Marinette first got the idea when Nino and Alya were discussing an ugly sweater contest Nino's cousins had been a part of. Adrien had been completely perplexed with the idea, having not ever owned anything designed to look bad.
"The sweaters don't look bad, necessarily, they're just really over the top," Nino explained, showing Adrien the photos he had on his phone. Adrien let out a laugh and grinned as he scrolled through the photos. "Some look awful, though. It's a really fine line."
The topic was dropped then as class started, but Marinette couldn't get Adrien's grin at the sweater photos out of her mind.
"Marinette, isn't it a bit warm to be designing sweaters?" Alya asked, completely perplexed as she peered at Marinette's sketchbook. "Are those ugly sweaters?"
"One ugly sweater," Marinette corrected. "I haven't decided on a design yet. Would it be too much to have two different designs for the front and back?"
Alya looked more closely at the sweater designs. "Don't tell me this is for Adrien- it is?" she practically shrieked as Marinette nodded. "Really? He'll love it no matter what, I'm sure."
"I just don't know what he likes," Marinette groaned. "I know what he does, but any of his actual interests? Not a clue."
"He likes puns," Alya volunteered. "Also cats, but that's not great for a Christmas sweater. I think you know his favorite color-"
"Of course you know it. Um, no pigeon feathers."
Marinette groaned at the memory. "No feathers."
Alya's suggestions gave her some ideas though, and she sketched out a quick tree with several cats curled in the branches, and one batting at a precariously perched star on the top of the tree. Maybe most of the ornaments would be blue- no, too obvious. There could be lights around the collar, bottom, and cuffs. She could slip in some blue there, too-
"Adrien is a huge Ladybug fan," Alya added, ignoring Marinette as she froze. "He had the Ladyblog up last time I was there, and he was in such a hurry to close it that he apparently forgot that his computer background was of Ladybug."
That particular bit of information was doing very funny things to Marinette's insides. She squashed the feeling down and sketched a couple small ladybug ornaments on the tree. Maybe she could have one of the cats batting at one- a black cat, maybe? With green eyes and a blue collar with a gold bell? It would be very cute. And maybe instead of that cat being in the tree, it could be playing with the ornament in the snow under the tree. There could be a couple presents under the tree- or should she not? Adrien never mentioned how his Christmases went, so maybe they were just as bad as his birthdays. She scribbled a question mark next to the presents she had sketched in. Maybe she could do some snowflakes as filler.
"Are you going to start making that right away?" Alya asked curiously as Marinette continued scribbling, pulling out her colored pencils and filling in her most recent sketch.
Marinette shook her head. "I might start cutting some of the decorations, but I don't want to make something now and have Adrien outgrow it before Christmas!"
"That might be a problem," Alya admitted. "Nino told me that Adrien was complaining to him that his photo shoots are taking forever because his clothes don't fit right anymore. I don't know how he can possibly be growing again, he's already so tall!"
Marinette's mind flashed to Chat Noir. Her partner had been getting steadily taller than her and seemed perpetually puzzled about what he should be doing with his extra height. Thinking of her partner reminded her that Alya had mentioned Adrien liking puns, and she scribbled down a couple ideas next to her drawing
Have a Purr-fect Christmas!
Have a Paw-some Chirstmas!
Alya cackled in amusement. "Those are great! I'm sure Adrien will love it," she assured Marinette. The designer grinned.
Three months before Christmas, Marinette had the Christmas tree and the cats all finished, and the letters for Have a Paw-some Christmas! cut out. She wanted to wait until November to filch Adrien's measurements from Nino. She had already picked out her embroidery threads and other possible decorations for the sweater, plus the black fabric for the sweater itself and pattern pieces that just had to have final size adjustments.
"I don't think ugly sweaters need to be exact, Marinette," Alya said as soon as she saw the pile of sweater stuff in Marinette's room. "They're supposed to be a bit loose and roomy. Besides, I'm sure Adrien will want to wear it for several years."
"That's true," Marinette admitted. "I just wanted to wait and make sure he wouldn't have a crazy growth spurt during November of something."
"Nino said Adrien said he's stopped growing, so I got his measurements," Alya said triumphantly, waving an index card at Marinette. "I'd say just give an extra inch or so at the bottom, and maybe a bit it the sides? Christmas sweaters aren't very fitted anyway, are they?" She laughed. "What am I talking about, you're the designer, not me. I'm sure you know exactly what to do."
Marinette grinned as she took the card. It was not creepy to know Adrien's measurements. She was a designer.
...knowing the exact measurements of his legs was not entirely necessary, though. In her defense, she had only requested for the upper body measurements.
A week later, Marinette set to work on the sweater. It came together quickly at first, then went more slowly as Marinette got to the embroidery work. It glittered as she added golden buttons for ornaments and embroidered snowflakes with metallic silver thread. Adding accents to the lights along the edges with metallic thread only made it shine even more. It was the most over-the-top, obnoxious thing she had ever made.
She was making this for Adrien, the boy who had grown up around fashion. Was she crazy?
