Style

Because You Can

Subtle sweater girl.

Clockwise from top left: Jayne Mansfield via The Nifty Fifties; Gina Lollobrigida via The Nifty Fifties; Retrospace; Lauren Bacall via Puppy Love.

When you hear the words “sweater girl,” you may well think of of Lana Turner, Jane Russell, and all the women in the picture above: the 1950s bombshell in a bullet bra, a femme fatale wrapped up in a deceptively cute, fuzzy package.

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Nastassja Kinki in “Paris, Texas” (1984).

But there’s another kind of sweater girl too: there’s gamine Anna Karina in her baby-blue sweater and dancer’s tights; Marilyn Monroe, young and untroubled in stripes by the sea; and the ultimate wistful sweater babe, the beautiful, heartbroken Nastassja Kinski in Paris, Texas. Here we pay tribute to this second kind of sweater girl, the kind that we can all aspire to be, even if we’re not pneumatic super-vixens with wardrobes full of really complicated underwear.

Clockwise from top left: Gemma Ward shot by Paolo Roversi in Vogue Italia, December 2005; Petra Collins for Rookie; Meg Ryan by Petra Collins for The Ardorous; Hanneli

Mohair is my absolute favorite fabric. It’s the fuzziest of all the wools, it takes dyes really well so you can find it in all kinds of crazy acid brights and Easter-egg pastels, and it’s made from the hair of the Angora goat, and they look like this. Mohair sweaters were really popular in the ’50s and ’60s, so they’re pretty easy to find used. If you’re patient enough, you can find amazing examples at the thrift store, or if you have more money than time, vintage stores and Etsy are your best friends.

Lara Stone in Vogue, August 2010; Petra Collins for Rookie; Gisele Bundchen in i-D, August 2011; Amos Fricke Photography.

Super-bright knits can be hard to find secondhand, but they’re worth the dig. Look through the blankets at antique shops and flea markets—I’ve found amazing gigantic fuchsia and turquoise mohair scarves buried in trunks of blankets at the Brooklyn Flea market for less than $5. J.Crew and ASOS make really great sweaters in eyesore colors too.

Amber Valetta by Paolo Roversi in French Glamour, September 1994; Aleksandra McCormack on Hanneli; Lara Stone in Vogue, August 2012; Hanneli.

I’m currently obsessed with sweaters in these muted Smarties colors. Last week I saw Alexa Chung at MoMA wearing the baby-blue Alberta Ferretti coat worn by Hanneli Mustaparta above, and it was so gorgeously fluffy and cotton candy-colored that I wanted to reach out and pluck off a piece to munch on. Village Style and No Relation Vintage in New York have the greatest collection of ice-cream-colored vintage sweaters and cardigans, or try Uniqlo, Urban Outfitters, and Topshop for sweaters in every color of the dreamy pastel rainbow.

Bonus sweaterspiration:

My boss; Alana Zimmer by Venitia Scott for Margaret Howell F/W 2010/11; Fancy Fine; Esme Wissels by Adriano Russo via Fashion Gone Rogue.

46 Comments

  • rosiesayrelax February 28th, 2012 3:07 PM

    surely having your breaty buisness all up in your grill would get in the way. Gosh, some people are so impractical… ha.

    Rosie Say Relax!

  • moonchild February 28th, 2012 3:08 PM

    OH WOW COINCY-DINK! I just got this gorgeous baby blue short sleeved mohair sweater.

    It is the most wonderful thing in the world! It feels like I’m wearing a cloud :)

    Gwen
    http://under-a-bridge.blogspot.com/

  • Susann February 28th, 2012 3:09 PM

    Mohair sweaters – what a lovely idea, perfect for vintage looks!

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • Libby February 28th, 2012 3:17 PM

    I want a pet angora goat.
    And some new jumpers too. But a goat more.

  • Annie92 February 28th, 2012 3:17 PM

    This is lush! Also, the pastel blue one Courtney Love wears in the Sassy photos. So good.

    grinandbearitzine.blogspot.com

  • Starboardd February 28th, 2012 3:18 PM

    I’m moving from California to the Pacific Northwest this year so I have been STOCKING UP on my sweaters!! I love this guide, so so much. And on a similar note, I do have my collection of “Anna Karina” inspired sweaters. Those are my favorite. :)

  • decemberbaby February 28th, 2012 3:23 PM

    Audrey Horne is another great sweater girl: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/__nQxEuW5XdQ/TPQnSvr13WI/AAAAAAAABVU/SjgMNprYlyE/s400/1087578822_b41b19884f_o.jpg

    :D

  • Naomi February 28th, 2012 3:25 PM

    leeann, you are a girl after my own heart (except i call them jumpers)
    probably my favourite piece of clothing is my black cropped mohair ~sweater~ that i wear with a black lacy bra underneath because it sometimes slips off my shoulder and there is a hint of bra strap and arghhhh i love it

  • llamagesicht February 28th, 2012 3:33 PM

    This winter I discovered thrift shops near my home/school and now have a collection of six sweaters, none of which cost me more than $5.

