Sweaters are not what they used to be. They’re more body-, size- and skin-friendly and tweaked for comfort and fashion-forward details. It’s a good time to check your oldies and donate or toss what no longer works. You’ll find plenty of new relaxed shapes that solve fit issues, fiber blends that are softer, stretchier (and don’t itch) and styles that flatter all our curves. Here are the top 11:
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PHOTO BY: Mango; Everlane; Gap
1. A V-neck sweater
Before you say, “I have one,” check out body-enhancing updates like wider Vs (no cleavage peep show or need for a camisole), dropped shoulders (to look cool and make upper arms happy) and a more relaxed fit (for no midriff ripples or bra bulges). If you have a big bust and a short torso, are wider at the hips/thighs than at the shoulders or just wish you could lose five pounds in five seconds this is the sweater you need. A sleek, smooth knit in a neutral color, like the Gap Softest V-Neck Sweater in Margate Sand Beige, Camel Tan or True Black ($60, gap.com), Everlane The Cashmere V-Neck in Kalamata ($120, everlane.com) or Mango V-Neck Knit Sweater in Ecru or Brown ($60, mango.com/us), dresses up or down, day or night and goes solo or layers easily under blazers.
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PHOTO BY: Ann Taylor; Walmart; Target
2. A V-neck sweater with a collar
Collared sweaters are trendy but the one we want is a sophisticated polo style with a V neckline. Unlike fussy, sweet, collared styles with puffy sleeves, bows and ruffles, polo Vs are a new classic that’ll stick around. Look for wide, not deep, Vs for all the benefits in tip number 1. Neutral colors like the Eloquii Elements Women’s Plus-Size Open Neck Polo Sweater in Arabian Spice ($15, walmart.com), Ann Taylor Collared V-Neck Sweater in Spiced Taupe ($90, anntaylor.com) and Ava & Viv Women’s Plus Size Split Neck Pullover Sweater in Rust ($30, target.com) keep the effect sleek and chic. Wear them with all your wide-leg pants, high-waist jeans and tailored skirts.
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PHOTO BY: Ann Taylor; Madewell; Everlane
3. A sporty sweater
Sweatshirts have taught sweaters a thing or two. Since we don’t plan on giving up our joggers, track pants or leggings any time soon (and no need now that athleisure pants come in elevated faux leather and velvet), sweaters with a hood or zipper make perfect toppers. Choose a hooded style like the Ann Taylor Waffle Hoodie Sweater in Wild Truffle ($98, anntaylor.com) or Wilmington Hoodie Sweater in Heather Denim ($98, madewell.com) or a zip-up like Everlane’s The Chunky Cardigan in Toasted Almond ($110, everlane.com). But make no mistake about it, these sweaters also look amazing with all your regular clothes from slouchy pants to pleated skirts, and tossed over dresses, too.
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PHOTO BY: Gap; Banana Republic; Amazon
4. A turtleneck
For many women, a chill-chasing turtleneck is an essential winter basic. To be honest, despite body and age positivity some of us still love the way a turtle camouflages sag and creases. There are two ways to go — trim or loose. A light semifitted style like the Gap Merino Turtleneck Sweater in Charcoal Grey ($70, gap.com) or Banana Republic’s Ribbed Turtleneck Sweater in Heather Gray or Red Sunset ($90, bananarepublic.com) is an excellent layering piece to be mostly worn under our leather jackets and blazers. Bigger looser sweaters like the Zesica Women’s Oversized Turtleneck Chunky Knit Pullover in Apricot, Bright Orange or Navy ($41, amazon.com) are for getting cozy on their own. And here’s a heads-up: The term “turtleneck” now often also applies to tall necks with no fold-over cuff.
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PHOTO BY: JCPenney; Nordstrom; Gap
5. A crew neck
Some of us prefer the neck-warming combo of a crew neck sweater and long wrapped scarf (the better to show our collection) to a turtleneck. Fine, but skip the preppy crews you’ve been wearing since college. Updated crewnecks like the BP Plaited Stitch Recycled Blend Crewneck Sweater, Plus Size in Purple Dahlia ($35, nordstrom.com), Gap Recycled Cashmere Sweater in Camel Tan or Heather Grey ($98, gap.com) and St. John’s Bay Women’s Crewneck Long Sleeve Striped Pullover Sweater in Neutral Combo ($26, jcpenney.com) have wider necklines and extended neckbands (to prevent the neck-shortening look of old-style crews), plus they offer an eased fit through the torso and sleeves. It’s a win for crew fans with curvy shapes and bigger busts.
