As with any other wardrobe must-have, sustainable sweater trends have undergone several stylistic changes over the years.
Once upon a time, wives would knit thick sweaters to keep their farmer or fisherman husbands warm. The sweater wasn’t really considered all that fashionable. But then, fashion’s fairy godmothers – Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli – transformed knitwear in the 1920s. It was thanks to their delicate, feminine yarns and beautifully designed styles that we saw knitwear transform from its more practical uses to the chic staple we know today.
The 1930’s continued the trend for women’s sweaters, and introduced dreamy bishop sleeves and decorative collars. The 50’s had other plans for this cozy attire. Inspired by Christian Dior’s New Look campaign, the female silhouette was to be accentuated once again with more cropped sweater trends. In fact, the ‘sweater girl’ became a thing – it mainly referred to the look of a tight knit (preferably a twin set) over a voluminous, waist-cinching skirt.
Sweater Trends Go Hippy
During the swinging 60’s and 70’s, knitwear took on a much more hippy vibe, using crochet patchwork techniques and employing synthetic fibres for the first time. We love how the likes of Janis Joplin sported crochet vests over bra tops, and how Mary Quant made sexy, sheer crochet mini dresses!
The 80’s mood was a lot more serious. It was powered up by boxy and broad shoulders, often in neon colours. The 90’s and naughties followed with a more androgynous look. Who could forget Kurt Cobain in his grandpa cardigan on MTV Live?
Which brings us to our current chapter. And what a palette of choice we have! We see stories of the old intertwined with the new in the top sustainable sweater trends for this year. Pick from vintage styles, dancer wraps or recycled yarns to be bang on trend this winter!
Image below from @west.ware
7 Sustainable Sweater Trends We Love For 2021
Think cardis are just for grannies in rocking chairs, or maybe Mr Rogers? Nope, the cardigan has had an update, and comes in a series of guises. Choose from man-sized and slouchy or cropped and sexy. Pair with some torn denim, and you’ve never looked more coolly casual!
Try: We love the cardigan selection at ethical retailer Amour Vert. Most are made from heavy organic cotton, making this the perfect sustainable sweater choice for eco-minded vegans.
Cashmere has always been a luxury, but some people have issues with its ethics. Namely, of course, vegans, who don’t want to exploit animals for their fur or hair. But recycled cashmere (and wool) doesn’t harm animals, and also has a lower carbon footprint. It basically involves the unravelling of existing knits and reusing that yarn to create new pieces. Circular fashion at its most luxurious!
Try: Stella McCartney was one of the first ethical fashion brands to use recycled cashmere and wool. The designer has created some exciting styles for this season, as has Reformation, whose recycled fibre sweaters are seen below. If you’re looking for more affordable recycled cashmere sweaters, check out Everlane.
The Mutton Chop, the Bishop, the Victorian puff… Whatever variation you like, the point is this: one of the biggest sustainable sweater trends is definitely for voluminous sleeves! And we love that. The look is feminine, and throws back a bit to the 70’s. In fact, why not be super-sustainable and search for an awesome vintage knit?
Try: If you can’t find an authentic 70s sweater, Reformation is making some gorgeous sweaters of all kinds with really interesting sleeves. As you probably know, the brand uses deadstock fabrics, as well as upcycled cashmere and organic cotton to make their knits.
This 60’s inspired trend is still beautiful today! Crochet is injected with delicate femininity and eye-catching details. As this season is all about layers, this is the perfect trend to play with. Wear a crochet poncho (such as the one below) over a simple tee or a body suit, for example.
Try: This is another one of those sustainable knitwear trends that can be sourced from vintage and thrifting stores, since it harkens back to decades past. If you’re a bit crafty, you could also create your own crochet sweater.
Alternatively, Maydi is an Argentina based brand that ensures no wildlife is harmed in the ethical farming of their sheep. They create their knits in collaboration with local artisans, who receive a living wage. We love their oversized, crochet cardi – two sustainable sweater trends in one!
They’re big, they’re floppy, and they’re cozy as heck! The cowl neck is more relaxed than the more typical turtleneck (or Polo neck, depending on where you live), and it’s trendier now than ever! To make this look very ‘now,’ ensure your knit is a nice, loose, thick one, preferably in an earthy hue.
Try: London based sustainable fashion brand Cossac is making some of the most gorgeous winter knitwear we know of. Check out their cowl neck sweater below, and in our main image. Image 2 below from @west.ware
His? Hers? Ours! This is one of the easiest sustainable sweater trends to pull off, for both men or women. You can easily find a sweater a few sizes up in a thrift shop – just hit the ‘mens’ section! The best part? This trend is also easy to share with the man in your life, be it your dad, BF, brother, son or husband.
Try: Riley Studio makes some of the most luxurious androgynous sweaters around – and they use a lot of recycled yarns, including cashmere, to do so!
One of the best ways to stay warm this winter is by literally wrapping yourself up in a sustainable sweater! Wrapped styles are reminiscent of wrap dresses; they fit all sizes for the most part, as they’re easily adjustable. We love how a sweater wrap adds a touch of dancer chic to your wardrobe!
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