    The wonderful thing about sweaters is that they’re actually warm. So often winter clothing sold in stores is thin and made of materials that don’t protect against cold temperatures. But sweaters…ah, sweaters.

  • zombiesockmonkey February 28th, 2012 3:44 PM

    Reading about all these sweaters especially the angora ones after reading about ed wood is defiantly smile worthy :)

  • robynstrangelove February 28th, 2012 3:45 PM

    Paris, Texas is my favourite film of all time. Nastassja Kinski is a stone cold fox.

  • RockHatesMiriam February 28th, 2012 3:46 PM

    These are gorgeous! But isn’t it gonna be too warm for sweaters soon (fingers crossed!)… In England we call sweaters ‘jumpers’, did ya know?
    http://www.pompandceremony.blogspot.com

  • SweetThangVintage February 28th, 2012 3:47 PM

    I just got this cool blue vintage sweater out of my granma’s attic. Can’t wait to try it out!

  • Cosmo Beatrix February 28th, 2012 3:52 PM

    sweater+ tartan skirt girl = BEST KINDA GIRL !!!!!

    • Cosmo Beatrix February 28th, 2012 3:53 PM

      p.s where is Tavi’s PINK sweater from ?! and the pastel green high waisted skirt made me dieeee

      • Tavi February 28th, 2012 6:05 PM

        i got my sweater at a thrift store! it has a kitty on it that you can’t really see. the skirt is miu miu. i’m glad you like, thanky :)

  • MissKnowItAll February 28th, 2012 4:13 PM

    I love to wear sweaters but I’m really skinny and they just hang off my body. Also i hate it when the shoulders sag to my elbows…
    PS- Tavi, you look gorgeous in that picture:)

    • dindersbdinders February 29th, 2012 8:52 PM

      see ‘Paris, Texas’ or Charlotte Gainsbourg in ‘The Science of Sleep’, you can totally work it.

  • River Phoenix February 28th, 2012 4:23 PM

    Paris,Texas yess too good!
    I’m so gonna go where a sweater.

  • headgrrl February 28th, 2012 4:36 PM

    But all your examples of sweatergirls are really thin and sweaters are such an equal opportunity garment :(

    I kept scrolling for a body like mine in a sweater, no fat sweaterbabes, sad.

  • ravenflamingo February 28th, 2012 4:45 PM

    Omg, I just so happen to be wearing my favorite pink cashmere sweater today! It’s soooooo soft. I totally want to buy some mohair sweaters now, thanks to this article.

    http://www.ravenflamingo.tumblr.com

  • tellyawhat February 28th, 2012 4:45 PM

    YESSSSSSS OBSESSSSSSED

    Rihanna wears the BEST pastel cropped mohair sweater in the “only girl” video, and a long version in the “what’s my name” video. Also, Liv Tyler in Empire Records.

    Sweater obsessed posts:

    http://www.tellyawhat.com/2011/10/miss-sweater-girl.html

    http://www.tellyawhat.com/2011/03/shes-just-my-type-onananana.html

    • Tavi February 28th, 2012 6:05 PM

      YES TO LIV TYLER IN EMPIRE RECORDS

  • anisarose February 28th, 2012 7:42 PM

    my winter wardrobe: a rotation of 3 pairs of jeans and 5 sweaters. Sure, I mix in a few other things here and there but I love living in my sweaters during these depressing winter months.

    Also, HAPPY LEAP DAY TOMORROW!!

    http://anisarose.blogspot.com/

  • queserasera February 28th, 2012 9:08 PM

    some good ol sweater lovin

    http://mercurialmanic.blogspot.com/

  • Moxx February 28th, 2012 9:38 PM

    Yess, the sweater girl :)
    My grandmother from Brasil would play ‘sweater girls’ with her friends when she was a kid. They existed only in movies for her since no one wears sweaters in Rio!

  • Moxx February 28th, 2012 9:39 PM

    Also ahshdjsksjdh does anyone know where to get such Clueless-esque cropped fluffy sweaters because I love them and it is killing meeee

  • Emilie February 28th, 2012 9:44 PM

    Omigosh I just LOOOOOVE sweaters, I always find realy great ones at my favorite thrift store. But I wash them to sorta detoxify, but I never put them in the dryer so that they don’t get ruined, but a lot of them end up funky, because either the band at the bottome shrinks or the fabric right above the bottom gets all stretched. It makes me so sad because I can’t wear these beautiful sweaters! Is there anyway to safely wash vintage sweaters (just knit by the way) without ruining them??

