Bin boring jumpers… it's time to go OTT!

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Bin boring jumpers… it’s time to go OTT!

  • Shane Watson shared her advice explaining why you need over the top jumpers
  • She said that colourful and bright jumpers have become the new normal
  • Her advice includes avoiding pearls and try crystal embellished buttons

So far you may have resisted the XS (Extra Special) sweater. Maybe you decided, when you saw your daughter skipping around in a scarlet, balloon-sleeved jumper with turquoise frills a few winters ago, that it was fun but not for grown-ups.

I know I was in that camp.

The XS sweater is delightful, no doubt about it, and it’s no surprise that it’s still with us.

It all started, probably, with Chanel’s 2014 Austrian-inspired collection, hence the puff sleeves and Tyrolean-style details that have become the template for XS sweaters everywhere.

By last winter every fashion- conscious young woman had a V-ruffle-fronted sweater with different-coloured sleeves and maybe a brass button or two.

Jennifer Lopez wearing a jazzed up jumper

Now, in November 2020, we’ve arrived at a place where your sweater doesn’t have to be a Truly Scrumptious explosion of colour and frills.

A hint of extravagance and eccentricity has become normal and — here’s the real point — all the other knitwear looks a bit bland and ordinary, like a school uniform list.

That’s how it happens in fashion. Something insanely impractical catches fire, calms down, dilutes a bit, adapts a little more then segues into something really quite wearable.

It helps the cause of the XS sweater that we’re in the strangest of years, looking for comfort and charm plus something to keep us snug when outside, when we’d normally have been inside.

Before this, you looked at an OTT sweater and thought: ‘Yes, pretty, but where would I wear it, exactly? At whatsit’s drinks it will be too hot, not smart enough, not quite right.’ Well, no need to worry about that right now.

And in any case, with or without lockdown, XS sweaters are exactly what we need at the moment. They have the authentic, not flash, quality we’re interested in. They’re wholesome in a way, but still fun (the equivalent of spicy gluhwein), and they’re just a little bit fantastic.

As we edge into what would have been party season, they fit the bill. When the last thing you can imagine wearing is a vampy dress and high heels, you can — if you take your cue from the catwalks at Dior — get your head around wearing a patterned sweater teamed with a skirt in similar tones. Or one with giant sleeves and ornamental buttons, plus wide black trousers (Burberry). Or all of the above with everything (at Chanel). Chanel is still ahead of the curve on the whacky lady sweater.

The shape is all important. A skimpy V-neck in an animal print won’t cut it. We’re looking for puff or balloon sleeves, ruffles and frilled cuffs.

The easy, entry-level XS sweaters are the ones in neutral colours. Zara does a thin, pale beige ruffled sweater (£25.99,, which now looks almost like this season’s cream satin shirt. For the same price there’s one with multi ruffles in pale yellow (£25.99,, though that’s a tough colour to carry off in winter.

The one that, for me, ticks all the boxes is Mango’s puff-sleeved beige and off-white zebra-print sweater (£35.99,, which would look great with cream trousers.


  • Look for puff and balloon sleeves.
  • Try out crystal embellished buttons.
  • Embroidery can work, but avoid pearls.
  • Wear with trousers, skirts or to smarten jeans.

Also on my wish list is Ganni’s midnight blue balloon-sleeved sweater (£215, — this year’s answer to its go-with-everything grey cashmere polo neck (£96).

And (though this is cheating a bit) I’ve got my eye on the brand’s beige cashmere knit vest with embellished crystal buttons (£275), too. It could be fabulous over any number of big-sleeved shirts.

Again, slightly off-theme but tempting is Mango’s chunky check cardigan in oatmeal and cream with jewel-effect buttons (£49.99, It’s very Chanel. (We’ll be returning to the perks of cardigans another day.)

Meanwhile, a word of warning: there are still pearl-embellished sweaters out there, but don’t go there. They’re too testing when it comes to cleaning, and not what you need now.

And don’t get anything too textured and chunky, which will only look good over shorts or a mini skirt … on your daughter.

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