#49 The Shrunken Sweater

I’m happy to report that I successfully avoided the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales this year, despite a few temptations (a pair of dungarees that ended up selling out, a vintage Thierry Mugler dress that was a size too big). One “practical” item I was really itching to get was another merino top from COS, after a year of thoroughly enjoying the piece I picked up in last year’s sales. I was also hoping it would replace this light grey merino sweater – a slightly thicker, but equally versatile knit that was unfortunately shrunken in the wash. But, in keeping with 2020’s “make do” spirit, I’m going to stick with my accidentally-cropped sweater a while longer.  

Grey Merino Sweater

Purchased from: Salvation Army, 2019 (orig. COS)

Cost: $8

Material: 100% merino

Wears counted: 21

This sweater is another one of my secondhand scores – it’s also originally from COS, but at much more wallet-friendly price point. When I found it, I was attracted to the interesting cut of the funnel neck, as well as the beautiful merino material. Now, despite being notoriously lazy about taking care of my clothes, I usually wash my wool sweaters by hand. Only very occasionally, I’ll run one through the washing machine in a garment bag with cold water, as per the care label. One day, after a wash, this sweater somehow slipped into the dryer pile and it didn’t quite come out the same. As you would expect, it shrunk. It wasn’t totally ruined, as in reduced-to-doll-size – I could still put it on and it did stretch back a bit – but it’s definitely on the wrong side of snug.

Some aspects of its new form I do like: the sleeves are now three-quarter length, which makes for a more vintage, Mad-Men-esque fit; and the wool is tighter across my chest, which also lends to the secretary-looking-for-a-promotion aesthetic. Onto the less glamorous aspects: the arms are very tight – my biceps are by no means formidable, but it makes me feel like a wrestler in a dress shirt one size too small; and the bottom of the sweater now falls around my belly button, which is way too short. While the band at the waist does help to keep chilly breezes out, the sweater is forever riding up and I find myself having to constantly readjust. Fortunately, I have a shorter torso, but that’s counteracted by my disdain for ultra-high-waisted, rib-touching bottoms. With most of my outfits that incorporate this sweater, there’s a risk of exposing my gut any time I lift up my arms. Maybe it’s a good thing the tightness in the sleeves somewhat restricts my motion.

Despite the fit being not optimal, I’ve continued to wear this sweater quite frequently during the colder months. The light grey shade goes well with the rest of my neutral/cool-toned winter wardrobe and it’s a decent layering piece – I love having the funnel neck peek out from under jackets, button downs, and even other sweaters. It definitely pairs better with my higher-waisted bottoms (I wore them with slouchy joggers at home the other day and felt transported to the early-2000’s). There are a few select trousers, skirts, ands jeans in my closet that work pretty well with it. I can still wear it for professional outings with some careful layering or a longer tank top underneath, and it’s certainly appropriate for conference calls from the torso up. Another potential look I’ve yet to test in the real world is wearing this sweater on top of a sleeveless dress; I think the cropped length would actually complement this kind of unconventional layering.

Other than the tragic decrease in size, this sweater has held up well to nearly two years of wear, which makes me reluctant to let it go. Ultimately, I’m aware that this top isn’t the most functional or comfortable, but I’m hoping that with a little creativity, I can make it last a bit longer. One thing is for sure: I’ll be keeping my sweaters far away from the laundry room like a lighter from a gas tank.

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