Cashmere Sweaters with Everything

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I love the feel of soft, warm sweaters against my skin. But I didn’t always. Winter sweaters next to my skin, especially worn under a heavy coat or jacket, used to make me squirm. I have memories of buying lovely winter sweaters, of wearing them for the first time under my winter coat, and only getting halfway to work before I started to itch. That’s before I understood the difference between wool and cashmere. Wool against my skin drives me nuts. Cashmere? Well, that’s a whole other thing.

Cashmere doesn’t make me itch. I don’t have to wear a cami or a blouse or a turtleneck under a cashmere sweater. I can wear it next to my skin and it doesn’t drive me crazy. In fact, I love cashmere sweaters. And I love them with everything.

This is the cashmere sweater I bought from Uniqlo just before Christmas. I’d been looking for a light-weight, cashmere, crew-neck sweater for ages. In fact my shopping goal in the fall was to find a few light-but-warm-ish pieces to wear under my tweed jackets and winter coats. I had such good luck with the navy cashmere turtleneck I bought last year from Uniqlo; it’s soft and cosy, in a relaxed cut that’s not too tight at the bottom. I thought it was a great buy at under $100.00 CAD. This sweater, though? Even on sale it was… well… not such a great buy.

Uniqlo cashmere sweater, Max Mara tweed skirt, Stuart Weitzman over-the-knee boots. Vintage scarf.
I love the colour of my new sweater. Just not the quality.

Uniqlo clothes are made small. Every Uniqlo piece I own (my down vest, my down jacket, my cashmere turtleneck, and now this sweater) are all size extra-large. They offer extra-extra large too, which is better than other fast fashion brands. And, if you measure carefully, the on-line sizing charts, which include measurements for the length and width of garments, are bang on. When I ordered my turtleneck last year, I measured the width and length of sweaters I already owned for comparison, and that worked out fine. But this sweater is a disappointment. The cut is a bit weird, the armholes are huge, and fit oddly. The quality, in the long run, remains to be seen. But it’s starting to pill already after only four or five wearings. I’d not buy another.

Still, I love the colour of my new sweater, and I have been wearing it. I wore it to a couple of casual parties and to dinner with friends, with my Rag and Bone navy and cream checked pants, and my burgundy Paul Green loafers. (similar pair here in red.) I love the purple with navy and cream, and with my burgundy loafers. I was surprised how much I loved the purple with burgundy.

And this week I’ve been loving the purple with chocolate brown tweed.

I tried the sweater with my old tweed Max Mara skirt suit. I bought this suit back at the turn of the century. It’s my Y2K suit. Remember all the palaver over Y2K?

Uniqlo cashmere sweater, Max Mara tweed skirt and jacket. Stuart Weitzman over-the-knee boots, Paul Green ankle boots. Vintage scarf.
Splitting up the suit makes it more casual, and less like work-wear.

I’m wearing my sweater here with a skinny, animal print scarf wound around my neck twice, tied, and tucked into the neck of the sweater, like an ascot. I tried the skirt from the suit with my Stuart Weitzman suede and leather over-the-knee boots. (similar pair here.) I like this look. I’d wear this with my cream down jacket. But to be honest, it’s been a few years and a few pounds since the year 2000. I’d have to have the skirt let out a pinch first; it’s too tight. I can’t actually get the zipper up all the way. A bit of walking and that baby would be down around my knees. Still… the cashmere and the soft tweed are kind of luscious together, aren’t they?

Then I tried the tweed jacket from the suit with my Frame high-rise, boot cut jeans and my Paul Green ankle boots. I added a vintage brooch to the lapel of the jacket. I like this outfit too. Good for going out to lunch. Or maybe meeting the girls for a drink and supper. But not today.

Frosty morning on the Rideau River, Ontario.
Frosty morning on the river.

Because… here’s the thing. It’s freezing out there this morning, people. Beautiful and sunny, with steam rising from the river where the current is too strong for ice to form. And very chilly. The temperature today calls for wearing my big down coat. So, although I love my old Max Mara tweed, and I love it with the sweater, the jacket is quite bulky, and doesn’t slip easily under my coat. And the snow is deep enough to require tall boots. So I tossed the jacket and swapped the ankle boots for my Stuart Weitzman suede over-the-knee boots. The better to be warm and able to wade snow, my friends.

