33+ DIY Ugly Sweater Contest Ideas For Christmas 2023

I have some fantastic, unique DIY ugly sweater contest ideas to make your Christmas 2023 celebration more fun and memorable. These ideas are accessible and affordable and allow you to let out your creative side. So read on to find the perfect ugly sweater idea for you.

ugly sweater contest ideas

What Is an Ugly Sweater Contest?

An ugly sweater contest is a popular holiday tradition where people wear intentionally tacky, over-the-top, or outrageous sweaters to celebrate the festive season. Among different Christmas contest ideas, the ugly sweater contest has become a favorite for its silly and playful nature. 

Do you know the origin story of Ugly Sweater Contest? The origin story of the Ugly Sweater Contest dates back to the 1950s when Ugly Christmas sweaters first gained popularity alongside the mass commercialization of Christmas. Originally known as “Jingle Bell Sweaters,” these garish garments were initially considered fashionable.

Fast forward to the present day, and we have a dedicated day to celebrate these outrageous sweaters. National Ugly Sweater Day falls on the third Friday of December each year. On this day, people across the nation swap their everyday attire for festive and over-the-top ugly sweaters. This year, National Ugly Sweater Day will be celebrated on December 15th, 2023.

These contests often involve prizes for the most creative, unique, or ugly sweater. It’s a fun and lighthearted way to get into the holiday spirit with friends, family, or coworkers. The goal of an ugly sweater contest is to create the most exaggerated, outrageous, or unique sweater that stands out from the rest.  

33+ DIY Ugly Sweater Contest Ideas For Christmas 2023

I have found some amazing theme for ugly sweater contest ideas. Check them out below.

#1. Jingle Bells Jamboree

Add a lively touch to your ugly sweater with a cascade of colorful jingle bells. Not only will this create a visually striking effect, but the bells will also provide audible charm wherever you go. Show your festive spirit by making your presence known with every step you take!

#2. Garland Galore

Garlands aren’t just for decorating homes; they can also add flair to your ugly Christmas sweater. Choose a holiday garland that fits your style, and attach it in a creative pattern on your sweater. This idea adds color, texture, and a distinct holiday vibe to your attire.

#3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Embody the most famous reindeer of all with a Rudolph-themed sweater. Use fabric paint or felt to create Rudolph’s face, and don’t forget his iconic red nose! A three-dimensional effect can be achieved by attaching a real red bauble for the nose.

#4. Santa’s Workshop

From elves to toys, Santa’s Workshop encompasses all things Christmas. Create your sweater to reflect this holiday element by using fabric paint, felt, or even iron-on transfers to display elves, toy trains, dolls, or workshop tools. Let your creativity run wild with this one!

#5. Frosty the Snowman

Frosty the Snowman is a classic holiday character that everyone loves. A sweater designed with Frosty’s smiling face, complete with a top hat and a bright red scarf, is sure to attract attention. Make Frosty’s features with fabric paint, felt, or sew-on appliques.

#6. Christmas Light Delight

There is nothing more representative of the holiday season than Christmas lights. Design your sweater with a series of Christmas lights, possibly even using small LED lights for an illuminating effect, and win the contest with style!

#7. Toy Train Trail

Turn your sweater into a toy land with a charming toy train trail. Use felt or fabric paint to create a train filled with gifts. It’s a cute, joyful idea that echoes childhood Christmas memories.

#8. Winter Wonderland

A winter wonderland scene with snowflakes, snowmen, and perhaps even a tiny sled can transform an ordinary sweater into a gorgeous holiday statement piece. White fluff or cotton can simulate snow for an attractive 3D impact.

#9. The Nutcracker Suite

Apply the classic Christmas Nutcracker theme to your sweater. This could involve a design featuring key characters from the story: the Nutcracker, the Mouse King, and Clara. Enhance the look with tiny ballet shoes for a unique twist.

#10. Fireplace Frenzy

Create a cozy scene of a roaring fire on your sweater using felt, fabric paint, or stitch it with wool. Add a Christmas stocking or some gifts near the fireplace to complete the setting.

#11. Jolly Snow Globes

Snow globes are quintessential Christmas items. Impress everyone by designing your sweater with different snow globe scenes. Use glitter for a magical, snowy effect inside the globes.

#12. Christmas Pudding Extravaganza

Take inspiration from the delicious Christmas pudding for your sweater design. A big, central Christmas pudding made from brown felt and topped with faux holly could make for a great, dynamic design.

#13. Candy Cane Collision

Candy canes are a staple during the festive season. Use this sugary sweet as inspiration for your contest entry. Attach real candy canes or make them out of felt and place them in various directions to create a fun and visually interesting pattern.

#14. Ugly Christmas Sweater Tree

Transform into a walking Christmas tree with an ugly sweater featuring a decorated tree design. Use colorful pom-poms, felt, or fabric paint to create ornaments and a star on top. It’s a unique idea that’s sure to stand out.

