Written by Amy Scalia 

The days are getting shorter and there’s a crisp in the air. Sweater weather is officially upon us.

Whether you're dressing up or going for comfort, sweaters are some of the most versatile pieces you can wear in the cooler months. There’s a go-to sweater for every occasion, activity and temperature. So, UpWest's Curator of Comfort, Lindy Deal, shares some sweater savvy tips for fabric, fit, and function of favorite knitwear you may already have and some new styles worth cozying up to.

A sweater’s fabric changes the whole experience, so it’s important to know what you’re looking for. “As with anything you wear, what it’s made of affects the practicality and comfort,” says Deal. “A quick peek at that sweater's tag will give you a pretty good idea of how comfortable, warm, flexible or even - in some cases - how sustainable it is.”

Natural fibers, like cotton, cashmere and wool, are typically warm and long lasting. “You’ll see a lot of cashmere and wool sweaters - or blends with those in it - when the temperatures dip,” says Deal. “Cotton is great for sweatshirts and lightweight sweaters, or lined with something cozy like my personal favorite, the Sherpa Lined Cardi.”

Synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic or spandex have their place, too.“Acrylic, for example, is designed to be warm and strong, making it a perfect base material for athletic wear,” says Deal. “You can find acrylic in sweaters, too, like the easy slub yarn in this super soft Cropped Cardigan.”

Stretchy synthetic fibers - like spandex, elastane, and Lycra - help sweaters keep their shape throughout the day and wash after wash. “When there’s just a touch of spandex in a sweater, like the 2% in our Curved Hem Crewneck, it’s way-more flexible and comfortable when you’re wearing it, and it helps that shape bounce right back for the next time.”

Because synthetic materials are less sustainable than their plant and animal based counterparts, recycled synthetic materials give new life and sustainability to these sought after fibers. “Our fabrics include recycled polyester, organic cotton and recycled nylon,” says Deal. “We’re all about progress not perfection, but right now about half our men’s and women’s sweaters include recycled polyester, organic cotton and recycled nylon. Pretty proud of that.”

How should a sweater fit? “Typically, the best fit is one combining the right sleeve length, body length, shoulders, and cut,” says Deal “But most importantly, it needs to just feel comfortable.” Sleeves should end right at your wrist bone, and your body length should fall somewhere in the middle of your zip fly, unless it’s a cropped or tunic style. The shoulders of your sweater should rest on the edge of where your shoulder bend, and the cut of the sweater should gently hug either your body or your undershirt, if you wear one.

For a more casual sweater, go for a fit that’s closer to your body. If you’re layering, opt for a slightly looser fit, but don’t overdo it. “I love a big cozy sweater to wear around, but too much fabric isn’t flattering for anyone,” says Deal. “That’s why I love the cut of a cocoon or the curved hem because it gives you the extra room you want, but visually elongates your legs, draws the eye upwards and increases vertical emphasis. All the good stuff.”

Sweaters are the perfect middle ground between casual and formal. You can pair a sweater with blazers and slacks or jeans and a t-shirt. There are even sweater versions of your favorite cold weather staples, like the Sweater Hoodie. “You get the elevated look and super-softness of a sweater, but the functionality and casual feel of a hoodie,” Deal says. "It doesn't get much better than putting the two together.”

Throwing on a sweater isn’t just about warmth, either. “Sweaters are surprisingly versatile,” says Deal. “A men’s Shawl Collar Cardigan can be worn for work or play, dressed up or down, indoors or outdoors. Tunic length sweaters for women, like the Curved Hem Crewneck, can be worn with leggings or denim, dressed up or down with a simple switch-out of jewelry and shoes, making them great go-tos for travel or on-the-go days.”

As you navigate new adventures and begin to fill your calendar again for the holidays, we hope these tips offer some extra ease and comfort the next time you’re wondering what to wear or pack. “Knits have come a long way, especially lately,” Deal says. “Whether you’re looking for some extra warmth, style or just plain comfort, there’s a sweater for that.”