Knives Out (2019) is currently in theaters and is drawing a lot of attention from knitters who like their knits warm and their murder mysteries cold-blooded. Costume designer Jenny Eagan used knits liberally throughout the film, not only because the film is set during the New England winter but also to set the tone; the comfy knits contrast the suspenseful tension of the storyline.
The loudest reaction swirled around Ransom’s (Chris Evans, Captain America) Aran sweater. R. Eric Thomas even wrote an excellent thirst article about this epic sweater for Elle.
Good costume design has the effect of telling you a lot of information about a character before they’ve even said a word. An Aran sweater of this complexity is a fairly high-cost item, even when it’s commercially made. I count no less than 13 panels of Aran patterning on the front piece alone; this is not a sweater you’re going to pick up at Walmart. This is how the wealthy get cozy.
But look closer. The sweater has holes. The wrist cuffs are frayed. On a grizzled old fisherman, the wear would give off the sense of a sweater that is well-worn and well-loved. On a rich pretty-boy with a trust fund and a smirk, it speaks of arrogance and neglect. This sweater is a treasure! A potential heirloom! He probably drops it on his bedroom floor and night and walks on top of it until the butler picks it up for him. Or, *gasp!* throw it in the washer and dryer! Which is exactly the impression that Eagan intended. “He’d grown up privileged and used his money to buy fancy cars, to buy fancy clothes, but you could tell that he didn’t necessarily appreciate those things,” she said in an article by the Hollywood Reporter. She used a Dremel and sandpaper to create the look of years of knitwear abuse carefully.
Twitter has been bleating (pun intended) about this sweater, making #ChrisEvansInASweater a thing. Even Jaime Lee Curtis recognizes its power.
And the official Knives Out twitter account decided to celebrate the sweater’s popularity.
A fan-made pattern is in the works, available as an open Google Doc.
Compare The Sweater to Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas, Blade Runner 2049) and her simple, colorful scarf.
Marta, Harlan’s nurse, is one of the only not-moneyed characters in the household. Her style is much more simple, with sensible tennis shoes and roomy cotton pants. But the real star here is that oversized scarf. I can’t find a clear enough picture to work out the stitch pattern. It looks like a kind of chunky moss stitch, something understated that adds bulk and visual interest, without being over-complicated or ostentatious. The mismatched lengths of the colors, seemingly chosen at random, give the scarf a look like it was made from leftover yarns in the knitter’s stash. Even the fringe is made up of scraps from the different yarns.
It’s serviceable yet cheerful, a spot of whimsy in this dour and proper home. And while it hasn’t garnered the level of attention of The Sweater, it works just as well at being the exact right accessory on the exact right character. Of the costume choice, Eagan said, “I believe it gave her a real sense of youth and kept her connected to an outside world … she was a little more relaxed than most of [Harlan’s] children and grandchildren, which I imagine was a bit of a relief for him.”
And, unlike the daunting Aran patterns of Ransom’s fisherman sweater, it already has a finished fan-made pattern.
Knitwear telling stories
There are a few other notable knits that add layers (pun intended again) to the action on screen.
See the sweaters worn by Donna Trombley (Riki Lindhome from Garfunkle and Oats) and her son, Jacob? Donna’s is a soft but refined blue with a left-leaning cable, while Jacob’s is a stark white with a right-leaning cable. The cables create a suggestion of opposites between the two characters. The sweater worn by Walt Trombley (Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water) is of a honeycomb pattern, which is complex, but less so than the intricate Aran. The honeycomb has less pop, less texture, and the dark color subdues the design. As Eagan said, Walter “tries, but just misses the mark.”
This is one of the best movies of this year for the serious knitwear stan. Is there anything cozier than wrapping yourself in knits, a warm beverage in hand, and a movie about murder in snowy New England? If there is, I don’t want to know about it.