By Alissa Lawton Special to Published Dec 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM

'Tis the season for some amazingly hideous holiday sweaters. You know them in an instant. Typically found only in fire engine red or jet black, these sweaters announce themselves before they enter a room, "I'm here! With bells on... literally." Some make noise, some flicker with the glow of battery operated lights, and some don't even need sound or light to make their point.

Cheesy Christmas sweater parties are quickly becoming the best way to celebrate the holidays with your friends on a cold winter's night. Because while they may be sins against fashion, sweaters are warm and therefore perfect for Wisconsin in December.

I attended my second cheesy/ugly holiday sweater party last weekend. And as I expected it would be, it was a blast. Unlike most, I don't buy a new sweater each year. Last year was the first sweater party I'd ever been to and even though I scoured the racks at thrift stores and department stores, I never found a cheesy sweater that really spoke to me. So I opted to head to Wal-Mart and try another idea. I found a really cheap, simple sweater dress, then headed to the arts and crafts department to find every bit of holiday magic I could. For roughly seventeen bucks, I had a truly unique design.

Everyone over the age of thirteen should have a hot glue gun. If you manage not to give yourself third degree burns first, you can make some pretty awesome projects in lightning fast speed.

I diligently sat on the floor for an hour and bedazzled my sweater with ribbons, plastic snowflakes and snowman patches. It was beautiful and disgusting all at the same time.

Every year I'm just going to add more holiday charm to my sweater until it's so weighted down with crap I can't physically wear it without falling down. Then I'll start all over again.

This year I also went all out with a cheesy hairdo. I figured a Snooki Poof would compliment my sweater perfectly along with a thick bow headband. You can't tell all that well in the photos, but that thing was big. Still can't figure out how to get it as high as Snooki herself though. The hair, the headband, the sweater, black leggings, jingle bell earrings and boots and I was ready to sing Santa Baby at the top of my lungs.

The party kicked off at 8ish at The Village Pub in Shorewood. I know I've mentioned this establishment at least once before but it's a favorite stop and they always treat us well.

Walking in when much of the party hasn't shown up yet is always a little scary. You want to make sure everyone knows that you're totally joking, but considering even Boston Store sells utterly nauseating sweaters AND PEOPLE BUY THEM! I walk in with a disclaimer on my face. "No, no, no, this is a joke. I would never set foot outside in this thinking it was an acceptable outfit."

I get that wearing a sweater with a huge Santa Claus face on it, or huge sparkly snowflakes or tons of cardinals on pine bows really drives home the message that you are indeed excited about the holidays. So much so that you had to express it in pictures. I lived through the eighties; I was born into an era of terrible fashion.

I love parties like this. It's like going to a school where you have to wear a uniform. Everyone looks stupid so you just get to concentrate on having fun and catching up. If you haven't ventured into the world of ugly/cheesy holiday sweater parties, I highly recommend the experience. But you'd better shop early because the growing popularity of these get-togethers means the best (the most outrageous) sweaters leave the thrift store shelves before you can say, Puffy Paint. Have fun! Happy Holidays!

Alissa Lawton Special to

Alissa grew up on the near west side of Madison and had childhood dreams of being a veterinarian. Instead she moved to Milwaukee to attend college and attained a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from UW-Milwaukee. Previously an advertising copywriter and a marketing specialist, Alissa always preferred the writing aspect of her career.

An animal lover, a shoe lover and a white wine lover, she now resides on the much beloved East Side of Milwaukee in what she describes as an ancient apartment building full of character, but lacking sufficient electrical outlets and the convenience of an elevator.

To some she comes across as a shy wall flower, to those that know her much better she is a social butterfly, usually overdressed and wearing inappropriately uncomfortable shoes for nearly every occasion. Either way you choose to see her, Alissa has a strong desire to bring awareness to the social issues in our city while maintaining a sense of humor about herself and surroundings.