Chilly day outfit. Frame jeans, Stuart Weitzman boots, Uniqlo cashmere sweater, Zara down coat. Hat and scarf vintage.
Warm and able to wade snow in this get up.

And because I’m already sporting a little animal print, I hauled this old hat out of the cupboard. I love this hat. It was my very first vintage hat purchase back in the eighties. Clearly handmade by somebody, it’s flat on the top and made of brown felt, with a three inch wide piece of leopard trim sewn around the top. It fits snugly on the back of my head, like a pillbox. The one time I wore it I got all kinds of weird looks, and I never wore it out in public again. But I’m kind of thinking that the time has come again. If older women these days are getting gussied up in all manner of flowing, quirky kimono-ed, multi-braceleted, oversized-maxi-coated, combat-booted outfits… I mean, I ask you… why not a leopard-trimmed pillbox hat?

Chilly day outfit. Uniqlo cashmere sweater, Zara down coat. Hat and scarf vintage.
I have a soft spot for this very old, leopard trimmed hat.

But, of course, I digress. We were talking about cashmere sweaters, weren’t we? I don’t love my new sweater. I’ll wear it as much as I can, until it inevitably starts to look tatty. I might be surprised, but I don’t expect it to last like some of my other sweaters. Guess I got what I paid for this time.

Chilly day outfit. Frame jeans, Stuart Weitzman boots, Uniqlo cashmere sweater, Zara down coat. Hat and scarf vintage.
I like this sweater, but I don’t love it.

This afternoon while I was writing this post, I did some reading about cashmere. I found an interesting article in The Business of Fashion about the growing cashmere sweater market, and the advent of “cheap” cashmere. Apparently the less expensive cashmere garments are made from shorter fibres, which cost less, but pill much more easily, and don’t last as long as garments made from long fibres. I’m wondering if that’s why this Uniqlo sweater is not measuring up, when my pricier lilac cashmere sweater from Vince is still going strong, pill-free after several years.

The BoF article also mentioned two brands that are new to me: Cuyana and Naadam. Cuyana apparently has very good “premium cashmere” garments, at prices that are less than most “premium” brands. This was according to an article in Business Insider which rated the “best” cashmere sweaters. The same article rates Naadam sweaters very high for “sustainability,” saying the cashmere is “ethically sourced,” and well priced.

Chilly day outfit. Frame jeans, Stuart Weitzman boots, Uniqlo cashmere sweater, Zara down coat. Hat and scarf vintage.
Who says I can’t wear a leopard print pillbox hat?

Here’s a selection of cashmere sweaters I found on-line today. I think any of these sweaters would satisfy an ethical shopper. I’m intrigued by the $75.00 Naadam sweater on the left. It comes in all kinds of colours, and I like the loose fit. The grey Everlane crew neck cashmere was voted “best overall cashmere sweater” in that Business Insider article I read. The black “Recycled Cashmere” sweater from Cuyana is made in Italy. BoF says that Italian cashmere sweaters are among the best in the world.

So that’s my tale of cashmere sweaters, folks. I searched, I found, I bought, and now I will live to regret that purchase. Probably. I still love cashmere. With jeans, with dressy pants, with skirts, with leopard print, with down coats, with tweed or without tweed. I love it with whatever I own, it seems. But it has to be a cashmere I love for itself to begin with. And I’m sorry to say that my new Uniqlo sweater does not engender that kind of love.

Ah well, shop and learn, I always say. Shop and learn.

How about you my friends? What are your feelings about cashmere?

P.S. The clothing links in this post (except for the Uniqlo one) are affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking my link, I will earn a commission.

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49 thoughts on “Cashmere Sweaters with Everything”

  1. Uniqlo can be hit and miss. I had good luck with a cashmere jumper I bought from them several years ago but one I bought a couple of years ago was thinner, doesn’t fit as well and is more inclined to pill. Clearly, and sadly, there’s been a drop in standards! I’ve had more consistent luck with Uniqlo’s short and long sleeve cotton t-shirts. While I love the feel of cashmere and also merino wool, I can’t wear either without a long sleeve t-shirt underneath. As well as preventing itchiness, wearing a cotton layer underneath means the jumpers don’t need to be washed as often. Which is a big help because I hand wash all my wool and cashmere things. My machine has a wool cycle but I’ve never used it – hand washing gives great results, the garments wear better and definitely last longer. Very handy in these times of lower quality clothing.

