DJ Tara Madison from Star 92.9 in ugly Christmas Sweater

DJ Tara Madison from Star 92.9 rocks an epic ugly Christmas sweater.

It may not be Thanksgiving quite yet (or Thanksgivukkah), but ugly Christmas sweater season is definitely here, at least judging by TV commercials, greeting card racks, coffee cups, and word on the street. After turkey day, things are likely to really start getting ugly, so it’s not too early to break out those old knits and show your holiday pride.

If you have been invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party, pub crawl, church social, or other event this season, rejoice! (There’s also still time to plan something.) Then, take a moment to think about what you’re going to wear.

Although some folks consider ugly sweaters serious business, aiming for prizes and bragging rights in the “ugliest sweater” contest, it’s also ok to have a more casual approach. But either way, you don’t want to be the guy or gal who shows up in regular street clothes.

That’s a bit of a buzz kill.

To get your party started, here are a few tips that have served us well over the past few years, when getting ready for many an ugly sweater soiree:

1. Plan Early

Ugly Christmas sweaters are getting more and more popular every year, and this season seems to be no exception, if early buzz is any indication. Stores can often get cleaned out of the most garish holiday designs early. Online shopping offers a wide array of choices, but inventory can still get depleted as the season goes on. And you can end up paying a lot for rush processing if your party is right around the corner.

If you’re going the homemade route, that’s awesome, but you’ll probably need a little time to fire up the glue gun, raid your craft drawer, or dust off the sewing machine.

2. Check Your Closets

The good news is you may already own an ugly Christmas sweater, and you may not even know it. Did your grandma give you an itchy knit decades ago, and you shoved it to the back of your closet, under your bed, or in the attic? Did a relative give you a box of clothes during settlement of an estate?

Take a moment to look through what you already own, and see if you have something that might work.

Ugly Christmas sweaters for sale sign

If you want to find the best ugly sweaters, start early. Photo: Lisabette Fay

3. Hit Up Friends and Relatives

Did your neighbor take first prize at an ugly Christmas sweater party last year? He might still have that winning ensemble with the giant moose, and he just might be willing to part with it next Friday night. Will your grandma let you borrow her sweater with the hot-pink bells? Or maybe your mom will loan you her favorite sweater vest?

4. Repurpose What You Already Have

If you don’t have an ugly Christmas sweater per se, you still might have something on hand that can work in a pinch.

Do you have a plain sweater? (What we call a pre-ugly Christmas sweater?) Take some Christmas ornaments and safety-pin them on. (You can also buy patches from the store with cute/ugly holiday designs.) Try pinning on stuffed animals, or a sprig of holly from the yard.

If you want to rock it to the next level, pin on a strand of LED holiday lights. If you don’t want to return the sweater to civilian duty later, consider glueing on tinsel, fringe from an old mop, or other decorations.

If you have an old tree skirt, turn that into an ugly poncho.

5. Visit Your Local Thrift Store

The thrift store is a classic source of ugly Christmas sweaters. Only trouble is, hipsters learned this long ago, and often scour them clean of anything remotely festive by early December, so go early.

Don’t forget that festive ugly also comes in vests, sweatshirts, dresses, and even t-shirts, as well as traditional sweaters.

ugly bear Christmas sweatshirt at Meeps DC

Now that’s a loud sweatshirt. Photo: Brian Clark Howard

6. Check Trendy Vintage Shops

Prices are higher at “vintage” shops than classic thrift stores, but many of these fashionable stores know to keep a good supply of ugly Christmas sweaters throughout the season. The best vintage shops stock a good variety, from understated classic sweaters to show-stopping numbers, ugly sweatshirts, and more.

7. Check Hip Retail Stores

Given the growing popularity of ugly Christmas sweaters, it’s not surprising that new designs are popping up all over, including at stores like Urban Outfitters and Target.

8. Go Online

Lots of ugly sweaters are on offer online, from eBay to dedicated sellers like, run by RYUCS’s own Anne Marie Blackman. Some outlets sell out before Christmas, so it’s a good idea to browse early. Anne Marie does offer custom work, if you have an idea that you can’t find any where.

Remember, if your party is Friday and it’s Wednesday already, you’re going to have to pay a lot for shipping.

If you’re perusing eBay, note that the best vintage ugly sweaters (like the one John Mayer rocked on the Ellen show) can go for hundreds of dollars. The most flashy sweaters, with lights and giant decorations, can also cost up to $100.

The earlier you shop, the more likely you are to score a deal.

Happy hunting, and when you do find something great, share your photos with our community.

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