Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Better Sweater

This probably isn’t the best time to be writing about sweaters, even though the New York area has been in a deep freeze since the start of 2010. If I were a true fashion aficionado, I’d probably be writing about bathing suits and the new dresses for spring 2010. But it’s freezing out and I’m walking around with one, if not two, sweaters on. Plus, my sister got a new sweater for Christmas that makes her look 10 years younger. Sweaters are on my mind.

The day after New Year’s day, my older sister turned up at a family party wearing a new, stylish, long cable-knit, hooded cardigan in off-white. She wore the new sweater with a teal blue cotton top and three strands of flat teal blue beads. I nearly gasped.

Why? Well, you have to know my sister. She’s an oncology nurse educator at a large, teaching hospital and she works a zillion and one-half hours per week. When she’s not working, she’s give, give, giving to her husband and two kids. She’s never found time for fashion. For the past 25 years, her wardrobe has consisted largely of mommy-wear—wash ‘n dash turtlenecks, jeans and sweatshirts. At any given Christmas-New Year holiday gatherings, you could count on her to show up in a boxy cardigan with seasonal trimmings (knitted or applique snowflakes, fir trees and reindeers) and a dirndl skirt—her idea of festive fashion (see my “Before” drawing). The combination of the short, boxy sweater and the gathered, full skirt has always made her look ten pounds heavier. And the absence of style, well, made her look a lot like American Gothic lady. (Sorry, sis.) But the other week, my sister took 10 years off her appearance by wearing a new, stylish sweater (see the “After” drawing) she’d gotten for Christmas.

1) Perfect style and fit for her shape. My sister is only 5’3’’ and a little over her ideal weight. I would have thought the off-white, form-fitting cardigan would make her look shorter and heavier. But the sweater’s extended line, from her shoulders to mid-thighs, actually makes her look slimmer.
2) Perfect Colors. My sister looks best in “autumn colors,” including off-white and teal blue. The colors brighten her complexion.
3) Upbeat style. The hoodie style projects youthful energy (as does the strands of beads).

Last year, I bought a Michael Kors velour, zip-up hoodie. At the time, I fretted: Am I too old for hoodies? After seeing my sister in her new hooded cardigan, I’m convinced: Hoodies are perfect for the 50+ wardrobe. They project a sense of fun and energy and even a positive attitude—all the things that make any woman attractive.

If I were making a list of things to look for when shopping for a sweater that will shave years off your appearance, I would add to the above list:
4) Details. A sweater with a little personality can take years off. (Note: I’m not talking about applique reindeers here.) Things like ruffles, special cable knits or unusual closures can grab attention and divert it away from those 50+ flaws.

J. Crew
My two favorite designs:
Merino ruffle cardigan
Strada ruffle cardigan

Jones New York,default,sc.html
JNY has lots of sweaters on sale right now. Great variety of styles and colors!

Search ‘Sweater Shop'for a huge collection—something for everyone. Check out:
Caslon® Mix Print Drawstring Cardigan
Eileen Fisher Open Organic Cotton Cardigan