Jumpers aren’t really fashion at all. They are just clothes, which are quite different. They are about as far from the experimental, leather-culotte school of dressing as you can get. Something you wear to keep warm, as you might wear a dressing gown on cold mornings. A lot of the time, you don’t even plan them as part of an outfit: you get dressed of a morning, in jeans and a shirt or whatever, and then put a jumper on top later.
But it’s January, and I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like wearing leather culottes now. On the other hand, I expect to spend most days in jumpers. So let’s talk about jumpers. At this point we should differentiate between jumpers and knitwear. Jumpers are what you keep stuffed in a big drawer; knitwear is what you hang in your wardrobe. Jumpers are practical; knitwear has a crisp-winter-walk, marshmallows-in-the-hot-chocolate lifestyle thing going on.
Obviously, like any other normal human being, if I’m at home on the sofa, I’ll take a jumper every time. Preferably one with worn out holes in the cuffs, and a neckline that has gone slightly loose (so much more comfortable than that can’t-breathe feeling crew necks have when they are new. Ugh.) But most of us are not in a position to spend every day of the month on the sofa. And the thumb-hole thing doesn’t, if we’re being honest, project a professional image of polished efficiency. That’s where knitwear comes in.
Knitwear is definitely fashion, not clothes. Knitwear is signposted in department stores; jumpers come in boxes at jumble sales. And being fashion, knitwear is at the mercy of trends. The trend right now, slightly confusingly, is for knitwear that looks like jumpers. To be specific, jumpers that have “jumped up” slightly in the wash, so the hemline is shorter than it was. They remain chunky around the neckline and shoulders, but finish at the waist. To be a This Season Knit, then, you need a normal knit – a jumper, in fact – but shorter. To make it clear you are in knitwear, wear it with a dramatic full skirt; or with the new season’s flared trousers. We’ll get to them presently, when we’ve eased ourselves off the sofa. After that, possibly leather culottes. All in good time. For now, let’s just wean ourselves off the thumb-holes.
Photograph: David Newby for the Guardian. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Sharon Ive at Carol Hayes Management.
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