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Fashion Challenge: Wear a Chunky Sweater


Celebs and a fashion blogger wearing chunky sweaters
Mary Kate Olsen, Kate Bosworth, Megan Fox, and Rumi Neely of FashionToast

November is upon us, and the chilly climate has come full-force on colleges all across the nation. I’m bummed to say goodbye to shorts, gladiator sandals, and frozen yogurt, but more than thrilled to say hello to pumpkin spice lattes and cuddling up by the fireplace.

The downside to freezing weather is that it makes it harder to choose a stylish outfit to wear to class. I live in Oklahoma where winters aren’t nearly as brutal as they are at many CF readers’ schools, but I definitely understand how tempting it is to throw on a pair of sweatpants and Uggs and call it a day.

Over the next few weeks, the Fashion Challenge column will focus on styling cold-weather pieces to look more sartorial and less “snow-woman.”  We’ll kick it off with a piece that everyone and their mom (literally) have collected several of over the years; a chunky knit sweater.

I know, I know — knit sweaters often evoke images of a) grandmas, b) goofy Christmas sweater parties, and c) horrible itchy things you were forced to wear as a child. Try to push these images aside though, because a chunky sweater can look very chic when styled in the correct way.

Ready to take on the challenge? Read on for tips for keeping your sweaters in top condition and ideas on how to style them!

Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t hang up your knit sweaters! It will cause them to stretch out and lose their shape. Instead, fold them and stack them in drawers or in crates under your bed (if you’re pressed for space like I am).
  • Check out thrift stores. You’ll be sure to find some perfectly worn-in sweaters for dirt cheap prices. Watch out for fraying or anything too stretched out, and be sure to have the sweater cleaned before you wear it.
  • Don’t put them in the washer and dryer! I’ve ruined SO many nice sweaters this way. Instead, get your sweaters dry cleaned once or twice a season, and use Febreeze and/or steam them in between wears.
  • Consider the texture. No matter how well-cut a sweater is, if it doesn’t feel comfortable against your skin, you’ll never wear it.
  • Check out your Mom’s closet. Something that you once thought was ugly and old-fashioned could have major street-style appeal when paired with a chic pair of jeggings and riding boots.
  • Borrow a sweater from a boy. Your boyfriend, brother, or best guy friend’s favorite cardigan or sweater is probably perfectly worn-in and will give you the slouchy, laid-back fit that’s popular.
  • Throw in something trendy. A chunky sweater will look great paired with a pair of skinny cargo pants, combat boots, a floral tank top, or a lace skirt.

Outfit Inspiration

Outfit #1 – Casual for Day


Sweater, Jeans, Boots, Headband, Bracelet

Most people have a thick, patterned, “Bill Cosby”-type sweater lurking in the back of their closets. To keep it looking cool instead of geeky, just choose the right accessories. Pair a thick sweater (try checking in your mom’s closet if you don’t have one of your own) with a pair of distressed skinny jeans, badass boots, a headband, and some statement-making jewelry.

Outfit #2 – Preppy & Comfy


Sweater, Trousers, Shoes, Belt, Gold Necklace, Silver Necklace

This look is part preppy, part androgynous, and all kinds of comfortable! Find your favorite loose-fitting sweater (bonus points if it’s from a guy’s closet) and pair it with a tailored pair of loose khaki paints. Add a masculine-looking belt and a pair of loafers to continue with the “boyfriend” look. Finish with some girly jewelry, like the necklaces pictured above.

Outfit #3 – Step Up the Style


Cardigan, Dress, Tights, Boots, Scarf, Earrings

Another great way to style a chunky sweater is by pairing it with a skirt or dress. Grab your favorite cable-knit cardigan and layer it over a floral frock. This is a great way to prolong the use of one of your favorite sundresses – just be sure the coloring is right for this time of the year. Next, pull on a pair of tights and add a pair of high heeled boots. Finish with a pretty circle scarf and simple jewelry.