    1. I’ve never had the courage to use the delicate cycle for my really good sweaters. Even with my fairly new washing machine. I always hand wash my good sweaters. I figure I’d rather be safe, and spend the extra time, than be sorry.

  2. Uniqlo was a favorite of mine when we lived in Seoul,
    Korea. The quality was good given the price point, and it was one place where I could find clothes to fit. That said, the cut and sizing were definitely meant for the Asian women. I think that even though they have expanded into Western markets, this is still true. Even when the sizing is right, the proportion is sometimes just a little off. Waists too high or low, shoulders too narrow, sleeves too short, etc.
    Quality is another issue. It is inconsistent. One year it’s great, the next year not so good. I still shop Uniqlo for tshirts, linen shirts and down vests/jackets as I have found these items to be the most consistent in sizing and quality. Their cashmere has been tempting but I’ve never liked the fit of the sweaters on me. Most have a ribbed hem which is unflattering to my mid section. 😉😉😉

    1. I was a recent convert to Uniqlo. We don’t have a Uniqlo store here in Ottawa. So while I’d read about them, the first time I saw their product was on a trip to New York City in 2016. At the time I wasn’t too impressed; I thought most of their clothes looked cheaply made. Then a blogger I respect raved about the Uniqlo down vest and I ordered one on-line for myself and loved it. So I agree with you… it appears that not all of their products have the same quality.

  3. I’m disappointed to hear that about Uniqlo. It seems expensive to me, and I’ve gotten only a couple of things there but I thought they were better quality than other options.
    I have two sweaters I bought in Kathmandu in 1988. They are handmade from yak hair and are very warm and very itchy. My big guns for big cold.
    Otherwise, I have some silk sweaters that have that unbulky, fine feel and that have never pilled after very many years, although they have faded a bit (fixed with some dye last year). Cashmere has seemed too fussy and too expensive, but I would love to get at least one sweater.

    1. I like silk sweaters very much,too.Have two of them for quite a while,but didn’t find any of them recently.Please,have you any ideas? Thank you
      Dottoressa

  4. I don’t have a Uniqlo near me which is sad because, as a short woman, they fit me well. Plus I love walking round their shops, so soothing. However, I am off to London in a couple of months and will definitely take time to hop to Oxford Street (much as that pains me) and see what is what. Cashmere…I tend to run from it…a combination of price and suspicion that I may well turn it into a tiny version of itself with the first wash. My tolerance for hand-washing is small. Wool and I are happy friends, fortunately. Which is not to say that I have not had some tricky conversations about my ability to make adult jumpers turn into clothes for my teddy.

    1. I gave a couple of cashmere sweaters to a young colleague once and they kept getting smaller and smaller each week. Finally I asked her and she said she was putting them in the washing machine every time she wore them. Made me laugh, actually.

  5. I love that mauve colour & it really suits you . I have a few cashmere jumpers but I’m fine with any wool . First time I wear it , come winter, it’s a little scratchy but soon settles . I’m a fan of merino but there isn’t so much of it around these days . In your pics I found myself distracted by your bookcase . I’m very nosey when it comes to people’s bookcases 😀

  6. I had a Uniqlo cashmere but after a couple of seasons got rid of it due to excessive pilling. I now stick to merino. Uniqlo merino is ok for the price but I have found Cos knitwear, merino and cotton, to be excellent. The knitwear is a little more expensive than Uniqlo but worth it for the quality. I have a few pieces that are three years old and look as good as new after quite a lot of wear.

