One of the great joys of the pre-Christmas period is lighting the fire and pulling on a truly cosy jumper. Conversely, one of the great sadnesses is having to take said jumper back off again when a festive drinks invitation arrives and partywear is required; switching a cable knit for spaghetti straps in deep mid-winter is rarely an enticing prospect. However, this season knitwear has had a glamorous overhaul, meaning the off-duty staple is now positively party appropriate.
Razzle-dazzle knits reigned supreme on the Missoni autumn/winter ‘19 catwalk, where slinky lurex jumpers in midnight and gold were paired with coordinating trousers and strappy evening shoes. At Dries Van Noten, black mock-necks which cinched at the waist were teamed with sequin skirts, while Chloe’s rollnecks with lace cuffs and collars made for the perfect dinner party plus one – just add velvet slacks. Christopher Kane put forward a convincing case for the cocktail cardigan, reimagining the classic cover-up in an oversized silhouette, Cosmopolitan-pink colourway and crystal trim. Currently available on net-a-porter.com for just over £1,000, it might leave scant pennies for an actual cocktail, but at least it will add sparkle to a glass of house white.
Off the catwalk, Chinti & Parker has championed the disco knit this season with its debut eveningwear collection. Marking the cashmere brand’s 10th anniversary, the limited-edition capsule is a homage to Studio 54 and certainly wouldn’t look out of place on the dance floor; think lurex scoop-necks, glitter-striped ribbed knits and shimmery knitted polo tops in bronze, purple and green. One-step festive dressing solutions come by way of a knitted colour block jumpsuit (£395, Chinti & Parker) and gold metallic jumper dress (£395, Chinti & Parker) which pack plenty of after-dark appeal.
More readily known for its signature vintage-inspired printed silk dresses, cult brand Rixo has recently expanded into knitwear. The covetable winter offering includes embroidered crew necks, a palm-print polo top and swishy silk-knit midi dresses in houndstooth and leopard spota.
“A statement knit is perfect for the party season; it’s warm enough for when the temperature drops but still feels dressy”, says Henrietta Rix, co-founder of Rixo. Indeed, gone are the days of shivering in a slip dress next to the canapes; with the simple addition of a bedazzled pullover or knitted dress, you can nail the cocktail dress code and stay toasty.
Knits with va-va-voom are a hit on the high street too. Having seen an increase in appetite for the partywear category, this season Boden has expanded its range of natty knits to include spangly jumpers and cardigans as well as coordinating bottoms for a head-to-toe knitted look. Best-sellers include the Rosetta sparkle cardigan and metallic fit and flare Diona dress (£100, Boden).
“Party knitwear is really versatile; it works just as well for a night out with friends over the festive period as it does for a night in with family,” says Boden’s head of womenswear Mariam Boutorabi. With less of us wishing to invest in occasionwear destined to be worn only a handful of times before collecting dust in the wardrobe, multi-purpose eveningwear feels like a good idea. With a dress-up, dress-down appeal, the party knit makes for maximum wearability; team with smart flats for the office, switch to heels for post-work drinks then add statement earrings for dinner. And what’s better than a comfy knit with a touch of sparkle on Christmas morning?
When choosing a party knit be sure to steer clear of novelty; the look is festive chic not festive cheese. Tasteful hints of sparkle by way of crystal embellishments, beading and jewel-hued lurex will strike the right tone. Fine-gauge knits can be layered under strappy dresses, while chunky iterations are a stylish counterpoint to fluid silks and satins. As with any knitwear, sticking to natural fabrics over synthetics will make for a more breathable experience – no one wants to overheat on the dance floor.
From crystal studded cardigans to vampy V-necks, whatever the festive dress code, this season there’s a knit to suit…
The party poloneck
Chiming in with the current sartorial mood for practical layering, the humble roll-neck has been elevated to must-have status; net-a-porter currently stocks over 400 different styles. Not just for daywear, this winter’s glammed-up iterations are just as useful for evening. Render black denim Champagne-ready with Warehouse’s jade-green sequin number (£42, Warehouse) or give tailored trousers an after-hours twist with Uterque’s elegant jacquard high neck (£79, Uterque). Monsoon’s party roll-neck with matching kick-flares makes for a fresh spin on the trouser suit, while a black roll-neck with just a hint of sparkle layered underneath a blazer will work for both day and night – try Me & Em.
