5 Ways To Incorporate Shrugs Into Your Wardrobe

When was the last time you spotted someone in a shrug — a symbol of aughts fashion? Was it when Bella Hadid, per HadidsCloset, was seen sporting a Marc Jacobs patchwork-effect cropped cardigan on the streets of New York? Was it when Olivia Rodrigo rang in her 19th birthday in a pink shrug over a matching camisole (via Instagram)? Or was it just recently when you were scrolling TikTok and finding numerous tutorials on how to turn sweaters into shrugs? The next girl you see running around on a breezy day in a close-fitting outfit that looks like a rip-off of a cardigan isn't necessarily a victim of fabric breakdown. She may merely be donning a must-have outerwear as a transition into a cooler season, which has been making the rounds on Instagram.

Shrugs are typically cropped, rib-fit cardigan-like outerwear that cover less of the body than a regular cardigan would. Most shrugs cover only the arms, shoulders, and back and don't come with buttons. However, some shrugs extend past the knee or ankle. Compared to a bolero sweater, a shrug is less structured and its aesthetics-over-functionality vibe flourishes in understatedly avant-garde or balletcore outfits. Although shrugs are considered add-ons to casual outfits, many trendsetters are sporting them as the centerpieces in their street-style ensembles. Shrugs might look too tiny to be striking, but they can be a challenge to pull off. If you're keen to get in on the shrugging trend, here are five tips for looking stylish in shrugs.

Inject festivity into your ensemble with a fringed shrug

The chilly weather always brings with it a wardrobe revamp: heavier layers and darker colors to keep warm. However, we can inject your winter wardrobe with a lease of Maytime by introducing the highly-raved-about spring trend of 2022: the cheerful fringe. Instead of oscillating strands of fabrics embellishing sequin-encrusted bodycon clubwear, think fringed shrugs. As designer Jonathan Simkhai tells The Zoe Report, "There's a flirtiness to fringe, and as an attempt to introduce a note of ease and levity, fringe is a key passementerie."

There are plenty of options in the market to help you add a touch of an on-holiday, bohemian feel to your fringe styling. Some feature tassel-like fringe along the hemline while swathes come with tendrils from back to front for a punkish, rock-star feel. If the climate is hot and humid where you live, don't hesitate to style a sheer fringe shrug with your swimsuit or a ribbed-knit bralette set for an elevated summer look. A fringe shrug shouldn't be worn over anything that's bulky or stuffy, but rather comfy basics such as tank tops or shirts and shorts or tiered maxi skirts. On Instagram, @gracecawleyy is an example of how to style a fringed rug for a country concert. Toss in a pair of trendy boots or sneakers and a cowboy hat, and you've got yourself a road trip lookbook outfit.

Amp up your femininity with a lace shrug

Nothing makes you ooze the "easy breezy covergirl" vibe like tank tops. Whether it's a strappy, backless, tube top or a bralette, this fitted garment never fails to give its wearer an effervescent, confident look that's borderline rebellious. All you need to amp up the femininity of these outfits while lending them a modest, slightly formal touch is to put a lace shrug over them. There's something about lace that's downright girly and sensual, as manifested in Grace Kelly's lustrous lace-encrusted bridal gown or the daring bodysuit matched by a bold cut worn by Naomi Campbell for Alaïa in 1991.

For the shoes, opt for a comfy pair that's between one and two inches and matches the feminine energy of lace, such as ballerina flats, clogs, pumps, or cone heels in soothing pink, mauve, or baby blue. Depending on where you're headed, you can team your vibrant-colored lace shrug with casual tops or camisoles and shorts or skinny jeans when going to a casual event with a relaxed dress code. To nail the smart-casual look fit for a slightly formal event like a cocktail party or a housewarming party, take a page out of Instagram user @priya_kuriyan's book and pair it with dressy pieces such as a curve-flattering bodycon or back-slip midi dress. If you're wearing a lace shrug to the office, opt for a neutral shade like taupe, beige, or brown for a low-key look.

Wear a cropped shrugs over a one-piece dress

If you have a sleeveless mini, midi, or maxi dress that looks so good on you except that you're not confident about exposing your flabby arms, pull a cropped shrug on top to cover the flaws. Depending on your preferences, it can be a midriff shrug or one that falls just below the bust line. Besides, the length contrast between a cropped shrug and a dress plays off nicely and lends you a harmonious silhouette, as in the case of Instagram users @ness_to_impress and @sylviafikiert. The key to cracking the layering code is to pick the pieces with complementary lengths and textures. For instance, if you're wearing a form-fitting, thin dress as the base layer, your cropped shrug can be slightly loose for textural contrast. But if you wear a boxy shrug over a loose-fit dress, you risk looking bulky.

Texture-wise, denim and merino wool lend a laid-back yet fashionable mood to almost anything. If you want to go bold, opt for opposite colors that offer a harmonious color clash: think reddish brown and forest green or bright yellow and strong purple. To make your inner dress stand out, wear something with striking stripes, florals, or 70's geometric prints. When it comes to footwear, keep things casual and comfy with ankle boots, heeled sandals, or loafer pumps. If you lean into the layered look, top off your ensemble with a cozy scarf, which adds dimensions and color to your outfit as well as an extra layer of warmth.

Go sleeveless

If you prioritize glam over practicality, try a sleeveless shrug with an open front. It's stylish. It's silhouette-elongating. It allows for plenty of mixing and matching possibilities. Depending on your preferences, you can get a sleeveless shrug that reaches back to your knee or go past your ankle. To keep yourself warm, style the shrug with a Raglan sleeves blouse or a turtleneck sweater and a pair of skinny jeans or leggings. Button-down shirts such as a classic white oxford and a denim or flannel shirt make great layering options too, stylist Sally Lyndley tells Fashionista. If possible, pair it with a scarf for extra warmth and texture.

To spice up your sleeveless look, don't be afraid to opt for a richly hued color-blocking shrug or one with whimsical prints such as florals, leopards, or polka dots for a funky look. Depending on the weather and the context, you can wear a knitted, faux suede, or brocade shrug. Remember that heavy outerwear should be balanced with soft and lightweight textures, such as satin pants, cotton dresses, or asymmetrical jeans. If your sleeveless is long and not too thick, you can cinch it into a skinny belt and turn it into a dress coat. For more layering inspo, explore some styling tips from Hauterrfly on YouTube.

Pair a cropped shrug with subversive basics

If you're into subversive basics, which, according to fashion forecaster Agustina Panzoni on TikTok who coined the term, is "all about basics that rebel up to the point of losing their utility," a tiny cropped shrug is just what you need. The intended look of subversive basics is modernly and graphically sensual. Subversive clothes feature body-con, lingerie-inspired clothes with daring cutouts and asymmetrical strapping. The overall vibe from the look is sci-fi and futuristic, which is probably the reason why it has become a TikTok frenzy. So basically, whether this trend is in good taste is all up to your personal taste.

But if you do, a sheer or mesh cropped shrug ticks all the boxes. Take it from Emily Ratajkowski, maestro of the fashionable off-duty looks that always go viral on social media (via the Daily Mail). A masterclass in layering the most difficult-to-wear pieces in one go, Emily paired a buttoned-up halter tank top from Gimaguas with a tiny cropped shrug with strings tied in the front. If you lean into ballet core aesthetics, think wrap top and tulle skirts, pairing a cropped shrug with a bodysuit or a mesh leotard will lend you a debonair, ballerina-like silhouette. You can also pair a cropped shrug over your yoga ensembles, or use it to lend an addition of just-barely-enough coverage to any subversive cutout top or dress.