But then she remembered his wide grin at the pictures of Nino's cousins in their ugly Christmas sweaters, and she pressed on. There were a lot of ugly sweaters on the market that were a lot less tasteful than the one she was making. It was over-the-top in a funny way.
Marinette pressed on.
The Christmas season was coming up fast again, and with it, all of the holiday cheer. Marinette spent an entire Saturday evening decorating the bakery and helping her parents frost the first few batches of Christmas cookies. The sweater, finally completed, was wrapped in glittery blue paper with Adrien's name on it. All she had to do was actually give it to him.
"Christmas is in thirteen days," Alya told Marinette cheerfully. "And Adrien is looking a little underdressed for the season..." She wriggled her eyebrows meaningfully.
It was true- the model's black winter sweater was more suited for a funeral than for the cheery holiday atmosphere that had invaded the school. Several members of the class were already outfitted in red and green clothing, some in 'ugly' Christmas sweaters. Even Chloe was wearing a white and gold sweater to class.
"You have to give it to him soon, Marinette," Tikki said after school, zipping around Marinette's head as she stared at the package. What if he hated it? "It's very pretty! Crazy without being ugly! I think it's very nice."
"I don't have to tell him it's from me, right?" Marinette wrung her hands together. "I mean, as long as he likes it, that's what matters, right?"
"But Marinette! You worked so hard on it!"
Marinette couldn't respond, still twisting her hands.
Tikki looked at her human. "I'm guessing he'll probably ask who made it, so you could tell him then," she suggested.
"I could." Marinette let out a long breath. "And I did sew my signature on the sweater."
"In pale gold on white snow! He'll never see it unless he's looking for it."
"...He's got an eye for detail?" Marinette suggested weakly. She shook herself. "Look, Tikki, I'll just go early and put the gift on his seat or something, or I'll never work up the nerve to give it to him. If he wants to know who gave it to him, then I'll tell him. But I just wanted to make him happy."
"If you say so," Tikki sighed. "But he can't possibly be that scary, Marinette! He seems very nice."
Phase 1 on Get The Sweater To Adrien was going smoothly. Marinette woke up to an early alarm, got her breakfast, and was in her seat before anyone else came in. She sent a text to Alya saying it was too cold to wait outside and she would meet her in the classroom. The neatly wrapped sweater went on Adrien's seat, after a solid three minutes of deliberation on if he would notice it or not. Just in case, she slid the package over enough so he wouldn't accidentally sit on it.
The class filed in slowly. Alya came in six minutes before the bell and spotted the package within moments.
"You're not going to give it to him in person?" Alya asked, surprised. "They're on their way and will be here soon, so if you're going to change your mind, do it fast."
"This is good," Marinette insisted. She was already getting nerves in her stomach, even though she wasn't actually handing the sweater to Adrien in person.
Soon enough, a familiar blonde head appeared in the doorway and once again, he was devoid of all Christmas cheer. She dropped her eyes to her sketchbook as Adrien and Nino got closer, watching Adrien from under her eyelashes.
"Dude, there's something on your seat," Nino said immediately, pointing to the package. "It's got your name on it, too!"
"Really? Something for me?" Adrien sounded genuinely excited. He pulled it towards himself. "It doesn't say who it's from, though."
"Open it! Maybe there's a clue inside." Nino scooted over in his seat to watch as Adrien unwrapped the gift carefully, trying not to tear the paper. "Can't you go any faster than that, dude?"
Next to Marinette, Alya was inconspicuously recording the whole thing.
Adrien finally got all of the tape slit and was carefully opening the package. He let out a loud gasp and sat straight up as he pulled the sweater out of the package. "Oh my god! This is amazing! I love it!" He draped it over his desk so he could look at it better, a huge smile splitting his face. "Have a Paw-some Christmas! And look at the cats! And the ladybug ornaments! And the snowflakes are so pretty!"
Alya sent an I-told-you-he'd-love-it look at Marinette.
"And there's accents on the lights!" Adrien paused in his gushing for a moment. "I don't understand why these are called ugly Christmas sweaters- this is so cool!" Adrien shrugged out of his normal jacket, giving Marinette a view of deliciously toned arms before he pulled on the sweater. His head reemerged from the top with ridiculously tousled hair and a wide grin as he continued to inspect the sweater.
"But there's no note?" Nino asked, poking through the paper. "That's odd...unless..." He threw a glance up at Marinette, then looked at Alya for confirmation. The redhead nodded enthusiastically. "How long did it take to make that, Marinette? There's so much detail!"
Adrien spun around immediately, eyes latching onto the blushing designer. "This is from you, Marinette? I should have known, your sewing is impeccable! I love it!" He positively bounced out of his seat to swing around the desk and squish Marinette to his chest in a tight hug. The visible part of Marinette's face flared bright red. "It's gorgeous! It must have taken forever for you to do!" He released her to step back and admire the sweater again. "The cats are adorable! Thank you so much!"
Neither of them could stop smiling as Adrien wore the sweater for the rest of the day, then the rest of the week, then the next week even as school let out on break.
And a year later, he dug it out again.