  7. I find wool sweaters very nice,especially shetland and merino wool but can’t wear them,they make me itch,too-so,I love cashmere as well (I have some winter cashmere underwear,maybe 40 years old,still wonderful,always washed by hand).
    Buying Uniqlo is very complicated for me-they even don’t ship here. When I was in London,a couple of years ago,cashmere sweaters looked pretty thin to me,so I didn’t try them on. Their supima cotton t-shirts were wonderful,but when my son ordered them again for me-it was completely different story
    I’ve heard about Cuyana a couple of years ago but didn’t buy anything so far.
    Your SW boots look so beautiful,I’m eyeing them for some time,but buying footwear without trying on is no-no for me
    Dottoressa

  8. Merino is my fave. They mostly last for years and I also wear a vest underneath for hygiene reasons, a silk Patra one is best. How sad about Uniqlo.

  9. Cashmere is a winter time investment which is usually well worth the price…sorry to hear that the Uniqlo sweater, despite its lovely colour, did not live up to expectations. A black cashmere/silk blend sweater from Burberry was a splurge purchase and it is beautiful…for me investing in black basic pieces is a must and these items become a winter staple from the wardrobe. Cheers and enjoy the snow!

  10. Cashmere has been on my list of favorite things for about 50 years. I do love that purple on you and all of your combinations. As for the $75 sweater from Nadaam I can say you won’t be sorry if you decide to purchase. I have 5 of them and intend to add more to my collection. The quality is superb and I adore the slightly slouchy boyfriend fit. I wear this sweater all the time and with everything. Nadaam also sells a pill comb and provides excellent care instructions.

    1. I love that purple. That’s the only reason I kept the darned sweater. 🙂 Based on what I read and on your recommendation I may order on one those Nadaam sweaters. Thanks.

  11. I’m so glad you said it out loud … everything Uniqlo is not parfait!

    Yes, I’ve made some wonderful Uniqlo purchases in the boiled wool, light-weight parkas, fleece and undergarments categories. But two of the three pullover sweaters I’ve bought there in the last two years have not held up well. Yes, they’re pilling early, a big disappointment. Nonetheless, they’re dark navy and black, so no way am I tossing them. Heck, I can wear them in winter, spring and fall to clean up the woods. However, I can tell that the third one (an Ines de la Fressange-inspired striped number in navy, red and white stripes I bought in fall 2018) is going to go the distance.

    I DID find a fabulous cashmere sweater recently (a grey Polo crew-neck at my fave consignment boutique for $22!) that I could wear to bed with nothing underneath it and never, ever feel the least bit itchy. The luxury difference between that sweater and the two thin, already-pilling Uniqlos is stark.

    BTW, I never did make it to your friend’s cashmere store in Paris last October … I simply ran out of time and shopping energy. Today I’m regretting it, since I bet her cashmeres are da bomb!

    P.S. I also bought some beautiful SmartWool underwear (pants and top) in a lovely medium jade color for my recent trip to Antarctica that also fall into the I-could-sleep-in-these-suckers-all-winter! category. Reminds me to get the top out and wear it today. It’s freezing down here in Missouri, with snow predicted later!

    1. I remember when you bought that Ines de la Fressange sweater. Glad to see that it worked out for you. Even if some of the others didn’t. There’s always cool weather garden work.. as you say. They won’t go to waste.

  12. While I have not tried Uniqlo I love cashmere sweaters and have found Pure online a great resource. They describe their sweaters very well but you must pay attention – they have lightweight ones called glassato I believe and a more expensive heavier weight and one in-between. You must read carefully as they also have mixtures of merino and cashmere and others. I have been very happy with all I have purchased from them but one that was a mixture.
    The color is lovely on you.
    Sue

    1. I have bought and assessed cashmere for over 45 years. Warning you off Everlane. (I don’t know who gives them those high ratings, they pill and stretch out.) I have cashmeres over 20 years old and going strong. They are from Johnston’s of Elgin, Brora and (most of all) Eric Bompard. I order by mail, usually during sales and pay the duties, ouch… but they are long term investments and here in Montréal, the life support system. Look at Bompard’s and Brora’s colours; no one does them better. Brora cashmere does not pill and EB is close, but occasionally I use a sweater comb on it.Land’s End used to sell good cashmere but the quality has dropped. A good Canadian source: ça va de soi.

      1. I know friends who swear by Everlane, but it is not a brand I have purchased. Well, except for an inexpensive tee shirt for travel that did not go the distance. The rating for their cashmere sweaters was in an article in Business Insider. Most of my sweaters are long-term investments as well. Usually. Ha.