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PHOTO BY: Old Navy; JCPenney; Gap
6. A tunic sweater
If you live in leggings all winter or just want a bigger, cozier thigh-length sweater that’s not sloppy or shapeless, head for tunics. The longer proportion of sweater tunics looks great over any slim base. Choose a straight style that skims over curves like the Old Navy Mock-Neck Ribbed Tunic Sweater for Women in Ivory Pearl or Black Jack ($45, oldnavy.gap.com) or Gap Cable Knit Tunic Sweater in Espresso Brown ($70, gap.com). For those who want some definition in their tunic, the Worthington Women’s Crew Neck Long Sleeve Pullover Sweater in Battalion Olive or Tortoise Brown ($33, jcpenney.com) has a front-only tie at the waist.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon; Gap; Amazon
7. A cardigan
This “third piece” sweater adds a layer of warmth and pulls together any tee and pant or jean for a more polished look. A thigh-length textured cardigan like the Merokeety Women’s Cable Knit Cardigan in Rust, Army Green or Khaki ($41, amazon.com), Gap Cable Knit Boyfriend Cardigan in Chino Beige ($90, gap.com) or Zesica Women’s Open-Front Soft Knit Cardigan in Light Khaki or Rust ($28-40, amazon.com) is the most useful proportion to own now. It’s long enough to cover but fits easily under parkas and coats and looks great open or closed. Neutrals will again be the most versatile choice here but instead of black, charcoal and navy, try lighter, warmer neutrals in earthy greens, tans, beiges and browns that show off the cables and stitchwork.
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PHOTO BY: Amazon; Lane Bryant; Amazon
8. Wrap sweaters
If you love the bodyboosting crossover design and V neck of wrap dresses, keep the benefits going in your sweaters. For maximum waist-enhancing and no bulges, choose sweaters that tie at the side rather than bathrobe styles with an all-around self-belt. Try a flat knit like the Lane Bryant V-Neck Wrap Sweater in Black ($60, lanebryant.com) or chunkier ribbed styles like the Kirundo Women’s 2021 V Neck Balloon Sleeve Wrap Tunic Top in Lake Green or Light Red ($18-34, amazon.com) or the Miessial Women’s V Neck Cable Knit Wrap Sweater in Beige ($28, amazon.com).
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PHOTO BY: H&M; Amazon; Old Navy
9. A sweater dress
If you’re more of a dress person and live in opaque tights and boots until spring, add a sweater dress. It’ll save you on chilly workdays, icy evenings or at holiday parties. Avoid body-conscious sweater dresses that cling and head for relaxed styles like the Drop Women’s Suki Rib Midi V-Back Sweater Dress in Black ($50-52, amazon.com), a midi with a wide ballet neckline and dropped shoulder; the dropped shoulder H&M Rib-knit Turtleneck Dress in Sage Green ($50, hm.com/en_us) that hits just below the knees; and the lightweight Old Navy Long-Sleeve Turtleneck Midi Sweater Shift Dress for Women in Dark Bottle or Heather Gray Trademark ($40, oldnavy.gap.com). Just add knee-high boots, booties or a pair of Uggs.
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PHOTO BY: Eloquii; Bloomingdale's; Macy's
10. A night-out black sweater
Any black day sweater after dark looks hot, but we all need one special “date night” style. Skip the off-the-shoulder sweaters. They are trendy and sexy but require a strapless bra and who needs that on a Saturday night in January? Instead, try a turtleneck with subtle shoulder cutouts like the Eloquii Cold Shoulder Cutout Turtleneck in Totally Black ($65, eloquii.com), the ASTR the Label Sequoia Shoulder Cutout Sweater in Black ($98, bloomingdales.com) or the 1.State Cold Shoulder Cuffed Turtleneck Sweater in Rich Black ($79, macys.com). All are grownup, flirtatious and toasty warm.
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PHOTO BY: Nordstrom; Banana Republic; Lane Bryant
11. A cheerful sweater
Sometimes on drab gray days you just want to grab a pop of color or a whimsical knit that makes you smile. It’s the sweater you’ll wear to stand out in the crowd, make an entrance or an impression on Zoom. Choose a face-brightening tunic like the Adyson Parker V-Neck Tunic Sweater, Plus Size in Pink Yarrow ($68, nordstrom.com), a statement red pullover like the Banana Republic Oversized Half-Zip Sweater in Hot Red ($169, bananarepublic.gap.com) or a message crew like the Lane Bryant Crew-Neck Icon Sweater in Tan ($55, lanebryant.com) that will make you laugh at the mirror and remind you of how terrific you are.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.