UPDATED for 2022: Welcome to our collection of ugly sweater ideas for Christmas or parties. In this article, in addition to several inspirational pictures of DIY ugly sweaters, you will find also instructions of how to create your own custom design so that you will look “amazingly ugly” among the rest!
The “Ugly Sweater” trend has been in an upward movement the last years and is a very hot fashion concept especially in Christmas parties either at work or at home.
Let’s first start with a brief introduction about ugly sweaters before presenting you with pictures of various ideas:
So, what exactly are ugly sweaters?
Well, there is no clear-cut definition of an ugly sweater, just like there is no clear design or color combination.
However, all ugly sweaters have some common attributes. According to the urban dictionary, ugly sweaters are hideous looking, over-sized sweaters with ugly colors and pertains, often worn by hipsters with no fashion taste or old men.
Other telltale signs include use of liberal green and red, comically large depiction of reindeer, Christmas trees, snowmen, and any sort of felt applique or pom-pom. They are also sometimes referred to a “Cosby sweaters”, named after the iconic comedian/actor Bill Cosby.
In my personal opinion however, they are not really ugly garments, they are just fun but in an attention-seeking weird way.
As a matter of fact, most people presume that ugly sweaters were designed with the intention of actually being attractive. It’s only our ever-changing sense of fashion and judgment that makes us consider the once fashionable and pretty sweaters as ugly.
Talking of fashion changes, what is the origin of ugly sweaters? – or at least, when did people start considering them Ugly? Let’s have a brief history of how all this started.
A brief history of ugly sweaters
It’s not an easy task pinpointing the rise of this trend. But at least we can point out that they were popularized by two icons: Bill Cosby and Chevy Chase who made it fashionable to rock in these hideously appealing sweaters.
The trend was first popularized in the early 80’s but later vanished in the late 90’s, only to resurface once again around 2001-2002.
This trend has steadily climbed the ladders of fashion industry and as of 2010 ugly Christmas sweaters were once again highly fashionable.
But of all the things, why ugly Christmas sweater? Well, two reasons; first, nostalgia and secondly, our insane obsession with fashion and aesthetics.
Ugly sweaters carry that vintage Christmas appeal that reminds many of us about the good old days with grandmom etc.
You remember those Christmas eves when you went to bed so that Santa brings those gifts overnight? In essence, it reminds us of what Christmas actually was before it turned into a mere Super Bowl of business transactions.
On the other hand, the ridiculous colors and designs quite literally break every known fashion norms and laws –which is kind of the point.
Our culture has become obsessed with the latest fashion trends in an effort to conform to certain rules and protocols; and that is how the “ugly sweaters trend” sucked in.
How to make your own ugly Christmas sweater
When it comes to designing (or “ugly-fying”) your own style for a Christmas party or other occasion, we recommend that you first decide on the overall look you want it to have.
The easiest way to do this is choosing a large iconic Christmas item, (imagined or real), and building your sweater around it as a centerpiece. Unless you are using a sewing kit, it’s best to make the sweater early before the party day –it allows the glitter gel and glue to dry in good time.
Here are some tips to help you as you make your own ugly Christmas sweater at home.
- Set up
- Try your sweater on before doing anything. This will help stretch it out before decoration so that when you finally put it on after you decorate, it doesn’t distort your designs.
- Think of your theme before you start sewing or gluing. It helps to lay out everything on the sweater first and see how it comes out before making anything permanent.
- Insert a barrier inside of your sweater so that glue doesn’t stick the two sides together. Foil can do just fine.
- Cut the Felt into shapes using stencils
- If you are using a full ugly sweater kit, chances are they came with some small stencils that you can use to cut different shapes.
- You can find more stencils online and even trace them directly from your computer screen.
- You can also cut the felt into letters and use this to spell out anything you like.
- Have extra Christmas decorations? Throw them in the mix.
- You can use ribbons to write out words or come up with some cheesy embellishments.
- Bows of any size and shape can be glued or tacked into your sweater; the tackier and bigger, the better!
- Throw in some personal touch
- To personalize your sweater even further, you can add on a funny photo of yourself, your friend, or you icon.
