The December soundtrack of yuletide songs and jinglebells is a signal that another year is fast approaching. But to anyone who loves fashion, these sounds translate to four slinky syllables that were but a mere whisper at this exact time last winter: par-ty-dress-ing. While holiday fetes aren’t back to pre-pandemic proportions, our social calendars still include fun, albeit shrunken-down, gatherings calling for festive outfits (which are .shrinking in equal measure). Our definition of occasionwear has changed over time, just like our mindsets. There are so many party knitwear options that we have to choose from.
Heather Gramston, Head of Womenswear Buying at Browns, says that sexy knits have become a popular choice as customers embrace the idea of dressing up again and going out. Ever since the rise of Jacquemus pin-tops and Khaite cashmere bralettes that coincided with increasing vaccination rates, retailers are seeing consumers gravitate toward more revealing sweaters, especially with the holidays on the horizon. A recent data drop from the global search platform Lyst shows that pageviews for “party knitwear” have increased by 29% since the start of November, with “asymmetrical,” “cutout,” and “bodysuit” among the most commonly used search terms. This category is also a hot market for crystal embellishments, sparkles, sequins and crystals.
Gramston says that dressing up has changed post-lockdown. After months of wearing only loungewear, fashion knits and bras are now able to bridge the gap between being stylish and comfortable without compromising on style. Browns has increased its knitwear selection this season in response to this demand. Separates and two-pieces have been very popular. Isa Boulder’s stylish styles, such as the Cage Knitted Tank Top (described by Browns as Madonna’s cone bra equivalent on their website) are attracting shoppers’ attention. Gramston also mentions Emma Gudmundson (Swedish designer) as a customer favorite. Her demi-couture collection is made on her at-home knitting machines.
The pieces that are trending this holiday season are nothing like your average hot-cocoa-by-the-fire kind of knits. Although we love Tom Daley’s work, those chunky, hand-crocheted cottagecore-esque sweaters we wore to lockdown aren’t going to cut it for style-oriented optimists who want to be able to shed layers more often in 2022. After months of rule-following, we’re prepared to emerge from this period of restrictions (once it’s safe to do so) all too ready to toss our sartorial sensibilities out the window, letting in a gust of skin-exposing contradictions: .ultra-cropped cardigans, turtlenecks with cutouts, shredded sweaters.
While this is bad news for the humble party dress, it’s not exactly a surprise considering the recent wave of weird knitwear trends. Barely-there boleros, wool-like lingerie, ribbed bustiers, and sweaters on the brink of bursting open at the buttons (see Dua Lipa’s Instagram or Samantha Jones at a baby shower for reference) overtook social feeds this year, preparing us for this moment.
With that in mind, Sunny Williams, founder of House of Sunny – the label behind the Hockney dress that garnered a cult following after it was spotted on Kendall Jenner in 2020 – has channeled the sell-out success into similarly clingy sweaters featuring removable collars, cuffs, and sleeves. The modular designs can also be accessed via button or zip enclosures, giving wearers the ability to show a little bit of their midriff. Williams advises that knitwear can feel too soft and comfortable. However, it is also easy to dress up with leather-like or shiny pants to give the piece a party-ready look.
Gramston says that a party knit can be worn and even worn. He suggests pairing cropped knits, with a suit skirt, and knee-high boots to create a retro ’90s look with just the right amount risk.
Although our social lives will resume and we continue to wear scanty attire, loungewear won’t disappear completely. It’s been so great to us for so many years. This is the secret to party knits. They offer comfort that can be used in a variety of settings, including outside. We are moving away from mini dresses as temperatures drop. Instead, we prefer a glamorous look that offers the best of both the worlds with no additional fabric.