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Women’s Irish cardigans have always had a bit of romance about them, and even their origin story seems very romantic. The Aran cardigan’s picturesque starting point is the most westerly edge of Europe, the Aran Islands, comprised of the three islands of Inisheer, Inishmaan, and Inishmore. The classic Irish fisherman’s knit pattern owes its existence to the women of the house as they knit chunky and thick sweaters for their husbands and sons to protect them from the harsh Atlantic gales, sea spray, and heavy rains when they were in the open water searching for the day’s catch. The intricate design patterns originated to add an extra insulating layer to help keep the body and arms warm, while also aiding in the water resistant properties of the raw wool from which they were knit.As the knits became more intricate and specialized, the beautiful cardigans started to be seen as a potential income source, and the Irish Cardigan boom got in full swing. 

Women’s Irish Cardigans - Aran Cardigans

As the Irish knitters got increasingly creative, a lot of variations on the original crewneck cardigan appeared. The original design was the Traditional Aran Crewneck Cardigan; this was a basic cardigan with traditional patterns. Some versions had side pockets and others did not; the buttons used in these traditional garments were Lumber Buttons. Variations of this style started to appear on the market the Cable Cardigan with Collar and Pockets; this cardigan is a traditional cable cardigan with side pockets. It features a lapel collar and the buttons on the front are the same color as the wool used in the cardigan. 

Cardigans were also made with zippers such as Ladies Hooded Zipper Cardigan this cardigan has some modern twists with a zipper and hood; Also the Hooded Aran Coat With Celtic Knot Zipper is another zipper cardigan with a hood that was extended in length to make it a coat. These cardigans also feature interlocking Trinity Knot zippers. Other designs that were incorporated were Ladies 3 Button Collar Coat. This is a cardigan with side fastening and an oversized neckline. Also, some cardigans like the Ladies Open Face Cardigan incorporated an open front design; both modern and stylish.  

History of Irish Cardigans

Originally derived from a British military waistcoat supposedly worn by the Earl of Cardigan and the company he commanded during the Crimean War of the 1850s, the cardigan originally referred to a buttoned vest that was knit, rather than woven. The Earl of Cardigan preferred a heavier waistcoat, however, and his name eventually was lent to the new design, which over time gained sleeves and became the classic cardigan sweater we know today.

But it wasn’t until the 1920s that the cardigan took off for women as an alternative to the crewneck sweater. As with so many trends in women’s fashion, the cardigan’s popularity owes a great debt to Coco Chanel, who famously preferred them because she didn’t like how snug-fitting pullover sweaters messed up her hair when putting them on. Another surge of popularity occurred when the cardigan arrived as an alternative to a heavy jacket among the American college elite (perhaps that's why cardigans have always had a whiff of the professorial). Occasionally, they would even be worn as part of sports uniforms, eventually evolving into the shawl collared letterman sweater that was popular in the 1950s and 60s. Soon, cardigans became a mainstay in the business world as a layer to add under a suit jacket or sport coat, and by the 1990s had even replaced traditional business jackets in some areas. Today, they can be dressed up or down and are as versatile as any layering piece.

When Aran stitches were added to the mix, the cardigan's already-present cozy qualities were amplified. The luxurious feel of plush Irish wool combined with the heft and depth of the Aran knitting patterns proved to be a winning combination. People are still wearing them a hundred years later, after all!

Today, women’s cardigans come in several styles and designs. sells a wide range of Irish women’s cardigans that run the gamut of Aran knits and cardigan fits. We have buttoned cardigans, zippered cardigans, and shawl cardigans, as well as luxurious cardigan coats and cardigan buttoned wraps. We offer both flat front and pocket cardigans for extra detailing when you want it. The Aran detailing provides exquisite detail in cable knit, diamond knit, honeycomb knit, and other popular Aran sweater designs to suit any taste. All our cardigans are designed in Ireland with the utmost care taken to authentically replicate the original designs of the Aran Island women more than a century ago. 

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