How to Wear All Knits, and Still Feel Chic

On a recent episode of the Love To Sew podcast, Caroline from Blackbird Fabrics mentioned that she sometimes feels underdressed or frumpy when she wears all-knit outfits. All-knit outfits are my fashion comfort zone, so that got me thinking: What makes an outfit “secret pyjamas”, and not just pyjamas? 

I’ve got a few ideas, and I hope you’ll contribute your own in the comments! I’m specifically thinking about cold-weather outfits, because it’s easy enough to throw on a knit dress in summer and be stylish, but layering is more of a challenge.


1. A Mix of Textures

I think this might be the most important strategy, and it’s one I’ve been working on incorporating this year. If I’m wearing a polyester ITY dress, I wear rayon leggings; if I’m wearing a textured knit like the far right dress, then I can get away with ITY leggings. I also have a few pairs of leggings in sweater knit that add a cosy look. I wouldn’t, for example, wear a rayon dress with rayon leggings and a rayon cardigan, because then the drape and movement is the same for every item. I like to mix it up!

I also look specifically for fabrics with texture, like the slubbed ITY the far left wrap dress is made from, rib knits, crepe knits, and so on. Texture often means the fabric has a matte finish, and I think that is generally more flattering and elegant!


2. Adding Accessories

Another way to add texture is with accessories! I like bright colours or shiny metals that add a reflective contrast colour to my outfit. Whether subtle or bold, I think jewellery says “I’m dressed for the day” instead of “I haven’t showered yet”!

As you can tell from all my outfit photos, I also love scarves, cardigans, hats, earrings and bracelets! A more adventurous dresser could shake it up with shoes and coats, but I tend to be pretty basic there.

define a feature

3. Highlight A Feature

To me, baggy shirt and baggy pants reads as loungewear. But if at least one body part is highlighted or defined, then it reads more as clothes! I enjoy a lower neckline in summer, but in winter I usually show off my legs or waist. This is personal preference though – you might like the oversized look, or prefer slim tailoring everywhere!

stable knit

4. Use a Stable Knit

When in doubt, a stable knit is your friend! A ponte, double knit, scuba or Liverpool crepe knit gives some structure to the garment, and usually some texture as well. I even like jegging fabric for this purpose – it’s stretchy but stable enough that it gives a smoother look than just a normal jersey!

fancy knit

5. Use a “Fancy” Knit

One of the reasons I almost never sew cotton knits is that they get fuzzy fast and look very casual to me. On the other hand, a knit lace, velvet, or metallic is comfortable but looks fancy! All three of the dresses above are made with my everyday TNT patterns combined with a special fabric to make a party-worthy outfit!

stretch woven

6. Mix In a Stretch Woven

Just because I love knits doesn’t mean wovens are bad – they have their place! I wear stretch jeans on any day I’m not wearing a dress and leggings, and I find them equally comfortable. I’ve got a few jackets in stretch denim and twill, and they are great too.

all knits header

Of course, if you love the feel of a woven, shine on and wear what you love. Ditto if you want to embrace wearing pyjamas or home clothes, and you don’t care about dressing up. Personally, non-stretch bottoms give me indigestion and restrictive tops give me a tension headache, so I love my stretchy wardrobe for work and play!

Do you wear a lot of knits? What are your strategies when you want to look pulled-together and chic in your secret pyjamas?

19 thoughts on “How to Wear All Knits, and Still Feel Chic

  1. I’m always on the hunt for good quality, solid colour, knits. Local fabric stores are misses most times. I haven’t ventured online yet as it seems expensive. What are some of your best resources for us Canucks?


    1. I like Earth Indigo for bamboo blend knits. L’Oiseau Fabrics is good quality as well. They’re definitely not as inexpensive as sources in the US, but they’re not insanely expensive (at least in the solid colours or stripes – the prints from L’Oiseau are a bit spendy for my budget).


  2. I love knits too and especially in the winter. Nothing like them 🙂 I put on my Toaster Sweater in this drapey, soft french terry yesterday and burst out to my husband, “I love this top so much I could live in it!” But if I’m going to “dress up” then I look to my silk tunics and fancy leggings.


  3. I’m always on the hunt for quality knits too. I usually wear knit tops to work because they don’t wrinkle. Where are your favorite places to buy? I’m in the US.


  4. I love knits but have a hard time knowing what knits to buy….ie, what knit is best for different patterns. I don’t have a store to buy apparel fabrics so I buy online and because I can’t feel it and see how it drapes or the sheerness of it I buy stuff I can’t use. Very frustrating! Would love some education on where to buy and what is suitable. I live in Arizona so our climate isn’t really cold. Just found your blog recently and really enjoy it.


