What a Novel Idea!

Marine Serre’s bra fastening jumper is one of many fabulous novelty sweaters in the market, $554
More info/purchase – click images for full-size views

They say beauty is skin deep but ugly goes right to the bone and that perfectly describes the “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” which have become somewhat of a ‘thing’ in recent years.  Even the Royal Family has gotten into the act. Well, ‘figuratively’ speaking.

In 2016 Madame Tussaud’s in London unveiled a special holiday collection featuring eerily lifelike wax figurines of the Royal Family (minus Megan of course), each one clad in a horribly atrocious Christmas sweater (Queen Elizabeth wore one with the likeness of one of her precious Corgis). It was all done for charity: Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day, to be exact.

Last year, Jimmy Fallon celebrated the 12 Tonight Show episodes before Christmas by giving away one hideous Christmas sweater every night until he went on vacation.

Whoopi Goldberg launched a collection of “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” for Zappos in 2017 and she reprieved it for this holiday season. She said she has always loved and worn them because they make her happy and she prefers to call them ‘funny’ rather than ‘ugly’. There are 16 designs made of wool, alpaca, cashmere, and cotton, in expanded sizes for men, women, and kids, priced from $79 – $129. In true Goldberg style, she always wants to be politically correct and all-inclusive thus, the Hanukkah and Kwanza versions.

Like beauty, ugly is truly in the eyes of the beholder. What is hideous to one may be beautiful to another; it’s all subjective. But while there is no way anyone could possibly find cartoonish Christmas sweaters attractive in any way, I suppose I can understand their campy appeal. And let’s not forget the upcoming exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, “Camp: Notes on Fashion”, May 9 through September 8, 2019 (though, don’t expect any of the aforementioned sweaters to be included).

This has been a season of exemplary knitwear and there are a myriad of truly fabulous sweaters in the market. If you want something novel and festive, without the kitsch and camp, these are some of the standout novelty sweaters available; a mix of current and vintage pieces. In the case of the latter, what makes them even more special is that they are one of a kind :

Sonia Rykiel’s red and blue virgin wool contrast neck jumper has a ribbed stand-up collar and extra-long sleeves, $414. More info/purchase

Valentino’s black and white virgin wool ribbed knit jumper has a roll neck, long sleeves, and features a scalloped intarsia design, $745 (reduced from $1490). More info/purchase

Sacai’s color-blocked black wool turtleneck is layered with a white cotton poplin shirt, combining two classics in one, $623 (reduced from $890). More info/purchase

MSGM’s multicolored wool blend sweater features a ribbed hem, ribbed cuffs, and a paneled color block design, $373 (reduced from $745). More info/purchase

This signature Hermes Scarabees et Pectoraux black silk and tulle scarf sweater from the 1970s is a rare find, $650.  More info/purchase

Kenzo’s wool-blend beige crewneck pullover features a detailed whimsical embroidered “Eye” accented with a felted wool center with multi-colors of silk threaded embroidery, $885. More info/purchase

Comme des Garcons’ textured patchwork sleeveless cardigan from 1999 is colorful and versatile (can be worn in a number of different ways) and could not look more of the moment, $320.37. More info/purchase

This iconic Kansai Yamamoto 1980’s multi-colored wool pullover with an embroidered “leopard” is accented with gold lame, and a rare find, $1885. More info/purchase

Missoni’s ‘Pheasant Novelty’ sweater from the 1980s is a bright, warm, fun piece that will instantly brighten up the colder months, $875. More info/purchase

This vintage 1990’s Yohji Yamamoto off-white heavy knit sweater has an eye-catching Mondrian motif, $1967.33. More info/purchase

Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garcons’ highly textural shaggy gray wool sleeveless sweater is from the 1999 fall/winter collection, $490.37. More info/purchase

This John Galliano Vintage multicolor cotton-wool blend knitted sweater with removable sleeves features a high standing collar, three-quarter length sleeves, a slim fit, straight hem, ribbed design and a striped pattern, $538. More info/purchase

This CalvinKlein205NYC cream, black, and red dense wool sweater is knitted in Italy. It features artwork by Andy Warhol and is illustrative of Creative Director Raf Simons’ long-standing admiration for the late artist and his company’s ongoing partnership with and the Andy Warhol Foundation, $1300. More info/purchase

There’s not a dull one in the bunch and they are all perfect for celebrating the holidays at home (yours or someone else’s). Their novelty is unlikely to wear off!

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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