Thursday, September 29, 2011

Knitted Tops: Part 2, Patterns

I stick to a couple of hard and fast rules when shopping for patterned tops, whether knitted or not.

Generally speaking, smaller uniform patterns are better. Do make certain they do not stretch over the rack so much they distort and thus emphasize that area, both a color pattern and a texture pattern (like cables or open-work crochet) can do this. I prefer geometric over flowers and flat pattern to a textured one.

Don't be afraid of stripes. As with color blocking, you can actually use the stripe, or any pattern for that matter, as you would a bright color ~ to draw attention away form your larger areas. For example if you are self conscious about your chect or stomach, pick something that emphasizes your arms and face.

You can achieve something similar to the above with a patterned blouse and solid colored vest or knitted sweater-vest (that sexy librarian look). Also, please note that the knit in both the above examples is stretching over the chest in a "white" way.

Here I am making that very grave mistake. Solution ~ with colors darker than your skin tone, wear a matched undershirt, in this case I should have worn red. In cases where the top is lighter than your skin tone wear a nude top that matches it. Also make certain you don't just look at yourself inside. Natural light and flash photography can cause "rack reveal" issues.

Here are two of my favorite modern sweaters, the stripes about the shoulders and the details at the neck draw the attention upwards. (Sorry about the wrinkles, haven't worn them recently as it's too hot.)

For heaven's sake, just don't op for the following version of stripes and solids!

Draws attention to exactly the wrong area, is also bulky and too long. Looks great on her, but then I'm not shaped like her. That said, for those of my readership who have the opposite problem from me, (taller, smaller chested types) this is a great look!

 Here's another example of a vintage piece and a retro version of the same 1950's style pattern blocked knit top that be great on a fuller figure.

From Diary of a Vintage Girl Blog

This second version is better for she of the broader shoulders.

You can also reverse it, as white tends to widen and put a darker smaller pattern over the bust.

Things that break up the the eye and torso will tend to divert attention, so something like this lovely check number would also work.

Please note that, as usual, I'm opting for sweaters that finish right about the waist. These are hard to find in the modern age, a great sadness to me, so I tend to shop for vintage tops whenever possible. Given my wool allergy and the general destructive nature of moths vintage sweaters are hard to find. That said, since sweaters have stretch, sometimes I've been able to buy retro and get a nice cotton or acrylic from a discount store.

These two came from Ross and Kohls, respectively, probably around $15 each. Junior's larges, both of them. 

I've yet to successfully shorten a sweater, I know it can be done but as a seamstress I have issues with stretch and I don't knit so it frightens me.

Cold Comfort Farm

That said, you can find a longer finely patterned sweater and belt it. I suggest using my "safety pin at the seam" trick to kep it from riding around. A nice skinny belt gives a very vintage look, a wider belt is more modern.

Here's another great way to block a pattern. This is one whole piece. Binding the cardigan to the front panel allows you to do as she has done, curve the cardy inwards over the rack, something that never naturally occurs and thus makes you look smaller. Also that long block of one straight line, particularly if it is a lighter color, makes you look long and lean. There's a DIY project in here with a thrifted cardy and a knit vest and someone (not me) who can mod knitwear.

Lastly, if you are still afraid of pattern remember you can pair a small neutral colored pattern like a faint window-pain plaid, check, houndstooth, or tweed with a nice bright pencil or full skirt, and this will definitely de-emphasize the rack. But if you still don't like that idea, you could try color blocking your knits instead.

Note the buttons at the neck, again drawing attention to the face. Nice detail.

Please if you have images of yourself in knitwear, or want to tackle the aforementioned DIY project, feel free to share on the Retro Rack Facebook Page.


  1. I try to avoid patterns all together because I'm big all over. (Well, except for these darn small shoulders.) It's getting harder though to find things that don't have big, bold, and busy patterns and/or horizontal stripes.

  2. This post really, really, really, makes me want to knit a cute top! Knitting magazines are full of these sorts of tops (and plus, you can alter a pattern to fit the boobage), but I've just been a little nervous to try them. Maybe today's the day?


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