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What began with equal parts festive cheer and gentle irony is here to stay: the Christmas sweater party has become a certified part of the American holiday season. But like any holiday gathering, its success or failure is tied to how much creative energy goes into its preparation. Here’s how you can win the Christmas sweater party, whether you’re attending or hosting.
If your name has made it onto a guest list, there is one rule you should follow above all others: wear a Christmas sweater. Just like you wouldn’t think of showing up to a Halloween costume party in your normal 9-to-5 attire, attending a Christmas sweater party without some festive knitwear is a definite faux pas.
We encourage going all-out when it comes to a Christmas sweater party—after all, no one throws a Christmas sweater party and expects to see minimalism. And while this is a great opportunity to don a cotton Christmas sweater depicting a wreath-wrapped barn or a London taxi topped by wrapped presents, you can be just as festive while wearing something that can be worn at non-Christmas sweater related events, too.
For the (slightly) more subtle route, consider wearing a Fair Isle sweater. Its distinctive patterns instantly conjure visions of ski trips and lazy Christmas mornings, but they’re not so tied to the holiday season that they can’t be worn in non-holiday related events.
But if you happen to be hosting, we’d advise you leave all notions of a subtlety aside. After all, if you’re asking guests to leave all notions of restraint behind and show up in their boldest, most outrageous knitwear, shouldn’t you be leading the charge? We wholeheartedly endorse taking that loudest item from your closet, whether it’s a cotton Christmas sweater depicting a Christmas tree with raised ornament details or a cotton Christmas sweater that features mistletoe flanked by twin skiers.
That delightfully over-the-top mood shouldn’t be limited to apparel. For refreshments, dip into holiday classics like reindeer-shaped cookies, ribbon candy and a rich, creamy eggnog punch (big bonus points for setting out a gingerbread house that fellow Christmas-sweater wearers can decorate to their heart’s content).
As a host, there is one tricky obstacle you may encounter: the guest who arrives without wearing a Christmas sweater. Rather than leaving them to be the least festive of the bunch, do what a fine restaurant requiring jacket and tie would do and loan them appropriate apparel. And the merrier that substitute sweater happens to be, the better.