Like many MEC members, we have lots of memories of decorating trees over the holidays. Some amusing, some mildly traumatic (at least at the time). Most of the epics involved the decorations themselves. The annual scavenger hunt through attic or basement to unearth them. Bulbs that burnt out, killing an entire chain of lights and precipitating a whack-a-mole chase for the culprit. Beautiful glass globes that shattered into silvery shrapnel after a one-foot fall.
There’s something about the holidays that can bring out the ugly in sweaters. And this isn’t about the festively abrasive, ornamented-with-bells-and -garland-and-blinking-lights number that wins you a bottle of wine at your holiday office party.
This is about sweater fundamentals. It’s about the bits and pieces that can separate the “best sweater ever!” category from the “are you trying to torture me?” group.
How to Avoid Being the “Ugly Sweater Giver”
Just in time for gift-giving season, here are four essential tips to consider when you’re out shopping for this year’s round of sweaters.
Both cut and fabric blend play a role in how a sweater fits, but we’ll stick to cut here because we cover fabric further down.
When it comes to fit:
– Avoid: awkward lengths, boxy shapes, bunchy hemlines, constrictive cuffs or hems
– Double check: sleeve lengths (unnecessarily long, way too short), arm holes (too tight, too loose, borderline batwing), neck hole (too open, too tight, too low)
– Look for: well-placed seams and darts, the correct size for the person you’re buying for
Prana Lucia Sweater is comfortably hip length, with a flattering silhouette and on point princess seams, $126
A scratchy acrylic sweater that makes your skin break out in welts or a weird fabric blend that starts a chemical reaction in your sweat glands is not going to top anyone’s favourites list.
– Fabrics can be deceiving so do a cheek-rub test with the sleeve — even try it on if you have time — to double check that the hand feels okay against your skin, and not like a scouring pad.
– Err on the side of soft – no one is ever going to complain about being too comfortable
– Read fabric labels and stick with textiles you know
– Fabric blends with spandex tend to have better shape retention
Patagonia Lambswool V-Neck Sweater is soft to touch, and blended with nylon to increase its resilience $126
Oh, this is a slippery slope. Things can go from so good to so bad so quickly. Be wary of the following:
– Because of the repetition, really bold or busy patterns can end up wearing the wearer
– Super bright and chaotic designs can blind passersby, and a frenzy of fluorescent vectors is no reason for an accident
– Mixing patterns is fun, but the tipping point between fashion and clown is a blink (which may also just be a defense mechanism that your senses deploy against assaulting patterns)
Find a non-jarring striping pattern in the MEC CB Sweater, made from a cozy cotton-wool blend, $55
There’s ornamentation (see the Santa Claus sweater at the top of this post), and then there’s notions (think buttons). While the difference between a sequin and a snap may seem insignificant, it actually represents the difference between bling and function. This isn’t to say that someone in your life can’t love a little bedazzling or a clip-on camellia, but that you need to know they’re that type of person before springing a faux-fur cowl neck on them.
With buttons and a draw cord, perhaps the Patagonia Ranchito Hoody can serve as a middle ground, $156
And just by considering these four simple elements, you’ve elevated yourself from “Ugly Sweater Giver” to “Sweater Style Expert.”