Break out those jingle bell buttons and hand-sewn Santas – holiday sweater season is in full swing.
The heavily embellished and embroidered garments once reserved for Grandma have made their way down the family tree. Holiday sweaters have exploded in popularity thanks to the advent of “tacky sweater parties” held during the holiday season, for which guests are encouraged to wear the gaudiest festive wear they can dig up.
The only destinations for these sweaters used to be large retailers such as Walmart and thrift stores such as Goodwill. Hipsters would rifle through racks, searching for the perfectly tacky sweater – a sequined Santa here, a three-dimensional snowman there – in the quest to have the most Christmas spirit.
But as the trend caught on with partygoers, it did with retailers as well. Now, you can find your very own holiday sweater at popular chains like Target, Old Navy and Urban Outfitters, although you may find yourself sharing an outfit with someone else at the party. You can also buy kits to add embellishments to any sweater.
Local retailers have gotten in on the trend, too. At Sid and Nancy in Five Points, “they can’t keep (the sweaters) in,” said owner Debbie McDaniel. The consignment store buys holiday sweaters from customers throughout the year and finds others to keep in stock until the holiday season. When they are put up for sale in early December, the unique yuletide garb flies off the rack. This year’s selection included a fully-sequined holiday vest, a cardigan with gingerbread man buttons and many sweaters with highly embellished Christmas trees.
The demand for sweaters started picking up quickly about five years ago, McDaniel said, “when tacky Christmas sweater parties started popping up all over.” Now, a seasonal sweater is a staple in any closet, whether for a party or Christmas day itself.
Emily Mayo, a second-year public relations student at the University of South Carolina, wore a bright green sweater embellished with Christmas decorations to a holiday meeting of USC’s Fashion Board. She keeps the sweater in her closet for holiday parties, describing it as “a fashion statement in itself.”
About 40 women gathered for the meeting in the Carolina Coliseum, each in their own holiday garb. Some had gone hunting through thrift stores for their sweaters, while others had picked theirs up from the boys’ clothing section at Target.
“Nobody in this room has the same sweater on,” Mayo said. “That’s the best part.”