Tuesday, January 12, 2016

How to Shop for the Perfect Sweater based on Fabric/Fibers

how to buy quality wool and cashmere sweaters

If you haven't had a chance to check out the Summer Wind survey, I would love for you to take the time to fill it out. I've already received a ton of helpful responses (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and posts like today's are something it seems like you would all like to see more of! You are all so helpful and I greatly appreciate it! I especially appreciate you submitting your constructive criticism in an eloquent and respectful way. You guys rock! 

Last week I talked about how to be a better shopper. I mentioned in the post that I prefer certain fabrics/fibers over others. I received a lot of questions about that! Fabric is extremely important to me when adding to my wardrobe. I'm no expert, however, I've done a lot of research in the past several years about this. 

What I Prefer
During the winter months, I prefer cashmere over anything else (when it comes to sweaters). This is mainly because I love the warmth it provides, the luxurious texture, and the softness against my skin. Did you know that cashmere comes from specific types of goats that live in areas like Tibet? 

Knowing Your Fabrics
Knowing your fabrics is important when shopping for a sweater because then you are sure to buy a quality item. You'll also be able to purchase something that will be functional within your lifestyle. For example, cashmere, while gorgeous and luxurious, is not something I would wear skiing. Same thing to be said with cotton. You would think that cotton might be great because of its wearability and easy-to-wash properties, but cotton retains water and not heat... which is why cotton is a good choice in the summertime! 

Natural Fibers
For everyday wear, I tend to go for cashmere sweaters and this is simply because I love the softness and the airy texture. On a frigid day, I really like a thick wool blend. In many cases, I find wool to be warmer than cashmere. For example, this sweater that I wear all the time is incredibly warm. In fact, sometimes I get too hot when wearing it! It is made up of 45% wool, 25% alpaca, and 30% acrylic. You typically want to stay away from 'acrylic'. However, in this case, the sweater is made from 70% natural fibers, which is great. The wool tells me it will be warm and the alpaca guarantees it will be soft. The acrylic, in this instance, tells me that it probably won't pill as much and the entire garment will be more durable/last longer. If you're thinking you don't love wool because it can be itchy, try a merino wool, which is much finer and very soft.

Synthetic Fibers 
I typically avoid 'synthetic' fibers as much as possible. Think polyester, acrylic, modal, rayon, etc. Reason being is that it oftentimes produces a cheaper quality garment. Look at the make-up of your absolute favorite piece of clothing. Chances are, it is made up of a natural fiber like wool, cashmere, silk, cotton, etc. 

That's not to say that synthetic fibers are worthless. Many times, synthetic fibers are included to add longevity to a piece of clothing. Nylon is a great example of this. It is a synthetic fiber but when mixed with a natural fiber, it can make a great item. For example, this sweater is made up of 55% nylon which lets you know it will hold up well and then the rest is made up of merino wool, baby alpaca (for softness) and spandex (for stretchiness). I would say that the sweater, based on what it is made of, is a great price! 

Not to totally put down synthetics! For example, fleece is a synthetic material that I love. It is polyester and usually made from recycled materials. I love a thin polar fleece pullover when skiing or doing outdoor activities because while thin and lightweight, it still keeps me very warm. It's also great because it is machine washable. Patagonia makes my favorite fleeces! I got this one for Christmas (made of all synthetic materials) and absolutely love it. 

Typically, cashmere is the priciest of the fibers. Why, though?  Technically, it's just a type of wool! Cashmere comes from the underbelly of specific goats and can take several goats just for one sweater, hence the hefty price tag. Paying particular attention to pricing when shopping for cashmere is important. For example, I bought this 100% cashmere wrap during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale for an incredible price ( I think it was $99). While, I love it, it's noticeably 'rougher' than some of my other cashmere pieces. It's especially noticeable when I compare it to this wrap

I typically keep my eyes on sales. J.Crew has some nice cashmere pieces and they often go on major sale. I scored these cashmere pants during the summertime for just $75! Club Monaco is another brand that produces great cashmere. Everything I have ever ordered from CM (cashmere and everything else), I have been pleased with!

When splurging on cashmere, I almost always choose a piece in a neutral color to ensure I can get the most wear out of it. I also make sure that the style is classic and practical which ensures that I can enjoy it wear after wear. 

If cashmere is not always in your budget, J.Crew also has some really great Merino Wool pieces which are almost always on sale. Merino wool is very comparable to cashmere when it comes to softness. 

Great Sweater Options
The best price I am finding for a high-quality sweater is this long cardigan. It almost looks like a robe! It is made from merino wool, nylon and baby alpaca and for under $100, that is what I would consider a 'good deal'! My absolute favorite piece of cashmere that I own is this travel wrap (available here, here, and here, too!). It's so thick, luxurious and huge. I use it while traveling, as an elegant evening wrap, and as a scarf with my winter coats. Its versatility makes the price-per-wear come down to pennies! If you are going to splurge on one item, that would, hands down, be the exact piece I would choose! Scroll through the above widget to see some great sweaters that are sure to keep you warm this winter season (and I've checked out what they're made of, so they all have my stamp of approval!). 

Next week, I will share how I store my wool and cashmere sweaters... because part of the downfall of buying natural fabrics is that moths and other bugs also love them, too. What's the best sweater you find yourself wearing on repeat during the colder months? 


Brenna said...

This is so helpful, thanks! Looking forward to you telling us how you store them. Could you also mention how you wash them/care for them and how often you do so? Thank you!

Unknown said...

I would love to hear how you wash them as well. I never know how often to wash sweaters, and often get lazy about hand washing! Any tips would be appreciated.

Unknown said...

These are all beautiful sweaters! Great quality sweaters can be hard to find at good prices, and your choices are great. Thanks for sharing!

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Dana said...

Loved this! As a Merchandiser (one of my product categories is sweaters), it's my job to work with Design on finding great qualities that have desired properties for consumers! This was such a fun post to read! Personally, I love cashmere as well - but acrylic sweaters also help keep you warm!

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