  5. I also was struck by this episode! I’m currently taking an online class called Stasia’s Style School (it’s amaxing. Look up Stasia Savasuk on instagram; she is fantastic). And we are doing lots of talking about Style and how we want to show up in the world…and how we can wear “secret pajamas” that don’t LOOK like pjs! Definitely accessories, finding shapes and silhouettes that are flattering, color and pattern. I also love knits and definitely applying the general “rules” of fashion to those fabrics makes it work. And she also emphasizes that comfortable isn’t a good style word! “Of course your clothes are comfortable! Don’t wear them if they aren’t!”. Anyway I sound like a fan girl but I think that in the sewing community we get just as caught in those traps of thinking we can’t wear real clothes bc our occasion isn’t good enough or we don’t have time or whatever. And on the other side that if we are “comfy” we can’t also look good! I feel like you are one of the people who does such a good job with proving all those things wrong!

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  6. Your dresses are very chic. I LOVE the top left photo. That dress is gorgeous, the fit, the fabric, everything. I have a couple of knit dresses that are quite formal for work. They are really comfy though. I do think that the fit could be improved though (they are RTW) and after seeing yours I really must give it a go. You look fab in them. Xx


  7. I’m always so impressed with your use of knits! You always seem to look so pulled-together in them. I have around 10 knits in my stash, and no idea what to do with them. I can’t seem to find a knit pattern I love, and I can’t figure out why that is. I tend to like patterns with lots of fiddly bits, and things that feel unique, so maybe I’m less confident in my ability to find those things in a knit pattern? However, last night I pulled out a sweaterknit blanket and used the Blackwood cardigan pattern to make it into the very coziest sweater I’ve ever worn. Maybe I’m breaking out of my woven rut!


  8. As someone who is currently wearing a me-made t-shirt to work, I heartily endorse this blog post! I love wearing knit dresses, too, and I think that they can look super classy (while being super comfy to wear) if you choose your fabric wisely. Plus, it’s a lot easier to make things fitted in knits, due the nature of the fabric itself, so I often feel my knit dresses have a more tailored look than my woven dresses, which need a little more effort when it comes to sewing them to fit me precisely.

    Thanks for sharing all of your fabulous tips. 🙂


  9. “I think jewellery says “I’m dressed for the day” instead of “I haven’t showered yet”!” I agree wholeheartedly! Leggings and a knit tunic top go from couch to cocktails with the addition of a necklace. Looking good, lady!


  10. You clearly take your knit-wear to a higher level. Great fit and proportions with the right fabrics are also keys to making your wardrobe stand out. Good job.


  11. Great post Gillian. Your photos are fantastic!

    I think I’m a pretty equal mix of woven fabrics and knits. Jeans {woven} and a tee {knit}; leggings {knit} and a tunic {woven}…..

    My absolute biggest challenge with knits is finding them in the quality and colourways that I love. Fabricland’s knits are often muted, not clear tints or true colours that I’m drawn to. I’ve recently been tempted to order some knits online so I can get a great stripe or print.


  12. I don’t think of knits as particularly casual; a lot of my smarter clothes are knit fabrics 🙂 I agree that using matt textures and solid colours helps them read as more dressed up. But I love a bit of bling too. You are much more adventurous with prints and colour than I am though.


  13. I thought these were some great tips! I’m definitely less opposed to leggings and knit pants than I used to be, but all knit can go so wrong so fast. I don’t know if LuLaRoe clothes are as popular in Canada as they are in the States, especially among mom types, but they don’t seem to follow the texture rule at all and it’s just bad. (And really overpriced for what is essentially Espresso leggings and Ebony tees in really ugly prints, IMO. Plus you’ll have to pry my jeans off my cold, dead legs.)


  14. Question for ya (or anyone listening): this has got me thinking. Both of my classrooms are freezing, but I’m typically more comfortable in a skirt or a dress. An easy way to wear that but keep it warm is to wear leggings with it (like you do in some of the photos above with your tunics/dresses). Even with a slip, I often find that the leggings catch the skirt and start to make that unsightly weird skirt bunching in crotch area thing happen. Do you get this? How do you avoid it? (I did make my slip, so maybe I need to invest in one, but I did use lining material, which I have found stops the bunching on my lined dresses).


  15. I’m wearing a 100% knit outfit today! I followed your lead and made some DBP spandex leggings and OMG I never want to take them off! And any knit sewn in a Moneta pattern is chic IMO. Great “how to” post!


  16. Beautiful clothes And your post inspired me to admit, I teach for my knit me makes 95 percent of the time, they’re coZy, comfy and classic. And there’s nothing easier to layer with than a knit garment. Knit love over here:)


  17. My favorite fancy knit dresses are made from stretch velveteen (pretty much a sweatshirt knit with a pile on one side) and stretch lace underlined with rayon jersey. I also like neckline details like a faux wrap or knot/twist detail. Or colour blocking.


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