Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Sweater Guard Collection

Here it is, in all its glory! A lot of you asked about the sweater guard I was wearing yesterday, so I thought you would be interested to see these. I bought the entire lot at once on eBay for less than $10. I thought they would make nice accessories or embellishments, but then I stowed them away and hadn't thought to use them until I finished this bolero. It just screams for a sweater guard! The little pink posies second from the top are my favorite. (Also: don't worry, I won't ever wear them all at once like this. Though it is tempting.)

Sweater guards are a fascinating fashion relic. In the 50's, it seems that there was an frightening epidemic in which ladies suddenly couldn't keep hold of their sweaters! How alarming that must have been.

You see, it had become de rigeur to throw a cardigan insouciantly around one's shoulders, like a capelet. But how to retain that "devil may care" look while still keeping your cardigan secure? I know - A sweater guard!

(Sweater guard is just a funny name, don't you think? It seems a little melodramatic. I mean, they don't really guard your sweater from anything. Well, except from falling off.)

I think the most interesting thing about sweater guards is how they fell completely out of fashion. People don't even know what they are today! But there are a plethora of them out there for the taking. I found some fun examples currently on Etsy that are still fastened to the original card they were sold on. This is good stuff, people!

This sassy orange set
has user instructions that read like a haiku:

around shoulders
guard holds securely.
Cannot slip off.

It seems that sweater guards became a way to show tribe spirit at a certain point. I've found sweater guards with the Cub Scouts logo, Florida seashells, Canadian flags, the Boston Bruins logo. And look, for the Catholics in the house . . . this one is a Miraculous Medal sweater guard!

And, sadly, it seems that some hipster crafter types are making "ironic" sweater guards these days, fashioned from beer bottle caps and plastic spiders. Seriously? Is nothing sacred?

Oh, and unrelated: here's a picture of the skirt from yesterday on Veronica, my dress form, so you can see the design lines a bit better.


  1. these are so sweet. I LOVE your bolero and skirt. V. impressive!

  2. I'll have you know I'm old enough to almost REMEMBER sweater guards! ;) Almost....

    Isn't it interesting how fashion and accessories come back around?

  3. I had never even heard of sweater guards until you brought it to our attention. What a great accessory. I will have to purchase one or more. Maybe they will come back in style. If not, I don't mind being a little different. I think it looks great.

    Looking forward to your vintage post on Burda Style tomorrow.

  4. Hi Gertie,
    I have a sweater guard collection too!
    I love them.
    I have mine hanging from a ribbon, little chain scallops all across, in front of my work desk.
    Your collection is sweet.

  5. I have loved sweater guards for ages, but your collection is lovely! Most people who come into where I work have no idea what they are either, so it can be fun to educate them. We have some Arizona-centric ones with roadrunners on them that I love-very quirky!

    You've inspired me to try my hand at that skirt pattern, once Vogues go on sale at Joann. The ruching is just fabulous. Your bolero is delicious-you really did a great job on it!

  6. ahh haaaaa dumb hipster craft alert!really funny. that "haiku" instruction is also hilarious. the rest of em are really cute,though, and i bet i could use a sweater guard in my jewlery box.thanks for the idea! ill shop around for some today!

  7. Oooh, they are lovely. And to think I'd never heard of sweater guards until yesterday.

    I've been trying to wear more vintage brooches with my outfits this year, but actually I'm finding them quite difficult... too heavy, the pins keep coming undone and they fall off. Maybe sweater guards are the answer to the added pretty I have been seeking. I can feel another ebay spree coming up!

    And I know I marvelled at your skirt yesterday already, but can I marvel all over again - it is stunning enough to bear repetition!

  8. I love your collection! I've only recently heard of sweater guards, thanks to (of all things) the show "Glee." (There's one teacher who wears them; the costume designer talks about her style here: )

    And that skirt -- holy cow, it's gorgeous!

  9. I think the sweater losing epidemic skipped several generations and hit me full force. I seem to have been gifted with a superpower for losing black cardigans, THE most essential staple of my wardrobe. Perhaps vintage -- or even spider -- sweater guards are my personal Kryptonite...

  10. I find the Pabst ones adorable! I am a crafty hipster doofus! - Backseat Betty

  11. I could look at that skirt one hundred times over and not get annoyed or bored. It's gorgeous-gorgeous... As in, double gorgeous.

    I love your collection, too. I have one, only. A vintage one from my grandmother's jewelry box. It's silver with turquoise stones. I need to wear it. What have I been doing hiding it away???

  12. The point of the sweater guard was that you could wear your sweater around your shoulders, like a cape, without it falling off.

    You can buy these from Jewish supply houses as "tallis clips" (for prayer shawls). They don't all have stars of David on them.

  13. Oh I love them! I only have one but it's a sterling set of the cutest little bunnies!

  14. Oh, great, now I have a new obsession.

    Must. Find. Sweater. Guard.

    (This is right under "Must find vintage brooch" :) )

    Fantastic bolero+skirt outfit, by the way !

  15. I love sweater clips! Unfortunately I don't see too many in silver.

  16. Egads, lady, I want to steal your collection!!! hehe! I love the idea of a sweater guard--as out-moded as it is. But then again, I love quirky little accessories like this. ;) I think you're right--the bolero is perfect to show off a sweater guard!

    Now I just wish I hadn't sold the one I had last year... *sigh* Me and my notions of "simplifying"... lol!

  17. Oh those are so cute! As I read your post I began to panic that other gals reading would beat me to ebay and buy them all up....then I saw the Pabst beer bottle ones. And, ghastly as those are, I am now inspired to make my own (out of something prettier than a bottle cap of course). Great inpsiration - thanks!

  18. I've never seen or heard of a sweater guard before. I wonder what they were called here, where sweaters are not called sweaters? I'll have to ask my Mum.

  19. Your sweater guard collection is very neat. When my oldest son was born 8 years ago, I was given an antique bib thing that is similar to the sweater guard, but with a slightly longer chain. As I understand it, it was used to make a cloth napkin into a big. Other than the longer chain, it looks very much like the sweater guards.
    I just love that skirt!!

  20. I thought those things were to tighten a top from the back. Live and learn...

  21. Are you kidding me? I love all the sweater guards at once. Yes, it's a little late "80's early 90's. But the fabric color is bold enough to carry it off. :) Really nice work with the outfit. J'adore.

  22. How funny you should cover this today, Gertie! I was just browsing etsy and ebay for some sweater clips - now I worry I'll be outbid with all the extra attention they'll be getting, alas.

    That vogue skirt is gorgeous... I know patterns are half price near me at the moment, may have to go pick up a copy!

    @Serinity Love Sincere Peace Earth - There are actually clips that tighten up shirts at the back - my mother has a few. I think you can tell them apart from sweater guards because their chains are much shorter.

  23. I have a sweater guard from my mother that actually has the year of her graduation as the motif:19 on one side, 72 on the other. That was certainly post fifties! Then again, the first graduating classes of the school were in the fifties, so it could have been a tradition. I think she called it something else, too.

  24. That skirt is divine. Not for my hips but divine all the same. And now I want a sweater guard! But maybe not one made from bottle tops.

  25. I can remember sweater guards being worn in junior high by the rich girls with their twin sweater sets.. apparently they came in handy when you didn't want to wear the cardigan but just throw it over their shoulders. I would not mind having one today for some of my sweaters without buttons.

  26. There are several vintage beauties for sale on Artfire at present, including rhinestone pieces.

  27. Great collection of sweater clips there! I linked to my Squidoo lens Sweater Clips. ~Scarlettohairy on Squidoo


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