16 rather excellent Fair Isle sweaters

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I like Fair Isle sweaters a lot: they’re preppy, obviously, but really graphic too, and they even qualify as an ethnic print in my book. You can also have all sorts of matchy-clashy fun with them, and this one—with its pared-down color palette, would be a good candidate for that.

Here’s a pretty classic one from L.L. Bean that’d be aces with broken-in jeans.

I like how the white really pops against the grey here.

And speaking of poppiness, the orange details really kind of make this one.

Earth tones and brights combine here in an improbable but delightful way.

This one is pleasingly oversized and pretty chic.

A cashmere blend that looks supremely cozy.

I really dig the bright pink on this one.

And I like how this Madewell sweater looks reversed out.

The subdued colors here make this a pretty sophisticated choice, and it’s very well-priced too.

This one is just pretty straightforwardly preppy, if that’s your thing.

A pleasingly minimal choice.

A reversed out turtleneck option that I’d wear with grey skinny trousers.

This deconstructed sweater is an unexpected—but really cool—choice.

Mixing grey and brown here shouldn’t really work, but it totally does somehow.

And finally: I really like how the Fair Isle pattern is just barely visible here.

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22 Thoughts on 16 rather excellent Fair Isle sweaters
    Ann
    16 Jan 2020
    11:30am

    First time reading about Faherty family business. Where have I been?

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    deborah
    16 Jan 2020
    12:27pm

    That gray and brown Alex Mill one is dreamy. I bought this J Crew boys’ fair isle in size 16, and have convinced myself it’s cheeky in a Gucci kind of way: https://www.jcrew.com/p/boys_category/sweaters/cotton/boys-crewneck-sweater-in-tiger-fair-isle/AF603?sale=true&color_name=grey-multi

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      Jax
      16 Jan 2020
      3:18pm

      Ha, I love the combination of the word “chill” and tiger

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    Mamavalveeta03
    16 Jan 2020
    12:40pm

    The “poppy” black one by Joie reminds me for all the world of granny’s crocheted square afghan, and in the best way. Fair Isles bring me the best memories of college in my light blue one, worn with 501’s and clogs.

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    Mary
    16 Jan 2020
    1:06pm

    I’m going to embarrass myself but I didn’t realize brown and gray were a no no!

    Really lovely sweaters and I wish I could wear them – my shoulders are already broad enough though.

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      Mindy
      16 Jan 2020
      2:36pm

      I say they can totally be a yes. Depends on the shades/tones and how you wear them.

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        Jax
        16 Jan 2020
        3:15pm

        I feel like it’s a yes too, mostly because gray kind of goes with every color, but yes, it depends on shades/tones.

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    Tammy
    16 Jan 2020
    1:14pm

    Thank you! I am a big fair isle fan and am a little embarrassed at the size of my collection. I just can’t say no and quite a few of these are tempting. In my opinion they are always in style.

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    Viajera
    16 Jan 2020
    1:16pm

    hey Beth, if you see this, I left you a reply, possibly inane, on the Dresses part one from a couple days ago. …

    I like these sweaters a lot. I have one but it doesn’t fit right now. Actually it never fit, I fell in like with it online. I don’t always let that stop me. Hmm. … So, am I wrong to dislike acrylic? How do we feel about acrylic?

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      Mimi
      17 Jan 2020
      10:45am

      I fell for some cute acrylic sweaters a few years ago that wore so badly I had to toss them after a few wearings. Ever since I’ve been very leary of any sweater with a high acrylic content. And a lot of them look cheap to me. I wonder if expensive brands use a higher grade acrylic, but there are enough wool, cashmere and/or alpaca sweaters around that avoiding acrylic isn’t difficult. However when it was time to reupholster my sofa and a sectional, I chose acrylic fabrics because they don’t fade and don’t absorb doggy stains. Almost every fabric company offers acrylic fabrics for the home and they’re gorgeous, soft, sturdy and great to live with.

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        Viajera
        17 Jan 2020
        1:48pm

        Oooh, thanks, Mimi! I had no idea about the positive side of it. That’s good to know. I don’t know if it’s a regional thing, but out here, a lot of “winter” items are made out of it and I always worry that people who buy the items don’t realize it won’t keep them warm.

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      AK
      16 Jan 2020
      9:14pm

      I hate it too! Drives me bonkers to see pricey sweaters that are basically plastic.

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      Lisa Saffer
      17 Jan 2020
      7:23am

      HATE and can’t wear acrylic. After menopause it just makes me burn right up. It’s a hot flash igniter…..

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    Kathi
    16 Jan 2020
    1:17pm

    Thank you for including turtlenecks, Kim, you must be getting over your aversion to them. 😉

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      Kim France
      17 Jan 2020
      11:00am

      I’m at peace with them on others, Kathi.

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    Carol
    16 Jan 2020
    1:27pm

    Those lilac tie-waisted pants are cute

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    MaryAlice
    16 Jan 2020
    12:03pm

    I’ve never really liked them – I can’t pull them off. I’m the opposite of preppy, plus the wide design across the shoulders make me look like I play left tackle for the Rams. But that first one is nicely graphic and I’m tempted…

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    HickfromStyx
    16 Jan 2020
    12:10pm

    The grey one from Cupcakes and Cashmere (ironically acrylic) is my favorite. The horizontal-geometric design stands out from the crowd, the cool color works for me, and the hemline is the best. Too often this type of sweater, and sweaters in general, bunch up at the waist on me. This one tapers up slightly in the middle and has some room, instead of cinching in and creating bulk at the waist. I have avoided Fair Isle and lopapeysa sweaters for all of these reasons, even though I like them on others. This one could change my mind.

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    Boerumama
    16 Jan 2020
    9:00am

    Totally off-topic, but is “reversed out” a regionalism? I’ve never heard it. In our family, we say “inside-out.”

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      Mary
      16 Jan 2020
      1:04pm

      I’ve never heard of “reversed out.”

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      Kim France
      16 Jan 2020
      1:39pm

      I just made it up and have no good reason why.

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    c.w.
    16 Jan 2020
    9:08am

    I appreciate the cotton rag L.L. Bean one for those of us in climate challenged locations where wool is becoming less and less of a necessary option (it was 81 here yesterday, today’s high…67––I don’t mean to whine, but seriously my body can barely handle the constant extreme temperature fluctuations). And if I needed a wool anything I’d snap up that deconstructed in a half-second even though my credit card would be giving me serious side-eye. Which segues me into a sidenote: our Nordstrom Rack is having a huge sale at the moment including many items from J.Crew and Madewell and tons of jeans.

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Kim France

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1964 and have lived in New York City since 1988. I had a long career in magazines, working at Sassy, Elle, New York, and Spin, and in 2000, I founded Lucky magazine, which I edited for ten years.

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