Under Ordinary Circumstances

Give me the most ordinary extraordinary circumstances, and I shine. Need a program taught that hasn’t even been written yet? I’m your girl. Need it in five minutes? Even better. Have an event whose attendance matches the population of a mid-sized town? Call me. Need a substitute teacher for middle school the day after returning from a holiday? Bring it. I can rise to any challenge.

Until today. Today I am celebrating my birthday. It’s not my actual birthday. That comes soon. But husband couldn’t get off work that day, so today is the day. We were going to go hiking. It is currently pouring rain, with more predicted all day long, but that doesn’t bother me. Nor does the cold. I’m up for anything. Except for our shopping trip. We are going to look for Ugly Christmas Sweaters.

We’ve all seen them, the sweaters that leave us wondering what in the world the designers were thinking, or what hallucinogenics they were using at the time. We love to laugh at them, and now they are a thing to be celebrated. Everybody wants one. They’re iconic, classic in their absurdity. Here’s my greatest fear – that when I’m shopping, I won’t be able to tell if it’s an ugly sweater or not.

I’m not a girlie-girl.I know. A shocking statement.  I will pause to allow you to pick yourself up off the floor. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I grew up with two other persons of the female persuasion  in a house with only one bathroom. How in the world would three women get their primping done each morning without killing each other? I became a tomboy in self-defense. I wear makeup once or twice a year, or at least I did until one of my children absconded with my makeup bag and used all my stuff. Yes, I had a makeup bag. No, I didn’t buy it for myself. Someone gave it to me after the Padawan was born, packed with some fairly expensive bits and pieces, It was a thoughtful gift, and the message was clear.  “For heaven’s sake, woman! Cover that, won’t you?” “You’re the best, and I want you to feel pretty.” But I never learned to use the stuff, so I always looked felt awkward wearing it. 

I was never much into style, either. I am currently petitioning Garanimals to make clothing for adults, but I’d still be screwed. I could match hippo to hippo, but I’d never be able to accessorize. What kind of jewelry goes with giraffe? I couldn’t coordinate an ensemble if my life depended on it. I look at Vogue with an incredulous look on my face. People wear that? Okay, then. My idea of style is my Harry Potter Half Blood Prince jacket. It has all the characters. All of them.

So how am I supposed to pick out a sweater? How am I supposed to know the good from the bad from the downright ugly? What if I pick out something, and it’s actually high fashion. What if I wear my ugly sweater and no one knows it’s supposed to be ugly? Or they’re afraid to ask?

I do have one ugly sweater. This one:


Blitzen, is that you, buddy?

I know it’s ugly. There is no doubt there. I am sure it was the height of fashion in its day, but its day is not now. It seems like an easy out to wear it. Besides, it’s not Christmasy at all. Nothing about this sweater says Christmas Unless I can prove it was made from one of Santa’s actual reindeer, I need to find a new sweater. And not just one for me, one for my husband, too.

So now I go forth, trying to prove I have taste by showing a total lack of it. Where do I even start? It is, my friends, the ultimate challenge.

Have an ugly Christmas sweater to model? Please share a photo in the comments or email it to me. I’ll compile a post in a couple of weeks with your picture and a link back to your blog. Help a blogger out. Teach me what’s good, what’s bad, and what’s downright acceptably ugly.

75 thoughts on “Under Ordinary Circumstances

  1. Glitter.
    Sparkly bits.
    A very large motif.

    Red, green, gold combinations.

    Mix the above and you get a Christmas sweater. Mix too much of the above and you get an UGLY Christmas sweater.

    Flashing lights = immediate win for ugly

  2. It’s really not a bad sweater, so what does it say about me? But you can jazz it up by sewing jingle bells on all the points of the zig zags and tack a row of silver tinsel along the lower zig. Now it’s officially christmas and ugly

  3. As a totally craft-impaired person, my best craft attempts have always turned out ugly. So, that means that my one and only successful DIY project was an ugly Christmas sweatshirt. Make one by printing a kitschy Christmas image (Rudolf, elf, kitty cat in Christmas hat, etc.) onto transfer paper (Walmart has it) and ironing it onto a red or green pullover sweatshirt. Then, outline the image with a BIG globby line of fabric glitter glue. Voila! A really ugly Christmas sweatshirt! Is best accessorized with light bulb or wreath earrings and a reindeer antler headband, and/or elf ears. You’ll be the belle of the ball and you can feel like a Pinterest queen! (Side note: thrift stores, not malls are the best source for ugly Christmas wear.) Great post–love the Garanimal idea!

