Why the jumper is top of the fashion charts right now
For once, fashion and practicality collide, writes Niamh O'Rourke
The lowly jumper has made a comeback. It never quite disappeared, but it certainly hasn't registered on the fashion radar for quite some time.
Found skulking around the back of the wardrobe like the loyal companion it is, little did anyone know it was destined for stardom in the Autumn / Winter of 2011.
There is a certain nostalgia to the jumper. Associations like The Famous Five, Thelma Mansfield, Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, your Granny's handknit Christmas present complete with snowman motif or, God forbid, your school uniform might come to mind. None of these, it has to be said, are high fashion.
And yet the jumper has sky-rocketed up the trend charts and is now to be found like a startled bunny caught in the headlights on the most prestigious of catwalks, strewn languidly across the glossy pages of Vogue and hanging off Tilda Swinton in the Pringle campaign. Life doesn't get much more prestigious.
And the main talking point in the new series of BBC crime drama The Killing is Sarah Lund's black-and-white patterned jumper. The unassuming humility of the geansaí is part of its charm. Make no mistake about it, no magic transformation has taken place here. Maybe the wool is more refined, a little cashmere here, a touch of lurex there, but essentially we are talking baggy, crew-neck, chunky knits.
Jil Sander and Cléine are two of the most worshipped and highly respected labels on the planet at the moment and both have adopted the sweater as one of their key statement pieces for the season.
Phoebe Philo layered her jacquard knits with white, skin-tight polonecks and leather skinnies, while Raf Simons chose to team his with ski-pants no less. Ah yes, the bemusing world of 'Cool'!
Erdem layered cable knits that looked more local Oxfam than London catwalk, over glamorous printed pencil dresses and paired with heels. An unusual combo that worked because the jilted juxtaposition emphasised the sophistication of the dress.
Givenchy did panther-print, satin sweatshirts. Bill Blass teamed a fisherman-style polo-neck with a floor-skimming ballgown, while Margaret Howell belted hers with flared midi-skirts and grounded with brogues.
So how do you work this look? For starters, cast all childhood associations aside and think killer catwalk attitude. Secondly, balance the silhouette and the textures. Take the rough with the smooth and the oversized with the skinny. If it's a chunky waffle knit, team it with butter-soft, second-skin leathers. If it's a fluffy, bosom clinging mohair number, try a big ol' Roman Holiday-style skirt, circa 1953 and think of Audrey.
If you're going to go down the ski-chic route, 'hint of' would be the wisest path. Unless you're stunning enough to pull off a bin bag, then steer clear of ski-pants and opt for a Fairisle pattern instead.
Henry Holland's rabbit version for Debenhams has the perfect dose of wit to advertise you understand the concept of tongue-in-cheek humour. For a nod to Jil Sander's textured minimalism, check out this cobalt blue knit from ASOS.
If Parisien designer Isabel Marant is your icon du jour, check out River Island's monochrome Navajo knit or Miss Selfridge's colourful Aztec sweater dress. Feather earrings, tousled hair, white jeans and fringe boots will complete the look nicely.
Topshop's star motif jumper is very Dolce & Gabbana. Combine with brothel creepers and a Teddy Boy coat for a dazzling androgynous look.
So there you have it. Who knows why now is the jumper's time to shine. Perhaps its cosy familiarity is a comforting antidote to a recession. Or perhaps, on the long list of exiled garments waiting in the wings for their turn at a revival, the jumper was next.
Either way, it's not often that fashion and practicality collide, so take advantage and snuggle up.