Find your ugly Christmas sweater in Southern Utah and wear it with pride

Wine social attendees showcasing their finest of the ugly, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Frankie Fleming, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — When did ugly sweaters become a centerpiece for the holidays? Was it the cringe worthy moment when an eager relative watched you unravel a wrapped package to reveal the handmade sweater, made just for you? And, while you are at it, why don’t you put it on now?

Classic holiday sweaters on display at Quality Consignment, St. George, Utah, December 10, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Jeremy Beitler

History leans to the late 80s when comedy sketches including “Saturday Night Live” parodied holiday events sporting such gaudy garb. It was not long until departments stores and the influx of holiday commercialism, offered holiday sweaters off the rack.

Rare these days are the corporate holiday parties sporting cocktail dresses and festive matching neck ties. Whether it is due to the pandemic discouraging large galas, formality is being replaced with light-heartedness of donning cheery and ugly cardigans.

The real prize goes to sweaters created with the true intention that it is a terrific piece of garb to wear despite being adorned with pom-pom ornaments, crocheted snowflakes and glitter red noses.

In search of the authentic

Revelers can purchase a sweater preproduced to be as tacky as possible with a quick Amazon search or at most large retailers. However, that is a bit of cheat and St. George has no shortage of glue gun owners, consignment shops and vintage retailers. Shoppers can also enjoy the lights in downtown and as they browse options within a few block radius.

The floors at Urban Renewal on the corner of Main Street and St. George Boulevard are staged with an intermix of vintage and new.

Urban Renewal sales associate Ashtyn Pickett shows old vs sporting new, St. George, Utah, December 10, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Jeremy Beitler

“We source amazing nostalgia,” said Alice Atkins, Urban Renewal’s high energy and trend forward media stylist. Atkins confirms that sales trend to those with “more embellishments versus the subtle.”

“The new look is the old,” Atkins said. Urban Renewal has been stocking holiday sweaters since October and displaying them on a centerpiece table. They have been going quickly. The store has vintage sweaters for both men and women, including some prized true haute couture, such as a vintage Jean-Paul Gaultier, which still appears to be passed over for the corny.

Mother and daughter team, Linda Carlos and Tami Cherry own and manage the oldest consignment store in St. George, Quality Consignment. While it has changed hands over its 29-year reign, it is back to its original roots and specializes in women’s high-end brands. Even Gucci throws in something not so becoming to the eye of the beholder.

“Since the pandemic, the consignment business has changed. We no longer carry cruise attire and cocktail dresses. Tops and blouses are our biggest sellers,” Carlos said.

Holiday sweaters adorn their front window display and are peppered throughout the store next to racks with Chicos, Kate Spade and Coach. When asked if fashion-conscience Carlos wears highly festive holiday sweaters, she admits, “I have personally never worn one. My kids would laugh at me.”

Ugly sweaters and wine

“We like to say, ‘Sipping for a good cause,’” said Marianne Hamilton, co-director of the Southern Utah Wine Guild. Since 2015, the nonprofit organization has been hosting oenophiles monthly to mingle in support of Utah art and art education programs. Like most businesses, nonprofits, especially those whose funds are predicated on social gatherings, took a hit and a hiatus during the pandemic. The Southern Utah Wine Guild is making a comeback with smaller, COVID-conscience gatherings.

Revelers at Southern Utah Wine Guide ugly sweater social, St. George, Utah, December 12, 2021 | St George News

“The ugly sweater social is a big draw,” Hamilton said. “In a non-COVID year, this and our Halloween get together are always a biggie, because people like to get dressed up.”

Codirector Doug Hamilton said judging is completely subjective. Categories for the dubious honor included most outrageous or creative. Leveraging good humor and cheer attracts participation.

“Because it is the holidays, attendees are donating more,” Mr. Hamilton said.

This year’s event was hosted at Art Provides, a bright and airy gallery space above Main Street which hosts a variety of mindful creativity classes, including mirror drawing, painting to music evenings, films and walls for local artists to showcase their pieces. Founder El Gunter describes it as, “Where art can provide a connection, a sense of community, or fill in the blank on what it can provide you.”

Wine social attendees showcasing their finest of the ugly, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Frankie Fleming

When asked about their first time hosting the ugly sweater holiday social and the challenge to raise funds during a pandemic, Gunter said, “You can try to raise money on your own, but when two organizations come together for a common cause, it is just amazing.”

What does a true artist and creative eye think about the ugly sweater?

“It is all about the tacky,” Gunter said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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