    • Yeah, I would never pay retail for something I would wear once a year. If I can have it for $2.99, I’m in.

      I will look for the transfer paper. I had a shirt like this years ago. *whispers* and I thought it was cool.

  4. Sadly, I was ready to purchase an ugly sweater at our local chain store thrift store but they wanted $29.99 for it. I just couldn’t bring myself to purchase it so I might have to do a DIY project and make my own. Heck, I built my own back deck I can do a sweater, right?

  5. Funny post…for me to read…we all wore many, many Christmas sweaters this time of year while teaching middle school in NJ…and now they’re the ugly ones…you know teachers have a shirt/sweater/blouse for every holiday..and even maybe a pin, or a scarf to go with it!! Ha! Now that I live in FL…who needs a sweater of any kind!!

    But, just yesterday, my son went to Goodwill to hunt down a really ugly Christmas sweater for his Improv party…and couldn’t find one…he came home with a pale beige sweater vest, with a reindeer and a bird on it…a sad sweater, but not ugly enough…actually the lady at Goodwill thought it was nice! Ha! Yes, i used to craft them, too! I’m over it all now…thank God!!

    Blessings, Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, and Happy “Ugly Christmas Sweater” hunting!

      • They were beautiful and cheery in their day…but we’re all so sophisticated today, right!! I have a black vest with red piping and snowmen and Christmas trees embroidered on it…with buttons to match…I loved that vest!! Ahhh…but no need for vests or sweaters here in FL anyway!!

  6. I would say that the easiest way is to go with something that has a very literal interpretation of Christmas. If a sweater has a depiction of one or more of the following items, it is in the ugly Christmas sweater category:

    A Christmas tree
    Presents (preferably with big bows)
    Christmas lights

    Bonus points for any 3D elements or accompanying accessories. Also double points if it is a sweater vest.

  7. I’m with you! Being stylish or even knowing what that is, has never been one of my strong suits. Anything matches black. That’s about all I know. Good luck finding an ugly sweater. That definitely sounds challenging.

      • You know, I’ve wondered about that combination (also brown + blue jeans), and I think it depends on the shade of brown. Like, if it’s a bronze, that could look nice, maybe? But then, I’m also one of those people who’s occasionally been told (at least implicitly) I don’t have the “right” fashion sense. Oh well; fashion is a subjective thing.

        Personally, I think your (Heather) sweater looks cozy and nostalgic. Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but in a way that would make me feel good wearing it. I don’t know, that made sense in my head (I’m beginning to think that should be my default signature 🙂 ).

        As for the party, I would hope the people there aren’t so uptight as to actually judge whether someone’s sweater is the “right” kind of ugly, or to actually take the idea of what’s “ugly” too seriously (i.e. even if you wear a sweater you like to the party, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear it anywhere else). It should just be a fun time. /soapbox ^_^;

        P.S. I love the “Blitzen” caption under your photo 😀

        • It is a VERY cozy sweater. Very. I do wear it, just not out in public. My friends wouldn’t care if it was the “right” kind of sweater, but I don’t like anyone to wonder if I “know” my sweater is ugly. Know what I mean?

          • I do. I always hate wondering if people are thinking of me as clueless/naive/etc. But there’s a saying on this cheesy inspirational list my mom recently put on the fridge, and I try to remember it whenever I’m feeling insecure — “What others think of you is none of your business.”

            On the other hand, sometimes it helps to state what you’re insecure about right away, before the worry can ruin your night — i.e. “Yeah, I don’t know how good my fashion sense is, but I figured this [indicate sweater] would pass inspection.”

            I did something similar a few years back when playing volleyball at a Lithuanian youth conference. I’m not very good at sports; I tend to duck or jump out of the way when a big spherical object is flying toward me. I also apparently can’t get a volleyball over the net from the serving line, no matter if I try underhand or overhand. You can imagine how much fun little Nerija had in gym class all those years.

            So when it was my turn to serve this time, I could’ve grimly just tried to get it over with, certain I would fail and everyone would set me down a few notches on their Cool meters. Instead, I got into position, gave everyone a here-goes-nothing smile, and said, “No promises.” And that actually earned me a few laughs. Now there was no pressure to prove myself — I’d still try to get that freakin’ ball over the net, but if I didn’t (and I don’t think I did), well, I’d already warned everyone, so screw anyone who resented the lost point.

