Work-Appropriate Knitwear: Some Ground Rules

What makes a knitted garment work-appropriate? More to the point, what makes a knitted garment work-inappropriate?

Everyone has their own variation on this, but a bit of research and a lot of thinking has led me to come up with the following ground rules:

  1. Smart = fitted. There are exceptions to this, of course, and how fitted is fitted depends a lot on personal style and body type. But while draped can equal smart, baggy just… can’t.
  2. Yarn quality. Just as a densely woven cotton shirting looks smarter than a shiny polyester, a smooth merino will inevitably look smarter than acrylic. Consider it an investment.
  3. Colour. All smart workwear doesn’t have to be boring neutrals, but it shouldn’t be too ‘out there’ either. Neon pink, for instance, is probably best avoided. An outfit’s colours shouldn’t clash, and a garment that defines itself by its colour should probably be paired with something either neutral or a subtle co-ordinating piece.
  4. Yarn weight. First off, chunky/ bulky is out. Anything that deliberately changes weights or plies along its yardage is out. There is a school of thought that anything heavier than DK should be avoided, and even then fingering/ 4 ply is probably better. Which brings me on to…
  5. Does this look like something I could buy at M&S*? This is Sadie‘s ground rule, as commented upon the post of Roobeedoo‘s that gave me the idea for this series. People might comment on your knitted garments if they know you knit or generally look fabulous in them anyway, but you don’t want them to be commenting because they are clearly only something that could have been hand-knitted.

(All over variagation? I hate to say it, but the jury’s out.)


And obviously you want your hand-knits to fit in with the rest of your wardrobe. Wearing a flowing, drapy cardigan under a short and fitted jacket probably isn’t going to work. Don’t overlook basic style rules in your enthusiasm for wearing FOs.

Have I missed anything out here? Rules are made to be broken, but I think that in this sort of context you do want to make sure that you’re not breaking several at once. For instance, there are a couple of aran-weight entries on my mental list for posting here – but there are fitted and relatively conventional in their overall design and would definitely need the appropriate yarn.

I’ve realised that this series is probably going to centre around separates for the top half – namely tops, cardigans, and jackets. Knitted skirts are to my mind a clear violation of rule 5, dresses would take forever, and knitted trousers… just no.

(Photo from Ravelry)

I am also not a shawl knitter, so this may show a level of personal bias. But shawls are accessories. They may form an integral part of an outfit (see Sadie again for several lovely examples) but so long as it follows the rules regarding colour and doesn’t have penis motifs scattered all over it**, it’s probably quite hard to go wrong. Knitted socks are fab, but if you’re drawing attention to your socks in a corporate environment then there’s probably an issue already.

This post is already way longer than I expected so… may the pattern-sharing begin!


*Non-British readers: M&S is the epitome of middle-class sensible. Decent quality for the high street (generally) but nothing too radical. There’s nothing special about M&S – insert any other reputable high street brand here.

**I typed that before searching on Ravelry, and sure enough the pattern exists. The knitting version of Rule 34 is proven again.


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