This is the year of the cardigan sweater. Short, long, embellished, patterned, tailored, flowing, trendy, colorful, neutral, you name it, it’s out there! How fabulous, right?…or maybe not!

While cardigans are extremely functional, they are also dangerous. It doesn’t take much for a cardigan to go from adorable and pretty to downright frumpy.

You often hear celebrity stylists say rather nonchalantly, “Oh, yes, just add a little cardigan over it, and you’re all set!” Then they leave it at that with no direction! Yikes! So, you go out and buy a cardigan, toss it on over a blouse, tank or dress and take a look at yourself in the mirror, and who’s staring back? Not some trend-setting celebrity but your elderly grandma or, worse, Mr. Rogers!

Don’t give up! While cardigans might be tricky, they are very doable, and they can be flattering (not to mention practical). Let’s look at a few do’s and don’ts. Of course, there are exceptions to each of these rules but, in general, avoid cardigans with:

• Rounded, jewel necklines (unless it has pretty detail like this one that makes it look like a v-neck OR you have broad, square shoulders (which helps when wearing a cardigan)). For someone like me with narrow sloped shoulders, cardigans with round necklines can make me look dowdy in an instant!

• Boxy designs on a curvy body (unless you want to look like…yup…a box).

• A band at the bottom – unless the band is purely decorative and doesn’t squeeze your hips (or you are very slim in the hips and can handle added focus there).

• Too long or flimsy and, even worse, belted. You can easily look like you are wearing your bathrobe (yes, even Katie Holmes can look bad in this style!). This is especially true when wearing a dress. Opt for something short like this:

• Never button the sweater all the way or you risk looking like Lisa Lubner on Saturday Night Live (am I dating myself?). Leaving it slightly open at the top and bottom creates a diagonal line that is very flattering:

Now, go out and purchase as many wonderful, flattering cardigans in all your best colors as you can. I’ve learned from past experience in the fashion world that many great styles are here today, gone tomorrow, so stock up on a valuable classic item like this while you can.

Author's Bio: 

Over the past 22 years, Ginger Burr, believing that your image is about representing the best of you (not making designers happy), has built a remarkable career as an expert personal image consultant working with women from all walks of life. Whether it’s the “dynasty” shoulder pad era, the never-ending confusion of business casual, or the low-rise pant controversy, she has helped women navigate through (and sometimes completely ignore!) the styles of the season and feel good about how they look.

In 1987, Ginger launched her own company, Total Image Consultants, with the simple credo that a dynamic personal and professional image could be created without having to relinquish personal style or comfort. Today, Ginger offers private consultations and remarkable makeovers for women, brides-to-be and transgender clients. Ginger also directs corporate seminars and community education programs for some of Boston's most prestigious organizations including Harvard Law School, Brown Rudnick Berlack Israels Law Firm, and Fidelity Investments and has been the media spokesperson and fashion expert for Rowenta, Inc.

In 2005, Ginger adopted veganism as a way of life and quickly realized that this personal commitment directly impacted her business. At a time when the terms stylish and vegan rarely appeared in the same sentence, Ginger’s mission became to prove that the two could happily co-exist. Her passion for health, beauty and her commitment to a cruelty-free way of life also led to her being selected as one of VegNews Magazine’s “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians” in 2007. She now offers guidance, support and insight to her vegan (or just curious and open-minded) clients showing them how to dress fashionably and still be true to their values.

Ginger is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (a music major -- who would ever think that would lead to a career in fashion!). She is also the Past President of the New England Chapter of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) and has served on the AICI's International Board as the Vice President of Member Communications. In addition, Ginger is a past President of the Boston Wedding Group.

Ginger recently launched her one-of-a-kind body image, self-esteem, and style home study program “Who Taught You How to Dress?” which allows women to overcome the obstacles and learn the skills they need to create a wardrobe they love all in the comfort of their own home! In addition, Ginger's book, Fashion Secrets Mother Never Taught You is used today as a style and wardrobe consultation tool.