Perry Ellis Knitwear

For years (around 30 actually) I have admired Perry Ellis clothes for their simplicity of line and elegance of look. Since then I found out a bit about Perry Ellis, the man.

But I was unaware of his knitwear designs until last week. After I posted my Perry Ellis dress several knitters of my generation or thereabouts, aware of my new found interest in knitting, told me to take a look.  So here is what I found. Ellis designed knits for both women and men, and while some of the shapes and colours are a bit full on today (maybe even “vulgar”), I think they work marvellously as outfits – matched with long, tweedy skirts, culottes or pleated trousers. Simple, classic sweaters – ften with one cabled column up the CF, cropped or pulled in with a belt to emphasise the waist, blousey shapes with batwing sleeves or fuller shoulders – again to emphasise the waist, and in monocrome to provide clarity of line and textural detail.

But while these monochrome and neutral schemes are restrained and beautiful Perry is also known for his bold use of colour. Look at these! Stripes created by unevenly dyed variegated wool, blocks of geometric colour, and the amazing Queen of Hearts tabard style sleeveless jumper also show the designer’s interest in colour and motif. Again I like the styling of these items. The rusty jumper is matched with toning, pleated tweedy pants, and the tabard has cropped pin stripes for a nice contrast. The darker section of the queen’s dress over the model’s middle, and the flattering curves up towards the bust, and down towards the hips, is unlikely to be accidental. The long line geometric jumper is voluminous and colourful. But by pairing it with a long line, hobble skirt, neat ankles and footwear, it stands out in a good way. Tasteful.


Finally let’s have a look at the jumpers that Ellis designed for men. Many of the designs are classics and look very acceptable for today. Below we have a colour work jersey in various shades of brown and purple that looks colourful and fun, and a nice challenge for the wife or mother. The other two jumpers are almost identical to beige woman’s sweater above, and the cropped purple one. A simple cable up the front, nice ribbing and a chunky yarn. Very wearable for all.

Having done this review I have been looking around for a Perry Ellis knitting pattern and I have ordered this Vogue book which I think may include the batwing, cropped cable.

In the meantime I found  two “Perry Ellis” sweater patterns that are free for you to download. Neither are actually designed by Ellis – Mark Jacobs, who took over the studio after Ellis’s death, was responsible for the 1980s version. The first is the 1990 Vogue knitting version, which is great but rather warm and chunky, and then we have a 2011 version which is lighter and more of an evening sweater. After Stephanie suggested she is going to produce jumpers inspired by her beloved Canada, I have been thinking of creating something similar with a London skyline.

17 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    This is so interesting. Thanks for the education. I guess because I was a teenager during the 1980s I wasn’t looking at these styles and so I had absolutely no idea what Perry Ellis knitwear looked like. I like the skyline sweater, too, and it gives me a push to try to come up with something that is maybe more abstract than I seem to be capable of, design-wise. 🙂 Have fun with that sweater.

    • Stephanie

      Kate you probably saw this but I popped by the Vogue knitting site and saw that others have done free, downloadable versions for Seattle and Chicago. I thought the Seattle one was particularly well done. You might find it interesting to compare to the NY one as you design your London skyline graphic.

  2. Sam

    Like Stephanie, I was a teenager during the 1980’s, so although I remember some of these looks I wouldn’t have connected them with Perry Ellis. The first photo – the black and white one – is so perfectly 80’s that it brings a huge smile to my face. Chunky knitwear and long skirts – I lived in that look!

    I do love the updated version of the skyline sweater and despite my dislike of knitting colourwork I am very tempted to give it a go.

  3. Joyce Latham

    Another wonderful post. I too really like the skyline ones…..are you searching for a knitting machine?….so many ideas..and thanks again for all this great information and links.

    • fabrickated

      I have, of course, considered a knitting machine Joyce! I may sign up to a knitting machine class first to see how I get on. But I am wary of cluttering up my new space with equipment. Maybe something to be thought about when I retire. Have you ever had a go on one?

    • fabrickated

      Knitter’s Twitch? I have never heard that before, but it is a great description Kim. I know I have it. Even slightly look forward to boring car journeys and meetings so I can do a few hours with the pins….

  4. Lisa

    Wow. I love this post. I didn’t know about his knitwear but it looks great. The skyline jumper is lovely but my favourite is the purple outfit – what a great look.

  5. SJ Kurtz

    I can see me taking on the Seattle skyline one. I have about one more sweater in me, and a hometown one with the Space Needle on it would fit the bill.
    The Queen of Hearts and the shorter version of the geometric one next to it were the designs that made me learn to knit. My intarsia was rubbish, and I threw the geometric one away – a friend of mine finished the Queen and wore it to bits for years. I think it’s a pillow now.
    After a couple of Bohus projects, these seem super super simple…

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