Bolero sweaters have been popping up on our feeds since last summer—and while they look more like shrunken knits than actual spring outerwear, their lightweight nature actually makes for an excellent layering piece in between seasons. It’s no surprise then that the micro trend is regaining momentum as we head into the warmer months, with ribbed sweater sleeves and coordinating tank-and-shrug sets topping off a number of transitional outfits on everyone from Instagram cool girls like Ella Emhoff to major celebs including Kendall Jenner.
The style pays homage to some of the biggest late-’90s and early-’00s icons: J.Lo, Hannah Montana (yes, we said icons), and Jessica Alba in Honey. The opening dance scene when Honey Daniels lifts up her crop top, loops her arms through the sleeves, and turns her shirt into a cool but functional shrug embodies the effortless spirit of the trend. And her outfit as a whole—Nike sports bra plus camo cargo pants—is serving major Y2K inspo for anyone looking to the early aughts for sartorial cues.
Nostalgic fashion may reign supreme among the Gen Z crowd, but anyone can make a bolero sweater work, thanks to its sheer versatility. The lightweight piece is meant to cover your arms, upper back, and sometimes even neck area. It works day or night—and right now is the perfect time to pick one up. With spring comes notoriously fickle temps, and we can’t think of a better hybrid layer for days when you don’t need a real jacket but also don’t want to throw a massive half-zip over your slip dress or T-shirt and jeans.
If you want to indulge in the trend (beyond flipping over your top à la Honey Daniels), a number of brands are reimagining the throwback style in elevated fabrics and silhouettes. Ribbed knit sweater sleeves, turtleneck shrugs, and necklines with hardware are some of the most intriguing designs out there—and we’re seeing them styled with everything from high-neck tank tops to unitards and soft, wireless bras.
Whatever you decide to call this style—a bolero, shrunken cardi, arm warmer, shrug, or sweater sleeve—it’ll pair seamlessly with almost anything already in your closet. And best of all, it’ll also help you solve the near-impossible task of dressing for the elements while still turning a lewk. Shop 17 of our favorite bolero sweaters below.
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