#15. Holiday Pet Parade

Include your furry friend in the fun by creating matching ugly sweaters for you and your pet. Dress them up as reindeer, elves, or even Santa himself. Not only will this idea be adorable, but it’s also sure to earn you some brownie points with the judges.

#16. Christmas Countdown

Make a sweater featuring a countdown to Christmas. You could have pockets with numbers 1-25, and each day leading up to the holiday, you can move the corresponding number to the front pocket. It’s interactive, fun, and practical.

#17. Gingerbread House Getup

Turn yourself into a walking gingerbread house with this creative idea. Use felt or fabric paint to create a gingerbread house design, complete with candy canes, gumdrops, and other sweets. Also, don’t forget to add a chimney on the back for added detail.

Read also: Gingerbread house ideas for contest

#18. Mistletoe Magic

Spread some holiday cheer with a mistletoe-themed sweater. Use felt or fabric paint to create sprigs of mistletoe all over your sweater. It’s sure to spark some conversation and maybe even kiss you from someone special!

#19. Festive Food Frenzy

Embrace the holiday season by designing your sweater with all kinds of festive food. From turkey to ham, mashed potatoes to eggnog, there are endless possibilities for this tasty idea. You may also include recipe ingredients for a fun twist.

#20. Toy Soldier Nightmare

For those who prefer a darker, more unconventional approach to the holiday sweater contest, a toy soldier nightmare design is perfect. Use black fabric paint or felt to create a spooky, militaristic feel, and add red accents for an eye-catching contrast.

#21. Ugly Hanukkah Sweater

Don’t leave out those celebrating Hanukkah! Embrace the festive spirit with an ugly sweater featuring the Star of David, menorahs, and dreidels. Use blue and white felt or fabric paint to create a design that represents this special holiday.

#22. Awkward Family Photo

Everyone loves a good laugh, especially during the holiday season. Design your sweater to look like an awkward family photo, complete with cheesy poses and matching outfits. It’s sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face.

#23. Seasonal Scavenger Hunt

Create a fun and interactive sweater by designing it as a seasonal scavenger hunt. Use fabric paint to depict various holiday items and have people try to find them all. It’s a unique idea that will keep everyone entertained.

#24. Emoji Explosion

Emojis are a staple in modern communication, and now they can be a staple in your ugly sweater contest entry. Use felt cutouts or fabric paint to create popular holiday emojis like Santa, Snowman, and presents. It’s a fun and trendy way to celebrate the season.

#25. DIY Pattern Palooza

For those who prefer to make everything from scratch, create a DIY sweater featuring different patterns and textures. Use different materials like yarn, pom-poms, buttons, and fabric to create a unique and eye-catching design. 

#26. Carol Karaoke

Add musical notes and lyrics to popular Christmas carols. Use fabric paint to create scenes and lyrics from the song, and maybe even include a sound chip that plays a snippet of the tune. You may add some designs of your favorite carol singers to complete the look.

#27. Festive Fair Isle

The traditional Scandinavian knit pattern, known as Fair Isle, is perfect for a festive holiday sweater. Use bright and cheery colors like red, green, and white to create a cozy and classic design that will surely impress the judges.

#28. Personalized Portrait

Put a fun twist on the typical portrait sweater by designing it with caricatures of yourself and your loved ones. To do so, you can use fabric paint or felt cutouts and include personalized details like hobbies or favorite holiday traditions.

#29. Movie Marathon Madness

There are so many classic holiday movies to choose from. Why not incorporate them into your sweater design? Use fabric paint or felt cutouts to feature iconic scenes and characters from beloved films like “A Christmas Story” or “Elf.” It’s a fun and nostalgic idea.

#30. Tacky Traveler Tribute

For those who love to travel, create a sweater featuring all the places you’ve visited during the holiday season. Use fabric paint to depict landmarks and add details like passport stamps or travel quotes. It’s a unique way to remember your adventures and celebrate the holidays simultaneously.

#31. Christmas Game Night

Bring festive fun to your sweater by designing it as a game board. You can use fabric paint or felt cutouts to create different games like tic-tac-toe, hangman, and more. It’s a clever idea that will surely capture everyone’s attention. Some trending games like Among Us, GTA, PUBG, etc. could also be included.

#32. DIY Something New

Don’t limit yourself to just the above theme. Get creative and come up with your own unique idea for a holiday sweater. It could be anything from a cozy fireplace to a winter wonderland scene. The possibilities are endless, so let your imagination run wild! 

#33. Nature-inspired Nostalgia

Embrace the beauty of nature by designing your sweater with a winter wonderland theme. Use fabric paint or felt cutouts to depict snowy landscapes, majestic evergreens, and other elements of the great outdoors. It’s a serene and nostalgic idea that will surely stand out.

#34. Retro Vibes

Take it back to the past with a retro-inspired holiday sweater. Use bright and vibrant colors, bold patterns, and groovy fonts to create a design reminiscent of the 60s or 70s. It’s a fun and funky idea that will surely make an impression.

