Ugly sweater parties invade


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It’s that time of the year when it is culturally acceptable — nay — culturally popular to wear tops with hand-painted kittens peaking out of chimneys, shimmery, smiling birds perched atop glowing evergreens, and dancing Santas flying across twinkling skies proclaiming, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Y’all.”

Such is the scene in Iowa City and on college campuses across the country.

After a weeklong fall break, festive sweater wearers could be spotted trotting up and down the streets of Iowa City for weekend holiday excursions. A favorite holiday pastime of many students and young adults, “ugly sweater parties” give one permission to spread holiday cheer by finding and wearing the most heinously festive duds around.

“It has to have Christmas colors and some beads sticking out,” said UI senior Brent Sands. “Preferably with some bells and bows. It has to be outrageous.”

Sands and his roommates held their second yearly holiday romp on Dec. 12 in their Iowa Avenue apartment, decorating their pad with twinkling red and green lights to put their guests in the mood.

Ugly sweater parties foster an environment in which strangers can start conversations more easily simply because they are wearing similarly hideous apparel, Sands said.

“It’s just a lot of fun because everyone … has something in common,” he said. “A lot of people like to dress up, and it’s just a different way to party. It’s kind of like Halloween.”

The 22-year-old wore a party favorite — the ugly sweater vest — with sequins and bells.

Sands and friends are just a few of many UI students who follow the holiday tradition. Sophomores Alexis Kourkoumelis, 19, and Sam Daly, 19, shopped at Ragstock on Wednesday to find sweaters for themselves and their friends. The two were preparing for their own end-of-semester ugly sweater celebration Thursday.

“They’re just really fun, and it’s something a little different,” Daly said.

The two leafed through Ragstock’s seven circular racks and wall space — through hundreds of sweaters — to find the perfect ones. Daly settled on a black Christmas tree item with glittery cats and presents, and Kourkoumelis grabbed an armful of tacky garb for herself and some friends, bells and all.

“If [the sweater] hurts when you’re putting it on, you know it’s a good one,” she said.

Ragstock employees began stocking up on the sweaters before Halloween, offering a wide selection ranging from $5 to $20.

Manager Molly Freeman said the store has been maintaining a plethora of festive tops for the past four years after noticing that people were asking for them.

“It’s nice to have a big selection,” she said. “It’s better than going to all the Goodwills and only being able to find two or three sweaters at each place. We’re just compressing things here.”

Freeman, who has worked at Ragstock for three years, said the more bells and sequins, the better. “Puffy”-painted and handmade sweaters also sell well, she said.

“They’re fun,” she said. “And you don’t have to take yourself seriously while wearing one.”

While she has never been to an ugly sweater party, Freeman said, working in Ragstock around ugly sweater season is like a two-monthlong ugly sweater bonanza.

“It’s a party in here every day.”

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