Norse Code: Four Fair Isle Pieces for Fall

Posted on October 06, 2014, 10:00 am
7 mins


Revisiting the past and reinventing it in a fresh way is an integral part of how fashion evolves. There is a saying that once you have worn a trend in the past, it is best not to repeat it the future, but I must disagree. Things may come back from a past decade, and they almost always have a fresh new approach. I loved my Fair Isle sweaters back in the day—haven’t thought about them since they “went away”—and now I covet this look as it gets reintroduced to a whole new audience.

Fair Isle, for those of you such as myself that like a little background on design, is a knitting technique used to create patterns with multiple colors and is named after a tiny island in the north of Scotland. It first gained popularity in the 1920s and is a classic look that has more often than not been considered a bit preppy or even stodgy. It hints a little of normcore to have designers embrace this traditional pattern this season—until you actually see the pieces and their nontraditional shapes.

For Fall 2014, Fair Isle pieces popped up on runways from rag & bone and Emilio Pucci to Tommy Hilfiger and Burberry. I have found that both the fast fashion and the high fashion arenas have incorporated this look into everything from slouchy beanies to lovely skirts and accessories. As always, it is up to you in how you interpret trends into your wardrobe, so matching the classic look of Fair Isle with unexpected pieces—e.g. leather pants—keeps the look fresh and modern. Here are four of my favorite Fair Isle pieces for this fall:

Norse Code

Sweater dressing is a big trend this fall, but can be intimidating because of the body-con look that comes with some of the pieces. The Fairisle Sweater Skirt from Anthropologie is a long, lean skirt that clings in a flattering yet subtle way without seeming tight. I love the Obi belt I bought in Paris several years ago, so when they reappeared on the runway recently at the Independent Fashion Designer Awards I was ecstatic. Add this wallet-friendly leather ASOS Obi Waist Belt and top with the Equipment Lucien Zipper Detail Striped Sweater—a cool contrast to the skirt. It is boot season again (hoorah!) so how about a rocking pair of Jimmy Choo Dart Moto Boots with buckle embellishments and shearling inside. We have so many talented jewelry designers in this area, so complete this look with the simple beauty of the Maja Arnold Design necklace and a gorgeous stack of Joanna Morgan’s Sterling Silver and Gold Vermeil Balls Bangles.

Norse Code #2

Fair Isle sweaters can sometimes appear dangerously close to the bad Christmas sweater look, so I went in search of one that had an edgy update. This Adam Lippes Fair Isle sweater from Net-a-Porter, with its cozy wool and cashmere blend and high-low hem, makes me kind of bitter that I gave away something similar years ago. Anyhow, this gorgeous sweater paired with these Genetic Los Angeles Shya Skinny Pants has a bit of an après ski appeal for the city girl, especially when you elevate your look with strappy heels. Stuart Weitzman Truelove Black Strappy Sandals are great until the winter weather hits, and then you can trade them for a pair of short boots. The accessories that you add to your outfit always get the last word, so these Thierry Lasry Clear Sexxxy Sunglasses are just the right touch. These shades have handmade frames in transparent acetate, gold arms tipped in black, and tobacco smoke gradient lens—super cool. I am in love with gloves this season, so these groovy Intermix Fringe black leather driving gloves are perfect. And of course the Furry Monster Feather Clutch by Sondra Roberts is so cozy and charming you just have to have it. Or at least I do.

Norse Code #3

The Kenzo Vintage Fair Isle Knit Skirt is another great fall piece that is very versatile. Step away from the obvious on this one and add the beautiful silk DVF Harlow black blouse underneath a stand out metallic jacket. This RtA Metallic Leather Biker Jacket is uber chic and unexpected. Short boots are seasonless and very of-the-moment. I like the rag & bone Harrow Boot in Slate Nubuck. And speaking of stand outs, Mia Fioravanti, who was in the recent Independent Designer Runway Show (IDRS), has a gorgeous cowhide shoulder bag that is so cool. It is on my must-have list for fall. Keep jewelry simple but different, with Lauren Wolf Large Stud Earrings.

Norse Code #4

And finally, you don’t have to wear a sweater or skirt to have a little Fair Isle fun. A fun beanie or a pair of long gloves, like these Jonathan Adler Bobo Fair Isle Popover Gloves, can show a little bit of the trend with a more avant-garde look. The winner of the 2014 IDRS, Silvae, makes a Sabine Wrap Jacket in gray ombre that is utterly beautiful. I paired it with a pair of black Humanoid trousers from Totokaelo and these rock star Alexander Wang Nathan Oxfords. And of course, I am a big fan of Paychi Guh, so her Contrast Scarf, with a bit of distinct red against the burgundy of the Cos Pleated Top, makes magic happen.

Lisa Cole is the fashion and style writer for Vanguard Seattle, and her work includes covering fashion news and events, runway shows and boutiques. She has her own fashion and lifestyle blog,, and is a member of Independent Fashion Bloggers and Fashion Group International.