  13. I’m avoiding new cashmere as it’s let me down in the past. I still love my Brora and Eric Bompard pieces though. That’s a great colour on you!

  14. Like some others commenters from above, I would really encourage you to invest in really good quality cashmere (well not, alas, the luxury ones) like Brora or Eric Bompard. True this is an investment but worth it especially as you need all the comfort and heat where you live. I find them either on sales or but second had on Ebay or other platform. So far, I have never had any deception with them. When in Paris during winter, you could also give a try to the own range of Galeries Lafayette: they have never let me down, hold well and are still strong after some 5+ years of wearing/washing.
    Uniqlo… I have some Uniqlo cashmere I bought at least 6 or even 8 years ago. Nothing to compare with today’s quality. They are thick, lush, soft and no piling.
    But, indeed, if you really want to have quality, you have to invest and cash some more dollars. Otherwise, it is not worth it.
    Sure, the Rolls Royce of all cashmere is Brunello Cuccinelli but ouch, the price.

    1. I have to say that I don’t need any encouragement to buy investment pieces. Ha. That has been my shopping ethic most of my life. Well, maybe not Brunello Cuccinelli… those are strictly for admiring in my books.

  15. I also love cashmere with everything. And I agree, the quality of a lot of brands has gone downhill. Or perhaps they weren’t in the cashmere business before and just hopped on the bandwagon.
    I have some older Lands End, Johnston’s of Elgin, and some from Pure, all those are a good weight and have held up nicely. I have had some success with Talbots. The Bay offers Lord and Taylor at a good price so I tried one this year, still early days so cannot comment. I heard NORDSTROM SIGNATURE is good, maybe you can ask your friend Liz 🙂
    Thanks for another great post and wow you look great in your hat and look at that fluffy snow!
    Suz from Vancouver

  16. I have an Equipment cashmere sweater that pilled pretty badly when I first purchased it but I read that you can place in a ziploc bag and freeze it and to settle the fibers. Worked brilliantly. Also, a partially shrunk wool/cashmere sweater can be rehabbed sometimes with a good dose of hair conditioner in water. Just work it through then rinse. You then lay it out on a towel to dry shaped the way you would like it.

  17. Like you, I can’t wear wool next to my skin. But I discovered a few years back that I CAN wear cashmere, and I love it. It’s warm, light and comes in some lovely styles. That said, the cheaper ones definitely pill. I tried hand washing one from Talbots a few years back (favorite color, of course) and it ended up looking like it was made for a doll. To their credit, they refunded my purchase price completely and it was the next season already. Since then, I dry clean them mostly. I did hand wash one tunic style, because the fit wasn’t as critical.

    1. I am so afraid to make a mistake with my expensive sweaters. I don’t take a chance with washing them myself until they are a few years old. I have heard that Talbots has a good return policy that they stand behind. Good to know that.

  18. That sweater looks great on you. I have 3 summer Uniqlo cardigans in different colours that have lasted over 4 years and are still going strong. Otherwise my love affair with Uniqlo is no longer, as all the recent outfits were poor quality material and the top and dress shapes quite boxy, not good when one has breasts.
    When I was in NYC 5 years ago I bought a cashmere cardigan from Macy’s and have worn it a lot every winter since then. It has been so warm and kept its shape, only now with a couple of tiny holes. How do you store and look after your cashmere?

    1. You have had really good luck, Cee. This has been my first bad experience with cashmere. But the article in BofF said that inexpensive cashmere is a relatively recent thing… so maybe that accounts for the change in quality.

  19. I’ve found the quality of too many mid-range clothiers has dropped quite a bit over the past few years while their prices have not. The fabrics are cheaper and the construction/design unattractive or shoddy. I blame some of it on private equity firms buying out the businesses and bean-counters looking for the cheapest of everything to ensure higher profit for the firms–most of which could care less about maintaining a good reputation–they’ll simply sell them off when they’ve wrung them dry. Cynical, I know, but I don’t even look at the clothing from some stores anymore for that very reason.

    1. I think you might be right, Mary. So many formerly “good” brands are owned by conglomerates now. Bottom line is everything. I remember when Ralph Lauren stuff went from dependable high quality to cheap and ill-fitting.

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