            . . .
            Seriously, who keeps putting this soap box here and why do I always end up on top of it?

  8. Just remember, ugly is a relative, subjective term. If it’s over-the-top, it’ll probably qualify. A lot of the suggestions for how to bedazzle it I think are helpful.

    …I don’t really get the ugly Christmas sweater thing either. I don’t even OWN a Christmas sweater. :/

  9. I laughed all the way through this!!! You have such a great sense of humor about yourself. I find it incredibly charming. I got myself an ugly Christmas sweater this year, though I think it’s on the tamer side of ugly. You will be seeing why I got it on my blog soon 🙂 I can’t figure out how to share a photo in the comment section, but I can tweet you a pic of it if I remember to do it.

    As far as your sweater here, I’m addicted to the fuzziness. If you don’t find anything else, I would suggest fastening on some antler “shoulder pads” and sewing a giant red ball right about the belly button. Voila! You have a Christmas sweater.

  10. No ugly sweaters in my family. But we have birthdays galore – my dad celebrated his 80th birthday on Nov. 20, I celebrated my birthday on Dec. 4, my mother & El Guapo celebrate their birthdays today! Happy Birthday to you too!

  11. …am I broken? I don’t think that sweater’s that bad. It looks warm. Warm’s good, isn’t it? (I’m totally fashion-impaired. Don’t mind me. That’s why so many of my things are different shades of brown or green. Brown or green always go together. Added points: you can blend in with nature if someone you don’t like comes along! HIDE ME, TREES!)

    I think a gigantic motif is the key. A snowman. A reindeer. Something like that. Smack in the middle. Also sparklies or bedazzling. Lots of red and green. Maybe some of that variegated red AND green AND white yarn. Prettiest!

    • It is a VERY warm and cuddly sweater. And I do wear it when I’m very cold. But it’s hairier than is acceptable. I never thought about its survival implications. I treasure this sweater all the more now.

      I think I ditched the one large-motif sweater I owned. I need to go and look for it. I bet I’ll have to buy it back from Goodwill.

  12. Memories of “Bridget Jones’ Diary”! I have been thinking of getting a Christmas sweater this year too, must be a psychic thing going out into the ether, telling people this is the year to buy and wear them 🙂 Good luck and Happy Birthday!

  13. I wish I had an ugly sweater. I am on the hunt for the perfect Christmas ugly sweater, but if I cannot find one, I will knit one. By the way, yours really isn’t all that ugly, just hairy. lol

    Happy Birthday. 🙂

    • Yeah, when I see it in a photo, I think “That’s not so bad.” When I see it sitting on the shelf, I think “What pelt was used to make that thing? And why does it smell like a wet llama?”

  14. Goodwill at Hardin Valley had a whole rack of Christmas sweaters a few weeks ago! Could you just but a sweatshirt & a Christmas theme iron on? And accent it with puffy paint. Not that I ever wore that & thought it was cool or anything. 🙂

  15. Last year my hubby dragged me to an ugly sweater party…but failed to tell me it was an ugly sweater party. Or really, a party. As I live in sweaters in the winter I was wearing a white sweater that I really liked but I spent the whole party paranoid about what other people thought of it.

  16. I like your idea of a fun birthday celebration.
    1) Hiking…in the rain
    2) Thrift store shopping…for ugly sweaters

    Perhaps a trip to Chuck-E-Cheese to round out the hilarity?

    • That’s what I think, too. It is unattractive, but it doesn’t cross the line into truly abominable. Although abominable snowman may have had a part in its creation.

      Thanks for joining in, and it’s shaping to be the best birthday ever.

  17. You’d THINK that your sweater looks unfashionable now…but what about those people who are wearing rats fur boots and sweatshirts and earmuffs with bunny ears and owl elbows???!!! Those are all the rage! Imagine how that would look in about 10 years.

  18. I don’t think that sweater is ugly and I would wear it even today. 🙂 Back in the day, I had a ton of what are now referred to as “ugly Christmas sweaters”. Wish I had saved some of them…lol. Fashion trends are so much fun. Never one to miss a good bandwagon, I have worn hot pants and boots, bell bottoms, peasant dresses, mini skirts with tights and ankle boots…oh my! I laugh just thinking of them.

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