Fall Trends: Chunky Sweaters

Iconic '80s Piece Back for an Encore --- With a New Look

A chunky, long, gray cardigan gives this outfit casual flair.

Photo: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

New spins on an old item --- the chunky sweater --- are in the works for the fall of 2011. As you anticipate the arrival of cooler temperatures and wonder what fashion choices will be available to ward off autumn's chills, take comfort in the knowledge that an old friend is back.

It's effortless and immediately stylish when you wear one. People like 'easy,' and chunky is definitely easy.

- Kerri Renae Quigley, marketing & product designer and fashion stylist

It's Not the 1980s

If you're of a certain age, just saying the words "chunky sweater" can immediately conjure up flashbacks to TV sitcoms like "Square Pegs" and "Facts of Life."

"I tend to think back to the 1980s. It was definitely a fashion staple then," Emmy Award-nominated celebrity stylist Dawn Baker said.

But Baker, the founder and owner of Los Angeles-based boutiques "happy LA" and "dawn baker," says she's not surprised to see the chunky sweater re-emerge as a fashion must-have for the fall of 2011. "Designers tend to go from one extreme to the next or from one fashion trend to the extreme opposite of that trend to give customers a reason to buy," she said. "In this case, things have been really simple, and where in the past you'd have to wear layers because everything was so sheer, this season it's more of 'Let's go to next extreme with chunky, big-needle, open hand-knit cloth.' "

Kerri Renae Quigley, a New York City-based marketing & product designer and fashion stylist, describes the chunky sweater as a classic piece for fall and winter. "It's effortless and immediately stylish when you wear one. People like 'easy,' and chunky is definitely easy," Quigley said.

But don't go digging up those 20-year-old sweaters just yet. "I think the closest you'll get to the 1980s [with this style] is the color," Quigley said.

Baker added: "Technology has changed so much since then in the way yarns are spun and knitting is done ... and that's why they're making chunky sweaters look more fresh and in style."

Color and Style

Expect to see a wide spectrum of colors, from bright yellow, orange and red to light blue and spring green.

"Either way, from what I've seen on the runway, you're going to see either really bright or really soft colors, but I don't think they'll be ugly as they were back then ... hopefully," Quigley said with a laugh.

Some other colors to expect, Baker said, include basic neutral shades, such as stone, khaki, black and dark grays. "Sticking with neutrals is best," Baker opined.

When it comes to style, think beyond the basic pullover, Quigley advised. "Of course, there will always be pullovers, but try one with a big neck, so that you can wear a tank top under it."

She noted additional anticipated styles. "The big, cable-knit cardigan is going to be big," she said, "especially the long style with the self-tie belt and big button. And the cable-knit dress, which you can wear with leggings."

Look to collections by top designers for inspiration. "Michael Kors always does amazing fall looks," Quigley said. "He's the guy for sweaters and layers, and he has one in a beautiful camel color. Also, Claudia Schiffer came out with a sweater line that's really nice and includes sweater dresses and these thick, cozy cashmere sweaters."

Find Your Vibe

When it comes to the chunky sweater, make sure the style suits the occasion, Baker advised. "Chunky sweaters tend to look very casual, depending on how you wear it and the color. If you wear some patchwork or bright chunky piece, it's going to look playful and not the most appropriate for a work environment, depending on where you work. With that said, try to be more professional, making sure the sweater's not too open if it's a chunky open-knit."

Choose a style that best complements your figure. "Just because something is a fashion trend doesn't mean everybody should wear it," Baker said, adding "and I definitely do not think this trend is for every woman."

She suggests huge, oversize, waist-length sweater or open cardigan for smaller body types, with a blouse over a wide-legged or skinny pant.

Those with fuller figures might try a sweater dress with leggings and boots, suggests Quigley --- who regularly styles fashion for plus-size women --- "because with the cable knit, it gives you a nice vertical line, the way it's usually knit. And sometimes, it has varying width or maybe an intricate design in the middle that gives the optical illusion of a curvy figure, which is great for plus sizes."

For women with a smaller chest, body or thinner and skinnier legs, Baker says the chunky sweater is a good way to bulk up and enhance their body shape. "Maybe someone with small shoulders would love this," she said. "They have the ability to work with this fashion trend more than anyone else."

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