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Deck the halls with an ugly sweater party!

Danielle Olipra

Ugly sweater partiers

How to throw your own ugly holiday sweater party

Whether they make you feel like a kid again, or make you want to throw up in your mouth a little bit, ugly Christmas sweaters are the best way to show your holiday cheer.
But be warned, hosting a soiree dedicated to both holiday and hideous is no small undertaking.

Where to Find Your Own Ugly Sweater

  • Consider yourself lucky if you can dig up an ugly winner from a family member’s closet.  As the popularity of these parties rise, the availability of the ugly withers. 
  • If your luck has run out, visit your local Goodwill or that thrift store you’ve always walked by but never entered because it looks like where clothes go to die.  Many local thrift stores now have sections dedicated to ugly Christmas sweaters.
  • eBay is also a great resource for all things ugly!

What Makes Ugly?

  • No ugly Christmas sweater can be your size. Too large or too small, whichever is farther off is what you should go for.
  • Ugly Christmas sweaters are not exquisitely made.  Gaping holes, unraveled hems, and missing sequins are all pluses.
  • Any 3-D element or animal imagery gives you an edge on the competition.
  • Ug-cessorize! Sweater vests, ties, socks, hats, scarves, mittens all come in shades of ugly.
  • Any tie or pair of socks that lights up or plays music is an appropriate ug-cessory.  But if your outfit has an On/Off switch, you’ve overdone it.


If you want your friends to bring the ugly, you’re going to have to start the trend, and hand-made invites are the way to go for that effect.  Break out your pre-K finger-painting ability, or your for better or worse inherited knack for scrapbooking – whichever is uglier!  If you consider yourself an artist, first of all never tell anyone that, secondly ignore it for the invite-construction process. You might include a picture of you in your own fabulously ugly sweater (which you’d better have ready) in order to set the tone.

Inevitably, someone will try to bypass the laws of ugly and show up sleek and chic to stand out.  Make it clear that this will not be tolerated. Perhaps state an ugly dress code required for entry on your invite. Redefine fashion and for one night, make ugly the thing to be!


Your decorations should be as tacky and ugly as you want your guests’ sweaters to be.  Don’t be afraid to disgrace your front lawn – it’s dead right now anyways!  Litter it with any plastic figurines you can acquire.  But the ridiculousness shouldn’t stop at the door.  Inside, string up any mismatching lights you come by and all your hand-made ornaments from grade school. If you’re in a DIY mood, revisit those popsicle stick and clothespin crafting skills to create anything holiday related.  Goodwill and thrift stores are often jackpots for hideous holiday décor. This presents an opportunity to perform crude alterations on your unseasonal decorations.  Dress up a scarecrow in Santa garb, or replace wise men with Easter bunnies and lawn flamingos at your nativity. 

Mistletoe is required, perhaps even multiples. What’s a good party without a gossip-starting smooch or two?


  • Some ideas for party snacks: Gingerbread men or other Christmas figures also donning ugly sweaters.
  • Pigs in a blanket – need to have something of substance.
  • One of those mysterious-looking gelatin molds like your cat-loving aunt used to bring over.
  • Whatever you decide to serve, just make sure it’s presented on an ugly vintage platter.


If you feel like venturing away from your keg and spiked eggnog, with a little extra effort you can treat your friends to some delicious holiday-themed beverages.

Party Punch: Cranberry Christmas Punch
Combine 2 cups vodka, 4 cups cranberry juice, 1½ cups lime juice, 2 cups water, and 3 tbsp sugar in a large punch bowl over ice.

Warming Drink: Pomegranate Mulled Wine
Combine 2 cups pomegranate juice, 1 cup brandy, 1 bottle red wine, 1 orange (sliced into rounds and studded with cloves), 3 cinnamon sticks, and ¼ cup sugar (to taste) in a large stovetop pot. Bring to a simmer, but do not boil. Serve when heated.

Holiday Cocktail: The Grinch
Pour 2 oz Midori, ½ oz lemon juice, and 1 tsp simple syrup into a shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into glass. Add maraschino cherry for extra flavor and festivity.

Christmas Shooter: Santa’s Shot
Layer ½ oz. Grenadine, ½ oz. Green Crème de Menthe, and ½ oz. Peppermint Schnapps in shot glass.

Encourage…no, require pictures.

Even a small -and of course ugly- holiday backdrop in the corner can add a fun touch. Do your worst with tinsel and an ugly Christmas blanket tacked on the wall. Have people snap pictures there throughout the night. If you’re digitally gifted, make a quick slide show presentation or Facebook album for an awkward holiday photo contest later. If not, try to unearth your family’s old Polaroid for instant immortalization of these ugly moments.


Bad/ugly holiday gift swap: Take your worst gift from last year and recycle, or wrap up something silly.
Ugly Christmas sweater fashion show, followed by votes for various categories. The perfect grand prize? One ugly looking fruitcake.

Possible Contests/Awards

  • “Most Uncomfortable/Itchiest Sweater”
  • “Warmest Sweater”
  • “Most degrading to the Featured Animal Sweater”
  • “Best Accessory”
  • ‘Overall Ugliest Sweater”
  • “Most Awkward Christmas Photo”

Other Ideas/Tips

  • Check your thermostat prior to everyone’s arrival.  Remember everyone will be knocking ‘em back while in multiple layers.
  • Don’t leave out the pup/ugly Christmas sweaters for pets.
  • Sweater for sweater – each person brings one extra (not ugly) sweater, have a donation box.
  • “The origin of the ugly Christmas sweater can be traced to the back of your parents’ closets…”

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