How to Run an Ugly Sweater Contest?

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to run an ugly sweater contest:

  1. Choose a date and location: Decide when and where you want to host the ugly sweater contest. Remember, you can host this contest both virtually and in person at home or the office. Consider choosing a weekend or evening so that more people can attend. 
  2. Set the rules: Decide on the criteria for judging, such as creativity, originality, and overall appearance. Also, determine if there will be any prizes for winners.
  3. Spread the word: Promote the contest through social media, flyers, and word of mouth to attract participants.
  4. Gather supplies: Make sure you have all the necessary supplies for the contest, such as a stage or designated area for contestants to showcase their sweaters.
  5. Plan entertainment: Consider incorporating holiday-themed music or games to entertain guests while waiting for judging results.
  6. Have a panel of judges: Choose a panel of judges who will be responsible for selecting the winners based on the predetermined criteria.
  7. Host the contest: On the event day, have contestants showcase their sweaters and allow time for photographs. Then, have the judges deliberate and announce the winners.
  8. Award prizes: Hand out prizes to winners and consider giving out small participation gifts to all contestants.
  9. Spread the joy: Encourage guests to take photos and share them on social media using a designated hashtag to spread the holiday spirit even further.

Check out the below video content for more detail explanation on ugly sweater contest ideas.

 How to Pick the Winner of Ugly Sweater Contest?

If you run an ugly sweater contest, here are some tips on how to pick a winner:

  1. Have a panel of judges: As mentioned before, having a panel of judges will ensure that the winner is selected fairly and based on predetermined criteria.
  2. Consider public voting: You could also allow guests to vote for their favorite sweater anonymously. This adds an element of fun and involvement for everyone.
  3. Use a point system: Assign points for different categories such as creativity, originality, and overall appearance. The sweater with the highest total score wins.
  4. Have multiple winners: If there are many impressive sweaters, consider having multiple winners in different categories to spread the love and recognition.
  5. Keep it fun and lighthearted: Remember, an ugly sweater contest is all about having fun and celebrating the holiday season. Keep the judging process lighthearted, and don’t take it too seriously.
  6. Consider a special prize for the ugliest sweater: In addition to overall winners, consider having a special prize for the ugliest sweater. This adds an extra layer of humor and playfulness to the contest.

15 Prize Ideas for Ugly Sweater Contest

So, since you are hosting an ugly sweater contest this Christmas, you should know what to give to the winner. Here are some ideas for prizes:

  1. Gift cards to a popular store or restaurant
  2. A basket of holiday goodies and treats
  3. Customized ugly sweater trophy or medal
  4. Movie theater tickets for a festive film
  5. Personalized ugly sweater ornament
  6. Christmas-themed board games or puzzles 
  7. Ugly sweater-themed coffee mugs or bottles
  8. Cozy winter accessories like socks or gloves 
  9. A festive holiday candle set 
  10. Ugly sweater-themed socks or slippers 
  11. Gift certificates for a spa day or massage 
  12. Funny and festive holiday-themed books or journals
  13. An experience, such as tickets to a holiday event or activity 
  14. Customized ugly sweater apron for the kitchen 
  15. Donation to a charity of the winner’s choice in their name. 

Why Should You Host a Ugly Sweater Contest?

There are many reasons why hosting an ugly sweater contest can be a fun and enjoyable experience:

  1. It brings people together: An ugly sweater contest is the perfect opportunity to gather friends, family, or coworkers and celebrate the holiday season together.
  2. It adds humor and lightheartedness: With all the stress and pressure that can come with the holidays, an ugly sweater contest adds a sense of humor and lightheartedness to the season.
  3. It promotes creativity: Hosting an ugly sweater contest encourages people to get creative and use their imagination in designing their own unique sweaters.
  4. It spreads holiday cheer: An event like this brings joy and laughter, spreading the holiday spirit to all those involved.
  5. It can raise money for a cause: Consider charging an entry fee or accepting donations for a chosen charity as part of the contest. This adds an element of giving back and doing good during the holiday season.
  6. It’s a great bonding activity. Whether it’s with friends, family, or coworkers, hosting an ugly sweater contest is a fun way to bond and create lasting memories.

Overall, hosting an ugly sweater contest is a great way to have fun, spread joy, and celebrate the holiday season with those closest to you. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your own ugly sweater contest today! Happy holidays! 


Now you have a detailed idea of the different aspects of hosting an ugly sweater contest. From planning and promoting the event to picking a winner and awarding prizes, you are all set to host a successful and fun-filled competition. Remember, the most important thing is to have fun and spread holiday cheer with your loved ones. So, gather your supplies, choose a date, and let the ugliest sweaters win!

Julia Nancy
Julia Nancy

I have vast experience arranging online voting contests for hundreds of clients worldwide in the last 8 years. I also helped countless clients to win their online competitions. Here, on royalvotes.com, I am just sharing knowledge from my experiences. If you need any help regarding the online contest, email me at julia@royalvotes.com