Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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The holiday season is fast approaching, and you’re just itching to bring that festive spirit to your office. The holidays are a time to let loose and have fun. But in the office, there can be a such thing as too much fun. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to celebrate while keeping it professional.

One of the easiest and most inclusive ways to get everyone into the holiday spirit is to hold an ugly sweater contest. Read on for ideas about how to throw the best ugly sweater party, find or create your own ugly sweater, and win the contest.

How to Create an Ugly Sweater Contest

How do you pull off a successful ugly sweater party at your office? While there may be some limitations such as budget and what is deemed office appropriate, you can still get creative and festive.

Ugly Sweater Party Invitations

The point of your party is to be as fun and goofy as possible, so make sure your invitations are aligned with the theme. For example, you could mirror Christmas cards by including a formal “family” picture of you and some coworkers, add mini sweater pictures or stickers, or include photos from last year’s contest if you held one. 

Make sure people know that they are expected to come in an ugly sweater and that there will be a contest and prize. Encourage creativity!

Ugly Sweater Party Decor

Source: Find It, Make It, Love It

Holiday parties often have similar decor: tinsel, mistletoe, lights...you know the drill. Why not really capture the theme with your decorations? For example, create sweater trees to hammer home the message. You can make them by drawing different-sized trees on cardboard, cutting them out, and covering the “treetops” with sweater material. 

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still have the Christmas lights, but this is just another way to keep the theme going.

Don’t forget to include a photo booth with plenty of themed props, such as Santa hats, beards, dreidels, and other holiday-appropriate odds and ends. You can easily make the background festive by covering it with wallpaper and perhaps adding in some of your sweater trees.

What to Give as a Prize

In addition to giving a real prize, such as a gift certificate to a local bar or restaurant, consider giving the winners a trophy or medal, too. Crown Awards has these ugly sweater medals and Trophies 2 Go sells these ugly sweater trophies that are just as tacky as the sweaters your guests will be wearing. 

Think about giving prizes to multiple colleagues by having different categories, such as the tackiest DIY sweater, funniest concept, or most original idea. Set up a ballot box for guests to vote on their favorites, and award the prizes to the recipients of the most votes.

Other Elements of an Ugly Sweater Party

This is a party, so make sure everything else is in place. Buy plenty of snacks and drinks. Make sure to check your office’s policy for alcohol at parties. These sweater koozies and bottle covers are a nice touch and complement your theme.

Don’t forget to have a festive, holiday playlist as well. You might also have games, such as a candy cane ring toss or pin the nose on the reindeer. If toasts are generally part of your office parties, schedule in time for those, too.

Where to Find Your Ugly Sweater

Ugly sweaters abound! Below is a roundup of some of my favorite online discoveries.

1. Laser Cat-Zillas Ugly Christmas Sweater

Source: Amazon

Don’t mess with these cats! This sweater embraces all kinds of cliches. It’s available on Amazon for $19.99+.

2. The Grinch Is My Spirit Animal Sweater

Honestly...same. This sweater says it all, and you can buy it for $29.36+ on Etsy.

3. Hanukkah Sweater

Source: Amazon

Who says Christmas has a monopoly on ugly sweaters? This Hanukkah sweater is just as tacky and ugly as any Christmas sweater. Get it on Amazon for $35.00.

4. Rudolph “Light Up” Sweater

Rudolph’s nose lights up on this sweater. ‘Nuff said. Etsy has it for $28.95+.

5. Festive Unicorn Holiday Sweater

Who doesn’t love unicorns—especially when they’re on this tacky-but-cute sweater? It’s $44.99 on ThinkGeek.

Where Else to Find You Ugly Holiday Sweater

If none of these sweaters is your cup of tea, plenty of online stores dedicate full sections to the art of the ugly sweater. Check out:

Think Geek

Etsy

Amazon

Tipsy Elves

Asos

Modcloth

...and more.

How to Decorate Your Ugly Sweater

Or go the DIY route! More is more when it comes to decorating your own ugly sweater. Use a sweater you’re not going to wear again or find a cheap one (Forever 21 and H&M have some for under $15), and hit up the craft store. Here are just a few ideas for making the tackiest sweater possible:

1. Tinsel Tree

Source: @Krissiewinkler via Instagram

You will need: a hot glue gun, tinsel, and bows, tiny ornaments, or candy canes

Glue the tinsel in the shape of a tree onto your sweater. Add bows, candy canes, or ornaments. 

2. Giant Bow

You’ll need: a hot glue gun and giant bow

Glue a giant bow to a sweater. Really, that’s all!

3. Stocking Stuffer

You’ll need: a hot glue gun and a stocking

Glue the stocking to the front of your sweater. For optimal results, fill the stocking with goodies and pass them out all night!

4. Pop-Out Reindeer Sweater

Source: Instructables.com

You’ll need: a plush reindeer and a needle and thread

Unfortunately, the first step to this is decapitating and dismembering a stuffed animal. But if you have the stomach for it, the effect is pretty cool. From there, just sew the pieces to the sweater across the stomach area.

5. Bottle Cap Sweater

You’ll need: plenty of bottle caps and a hot glue gun

Arrange the bottle caps in any shape, such as a tree or Star of David, across the front of the sweater. Then glue them to the sweater. You could also add other decorations, such as bows or tinsel if desired.

Tips for Winning the Ugly Sweater Contest

1. Be sensitive and appropriate. 

You’re having this party in your office, so it’s important to remember that even though it’s supposed to be fun, you also need to maintain your professionalism. Nothing that happens at this party should come back to haunt you, and that includes your costume. That means you need to avoid inappropriate outfits, such as those that bare too much skin or include any unsuitable language, or sweaters that might offend your colleagues by, for instance, mocking their religion.

2. Keep your audience in mind.

Perhaps you have a running inside joke with your colleagues or a certain way of doing things in the office. Find a way of incorporating elements of your office culture into your sweater. This adds a personal touch to your outfit and will make your coworkers smile (and vote for you).

3. Make it really ugly.

Source: Etsy

Sure, you want to be cute, but if you’re in it to win it, the tackier the better. That means going beyond just the sweater element and, for instance, adding some antlers, a pair of candy cane earrings, and maybe some crazy tights.

4. Involve the audience.

If you make your sweater interactive by, for example, attaching Christmas lights and a switch that people can turn on and off or offering treats from the stocking stuffer sweater described in the DIY section, you’re bound to win votes. 

For more ideas for making your office festive for the holidays, read 23 Company Holiday Party Ideas That'll Sleigh, The 36 Best Secret Santa Gifts for Coworkers at Every Price Point and The Best Last Minute Christmas and Holiday Gifts for Your Coworkers.