The ‘Ugly’ Sweater Vest Has Had Many Stylish Lives

Here’s how to style it today.

Harry Styles and Princess Diana in sweater vests.
Getty Images

Sweater vests have a strong historical base, popular with teen heartthrobs of the ‘70s, dads of the ‘90s, and supermodels of today. It is, of course, a truly versatile layering star, even if it hasn’t always been considered the most becoming piece of clothing. It keeps the wearer’s torso warm while also allowing them to show off the collar, arms, and sometimes hem (depending on the decade) of what lies beneath. Each generation has made it their own, sporting vests in fair isle, cable knit, neutrals, brights, and more.

The wardrobe staple’s true rise began in the United Kingdom in the ‘70s. Then, it was often paired with button-down shirts tucked into high-waisted pants, with the top few buttons of those shirts left open. The ‘80s ushered in more of an oversized vest vibe as more women got in on the action. Paired with everything from jeans to midi skirts, they became a go-to piece to throw over looser blouses and silk button-downs.

Once the ‘90s came around, many women ceded ownership of the sweater vest to the dads of the decade, who opted for vests in bright, bold colors and argyle prints. They were often paired with awkwardly baggy straight-leg jeans and excessively chunky bright white sneakers. This decade solidified the sweater vest’s place in dad style history.

In the early aughts, the youth re-claimed sweater vests, though perhaps not in the same way the world was used to. For example, Paris Hilton favored wearing longline button-down shirts layered underneath cropped and shrunken versions of the iconic knit staple.

And, though the sweater vest took somewhat of ten to fifteen year hiatus, it’s now back on the torsos of celebrities like Harry Styles, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and more. In short, it’s high time you tried the trend, in any of the iterations through which it has traveled. We’ll help you get started with the below.

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Fair Isle Fun

Channel the ‘90s with a colorful fair isle.


Baby Blues

Layer up with a looser style in a pretty shade of blue.


Chunky Knit

Go early-aughts with a shrunken style in a chunky cream knit.


Pretty Preppy

Opt for a ribbed V-neck look for a varsity-inspired look.


The Deep V

Whether you layer under or wear it alone, this deep V-neck takes the trend from daytime into the evening.


Vintage Inspo

Have a bit of fun with your sweater vest by slipping into a colorful style with vintage inspiration.


Warm Wool

With a high V-neck and close-to-the-body arms, this vest doesn’t need anything layered under it at all.

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