Sequin puff sleeve top, £42, Warehouse
The cocktail cardigan
The cardigan comeback reaches fever-pitch this party season with embellished iterations being put forward as the cocktail cover-up of choice. Think prim button-ups with jewel embellishments to be worn over your LBD or long-line duster styles draped over slinky gowns. Maximalists will love Hayley Menzies’ animal print floor-sweeper (£360, Hayley Menzies) and Olivia Rubin’s sequin boyfriend style (£250, Olivia Rubin) which comes with coordinating rainbow-stripe dress. For low-key events, & Other Stories’ skinny knit cardi with rhinestone buttons (£55, & Other Stories) has just a hint of glitz.
The statement shoulder
When it comes to occasion knits, a statement shoulder will add after-dark drama to your ensemble. If heading to a dressy soirée (and not averse to a strapless bra) consider a chic one-shoulder number which can be tucked into high-waisted wide-legged trousers and finished off with dazzling drop earrings. Try Mango’s asymmetric rib knit (£39.99, Mango). Alternatively, Zara’s mohair knit with fringed epaulettes (£49.99, Zara) has plenty of evening appeal, while Veronica Beard’s navy knit with crystal encrusted shoulders (£400, Veronica Beard) would work for cocktail hour when teamed with a midi skirt and mules, then respun as daywear with jeans.
The vampy V-neck
Knits with plunging necklines were a hero silhouette on the autumn/winter ‘19 catwalks and are universally flattering. For a subtle look try Modern Rarity’s silver wrap jumper (£100, John Lewis) or, for serious sparkle, Jigsaw’s sequin encrusted short-sleeve merino knit (£120, Jigsaw). Slouchy styles look more modern than tight-fitting: wear Hush’s shimmering Alia jumper (£99,Hush) one size up and falling off a shoulder. Plain cashmere V-necks in classic black and navy can be used to balance sequin skirts and statement trousers for smart/casual dress codes. Look to & Daughter for handmade investment styles that will last a lifetime.
The disco knit
Nights spent rocking around the Christmas tree require a heavy dose of late-night glitz and it doesn’t come glitzier than lurex. When donning the 70’s staple keep the silhouette simple and let the sparkle take centre stage. Marks & Spencer’s shimmering crew-neck knit (£17.50, Marks & Spencer) is the perfect dance partner to a satin midi skirt, while Boden’s zig-zag Antonia jumper (£65, Boden) comes with matching pencil skirt (£80, Boden) which can be worn as a knitted set then broken into separates for more dressed-down occasions. Tabitha Webb’s Lucille jumper (£295, Tabitha Webb) has a detachable tie which can be fashioned into a flamboyant pussy-bow, worn as a matchy-matchy hair scarf or tied around the handle of your handbag.
Metallic blouse, £295, Tabitha Webb
The sophisticated slogan
A perennial fashion editor favourite, this season Bella Freud has collaborated with Kate Moss on a capsule of sparkle knits emblazoned with the Pogues’ hit ‘Fairytale of New York’ (£320, Bella Freud) – perfect for when gathering around the piano for festive sing-a-longs, but also for Christmas jumper day at the office or an evening wandering around a christmas market. On the high street, Hush’s glitzy ‘Disco’ jumper (£85, Hush) and Whistles’ metallic flecked ‘dreamer’ knit (£55.30, Whistles) would make a sophisticated seasonal addition to any Christmas lunch.
The LKD (little knitted dress)
For a one-step dressing solution, look no further than this season’s roster of elevated jumper dresses. Less slouchy, more slinky, the key is to go for smart dress silhouettes which have been reinterpreted in luxe knitted fabrics: heavier weight knits will be more flattering as they skim rather than cling. Sandro’s golden glittery midi with knife-pleat skirt (£280, Selfridges) makes for an effortless black-tie outfit – just add classic courts, while Rixo’s fit and flare houndstooth midi (£305, Rixo) works just as well with kitten-heeled mules for a night at the theater as it does velvet slippers when hosting a dinner party. For casual drinks with friends, Arket’s silver speckled tunic (£69, Arket) can be layered over cigarette trousers and finished with fancy flats and a glass of fizz. Cheers!