It’s not entirely clear what differentiates a cardigan from a coatigan, but monikers aside, a substantial cardigan is a very useful garment this time of year.

It’s the thing that will see you from the school run to the supermarket, ward off the chill in an underheated home, and nurse you through a Sunday morning hangover.

Some are more substantial than others; a more heavyweight style could replace a coat, while a design with elegant draping or structure would not look out of place in an office.

Our favourites though are cosy and soft – the clothing equivalent of a hug – and we won’t be taking them off until the first signs of spring.

Modern Rarity tie-sleeve coatigan, £120, John Lewis

We love John Lewis’s in-house brand Modern Rarity, but still, we didn’t expect this to look as good as it did. The open collar draped nicely over the chest, and the ties at the sleeves added drama. This is a wardrobe workhorse that can be worn with virtually anything.

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Autograph Wool-blend textured cardigan, £69, Marks & Spencer

We liked the generous length and cheery colour of this cosy wool-alpaca-blend cardigan. It has two roomy pockets and the statement ribbing at the cuffs and hem is a nice detail too. It’s designed to be worn open, so has no buttons, and is machine-washable.

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Zipped cardigan, £34.99, H&M

To really get the “boyfriend” look, you need to shop in the men’s department, where we found this charcoal grey marl cardigan with a shawl collar and an off-centre zip. On a 5ft 4in woman, it falls to mid-thigh, and has just the right weight and slouch to get you through that tricky winter-spring transition. Plus it’s machine washable at 30 degrees.

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 J Crew Clara open-neck cardigan, £148, John Lewis

This is the smartest of all the “coatigans” we tried. The cotton-polyester-wool-blend makes for a smooth, structured finish and it looks as good over a heavy turtleneck jumper as it does over a shirtdress. We tried it in beige, but it also comes in grey and black.

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Raey longline cashmere Grandad cardigan, £495, Matchesfashion.com

This heavyweight cashmere cardigan from Matchesfashion.com’s in-house brand feels ultra-decadent and will ward off the cold better than most coats. The dropped shoulders and cocoon-like shape give it a “borrowed from granddad” look, hence the name. It’s expensive, but worth every penny to use it, as we did, as a blanket on a long-haul flight.

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Textured slouchy cardigan, £160, Jigsaw

The wide, cropped sleeves of this cardigan make it an easy throw-over piece, and we really liked the textured knit. It feels like a high-quality garment (it’s 80 per cent lambswool) and will be weighty enough to wear in lieu of a coat as the weather starts to warm.

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Rick Owens draped wool cardigan, £440, Net-a-porter.com

Rick Owens is king of the draped collar, and this cardigan doesn’t disappoint. While it’s not the heaviest garment, the pure wool knit is smooth and hangs beautifully thanks to ribbed sections which add weight at the hem. Smart enough to wear to meetings and around the office.

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Wool-cotton boiled coatigan, £159, The White Company

This was the most coat-like coatigan, with its boiled wool exterior and satin seams inside. The cropped sleeves and lack of buttons make it the kind of garment you can throw on, while the structured, streamlined shape lends it polish.

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Reclaimed Vintage oversized varsity cardigan, £40, Asos

Reclaimed Vintage specialises in retro fashion, and this varsity-style cardigan takes a lead from 1950s Americana – it genuinely looks like it once belonged to a star quarterback. The navy-mustard-cream colour combination looks fresh and the acrylic knit feels soft.

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Kimono sleeve cardigan, £330, Acne Studios

Brown is set to be the colour in the coming year, and this mohair cardigan gets the shade spot-on. We loved the sleeves, which narrow at the elbow, and the fuzzy mohair makes for a great contrast with other knits. For fashion-lovers, this is a worthy investment.

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Verdict: Long cardigans

You really do get what you pay for with knitwear – the more expensive options featured here are cut beautifully and will last a lifetime. That makes the Modern Rarity coatigan all the more impressive – it’s a unique, versatile buy at a reasonable price, and sure to land you a few compliments

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.