It’s back to school time, so of course you’ll want to scope out Seventeen
magazine for their fall fashion preview. Let’s see, tartan plaids, suede
slouchy boots, stirrup pants, chunky plastic jewelry, big shirts, and...
SWEATER DRESSES, of course.
Check out an 18-year old Whitney Houston (photo 41 of 72) modeling
the trend on the cover of Seventeen back in 1981.
Sweater dresses were cozy and slouchy. We loved them in cool
geometric patterns, and we occasionally gussied them up with beads and
sequins. Boldly colored and patterned opaque tights and leggings were
(and are) perfect with sweater dresses. Shoulders were key in sweater
dresses: huge shoulder pads lent shape, while bold patterns, puffs,
ruffles, and embellishments on the shoulders provided flair.
The contours of sweater dresses ranged from slightly fitted to complete
figure concealment, so they were perfect for puffy days and holiday meal
gorging (hello, chess pie!). The baggy, full shape was en vogue, perhaps
because we balanced it out with pouffy, permed hair.
Here I am on Christmas morning in 1985
(pictured at right), SO happy to have received the
sweater dress I coveted, along with a new flannel nightgown, manicure
kit, and ill-advised bangs.
They’re super comfy, but I do recall that annoying feeling of sitting down
in your sweater dress and having it stretch too tightly over your back
and rear end; one had to master a subtle
lifting-of-the-lower-fabric-quadrant as one sat down in a sweater dress.
This issue can be resolved easily with a belt. Pop on a wide
elastic belt at your natural waist or a
chunky leather belt worn low at your hip to provide a little more shape
to your sweater dressing. Added bonus: some of the hems of vintage
sweater dresses are longer than we’d prefer nowadays, and belting can
draw them up a bit shorter. Don’t fret about authenticity; it’s totally
eighties cool to belt your sweater dress.
We wore them with flats, slouchy boots, and riding boots back in the day,
and of course all these looks still work. Lately I’ve been wearing my
burgundy sweater dress with leggings and cowboy boots and feeling super
Check out these lovely vintage sweater dresses I found online:
I adore this owl-inspired sweater dress. The ruffles, the piping, the
meticulous details. I think I’d reach for a texturally interesting wide
brown leather belt, mustard yellow tights, and cowboy boots with this
Call me crazy, but the shoulder detail on this teal green dress reminds
me of a Dr. Seuss illustration, albeit in a very pretty and wearable
way. I’d love to find a geometrically patterned white and black hip belt
to wear with this dress, along with some sleek black riding boots:
Vivid cobalt and magenta flowers pop on a black background. This casual
dress would be perfect with black tights and scrunched black suede
boots, and a hot pink hip belt would be fab:
Emerald and royal blue asymmetrical stripes give this dress its flavor;
it’s kind of an urban-jungle-at-night look. This would look so pretty
with shiny black riding boots and a wide black elastic belt:
Royal blue with bold black swirls enliven this little number. That
sculpted waist doesn’t require a belt, but I might slide on a wide black
elastic one. Black fishnets and tough biker boots would be cool with
This blue patterned dress is simple and chic, but those black and white
polka dots announce that it’s a true eighties original. I’d love it with
a refined black belt and boots, but this dress would be extra cute with
white accessories, don’t you think?
With yet another take on royal blue, this soft angora blend dress will
have you slapping your boyfriend’s hands away all night. The bold bow
design and pearls and self-belt are oh-so-eighties:
This girly pink dress boasts luxe pearl detail, too. I’d belt this one,
I think, with a low-slung wide white patent belt and blouse out the
sweater above it. High heeled white boots would look great, while white
tights and flats would be totally 80’s authentic:
This eyecatching blue dress sparkles with awesome details. Those sequins
will burst like firecrackers on your shoulders – ka-pow! I think this
one calls for a wide black elastic belt with sleek, modern buckle,
seamed black hose, and ankle-twisting stilettos:
I love this ribbed batwing royal blue sweater. Rock it with black or
patterned leggings and black biker boots, chunky black and silver hip
belt is entirely optional:
For school, work, special dates, and fireside lounging, sweater dresses
are a fab eighties way to stay cozy and feminine this fall. Bring on the