By Cindy Weber-Cleary
Updated Dec 17, 2014 @ 3:34 pm
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InStyle’s Special Projects Editor Cindy Weber Cleary has been a fashion editor for the past 20+ years. Needless to say, she’s picked up some tricks along the way. Catch her column here each week for how-to tips and style secrets on her favorite, timeless styles.

I know the idea of a holiday sweater probably conjures images of your Aunt Dottie in a colorful cardigan with a snowman on it, but don’t worry! There are many chic alternatives to this seasonal cliché.

Knits are great for this time of year because they’re cozy, they pack easily, and they present a simple solution of what to wear to all those casual-but-celebratory events, such as family dinners, gift exchanges, office parties, or New Year’s Day open houses.

The most important thing is to avoid any sweater with a holiday theme, such as reindeer, Santa, Christmas trees, or ornaments. Nothing will age you faster! I would also skip any red or green knits. Instead, think of subtle neutrals such as grey, ivory, black, or navy, and look for luxe details.

I love a sweater with a touch of lace or lacey pattern, such as these:


Shop it: Reiss, $195,; J. Crew, $100,; Freda, $686,

A touch of beading or sequins also strikes a festive note:


Shop it: Topshop, $160,; Tory Burch, $210,; Marc Jacobs, $1,100,

And finally, knits with lurex threads or a metallic finish are an easy option. I like to wear silver with charcoal or gold with camel. Needless to say, either works with black:


Shop it: Rebecca Taylor, $485,; Bottega Veneta, $1,400,; Gap, $50,

All of these knits pair well with a wool trouser or skirt in a similar tone or neutral—or with jeans in a dark solid wash. Since the sweaters themselves are embellished and shiny, you don’t need to add dramatic jewelry. Small stud or bar earrings and/or a delicate bracelet are enough. Shoes can be anything from a pointy-toe pump to a boot, depending on your preference, but wearing a heel definitely kicks it up a notch in terms of festivity.

Hope this brings you a little comfort and joy this season!