What’s Going On When It’s Cold?

There has been a definite drop in temperature over the past week where I am, and I’ve been frantically pulling the coats, the scarves and the knitwear out from the depths of my wardrobe, in which they have been hiding since March. I am not a huge fan of cold, rainy British winters, and was just beginning to wonder if it would truly be possible for humans to hibernate when November’s Vogue dropped through the letter box, and restored my emotional stability; the edition is a shrine to knitwear, to plaid, and above all, to the sweater, with so many various looks and ideas that even I began to get excited about wrapping up.

Somewhere above cover girl Claire Danes’ left eyebrow, the words “The IT Sweater” are emblazoned in red, immediately hailing the everyday, slouchy staple as something to be coveted; a statement piece in itself.

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The sweater has come a long way since May, when Amanda Seyfried posed for Givenchy’s campaign in that oversized pullover with the image of Bambi emblazoned across the front. This season, the sweater has reached new realms of power, proving that it’s not only accessories which can be “IT” pieces. In Milan, Prada’s bold, colourful collection transforms the sweater into a pop-art masterpiece; the classic, preppy style is given a playful lift by the bright silhouettes of underwear splattered across the chest, taking the idea of “underwear as outerwear” into a fun, brazen new realm.

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By contrast, Proenza Schouler went for a more mature, monochromatic look, with a collection which captures the feel of winter in a mysterious forest; the three jumpers below, in particular, are reminiscent of ghostly, dying trees, and icy days in January.

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In London, Christopher Kane took the classic trend for florals in a more scientific direction, stamping anatomical drawings of dissected flowers onto the front of sweaters in a way inspired by a visit to the science department of his old school. Backstage, the designer explained his reworking of the floral obsession, saying “I was thinking about how flowers are taken for granted – and how the reproductive organs, the female anatomy, are so similar to a dissected flower.” How the latter is relevant, I cannot say; but Kane has certainly managed to rework an over-used trend in a way which keeps pace with the innovative new IT piece of the season.

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The beautiful thing about the sweater as a statement piece is that it can serve both as a chunky day time look, or, as various sartorially savvy celebrities are realising, as a glamorous evening piece. Whilst Tiffany Hsu (below left) shows how the piece can be worn during the day, pairing her geometric JW Anderson pullover with boots and a skirt, both Joan Small and Tabitha Simmons glam it up with belted Givenchy sweaters over sheer skirts.

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And, as so often happens, the IT Sweater is already trickling down from the catwalk elite to the highstreet; Maje have created a sweater for the Icons Forever collection, emblazoned with my favourite starman, David Bowie, and Selfridges are due to open their new “Sweatershop” this month, for which twenty big designer names, including Ralph Lauren, Mary Kantrantzou and Marc Jacobs, have each created a limited edition design.

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Of course, none of these “highstreet” IT sweaters are cheap – in my case, they may as well be a million dollar yacht, so wildly out of price range as they are. However, there are some more affordable options out there; the Vogue article is a little snobby on the subject, asserting that only to the “trained eye” can the sweater be something special, and hinting that you have to spend big to look good, because the quality of a £2000 sweater cannot be replicated. I concede that they have a point; obviously, an expensive designer sweater is going to be better made, and have more lasting power, than something bought at Primark; but I will always believe that it is in the way that you wear something, rather than how much it costs, which is what gives a look its magic.

Walk into any store, and you’re bound to find a piece which you can dress up or down, depending on the occasion. Of course, my old favourites, charity shops and vintage clothing shops, are where I’ve had the most success finding high quality jumpers and pullovers for fairly affordable prices. I bought this jumper a few years ago from Beyond Retro in London; I tend to wear a great deal of blacks and blues, so I love this piece for the lift the red gives to my Winter wardrobe.

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Apart from sweaters, one of my favourite trends to have come out of this season is the use of jewels – jewels sewn into clothes, jewelled bags, jewel-encrusted shoes, jewels around necks and arms – and I think jewels married with sweaters may be my favourite winter pairing. The sparkling embellishments, whether sewn into the material of the sweater itself, or present in an accessory on the side, lift the slouchy classic into new realms of opulence, adding a flash of colour to winter’s sombre palette. I bought this sweater last week from Loot in the West Midlands town of Leamington Spa; I just love the slightly cut off sleeves, which prevent this dark piece from feeling too heavy to look at, and of course the bold detail around the neck, which I will be able to play up or down, depending on whether I wear this piece as day or evening wear.

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Of course, if jewels aren’t your thing, there are a thousand other options of IT Sweater out there; whether you’re looking for the subtle, expertly cut designer piece, or the bold commercial statement, emblazoned proudly with logos or images from popular culture. On a quick browse of Topshop’s website, I’ve already found about ten jumpers which I would happily own; I love this sweater with the sheep around the neck (bottom left), because its just so hideous and kitsch, but I like their plainer coloured jumpers too, like the one with the lace detail (below right).

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However you choose to wear it, the sweater is definitely one of the most versatile (and comfortable!) pieces you will find in this, or any season. Timeless and modern, slouchy and chic, casual and luxurious; the sweater has got me excited about winter again.

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