The Pretty 2-Piece Outfit Formula You'll Find Chic Women Across Europe Wearing

British spring—and to be honest, a lot of summer—is a pretty mixed bag when it comes to the weather. A day can start off blue skied and optimistic, but we all know that is no guarantee of being free from an afternoon chill. So while sunny days can have us all reaching for our favourite dresses and sandals, it's important to be prepared for whatever the day has in store. The answer is clever layering, and this season there's one combo I'm particularly interested in trying out: dresses and cardigans.

@oliviamarcus wearing a black cardigan over a dress

(Image credit: @oliviamarcus)

It may sound simple, but it can be tricky to keep the combination looking sleek and fresh instead of dowdy and unflattering. From my extensive Instagram scrolling, it seems to me that it comes down to proportions and textures—a cropped, fitted style can create a beautiful silhouette with a flowing slip maxi dress, while an oversized cable knit can help dress down a statement floral mini for day wear.

To help get you started, I've found eight brilliant examples of how to pull off the pairing in great style. Using high-street and designer pieces, this is sure to get you inspired to bring out your beloved dresses, no matter what the weather has planned.

1. Boxy Cardigan + Black Maxi

@tylynnnguyen wearing a white cardigan over a black dress

(Image credit: @tylynnnguyen)

Style Notes: As Tylynn proves, a cardigan can be a great way to make a sleek black maxi appropriate for day wear. Follow her lead and opt for a boxy, cropped silhouette that accentuates the waist and gives the flowing dress some more defined shape.

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2. All White + Mary Janes

@lefevrediary wearing a white dress and cardigan

(Image credit: @lefevrediary)

Style Notes: I'm obsessed with this outfit, which has me longing for summer days. The breezy white linen dress and matching cardigan are such a chic pairing for warm weather wear, while the Mary Janes add a great retro touch.

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3. Matching Cardigan + Socks

@alllisonho wearing a cardigan, dress and loafers

(Image credit: @alllisonho)

Style Notes: If you're looking to style your neutral summer dress with a punch of colour, let your cardigan do the work for you. I love how Allison has matched hers with her socks—such a cool, polished look.

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4. Floral Mini Dress + Textured Cardigan

@chrissyford wearing a floral mini dress and cardigan

(Image credit: @chrissyford)

Style Notes: Mini dresses are continuing to top the dress charts, and what says spring more than a floral style? Keep it daytime appropriate—and comfortable in the shade—by styling yours with a chunky cable knit cardigan.

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5. Polka Dot Midi + Cropped Cardigan

@tamaramory wearing a polka dot dress and cropped cardigan

(Image credit: @tamaramory)

Style Notes: Inject a little Parisian flair into your warm weather wardrobe by opting for a polka dot dress paired with a delicate cropped cardigan. While you could style with kitten heels or strappy block sandals, opting for trainers keeps the look fresh and contemporary.

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6. Knit Dress + Cable Knit Cardigan

@abimarvel in black dress and white cardigan

(Image credit: @abimarvel)

Style Notes: If the weather really isn't cooperating, a knit dress is the obvious go-to. Keep is cosy with a cardigan, which you can easily throw off if temperatures start to rise.

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7. Gingham Dress + Oversized Cardigan

@cassklatzkow wearing a gingham dress and fisherman cardigan

(Image credit: @cassklatzkow)

Style Notes: Coastal Grandmother was one of the big viral trends last summer, and this look feels like the 2024 update. The gingham and oversized cardigan combination feels especially Scandi-inspired in a way that I'm really drawn to.

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8. White Slip Dress + Cropped Cardigan

@camillecharriere wearing a white slip dress and black cardigan

(Image credit: @camillecharriere)

Style Notes: Camille proves that the cardigan-and-dress pairing can be more than evening appropriate with this look. Keep it elevated by opting for elegant materials and refined accessories.

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Freelance Fashion Editor

Jess Kelham-Hohler is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist. She has been a contributor for Who What Wear UK since 2023. Currently based in London following six years in Washington D.C. and New York, she was previously the Digital Editor for Soho House & Co, an international group of private members’ clubs for creatives. She has interviewed a range of artists, creators and more, including Alighieri founder Rosh Mahtani, photographer Misan Harriman and fashion editor Lindsay Peoples Wagner. Today, she writes primarily about fashion, travel and culture for various publications, and has worked as a copywriter and content strategist for brands such as Belstaff, Olivela and Equinox.