This is the second in an occasional series called Wearability Wednesday in which I look in more depth at an item I’ve knitted previously, and discuss its actual wearability. In these posts I want to focus on what gets worn and what doesn’t, and why; also on how it gets worn and how it holds up to wear and washing. Today, I will be looking at Audrey, a sweater designed by Kim Hargreaves, in homage to Audrey Hepburn and her style in movies such as Roman Holiday.
The Audrey pattern was published in Rowan 35 in 2004. Kim is a prolific designer who worked at Rowan for over 20 years before branching out to establish her own knit design company with her mother, Kathleen. Kim is really known for her cardigans and her classic tailoring; you can find her designs at her lovely website. Kim is well loved by knitters; the Kim Hargreaves group on Ravelry has over 4500 members.
I knit Audrey in late 2009 and it has had a lot of wear. In this post, I want to look at two aspects of Audrey that really stand out for me. First, it it looks great on many different body types. Second, it is a sweater that can be worn in many different ways; it looks great with jeans, at work, and dressed up for evening wear. Here, the sweater is modelled by me and by both my daughters, each of us adopting a different style.
First, let’s discuss body type. When I knit Audrey I was about 6 kilos (12.5 pounds) heavier than I am now. The photo that starts off this post was taken soon after I finished knitting it. Many of the sweaters which I knit back then are far too baggy on me now and I no longer wear them. Audrey, however, because of the allover ribbing and the stretchy qualities of the yarn, fit me well then and fits we well now. It is one of the few things in my wardrobe that this is true of. My daughter Emma is a few inches taller than I am, and very slender and willowy. She weighs a good 15 kilos less than I do. Leah is a few inches shorter than I am, and has a real hourglass figure. In UK sizes, Emma is a 6, Leah an 8, I am a 10 or 12, and two years ago when I knit Audrey, I was a 14, which I believe correspond to US sizes 2-10. This is quite a range of sizes and heights and shapes, and yet each of us wears this sweater. As you can see from the photos, Audrey looks great on each of us.
Besides the great fit of Audrey, the other thing I want to emphasize is its versatility. To show this, we each adopted a different style when modelling these photos. Leah wore it with a pair of jeans. I think it looks great this way. It is fun and comfortable and easy to wear, but looks modern, and stylish. It emphasizes Leah’s curviness and looks sexy without being revealing. She looks really put-together wearing this; it doesn’t need anything else to make it work.
I often wear Audrey to work. Here it is paired with a nice pair of classic tweed pants (or trousers as we say here in the UK). I can wear this to meet with clients, attend meetings or give a talk, and look really professional. At the same time, it has the extra flair that a hand-knit item gives your wardrobe. It is not something that everyone else in the room is wearing, and lets you express a bit of creativity. I really like it paired with the jacket that you can see in the other photos. I bought it from a small shop in Camden, London, that makes its own felted jackets by hand. I like the contrast in styles between the definitely 1950s era Audrey styling and the definitely not 50s line of the jacket.
Emma is modelling Audrey all dressed up for evening wear, with a pair of killer heels and beautiful tights, and a suede miniskirt. Again, it looks terrific. It is chic and sexy and sophisticated. There are not many pieces in my wardrobe that go from casual to office to evening with such aplomb. One of the features of Audrey that makes it so versatile is the neckline. It can be worn pulled down over the shoulders, to add a bit of va-va-voom (which looks especially amazing if you have a long neck and beautiful shoulders like Emma) or you can hitch it up a bit to cover the shoulders but still show a lovely line across the neck.
As an aside, my daughters have both inherited my creative streak (from their dad as well, who started out as a jewellry designer before becoming an academic and still has a strong creative side). Emma, as you know, does all of the fashion styling and photography for this blog, as well as being the tech genius behind it. (Emma is also a jazz saxophonist, but that is another story.) Leah, who is 17, designs jewelry and is crazy about beading. Leah made all of the earrings which we are modelling in this photoshoot. She makes amazing beaded necklaces as well, which weren’t needed for the Audrey shoot, but which I will show in some future post. Here are closeups of the earrings worn in this post:
So, what is it about Audrey that makes it so versatile, and gives it such great fit? I think there are a number of factors. First, the pullover is knit in rib. Rib is clingy and hugs the body, and allows for alot of give. I don’t think just anything in rib would stretch to accomodate 4 different sizes so well, but the ribbing is certainly one of the features that allow each of us to wear it. Second, in addition to the rib, it has great shaping details at the waist and bust. The shaping of Audrey is really one of its best features; it has a very nice look to it, it is elegant and emphasizes the body’s curves really nicely. Many allover ribbed sweaters will sag under the bustline but the shaping here prevents that, and gives it a classy feel. It is a very tailored look, which is one of the things I most admire about Kim’s designs. I will also point out, as a knitter, that the shaping kept the sweater from being a slog to knit; endless rib would have been boring, but the shaping requires some thought and a bit of skill which made it a far more enjoyable knit.
Third, the sleeve length allows the three of us, with our different arm lengths, to carry this sweater off. Audrey is designed for 3/4 sleeves. As you can see, on Leah it has a bracelet length that looks good on her, while on Emma it’s clearly 3/4 length. If it was designed as a full length sleeve, I think it would not be quite as flexible as it is. Fourth, the neckline really makes this sweater. Not only is it pretty and flirty and lacy, thus giving a femininity to an otherwise very tailored piece; but also, it can be worn up or pulled down off the shoulders giving it very different style profiles.
One of the things I haven’t mentioned here is the yarn. I knit Audrey in the recommended yarn, Calmer by Rowan. Calmer is a blend, 75% cotton and 25% acrylic microfiber. I am not usually a fan of manmade fibres, in fact I am normally quite a natural fibre snob. However, Calmer manages to make a very nice blend that holds up well to wear. As you can imagine, this Audrey gets worn a lot, and gets washed a lot. Cotton sweaters have a terrible tendency to stretch and sag but the microfiber content of Audrey really helps it keep its shape. The fact that it is cotton means that I can basically wear it all year round; it is a great sweater for a summer evening, I can wear it to dance in, unlike wool, and it will keep you warm on a cooler night The one thing that I don’t like about Calmer is its colour range. I knit mine in black, but if not black, I would prefer to have Audrey in bright splashy colours – emerald, ruby, peacock. Calmer comes almost exclusively in pastels, and very unappealing ones at that. Rowan, if you are listening, jazz up the Calmer range please!
What would I do differently if I were to knit Audrey again? That is easy: I would add 2 inches onto the length. At my age, I don’t want my tummy sticking out. If I had knit a few extra inches to the length, I wouldn’t have any need to suck in my gut with this one, or to be tugging it down.
So here’s to Audrey; a really classy, chic, comfortable and pretty sweater! It’s a Wearability Wednesday hit.