The next time you’re rifling through your dad’s closet to re-up on some of your favorite gender-fluid staples — novelty baseball caps, desert boots, oversized pinstriped button-downs — be sure to grab a couple of sweater vests. Yes, the somewhat dweeby knits, much beloved by Steve Urkel, Carlton Banks, Mister Rogers and high school history teachers alike, are in the midst of a serious sartorial renaissance.
In 2015, we spotted them everywhere from Miu Miu resort to Christian Dior pre-fall. For Spring 2016, Gucci and Prada made the case for geek-chic dressing. Alessandro Michele, champion of in-the-know librarians and cool grannies the world over, paired a fuzzy, flower-embellished button-down vest with a sheer, bubble-sleeve pussybow blouse and a flouncy, bronze scallop-hemmed skirt. At Prada, colorblocked sweater vests partially obscured striped sleeveless turtlenecks and clashed with semi-sheer pleated skirts. And yet, somehow, it all totally worked.
Cut to Spring 2017 and the grandfatherly trend is still going strong. Prada and Gucci did not back down. This time around, Miuccia Prada (sort of) stuck with a citrus color palette, pairing a tangerine-tinged plaid sweater vest with a geometric button-up scattered with orange blooms. A silky, yellow ostrich feather-accented midi (slit practically to the waist) finished off the look. Michael Kors, more concerned with wearability, matched a floral baby blue V-neck with a similarly patterned skirt and button-down. Meanwhile at Gucci, Michele restricted himself to two patterns. A mushroom-printed sweater vest came layered over pink and purple polka dots. The designer’s signature schoolboy necktie made a cameo, natch.
We know what you’re thinking: These looks are, well, a lot. That which comes down the catwalk doesn’t necessarily translate to the sidewalk. How does one make the nerdy staple look cool IRL without laying out a small fortune at Prada or Michele’s feet?
It’s simple, really. First, layer over a patterned blouse, turtleneck or button-down that bears at least a touch of similarity to your quirky topper. (When in doubt, stick with black.) Secondly, show off some leg. Pair your sweater vest with a mini A-line skirt (denim or 70s suede is always a safe bet), (patterned) short shorts or a high-slit midi. For those in the thick of fall, ward off the shivers with a pair of (ideally ripped) black nylon tights. And to those not so into the baggy look, a waist belt is key.
The finishing touch? In warmer months, strappy sandals. In cooler ones, pointed-toe T-strap flats (for optimal librarian vibes).
Below, a few options to invest in.