Tips for Finding Great Cashmere Sweaters

The key to finding a great cashmere piece is to understand what makes a good cashmere sweater goodCashmere is a soft, non-itchy type of wool that originated in the Kashmir region of India from, you guessed it, the cashmere goat.  It’s a strong, soft material and is non-bulky.  Good cashmere sweaters are often referred to by the “ply,” which is the thickness of the thread used to weave fabric.  For example, three-ply sweaters are made with three single threads wound together, five-ply is made from five single threads, etc.  The larger the ply, the better the sweater (although you can find quality, thin cashmere sweaters).

There are other factors that are important in determining the quality of cashmere sweaters.  I’ve listed a few below.

The Good Cashmere Test

– Check for Pillage.  One way to tell if a sweater is made of good cashmere is to rub the fabric briskly between your pointer finger and thumb.  Notice any pillage?  If so, then mostly likely it’s not “good” cashmere.

– Feel the Fabric.  Also feel the fabric.  Does it feel itchy?  Good cashmere is very low on the itchy-wool factor.

– Check the Seams.  Also check out the seams of the sweater.  In more high-quality cashmere sweaters, the seams are knitted together with yarn, not sewn together using regular needle and thread.

So now that you know how to test a cashmere sweater for quality, let’s talk about how to find a quality cashmere sweater on a budget.

How to Find Cashmere Sweaters on a Budget

The first rule to finding a cashmere sweater on a budget is to wait until after Christmas.  Most cashmere sweaters (as well as hats, scarves, etc.) are up to 70 percent less AFTER Christmas than before Christmas.

In terms of where to buy it, my snobby Upper East Side friends, who consider themselves TRUE cashmere experts, swear by Lord & Taylor’s cashmere sweaters.  L&T cashmere sweaters come in a whole range of styles, sizes (petite and plus sizes) and colors for about 70 bucks.  I own a beautiful turquoise cashmere cardigan that I got for $12 at Lord & Taylor’s after-Christmas sale.

Other great brands are Vince, TSE and even J. Crew, which are very nice and very pricey if you purchase them at full retail price.  Lucky for us, you can often find these brands at your local Saks Fifth Avenue outlet (Off 5th), Last Call by Neiman Marcus or T.J. Maxx for up to 70 percent off retail price.

Several major discount department stores like Target, Kohls and even Wal-Mart sell cheaper versions of cashmere sweaters.  However, these sweaters are often not 100 percent cashmere (though the label says otherwise), but cashmere blended with a cheaper wool like merona.

Do you have any cashmere tips? If so, share them below.


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