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In Fashion, what is a Shrug?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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A shrug is a type of extremely short, open-fronted jacket with long sleeves. Most commonly, it is knitted, although other assembly techniques can be used to manufacture one. Since a shrug is relatively easy to make at home, some knitters prefer to custom design jackets, using distinctive patterns and wools. For the less craft-inclined, they are usually available in boutiques and department stores. A shrug is designed to fit snugly, so wearers should check for fit and make sure that it will not shrink when washed.

Wearing a shrug helps to keep the arms and upper torso warm, and for women who are shy about their upper arms, it allows them to wear stylish sleeveless or strappy dresses while remaining comfortable. Other women wear them over evening gowns to prevent catching cold, as many such gowns expose a large part of the back in addition to the arms. The shrug insulates the body to prevent the wearer from catching cold, and also looks fashionable, showcasing most of the garment being worn. When traveling to events, many women wear longer evening coats to stay warm until they enter the public eye.

A knitted shrug may resemble a radically shrunken sweater. Any type of yarn can be used, ranging from silky mohair to chunky novelty yarns designed more for looks than warmth. As a general rule, it can be created as a single knitted garment, with the knitter starting at one wrist and working his or her way across to the other wrist. Many are knit in a lacy pattern, although warmer shrugs are made with thick yarns and tight stitches.

In some cases, a knitted shrug may blur the line between a jacket and a shawl, with a more loose, flowing fit. It may also use a large, floppy shawl collar, to enhance the neckline or provide additional warmth. Knit shrugs are extremely popular, and they are relatively easy to make, making them excellent projects for knitters who are trying to build on basic skills.

It also possible to crochet a shrug, or to fabricate one from textiles like velvet, brocade, cotton, linen, or silk. Lightweight textiles may be used to create one that is suitable for keeping off a summer chill, while heavier fabrics are intended for cooler evenings or night time formal events. One made with a textile may also be beaded or embroidered.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a BeautyAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon356430 — On Nov 24, 2013

Does anyone have the answer as to when shrugs were introduced to the fashion industry?

By anon140668 — On Jan 08, 2011

A true shrug is a pair of sleeves connected with a strip of fabric that when worn covers the back. It is not an extremely short jacket open fronted jacket. A shrug could have one or two buttons for example at the very top, but no bottom.

The definition seems to have been stretched, but a short jacket, open or not, is a bolero. It drives me crazy we're losing the distinction because there is no way to tell people what you are looking for if they don't understand the difference.

By heart297 — On Aug 31, 2010

TwistedTwig- Yes, it is possible to buy shrugs online. Most retail stores such as Old Navy and the Gap allow you to purchase clothes online. Many retail stores sell shrugs.

You can also do just a general Google search. Search by the term 'buy shrugs' and a lot of options will pop up.

By TwistedTwig — On Aug 31, 2010

MuffinMaker- Thank you for that clarification.

Is it possible to purchase shrugs online?

By MuffinMaker — On Aug 31, 2010

It is true that many types of shrugs do have long sleeves. However, shrugs with short sleeves are becoming more popular. These shrugs are still usually open-front type jackets that are knitted.

Short sleeve shrugs are ideal for the summer months. Many people pack a shrug in their bag when going to the beach. That allows them to put something over their swimsuit or tank top when going out to dinner or going to a formal event after their day at the beach.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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