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There are some trends that feel utterly alien until you see them enough times and suddenly they make sense. This happens all over the worlds of fashion and interiors but for me (as an embarrassingly sincere lover of knitting) it is particularly marked in the world of fibre makers, artists and designers.
For example, the balaclava trend was all over knitting and crochet social media before it took the high street by storm in late 2021. Young Scandinavians were commissioning their mates to make (or making their own) detachable hoods in 2020, similar to the ones they were wrapped up in as children. Before long, brands like Acne and Paloma Wool were releasing their own and the trend train was off. The same path (from independent makers to high end brands to high street) has been seen with sweater vests, statement collars and bibs. As more people – particularly younger people – took up the crafts, they found innovative ways to create, style and switch up traditional pieces.
Which is how we ended up with the bodiless jumper.
The terminology isn't fully established yet – some call it a 'super crop' and I've seen others called 'shrugs' or 'boleros', and even 'arm warmers'. But I think 'bodiless' best captures the energy of these designs: they are all sleeve, joined across the clavicle with a crop that barely skirts your chest, designed to be worn as a layering piece. Independent knitwear designers and makers tell R29 they have been whipping up their own versions of this design, which play with colour, texture and weight, for a couple of years now. Josefine Dyring, a Danish handmade knitwear and pattern designer, first designed her 'no body sweater' last year and says it has been particularly popular among her younger followers.
"I made the design one year ago but I see now how my followers are more ready for it now than back then," she tells R29. "More and more young people have started knitting and this shape is especially popular among my young followers."
Alice Hoyle from Rows Knitwear (behind the particularly popular Bug Hood) designed her croissant cardigan, a slouchy pair of sleeves, to be as comforting as it is deliberately styled. When it comes to the appeal, Alice says: "I think it’s the feeling of wearing a slouchy comfort jumper but having your outfit underneath exposed. It’s playful and allows for a lot of styling experimentation."
Evvia from Loupy Studio agrees but adds that the real genius is that it won't leave your shoulders cold:
"I think that it gives all of the positives of a cardigan without constantly falling off your shoulders! I love having a layer that I can throw on over every outfit, then go cycling/shopping/dancing and know that it’s secured at the neck. I’ll often transform mine into a scarf without even needing to take it off."
What unites this style is its versatility: it is perfect for summer evenings and those weird, warm-but-not-warm days that make up so much of the British weather. It is also an easy layering piece that allows you to actually show off your outfit. It just so happens that it can be hard to wrap your head around it at first.
That said, the idea of a bodiless (sleeveful?) jumper is not new new.
For those, like me, who first explored fashion during the early 2000s, the style is very reminiscent of the bolero thrown on to head Into Town and the shrug you would wear over a lilac satin slip dress at your aunt's wedding. This is particularly apparent as it is now being worn and styled by Bella Hadid, the reigning champion of unlocking early fashion memories for twenty- and thirty-somethings.
Then there are the versions more likely made of jersey or stretchy material. Reminiscent of activewear, they've been seen on celebs like Dua Lipa and Charli XCX as well as in the streetwear space.
But the knit version is specific. It's chunky and scrappy and often colourful. It is a playful take on an otherwise established piece and well on its way to becoming a mainstay both in slow fashion and on the high street.
If you're looking for your own, you can of course buy one – but making it would be far more fun.