Women's Fair Isle Cardigans

Fair isle cardigan

Adding women's Fair Isle cardigans to your fall and winter wardrobe is a smart and stylish way to keep warm during the colder months of the year.

About Fair Isle

The term "Fair Isle" is often misinterpreted, even by those with an eye for all things fashionable. Many people think it refers to any knit or knit-type garment with varying color patterns on it. True Fair Isle may involve up to five different colors, but there are never more than two colors per knit row. The name comes from the remote Fair Isle island, located in the UK Shetlands. It's here that authentic sweaters are knitted by hand, a time-consuming process that can't compete with the speedier machine knitting that produces sweaters in bulk for the masses.

Due to the confusion over the term, you'll find many garments with the label, but they are simply sweaters with many colored patterns, and often with more than two colors per row.

Wearing Women's Fair Isle Cardigans

Some Fair Isle sweaters feature an allover pattern, while others limit it to the yoke and/or sleeve cuffs. As for collars, you'll find some with no collar, big shawl collars or simple ribbed collars. Closures include buttons, zippers or a simple belted style. Traditional Fair Isle colors included red, blue, white, yellow and brown, but today's sweaters incorporate all colors.

Regardless of whether you're familiar with how Fair Isle really looks or you simply love the look of multi-colored patterns, you'll appear your stylish best by following some fashion tips when wearing your cardigan.


Women's Fair Isle cardigans lend themselves perfectly to layering, and any of the following shirts will look good underneath your favorite sweater.

  • Collared: You'll look very preppy in a button-down shirt and cardigan, particularly a sweater with small, dainty buttons.
  • Turtlenecks: Create a classic winter outfit with a turtleneck underneath a belted cardigan.
  • Crewnecks: These shirts layer especially well, and will look great under a shawl collared cardi.

No matter which shirt style you choose, create a complementary look by wearing a solid-colored shirt that matches one shade in your Fair Isle pattern.


  • Skirts: Because Fair Isle cardigans are made of knitted material, they're generally part of a casual outfit. Your skirt should be the same. Denim, corduroy or cotton skirts pair well with these sweaters.
  • Jeans: You can add some stylish chic to a basic pair of jeans with a colorful cardigan; any of the shirts listed above work with jeans and a sweater.
  • Slacks: Khakis and cotton slacks also work with a patterned cardigan. Finish off this ensemble with some stylish flats.

Unless the cardigan is greatly oversized, avoid wearing it with leggings. You can get around this fashion rule by wearing the leggings beneath another layer, such as a denim mini-skirt, though this is an outfit that looks best on the younger set. Complete the look with oversized boots, such as Uggs, and you're ready to hit the door.

Where to Buy

When Fair Isle enjoys a resurgence on fashion runways -- as it inevitably does every several years or so -- finding these patterned cardigans is usually easy. You'll find them in stores as diverse as Target and Neiman Marcus. Check out these shops, which often stock a selection of Fair Isle cardigans:

Cool and Chic

Whether you purchase an authentic Fair Isle cardigan sweater or a close approximation, it's a great way to add color to an outfit. Keep the rest of your ensemble subdued in order to make the patterns stand out. Choose brightly colored or more monochromatic. Wear a Fair Isle cardi to stay warm and cozy -- and very stylish.

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Women's Fair Isle Cardigans