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Naughty or Nice? Ugly Christmas Sweaters and Other Holiday Fashion Dos and Don’ts

The ugly Christmas sweater has successfully transitioned from tacky to trendy, according to Hancock.
The ugly Christmas sweater has successfully transitioned from tacky to trendy, according to Hancock.

From sparkles and scarves to jingle bell earrings and Santa sweaters, holiday fashion can bring out the best in us – or the worst. We checked in with the fashion experts at Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design to find out what’s naughty and nice in this year’s trends.

NICE: “Wear an ‘ugly’ Christmas sweater,” said Joseph Hancock, PhD, fashion merchandising expert and associate professor in the Department of Design. The ugly Christmas sweater isn’t just for hipsters anymore – they are now sold at retailers Urban Outfitters, Old Navy and Target for up to $75. Even famous designer Ralph Lauren has been putting out heavily decorated sweaters every year – including his patchwork number for the Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “This type of sweater is iconic and is embedded in American material culture,” says Hancock.

NAUGHTY: “Don’t forget to dress for the camera on Christmas morning,” said Clare Sauro, curator of the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection in the Westphal College. “Christmas PJs may seem like an unexpected suggestion from a historian but the wearing of pajamas for semiformal events dates back to the 1920s when hostesses would don slinky bias-cut satin for dinner parties. You may opt for cozy flannel instead, but a fresh and cheerful pair of pajamas will help you look your best while watching the little ones open gifts in the wee hours of the morning. In the age of social media, it pays to be prepared.”

Even Drexel got in on the ugly sweater trend this year

NICE: “Incorporate signature classics into your holiday party ensemble,” said Alphonso McClendon, an assistant professor in the Department of Design. McClendon is the author of “Fashion and Jazz: Dress, Identity and Subcultural Improvisation” with a U.S. publication date of March 2015. “For men, tartan patterns including Black Watch, Royal Stewart, Culloden and MacPherson add tasteful distinction to an outfit. Avoid pattern exaggeration by limiting the textile to a necktie, pocket square, scarf, vest or blazer. Complete the look with a well-polished, black leather oxford shoe with plain toe, cap toe or wingtip.”

NAUGHTY: “Don’t wear those high, strappy sandals if you are going to a formal event this year when the weather is cold and wet,” said Renee Chase, professor of fashion design. “Instead, wear a great pair of high-heeled boots in suede or with an added glittery element. This is on-trend and very sexy to boot (pun intended)!”

NICE: “Save time – wear your exercise apparel from workout into the street and get more done!” said Lisa Hayes, associate professor and director of the fashion design program. “It used to be taboo to wear your sweaty, baggy gym stuff into the stores or out to run other errands. But now that this category has become the newest focus of hip and trendy apparel – you no longer have to run home to change before going out and doing your errands. From Stella McCarthy to Lululemon, Athleta, Nike, Sweaty Betty to Patagonia, designers are all focusing on offering their take on this category – one that can actually go from work out into the street. The ‘down sweatshirt’ (jacket that folds up tiny and is feather light) has replaced the wool coat and seems to go everywhere – it’s as at home on the streets of NYC as it is on the mountain. So, go from your work out to complete your errands and save time while looking the smartest this holiday season without worry!”

News media interested in speaking with any of these experts should contact Alex McKechnie at or 215-895-2705.

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