Rocked the Challenge? Send Us Your Pictures!

Did you take a lumpy sweater and turn it into a fashion statement? Send us photos at fashionchallenge AT and include your name, school, a description of what you’re wearing, and the URL of your blog (if you have one). We’ll post your pictures here (see past examples) for other CF readers to gain inspiration from.

Can’t wait to see your submissions!

What Do You Think?

Can chunky sweaters be turned into a fashion statement, or should they be left for little kids and older ladies? Are you a fan of sweaters, or are you more of a jacket kind of gal? What challenges would you like to see in the near future? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Posted on on November 4, 2010 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , ,

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29 Responses to “Fashion Challenge: Wear a Chunky Sweater”

  1. 1
    November 4th, 2010 at 11:27 am

    love this post! i’m so ready for some cozy fall sweater. i’m on the hunt for a cute fair isle style– i think thrift stores are a great place to look for chunky sweaters. great suggestions for caring for them as well :)

  2. 2
    November 4th, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I love this challenge and look. I just wish it wasn’t still 90 in LA!

  3. 3
    November 4th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Love the outfits, especially the “preppy” one.. although it’s quite clear that hardly any CF writers live where it really gets cold. I mean, these shoes for winter? Yeah, in my dreams.. It would be awesome if you could do some posts on how to stay stylish while it’s freezing outside (I mean “snow-up-to-your-knees-weather” with “wind-cutting-in-your-face”)? Because then it gets really difficult.

  4. 4
    November 4th, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    going to school in Vermont, all I wear is chunky, big knit sweaters and I constantly look forward towards sweater season! PS – totally agree with the thrift shop and mom’s closet ideas. Found 2 of my favorite sweaters in those places! (currently wearing one now!)

  5. 5
    November 4th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Fayet I totally agree with you. I live in Iceland and we already have snow. I was outside a couple weeks ago and it was so windy and cold and the rain was blowing sideways into my face and all of a sudden it turned to hail!! I love dressing fashionably but it can get hard in the winter. There are only a few summer days were I can wear shorts without tights or leggings. I really want a dark grey chunky cardigan. <3

  6. 6
    November 4th, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I love the first one! I’m still on a hunt at thrift stores to find a great one!

  7. 7
    November 4th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I agree with Fayet, I go to boarding school where there’s 8 months of cold…

  8. 8
    November 4th, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    These are ALL I’ve been wearing this week. It’s completely freezing here.

  9. 9
    November 4th, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Love the first outfit! I need to go shopping, stat!

  10. 10
    November 4th, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Really love this post. Although, I think I might be in the complete opposite situation from the other commenters: I WISH I lived somewhere where I could break out all my winter clothing. It’s only just hitting the low 70s where I go to school, and it’s driving me crazy that all the stores are selling cute fall clothing that I would swelter in. Although, it is entertaining to see everybody else shivering in their hoodies when I still feel fine in only a tanktop….

  11. 11
    November 4th, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    I love chunky sweaters!! There’s one made by Stine Goya that’s on my Bday wish list – it’s sooo pricey though…

  12. 12
    November 4th, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    This is one of my favorite trend right now not a fan of the cold months but this style is so cute can dress it up or down. My mom has long knit sweaters super cute great post

  13. 13
    November 4th, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    I love the third outfit!!
    I always do this at this time of year because i hate to relinquish my dresses!!
    Also- thank you for telling me not to hang up my sweaters!! I definitely didn’t know that!!

    Charlotte xxx

  14. 14
    November 4th, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I love chunky sweaters so much!! Every fall I buy more than a few in different colors and styles and they last all winter.

  15. 15
    November 4th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Chunky sweaters are seriously my FAVORITE item of clothing. Lately I’ve been wearing big sweaters with leggings or black skinny jeans and some combat boots I picked up from AE. Nothing could be comfier/warmer and with a chunky knit hat it’s honestly the perfect outfit. This post was awesome!

