By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
Ugly sweaters have become a fad during the Christmas season.
There are parties with ugly sweater contests.
Businesses may have an Ugly Sweater Day.
Some may wear one just for the heck of it.
Yes, many people – both young and old – will have an opportunity to wear the most hideous looking sweater they can find once or maybe even twice during the holidays.
Not Crystal Tipton.
She has over 100 ugly sweaters.
And beginning the day after Thanksgiving break, she wears one to her classroom at St. Anthony Grade School every single day until the school lets out for Christmas vacation.
“This year we had 19 school days, so I needed 19 sweaters,” Crystal said.
Honestly, who has 19 ugly sweaters hanging in the closet? That’s unheard of.
But for Crystal, the number needed is not an issue.
The difficulty is selecting which 19 to wear.
She lays them out on the floor, arranging them from most mild to most wild. She has multiple colors and a variety of looks from Santa to reindeer to candy canes to Christmas lights in a variety of patterns scattered across the front of these garments; none of which you will see proudly displayed in any store.
To be fair, some of her sweaters are only borderline ugly. But others are just down right dreadful. A case could possibly be made that they shouldn’t be seen in public.
But Crystal loves wearing them. It’s her thing.
And all the ugly sweaters and zany outfits do nothing but help foster the spirit of Christmas in her classroom and throughout the school.
She teaches health for kindergarten through third grade and P.E. for kindergarten through eighth grade. She also coaches the junior high and high school softball teams for St. Anthony.
“I love seeing the reaction from the kids and even the parents,” Crystal admitted. “I’m told when the kids wake up in the morning, they ask their parents – ‘I wonder what Mrs. Tipton will be wearing today?’ This is fun for me and, hopefully, for the students, too.”
Crystal has been wearing the ugly sweaters to school for several years. She actually has tubs in her attic at home filled with Christmas sweaters, turtlenecks and other holiday clothing.
“I do lay them all out and plan which ones I’m going to wear each year,” she said. “I try to make each year unique. And I save the cream of the crop, the most hideous, most obnoxious ones for the last week of school before the holiday break.”
In addition to the sweaters, she also goes as characters or dressed in a full costume once in a while. This year, she was a nutcracker doll and Buddy the Elf. She saved the Buddy look for PJ Day. That particular ensemble included onesie pajamas. No further questions were asked about that attire.
For Candy Cane Day, you guessed it. Her outfit included pretty much a body-sized candy cane on the front. In the past, she has gone as the Grinch and Willy Wonka. One of her outfits even included hot-gluing Christmas presents to the top of her shoes.
And who can forget that special Christmas dress completely covered with many, many faces of Santa Claus from top to bottom?
Yes, many of her outfits are memorable. Others are difficult to describe.
Crystal has had a love affair with Christmas since she was little girl in Toronto, Canada.
“For Mom and I, it was our favorite time of year,” she admitted. “We were a Catholic family so the birth of Jesus was always the most important thing.
“Overall, Christmas in Canada is pretty similar to here,” Crystal added. “We decorate a lot. In fact, I used to put up the Christmas lights around the house because Dad was scared of heights. I also liked laying under the Christmas tree and looking up at the lights. I have always loved Christmas lights.”
That’s not an exaggeration. She leaves Christmas lights up in her classroom year-round.
Crystal came to the United States after graduating from high school. She received a scholarship to play softball at Galveston (Texas) Junior College. She then transferred to Blackburn College in Carlinville to complete her college education.
That’s where she met her husband, Jon. They now live in Teutopolis with their two daughters – Alyssa, 8; and Brooke, 7.
“I think I rub off on the rest of my family,” Crystal noted. “The girls are at the age they think all of this is fun. They really buy into it. I hope that continues and they pass it on to their children someday.
“Jon just kind of shakes his head at me,” she added. “He wonders how I can turn everything into Christmas. He’s an electrical engineer with Ameren and he wore an ugly sweater to work one day. I was so proud of him.”
Crystal admits she is always on the lookout for ugly sweaters or unique Christmas clothing. But she won’t disclose where she finds them.
“That’s a secret,” she quickly responded. “I can’t reveal my sources. Then everyone would wear the same things I do.”
She did admit that Pinterest has provided some inspiration, plus she has had success at some resale shops.
“I’m looking everywhere I go. If I see anything that’s ugly Christmas, I’ll pick it up and wear it.”
It’s clear Crystal genuinely looks forward to the holidays and has plenty of Christmas spirit to pass around.
“I hope I help the kids pick up that spirit,” she said. “I know this is a crazy, busy time of year. Hopefully, coming to school and seeing me wear a goofy outfit, makes them smile and gives them a little extra holiday cheer.”