Fair Isle is a knitting technique that combines two or more colours to create a distinctive pattern. It gets its name from an island in Shetland just north of Scotland. I also think of Fair Isle knitwear patterns as Norwegian and Icelandic, so very Nordic.
We see Fair Isle knitwear every season because its a classic. From time to time, classics have their fashion moment and are also on-trend. That’s happening with Fair Isle knitwear at the moment. So right now it’s a Trendy Classic. I enjoy when classics are put on a trendy pedestal because it creates a more diverse and less fickle world of fashion.
Fair Isle knitwear comes in many colour combinations and fabric compositions. You’ll also find Fair Isle sweater dresses, hats, socks, hosiery, leg warmers, vests, pyjamas and gloves. Typically the pattern is positioned around the yoke and shoulders of the item. Sometimes the pattern covers the body of the item or is repeated on the sleeves. Sleeves silhouettes are often raglan and necklines are high to best accommodate the distinctive pattern around the yoke. Take your pick.
Fair Isle pullovers can sometimes be bulky, boxy and too long, so pick the fit wisely and make sure it’s just flattering enough. The yoke detailing and high neckline can accentuate a large bust and broad shoulder line. But again, if you choose the pattern, level of contrast in the pattern, and fit wisely, you’ll offset those visual challenges. Contrary to popular belief, raglan sleeves do not accentuate broad shoulders. Their magical diagonal lines narrow a broad shoulder and widen a narrow shoulder, so raglans work on all of us.
Fair Isle has been thought of as overly classic, Preppy, juvenile, heavy, masculine, too much pattern, or too après-ski. I don’t have those negative associations. I see Fair Isle knitwear as a classic that can create fun outfit juxtapositions when combined in interesting ways. Or simply wear it like a classic with jeans and boots. I’m liking Fair Isle pullovers semi-tucked into trendy jeans and high-waisted pants. I like the cropped versions untucked. I also like them with high-low midi skirts.
I currently have two Fair Isle pullovers. The cream is several seasons old, and the watermelon is brand new. They’re fun to wear with my assortment of high-waisted jeans and white boots. I semi-tuck the watermelon Fair Isle to lengthen the leg line from the hips upward and to give the oversized silhouette some structure.
We’ve talked about Fair Isle a few times over the years, and there was always less love for it than I expected. I wonder whether this will change now that it’s a Trendy Classic and widely available. Do you like and wear Fair Isle?