Style·Back in Time

Get the look: Cozy sweaters and knit layers of the 1940s

This week's Back in Time for Winter inspires smart (and warm) mixing and matching.

This week's Back in Time for Winter inspires smart (and warm) mixing and matching

For this week's debut episode of Back In Time For Winter, the Carlson family went back in time to Northern Ontario in the 1940s. That meant: no modern technology, enjoying only decade-appropriate foods and wintertime activities, and immersing themselves in the decade's cultural touchstones and social norms. Finally, each family member's wardrobe was curated to highlight the conventional styles and trends of the austere, and sometimes turbulent, decade.    

In the '40s, cold and drafty houses were common — many Canadian homes were poorly insulated, and heated using labour-intensive coal and wood — and for this episode the Carlsons donned the practical winter layers typical of the era, which were crucial for both function and warmth at home. There were muted colours, fabrics made with natural fibres such as wool and cotton (nylon wasn't widely available, and polyester had not yet arrived in Canada), and heavy cardigans and homey knit tops and tights to layer. 

Want to wear your own '40s-perfect knit? Here are three stylish pieces to help you get the look today.

The heavy-gauge cardigan

From a sweater vest for dad to patterned cardigans for mom and two of the sisters, the ultimate cold weather must-have for the Carlsons this week was a thick, heavy-gauge sweater that looks hand-knit and a little homespun. To get the look, pick a wool or cotton button-up in a muted, almost neutral shade that would look great layered over your shirts and fine knit tops. Bonus points if you can find one in a simple geometric print, classic handknit pattern or with charming plastic buttons.  

Women's Jewel Button Jacket, $49.90 (on sale for $25.99), Zara

Women's Weekend Max Mara Muscari Cardigan, about $434 (on sale for $260), Matches Fashion

Women's Cotton Emporium Cable Cardigan, about $80, Nordstrom

Men's Polo Ralph Lauren Slim-Fit Cable-Knit Wool And Cashmere-Blend Sweater Vest, about $326, Mr Porter

Girls' Treasure & Bond Cable Cardigan, about $67, Nordstrom

The fine-knit tops

Smart layering is a great way to keep warm during Canadian winters, especially without the help of modern technical fabrics and highly-insulated parkas. Start with soft, fine-knit wool tops in neutral hues such as camel, beige and burgundy that can be worn solo or under a favourite cardigan. Look for styles with embroidery, knit collars, or other neckline details to add a charming touch. 

Women's Bow Knit Sweater, $59.99, Mango

Women's Solosix Sunday Collar Sweater, about $247 (on sale for $124), Garmentory

The warm tights

For the Carlson daughters, the easiest and most economical way to stay warm amidst the drafts and chill of a typical 1940s home was to wear thick, insulating tights (or thigh-high socks) under every dress or skirt, even indoors. Pick up a wool pair with a pretty cable pattern to cozy up to.

Kids' Cable Tights, $14.95 (on sale for $11.99), Gap Kids

Women's Ribbed Tights, $17.99, H&M


Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.

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