Go Ahead, Rock That 80s Sweater

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Vintage can be so tricky to wear. In fact, I typically eschew most vintage in favor of contemporary consignment. Unlike some die-hard vintage divas, I just can’t seem to rock a 1970s pantsuit or a 1950s pinafore dress.

But some vintage pieces seems to transcend the ill-fit tendencies of their respective time periods — and when you find those pieces, you’ve got to grab them. Today’s sweater is a prime example.

Vintage Studded Sweater: Bonnie Boerer & Company (Amarcord Vintage, Williamsburg) | Black Jeans: Madewell | Knee-High Boots: Stuart Weitzman
Vintage Studded Sweater: Bonnie Boerer & Company (Amarcord Vintage, Williamsburg) | Black Jeans: Madewell | Knee-High Boots: Stuart Weitzman

I found the studded 1980s sweater a few years ago in Williamsburg at Amarcord Vintage. It was merchandised as a minidress — and I wore it as such, until it shrunk after a trip to the dry cleaner. Lately, I’ve been repurposing it as a slouchy sweater.

When I initially tried it on, I was not convinced I should buy it. With the “look-at-me” collar and cuffs and the exaggerated batwing shape, it just seemed too Molly Ringwald. Then, a fellow shopper whirred around and exclaimed that if I didn’t take it, she would. (Never underestimate the persuasive power of a shopping competitor.)

Turns out, versions of this sweater have been making the vintage rounds. Back when Nasty Gal was still an eBay shop, it sold a version of this sweater, too:

Apparently, a version of this vintage dress was for sale at Nasty Gal at one time. This is a Nasty Gal marketing image.
Apparently, a version of this vintage dress was for sale at Nasty Gal at one time. This is how Nasty Gal styled it.

The designer is Bonnie Boerer, who was known for super-embellished knitwear. In her heyday, Boerer named her sweaters whimsical names like the pearl-fringed “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” the rhinestone-covered “Twentieth Century Fox” and the appliquéd “South of the Border.”

There are plenty of similar Bonnie sweaters available on Etsy — I particularly like this spangled version, which is just $38 and can be dyed black for more drama. That said, 1980s knitwear is a tricky business — wearing a sequined sweater takes a certain amount of irony, so you’ve got to be adroit at styling. (I don’t have that gene, which is why I own nothing with sequins, period.)

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The funnel neck can be styled as a cowl neck or as a turtleneck, like the way Nasty Gal styled it. (I can’t resist a cowl neck, so that’s how I choose to wear it.)

You tell me: What are your thoughts on the vagaries of ’80s knitwear? And would you style this sweater any differently?

  • Andrea Billups

    i love that sweater. it doesn’t look dated to me. with the jeans and boots, it’s very fresh — i bought a batwing sweater at H&M last August. Here the sparkle is chunky-heavy, metallica. i think it works on you as a cowl, too. Just the proper amount of edge.

    • http://www.TheStylePragmatist.com/ Diana @ The Style Pragmatist

      Thank you! It’s one of those purchases you fret over — will I ever wear this? — and then you wind up wearing it all the time. It does all the work. One-stop dressing.