jeans ($225); Nordstrom belt ($39); Urban Outfitters bag ($40; $20); Nine West shoes ($89)

2. elevate A Kitschy Print With Luxe Basics

Normally a chunky, multi-colored, oversize sweater vest would carry with it visions of English cottages or Scandinavian villages. But when paired with tailored separates (like trousers and a button-down shirt) in fancy fabrics (like silk, faux leather or crisp cotton), like Coterie member Babba Canales, it takes on more of a sleek NYC vibe.

Shop similar styles: Baum Und Pfergarten sweater vest ($279); Numi shirt ($220; $187); Wilfred pants ($148); By Far bag ($540); Steve Madden shoes ($80)

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3. style Cropped Vests Over Voluminous Dresses

Pulling a sweater vest on over your favorite tent dress from the summer helps to make it feel more autumnal and also creates the illusion of a waist without actually cinching you in (thereby ruining the ultra-comfy experience of wearing a tent dress in the first place). Add some tall boots, and a duster jacket if it’s really starting to get chilly, and you’ve got yourself a fun and trendy new go-to fall outfit.

Shop similar styles: Minga London sweater vest ($79); Tuckernuck dress ($128); Longchamp bag ($590; $355); Tory Burch boots ($598)

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4. layer One Over A Statement Blouse

It might not seem like a logical move to layer anything over a statement piece—the whole reason you bought it was to show it off, after all—but a simple sweater vest still allows you to showcase an oversize collar or voluminous ruffled sleeves. All it really does is add some extra interest to your look by mixing in a new color or texture.

Shop similar styles: Anthropoloige sweater vest ($98); Express shirt ($60; $30); Veronica Beard jeans ($248); Proenze Schouler bag ($395); Marc Fisher Ltd. boots ($189)

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5. mix And Match Contrasting Prints

The most popular sweater vests right now feature bright colors and bold patterns. And while you can certainly choose just one stand-out piece and pair it with low-key jeans and a white T-shirt, we love the look of piling on lots of patterns at once. Try mixing large with small, and make sure both prints have at least one color in common to avoid too much clashing.

Shop similar styles: BP sweater vest ($39); Stine Goya skirt ($310); Naturalizer shoes ($125)

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6. try A Monochrome Ensemble

If kitschy prints aren’t really your vibe, try sporting a single color from head to toe. We particularly love this winter white getup, which looks much more grown up and sophisticated than pairing an argyle knit with a pleated plaid skirt (not that we don’t love that look, too). You can even opt for bolder colors if you like, like bright red or forest green, so long as you stick to just one.

Shop similar styles: Who What Wear sweater vest ($115); J.Crew shirt ($80); Ted Baker London pants ($235); A.P.C. bag ($395; $277); Superga sneakers ($79)

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7. or All Black And White

A funky print doesn’t feel quite so attention-grabbing if it only features black and white. This is doubly true if you stick to black or white separates for the rest of your outfit as well. If you really want to add in a color, try something small, like yellow sunglasses or a dainty, multi-hued necklace rather than a large, bright splash.

Shop similar styles: Find Me Now sweater vest ($130); Everlane shirt ($75); Bershka pants ($41); Sancia bag ($349); ASOS boots ($50)

8. wear A Long Sweater Vest As A Dress

Our favorite way to rock this look is by layering a classic white shirtdress underneath, but you can also try adding a shacket or coordinating long cardigan over top as well. Finish with some chic boots that hit somewhere between mid-calf and just over the knee to strike a flattering balance between your mini sweater dress and your footwear.

Shop similar styles: Eloquii sweater vest ($85); ASOS shirtdress ($50); Everlane boots ($130)

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9. french Tuck An Oversize Knit

Another majorly popular sweater vest style is one with a drooped shoulder and oversize fit. If you don’t want to wear one as a dress (like we mention above), we highly recommend tucking your vest into your waistband to avoid losing your shape altogether. You don’t need to tuck it in all the way around, a casual French tuck right at the front or to the side should do the trick.

Shop similar styles: Banana Republic sweater vest ($110); Citizens of Humanity shirt ($198); Mango pants ($300); Wandler bag ($727)

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10. use A Standout Print To Spice Up A Basic Ensemble

Trendy checkerboard prints are an easy way to liven up a classic black-and-white or monochrome outfit. Since you don’t have to worry about coordinating any clashing prints or colors, focus on mixing and matching different silhouettes—like a fitted vest on top of an oversize shirt—instead.

Shop similar styles: Anthropoloige sweater vest ($98); Open Edit shirt ($49); Adidas pants ($70); Tkees sandals ($75)

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11. don’t: Mix A Heavy Knit With Summer Staples

Just because your sweater vest is sleeveless doesn’t mean it will automatically pair well with warm-weather pieces. A chunky turtleneck worn over a slinky skirt and minimalist sandals just looks out of place and mismatched in a bad way. Instead, try a thin knit with a V-neck, or swap the flowy skirt for a more structured fabric.