You could go to a holiday party looking all svelte and glam. Or you could go looking like Mrs. Santa Claus.
Yes, just when you thought holiday apparel couldn't get any tackier, here it is: The Ugly Christmas Dress.
Now that a multi-million industry has arisen around the Ugly Christmas Sweater, Stein Mart, Beall's and other retailers are banking on the dubious notion that women will want to forego slinky for sack. The Ugly Christmas Dress is a shapeless albeit colorful piece of knitwear complete with collar, shiny buttons and faux belt. Just throw it on and you'll be ready for the holiday cookie exchange with Great Aunt Mabel and the girls in the bridge club.
The Ugly Christmas Dress was inevitable considering the enormous sums that have been spent over the years on Ugly Christmas Sweaters. Through extravagant combinations of sequins, sparkles and satin appliques, they can transform the wearer's torso into a Christmas tree with light-up bulbs or flamingos cavorting in Santa hats.
In 2014, the most popular Ugly Christmas Sweater featured Jesus with the words "Birthday Boy" stitched across it, Bloomberg reported.
Meri Barnes, head of business development at the company that owns the Ugly Christmas Sweater Kit, told Money magazine that sales have soared in recent years with the proliferation of Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and contests.
"If it's novel enough and sets (a consumer) apart, they're willing to pay," she said of the kits that sell for around $20. "I do think social media has definitely helped us."
At a Stein Mart in St. Petersburg last weekend, ugly sweaters were prominently displayed alongside the new Ugly Christmas Dresses, which were marked 30 percent off the $39.95 price. As of Sunday evening, most, if not all, of the dresses were still there.
Beall's featured similar candy cane-colored dresses for the same amount. And while it eschewed the dresses, T.J. Maxx offered men's tailored suit jackets covered with Santa Clauses and Christmas trees. Price: $45.
Judging from Christmases past and present, it seems that a lot of people love ugly holiday apparel. But not enough to keep them in their closets, apparently.
On eBay this week, plenty of sellers are trying to unload Ugly Christmas Sweaters — 649,840 of them to be exact.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at email@example.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate