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Edited: Long Live the Novelty Holiday Sweater

The ugly Christmas sweater is benefiting from a glow-up this year. 

A new report from Edited provides a peek into how fashion will play a role in celebrating the holidays this year. Consumers’ unrelenting demand for comfortable at-home fashion should guide retailers’ holiday assortments, however, the retail analytics firm also points to opportunities for novelty products and prints that stand out in a crowd and on social media. 

In men’s wear, winter-themed knits are emerging as a crowd pleaser. “Novelty sweaters made up the highest assortment within tops, growing from just 19 new options in 2021 to 99 this year,” Edited said. 

Brands and retailers are getting creative with holiday sweaters. Primark is promoting classic gingerbread man and elf-themed tops, while Notjust Clothing is selling pop culture-inspired knits that combine references to cryptocurrency, Queen Elizabeth II and outspoken Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with snowflake and reindeer motifs. 

Though Target is offering “Friends” and “Star Wars” sweaters, Edited noted that penguin motifs are being favored over licensed characters this year. Other wintry themes such as snowmen and snowflakes are trending as well.

Sweaters make up the vast majority (44 percent) of newness in women’s wear, but casual T-shirts account for a quarter of all tops. Edited said popular graphics for the lower-priced option included “Christmassy puns, tongue-in-cheek slogans and nostalgic characters such as The Grinch and Buddy the Elf.”

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In terms of sustainability and value, timeless Fair Isle products may be the smarter alternative. A part of the “gorpcore” trend happening in men’s wear, Edited reports that new Fair Isle options grew 144 percent year-over-year.

“Its appeal offers consumers an investment piece with longevity outside of Christmas versus novelty holiday-specific products, given that consumers will be watching their spending this year,” the report said.

All 12 of U.K. retailer John Lewis’ new sweaters boast the traditional theme and the pattern in socks grew in assortment, making up 27 percent of styles versus 18 percent last year. In the U.S., Old Navy stocked a wide range of coordinating Fair Isle knits (cardigans, pullovers, hoodies and more) in neutral colorways for men, women, children and babies .

Similarly, matching family sleepwear picked up steam. Edited said pajama sets saw the strongest backing within festive sleepwear ranges, accounting for 65 percent of arrivals.

Meanwhile, the report notes that bathrobes have the lowest investment with just 2 percent, highlighting an opportunity for retailers looking to diversify their assortment and address the growing demand for warm and cozy attire.

Practical warm weather accessories are trending in children’s wear. Instead of tempting consumers at the cash-wrap counter with “stocking filler-style jewelry,” which dropped 88 percent year-over-year, Edited said retailers are shifting to hats and other accessories with classic patterns like Fair Isle. 

Kids are dressing up in holiday frocks. Red remains the top-stocked color for dress arrivals year-over-year but Edited noted that “sugary pink” and tactile fabrications like corduroy and velvet are also seeing gains.