Age-Wise Style: The New Sophisticated Skirt-and-Sweater Combinations

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InStyle’s Special Projects Editor Cindy Weber Cleary has been a fashion editor for the past 20-plus years. Needless to say, she’s picked up some tricks along the way. Catch her column here each week for how-to tips and style secrets on her favorite, timeless styles.

While dreaming of spring on a wet snowy day, I remembered one of my favorite looks from the spring 2015 collections which were shown way back in September and October 2014 (and will be coming soon to stores near near you): the new skirt-and-sweater combo. There is something very fresh, sporty, and all-American about the three runway looks above (from left: Victoria Beckham, Altuzarra, Tory Burch), which were all shown during New York Fashion Week.

But if “skirt and sweater” sounds school-girlish to you, think again. These sophisticated pairings start with a slim skirt that hits at the knee or below. It could be made of a fluid fabric or a more structured one. It might be a pencil shape or the updated pencil which feature a discreet slit for easier mobility and a hint of sexiness. If you plan on tucking in the sweater, a high-waisted style works best.


From left: Marni, $653,; Theory, $559,; J.Crew, $110,

As for the sweaters, look for pullovers with a mock turtleneck, crew neck, or V-neck. In the early spring when the weather can be quite cool, cashmere, and wool make sense; in warmer months or climates, cotton, linen, and light-weight cashmere are great options. The shape depends on whether you will wear it tucked or not. Untucked, means you can go for chunkier knits and looser silhouettes that hit at the hip or longer. If you plan to tuck it in, choose a fine-gauge knit to prevent bulk. And I love the look of a shirt collar peeking out the top of a crew- or V-neck. Button it all the way up with a crew neck, leave a few buttons undone with a V. You may want to push up the sleeves so you don’t look overly demure. It’s a favorite fashion editor’s trick!


From left: Vince, $345,; 6397, $395,; Uniqlo, $90,

I gravitate toward neutral combinations in which contrasting textures and subtle patterns provide interest vs. bright colors and splashy prints. The subtle colors hold the look together and create an elegant effect that integrates the sporty separates.

I suggest you finish the look with a heel. While some designers showed longer skirts worn with flats or boyish Oxfords, it’s hard to pull off unless your legs are miles long—and it’s a look best left to the young. Most of us would like to keep our legs as seemingly long as possible. While the weather is cool, you can try a knee-high boot or an ankle boot with matching tights. With bare legs, a lady-like pump or T-strap makes an elegant statement, while a comfortable wedge or platform sandal comes off a bit more casual.

Assembling outfits from separates takes a bit more thought than wearing, say, a dress. But since you can wear them in many different combinations, they are at least two- or three-times as versatile. Do the fashion math!

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