  16. 16
    November 4th, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Also, just adding on, I found some of my newest sweaters at the Salvation Army for about $3 each.

  17. 17
    November 4th, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    I looooooove chunky knit sweaters. If you guys are open to suggestions for the rest of your winter series, you should do one on chunky knit vests too! I love mine, but always feel like a dorky preschool teacher in mine.

  18. 18
    November 4th, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    I live in Canada where it gets to be about -40 degrees out, with snow knee deep and ice on the pavement and the wind is bone chilling.It’s so hard to stay stylish in hardcore winter weathr like that. The first outfit is heat for such a day but any ideas for cute foowear and outfits for that weather?

  19. 19
    November 5th, 2010 at 1:42 am

    I completely agree with Fayet’s suggestion!

  20. 20
    November 5th, 2010 at 2:25 am

    Love these. I tried an outfit similar to the third style and I loved it. I wore maroon mary-janes that have a flower on the strap instead of the boots (my boots are in serious need of mending). I was also able to find a really soft and girly Austrian sweater from my grandmother. I’ve kept it because it had family and cultural value but I didn’t exactly know how to wear it without looking too costumy until now. Thanks. I live in Oregon, which doesn’t normally get as cold as some other northern areas, but it sure does get wet and damp.

    Just like some of the other readers, I am really curious about how to stay warm and still look good when it gets reeeeally cold. Last winter, the temperature was below 36 degrees fahrenheit for about the last 3 weeks of fall term. I remember checking the temperature on my phone before taking one of my finals and it was 13 degrees! When Oregon does get near-freezing temperatures, I usually just forgo fashion for survival and wear like three layers of pants and four layers of tops – it looks like I’m wearing my entire closet at once. I would definitely appreciate some better strategies!!

  21. 21
    November 5th, 2010 at 4:26 am

    I love all the sweaters and looks you did here. I have to wear button up sweaters or I can’t wear them at all. My body temperature is way to high to wear a sweater shirt. Ever time I try, I pretty much die of heat. So I have to be able to take it off with out showing everybody what bra I’m wearing. Which is one reason I can never put away my “summer” clothes. I wear tanks under my sweaters.
    The last sweater way my favorite. I have to say though, last year was pretty bad for Oklahoma. We has a huge blizzard and it hadn’t snowed that much here since 1920/30 something. We get bad weather. It’s just the kind that you can’t predict.

  22. 22
    November 5th, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I love when fashion goes practical. Its tough dressing in the winter at my school because its freezing outside but sweltering inside.

    And I am also super in love with outfit #2. Definitely my style.

  23. 23
    November 5th, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I definitely love chunky knit anything. Still, in agreement with others, it’s starting to get really cold where I live. We’re supposed to get snow this weekend, actually, and as cute as those fashion boots are, the only kinds of boots that would be practical for walking to classes in would be snow boots.

  24. 24
    November 6th, 2010 at 1:09 am

    oh i love this article :D Hawa, i gotta agree with you. Finding an outfit thats both stylish and warm (especially in Canada!) is a challenge. It’s makes it harder when you have a limited wardrobe like me (recently drafted into the fashion world and loving it X3). I can’t wait for the rest of the cold weather articles to come out! ^-^

  25. 25
    November 7th, 2010 at 11:01 am

    the final one is too cute!

  26. 26
    November 18th, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I just have to say that i absolutely love the oversize chunky sweater. Its adorable and totally IN right now. I didn’t really like wearing sweaters last year but i’ve found that i’m really into them this fall. Plus, so many people wear the same thing in my school, so i like to be different. :)

  27. 27
    August 17th, 2011 at 12:59 am

    I really liked this because I just picked up a pink chunky knit ralph lauren sweater, and didnt know how to wear it. Can you do one on ideas how to dress for my junior year of high school?

  28. 28
    February 12th, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I love the first outfit. Whered you get those boots?

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