    • dindersbdinders February 29th, 2012 8:56 PM

      Cold water, a ‘Delicates’ laundry soap like Woolite or what-have-you and some tender loving hand washing. Some you can hang to dry (this may warp the collar), but putting a board with towels over yer tub and laying them flat is the best.

  • erin February 28th, 2012 10:03 PM

    sweaters are one of the best articles of clothing invented! I can’t help but be drawn to the sweater rack at the thrift store, everytime. I’ve never really liked mohair, but it’s slowly growing on me…
    and I just don’t understand bullet bras at all.
    keepingupwithunstuck.blogspot.com

  • Adrienne February 28th, 2012 11:20 PM

    Ooooh I love sweaters! I adore chunky knit sweaters. :) I also like collegiate sweaters and wearing it with some cool collars (like the ones in the rookie site) for a weird preppy feel!

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

    • Killjoy February 29th, 2012 6:45 AM

      Adrienne, your blog is pretty cool!

  • mayaautumn February 29th, 2012 2:41 AM

    This article is amazing! i find loads of lovely jumpers in charity shops and they have some of the best at http://oliveclothing.com/ YAY!

  • ivoire February 29th, 2012 3:37 AM

    i love mohair so much and also tavi’s amazing sweater I LUV THEM ALL

  • nabilaLP February 29th, 2012 7:07 AM

    great post but… what about Johnny Depp as Ed Wood :p http://cf2.imgobject.com/t/p/w780/6AIMCIRjheTXK0QdpsbBfEg5AKq.jpg

    http://theeighthdwarf.blogspot.com/

  • sttefaaa February 29th, 2012 12:12 PM

    Great,
    Now I badly want a nice cozy sweater.. thanks.. no seriously ;D
    http://stefanystrange.blogspot.com/

  • KayKay February 29th, 2012 1:01 PM

    My mother gave me a vintage grey cashmere sweater of hers a while back (it’s kind of in this minimalistic 90s grunge style) and i’m absolutely in love with it!!
    Now i really want a pastel colored sweater … off to the shops!

  • Lascelles February 29th, 2012 4:28 PM

    I am probably alone on this but all the sweaters in this article look wrong to me. They fit :D I don’t know, it’s the bad girls from Freaks and Geeks or something. Sweaters, cardigans, etc are blankets right? Like Linus or Flashdance or… sweater dresses. The sweater dress makes perfect sense because they are suppose to be that BIG anyway. I mean, come on, a hooded cashmere? Does it matter how you look anyway or if it works? It’s a feeling right?

    http://www.glamour.com/fashion/2010/12/8-fashion-trends-to-try-in-2011#slide=1
    http://blog.modcloth.com/2011/08/18/fashion-in-film-freaks-and-geeks/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7ID_E-SYbQ
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u8cHrJvlHQ
    http://moseyblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/the-sweater-dress/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pI8YjrjsiM

  • dindersbdinders February 29th, 2012 8:48 PM

    Did anyone notice that in ‘Paris, Texas’ Nastassja is actually wearing cardigans backwards? It’s such a nice detail, little buttons all up her back but I wonder if it would ruin my sweaters if I tried it. The costume designer- Birgitta Bjerke has a really nice eye for details. ‘Dead Man’ would not have been what it is without her: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYN_zirnk70

  • Jamia March 2nd, 2012 8:17 AM

    Tavi–I love that you are sporting the kitty sweater!

  • Kathryn March 3rd, 2012 9:41 PM

    So I just thrifted a pale blue Ralph Lauren sweater/cardigan that I thought was mohair, but turns out it is angora wool, which is sheared off of the fluffiest rabbits I have ever seen. I’m not really sure what I’m going to wear it with, but I felt compelled to buy it.

  • clady March 7th, 2012 10:46 PM

    cute sweater! :3
    http://theculunlady.blogspot.com/

  • starry March 8th, 2012 10:38 PM

    wow, this is a great collection of images

  • Pikaa April 16th, 2012 1:15 AM

    The picture of Gemma made me cry, she’s my ultimate beauty icon.

  • LaurasCousin May 10th, 2012 9:00 PM

    My favorite sweater inspiration has definitely got to be Audrey Horne from TWIN PEAKS! Close second would be Natalie Wood in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. And round it all out with Janet Leigh in PSYCHO. Don’t knock those knockers!