‘Tis the season! Time for decorative, festive and fun Pretty Christmas Sweaters. With holiday-themed dressing the rage right now as the invitations for parties, dinners and Secret Santa exchanges roll in, there’s no better way to deck yourself out than with the perfect cozy (yet stylish) sweater. Embellished, embroidered or encrusted with bling is the way to go, and below we’ve found a ton of pullovers and cardigans that will be perfect for whatever holiday event you’re headed too.
But first, let’s examine the odd history of horrific Christmas sweaters. Yes, Virginia, Ugly Christmas Sweaters are really a thing. Used to be a time when these sweaters were known as Jingle Bells sweaters, sometime during the 1950s, back when the holidays were less about commercialism and consumerism and more about a realness and innocence we all seem to be pining for today. Jingle Bells sweaters were homespun wonders, most likely knit by hand by a real grandmother, worn without a hint of irony by aunts, uncles, and grandfathers everywhere during family holiday gatherings.
The Big (Ugly) ’80s
Ugly sweaters stretched in popularity during the ‘80s. Remember Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation? And who can forget he-who-shall-remain-nameless from television’s Huxtable family, a style statement for whom we have designer Koos van der Akker to thank. Then, around 2001, the sweater parties kicked off, first as a joke with tongue firmly in cheek.
Today, this “fashion” trend has morphed from family fun to full-on holiday festivities, with stiff style competition amongst the revelers. If you haven’t been invited to at least one, how do you even prove your holiday spirit? Last year, my teenage nephew frantically scoured the Salvation Army to find the perfect ugly sweater for his high school’s holiday gathering.
Style of the Season
Workplaces employ Ugly Christmas Sweater competitions as team builders, gifting winners for their brazen style bravery. Win-win is to wear a sweater that is as embellished as possible, one woven with multiple patterns, decorated with pom poms, ribbons, stuffed teddy bears, real mistletoe, garlands, even LED-powered lights. Gaudy is good here. The uglier, the better. The more kitsch, the merrier.
You can buy pure knitted garishness at sites like Tipsy Elves and UglyChristmasSweaters which are dedicated solely to this travesty of fashion and good holiday dress taste. In case you’re more the handy type, there’s a Make Your Own Ugly Sweater kit at ShopBop, and thrift stores are always stuffed full of these holiday homages. Just in case, there are also Hanukkah sweaters, making for non-denominational fun, too.
However, if you don’t have a sweater party to attend this year, don’t pout and don’t cry—I’m telling you why. The third Friday in December is now known as National Ugly Sweater Day, so you at least have December 15th to make merry and wear ugly this year.
But What If You Don’t Want Them Ugly?
Even mainstream retailers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, and Target, as well as the occasional high-end designer, are answering the wish list for ugly Christmas sweaters. What’s harder to find, it seems, are Christmas sweaters that capture the spirit of the season without blinding the bartender.
A few years back, Stella McCartney crafted a Polar Bear intarsia sweater (super cute, FYI). Today, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini “Dear Santa” sweater weaves a plea to the man in red with reindeer and hearts for a Fair Isle-style pullover — at a price that will bust an entire holiday budget. Madewell, Anthropologie, and Boston Proper are among the high-profile retailers offering more subtle selections for those wary of looking like an overstuffed Christmas turkey or Griswold Family yard art.
Pretty Christmas Sweaters
Whether you carol or not, this pretty little pom pom’d ditty from Topshop at Nordstrom is festive, fun and graphic.
Put a bow on it and BE the present! This sweet embellishment from Ted Baker London has your look all wrapped up.
The Fair Isle gets a punch-bowl spike with beading and sequins. It’s on sale, to boot.
Join in ALL the reindeer games with this charming pullover from Loft.
Crystal baubles ensure you outshine any Christmas tree. Mango makes the simple pullover chic and sparkly.
Sparkle and shine in Lands End’s metallic foil snowflake encrusted Supima cotton cardi.