The Knit That Ate Manhattan: Gals Swathe Selves in Shapeless Woolen Wraps

Which is perhaps why the new sweater blanket received its ultimate endorsement in November, when Oprah Winfrey guest-starred on 30 Rock, appearing in a hallucination of protagonist Liz Lemon’s to discuss her “favorite things” of the year. “Sweater capes” were the first thing she mentioned, and Liz donned a mom-ish gray version later in the episode in homage. A look-alike can be found at Banana Republic for $46.99.

Meanwhile, at Club Monaco on Broadway one recent afternoon, a row of elegant gray and off-white cashmere wrap sweaters ($169) were hanging on a prominently displayed rack with thicker, black ribbed versions, the arms of which had been tied into demure knots on their hangers, as if to say “Brrrr!”

At Bloomingdale’s nearby, in the third-floor women’s department, chunky, shapeless algae-green wrap sweaters by the trendy label Vince hung with oversize, knee-length purple wool cape sweaters (very vampire chic). In lieu of buttons, they each had a single large safety pin. Even ultra-feminine Diane von Furstenberg was, to survey her sweater selection, readying her customers for an extended Afghan donkey procession; one neutral-colored, chunky, oversize camel wrap had elbow-length sleeves and tortoise buttons (all for $395). And drapey wrap sweaters by Theory were chunky, soft and gray, mostly thick cotton-wool blends, and cost $335. One version on the 40-percent-off rack was adorned with a fur-lined hood and toggles: A blanket disguised as a sweater disguised as a coat.

But the wrap sweaters require less frequent dry cleaning than coats and can be packed easily for traveling. They also offer a welcome counterpunch to fall 2008’s return to tailoring. Faced with the prospect of revealing their waists in snug pencil skirts, many women not surprisingly reached for their blankies.

“Everything is tending to get very extreme,” said Ms. Cho, who often wears her sweaters with nothing but cashmere leggings. “Whether it’s these very figure-conscious tight things or the opposite extreme, these enormous, huge-scale sweaters.”

She’s already designed several more for fall 2009: “these huge shawls that then become hoods, and re-positioning the belt loop so it almost has the idea of a kimono. I would have to say they’re just getting bigger.”

Ms. Gross of Anthropologie is also clinging tightly to the trend.

“I think this one has some longevity, I really do,” she said. “You don’t have any fit issues. You can hide all things and still look really attractive.”

mbryan@observer.com