Left to right Shannon Heinemann, Heather Maurer, Amy Husted, and Kelly Kane during an Ugly Sweater party at Maurer's home in Delta.
Remember that sweater your grandma gave you?
The one with the reindeer that you vowed never to be caught dead in?
Well, be grateful — it's hot fashion now.
That's right, those tacky sweaters that you swore you'd never wear are among the holiday season's most sought after threads. Thanks to a surge in nostalgia, the much-maligned fashion faux pas is enjoying a moment of irony-infused popularity as companies and individuals host parties dedicated to the "tacky" or "ugly" Christmas sweater.
In recent years, it's become the theme party du jour for the holidays. The parties are so popular there are Web sites and even a book called Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On, by Brian Miller, Adam Paulson and Kevin Wool aka, "Team Ugly" devoted to the phenomenon.
Attendees of such functions are required to don the most festively awful cardigan, vest, or pullover they can find.
Serena Navarro got butterflies in her stomach when she found her outfit for such an event.
The bright, heavy-knit, turtle-neck sweater with orange and gold snowflakes was exactly what she'd been looking for.
"I was going to call my grandma, but what do you say, ‘Grandma, can I borrow a sweater for an ugly sweater party?'" said Mrs. Navarro of Delta. "When I saw this one, I got so excited. I had to get it."
When it comes to Christmas sweaters, uglier is better. Bright mismatched colors, flashing lights, and winter scenes are acceptable. The knits at a recent sweater party in Delta included everything from snowflakes and ornaments to mistletoe and poinsettias.
Thrift stores, resale shops, and grandma's closet are great hunting grounds for the sweaters, but retailers are also capitalizing on the demand by stocking shelves with the holiday digs.
Kelly Kane, 34, of Delta found her sweater — a long, tan cardigan decorated with holiday stockings and boots — in her mother's garage sale pile.
"It's perfect," she said with a laugh.
Hostess Heather Maurer, decided to make her own tacky get-up this year, opting for a black chef's apron with garland and bows stapled to it.
"I thought I'd go all out this year," said Mrs. Maurer, 34. "It's my holiday dress."
Left to right Serena Navarro, Amber Savage, and Michell Niner during an Ugly Sweater party in Delta.
The sweaters' popularity reflects a common fashion arc: Everything old is new again. Some maintain the obnoxious sweaters evoke fond memories of holidays past. Others suggest it's just an expression of seasonal cheer.
"It's fun to have a theme instead of just sitting around eating and drinking," Mrs. Kane said. "It gives us something to talk about and have fun with."
In addition to the sweaters, most parties feature games and festive food arrangements such as "ho-ho punch," a pigs-in-a-blanket wreath, and fruit and veggie trees. In addition, guests often exchange tacky gifts.
Holly Tedrick, a hair stylist, said she and her co-workers wear their sweaters to work as part of an annual holiday tradition.
"Some people think it's cute, so at work, we're careful not to call it an ugly sweater," Mrs. Tedrick, 28, said of her red zip-up cardigan with poinsettia and mistletoe appliques and matching earrings that she scored for $6 at Savers. "But most people, as soon as they see you in it, they instantly know you're going to an ugly sweater party."
Shannon Heinemann was more than happy to call her sweater ugly, describing it as "a whole lot of the 1980s." The pink pullover was decked out with boughs of holly, ornaments, and shoulder-pads.
"To be able to do this on purpose is cool," said Mrs. Heinemann, a stay-at-home mom of five, who picked her sweater up at Goodwill. "You get to leave the house like this on purpose and no one can judge you."
Contact RoNeisha Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6133.