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 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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.