- Add on even more tackier items
- Most kits will allow you to add on any (preferable lightweight) holiday item on your sweater. Items like a Santa hat, a wreath or a stocking can create a big impact on your sweater with very minimal effort.
- Using the sweater as your centerpiece, you can take it a notch higher and make things a little cheesier and tackier by accessorizing.
- Scarves, hats, goofy glasses, mittens and crazy socks are few items you can think of piling on your ugly sweater.
Below we have collected the best 30 ugly sweater ideas that you can make on your own and use at Christmas parties or other occasions.
#1 Tipping the Ladder
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/UGLY-CHRISTMAS-SWEATER-DIY-2013-Tipping-the-Ladder/
This “Tipping the Ladder” design concept is made mostly by materials from thrift stores and dollar stores with extremely low cost. The suggestions here if you plan to create one like that is to plan ahead and visit local thrift stores early enough (before Halloween) so that you can find everything you want for this sweater.
Some materials needed for this:
1 green sweater – preferably stretchy
1 glue gun
1 tree skirt
1 toy train set
A Large random supply of ornaments from the thrift store or dollar store
1 ladder – home made or found
Christmas Lights and accessories – dollar store
1 Santa doll
1 creepy doll – from the thrift store or your private collection
Something to build the internal support for the sweater – I used some random plastic strapping
1 half sheet of 1/4 plywood
#2 Cheap Ugly Christmas Sweater
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-any-sweater-an-ugly-Christmas-sweater/
If you can’t find an ugly Christmas sweater from your nearest thrift store, then you can transform any sweater using the instructions shown above and some basic sewing skills.
Here is a quick material list that you will need:
- A sweater, preferably with Christmas colors such as red, green etc.
- A plush toy (obviously a reindeer would be good but other animals might work too)
- Battery operated LED light string
- Other kitschy decorations
#3 Simple Ugly Sweater
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Ugly-Sweater-1/
This is a very simple idea which consists of random Christmas ornaments along with red & white wool (to make pom poms), all stitched to an old sweater.
#4 Grandma Style Home Made
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Your-Grandma-Would-Be-Proud-Ugly-Sweater/
The only materials you need for this is a glue gun (or needle and thread if you know how to sew), a sweater (preferably a big one for your size) and old Christmas stuff that you will glue them on the fabric.
#5 Gift Wrap Ugly Sweater
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Recycled-Woven-Gift-Wrap-Vest/
This is an interesting concept which utilizes used Christmas gift wrap paper to make your own ugly sweater.
Basically you need to gather several sheets of gift wrap paper (try not to tear the wrap when you open your gifts). Then cut the paper into 1 inch wide strips, place them side by side and weave the strips horizontally. See the whole instructions on the link above.
#6 Reindeer Style Sweater for Couples
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Reindeer-Couples-Ugly-Sweater/
Great idea for couples. Both of you will make a complete Reindeer when standing side by side.
#7 Blue Ugly Sweater
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Blue-Ugly-Christmas-Sweater/
How about a blue ugly sweater made with foam sheets, paper, pipe cleaners and fiberfill. A very simple design that you can make easily (click the link above for more information).
#8 Dog Ugly Sweater
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Up-cycled-Dog-Sweater/
Ugly sweaters are not only for humans but for our pets as well. Just find an old large grandpa sweater and cut it accordingly to fit the size of your dog.
Large Men’s sweater
Pins and Patience!!
#9 Stuck in the Chimney
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/UGLY-CHRISTMAS-SWEATER-DIY/
OK this one is a super production! The so called “stuck in the chimney” sweater won the top award of $5000 in a competition and needs an enthusiastic creator. Have a link for full instructions above.
#10 Light Up Christmas Tree Ugly Poncho
Source and DIY Instructions: http://www.instructables.com/id/Light-up-Christmas-Tree-Ugly-SweaterPoncho/
This is an ugly Christmas Poncho featuring a light-up Christmas tree. It’s a good design idea to make in case you don’t have a spare sweater to “sacrifice” for a party.
Let’s now see 20 more pictures with home DIY ideas of ugly sweaters:
20 More DIY Home Made Ugly Sweater Ideas
Have a look at this Youtube Video we have created for Ugly Sweater Ideas
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