Lately I’ve been buying, or attempting to buy, a fair number of cashmere sweaters. As I have said, my primary winter uniform at this new job is a cashmere v-neck with button-front shirt underneath. In the old days, i.e. my 40s, I wore cardigans over tees. Something, I can’t quite figure out what, happened to my midsection, rendering my former strategy a good deal less flattering. My shoulders, however, remained broad and overly dominant in crewnecks.
You might want to know how the brands compare. Well, no sooner said than done. We’ll take the business approach, leading with an executive summary.
Cashmere Comparison Summary
- Land’s End. Oblong styling, hand (feel) a bit slippery but nicely substantial. Kept. $140.
- Pure Collection. Shorter than Land’s End, more nipped in round the waist, hand similar to Land’s End, color WAY off from web and catalog. Returned. $138 list price, on sale for $70-$103.
- Madewell. The model I bought is called the Cabin Sweater for good reason. Styled like a loose-middled long-sleeved pocket tee, very boyfriend-esque. One could wear it quite happily in, yes, a cabin. Hand, soft, not slippery, not heavy. Kept. $158 list price, only XS remains, on sale for $99.
- Brora. Classic styling with a slight edge, low v, arms a little long, banded waist, hand to die for, i.e. strong, a little prickle that softens to heavenly. List price £195, on sale for £145. (This comes out to about $225. Conversion via XE, but we’re full service around here.) Kept, with the hope of more in future.
This is the part where we give more information for you executives who have not already begun to yearn for your email, or, these days, check it on laptop or mobile device.
Perfectly serviceable. True Navy is just that, true. Not too dark, not too purple, not too perky. V is moderately deep. No shaping of note, but nothing wrong either. I worry only that the cashmere is slippery because, as the Queen of Cashmere told us in her extremely useful interview here, it’s of lower quality and has been “washed” for this effect. We will have to see how the knit endures.
This is what I wore here. I love this piece, but in all honesty, it’s not really a work sweater. I bought a size M, returned it thinking it was too big, and realized upon receiving the S that it’s SUPPOSED to be big. I couldn’t bear to return yet again, so I wear as is. But since it’s a) of lightweight cashmere b) a little tight in the arms, I can’t wear a button front underneath. If this sweater were to magically appear in a black, or, I dunno, forest green, I’d buy two in a size and live in them on the weekends. At a guess, Madewell relies on the J. Crew cashmere empire, so I’d recommend a J. Crew v-neck if the styling and colors suit you. ($168)
This sweater felt like the Land’s End version, but was shorter in the torso and longer in the sleeve. I was so mad that the Blue Haze was in fact Smog Grey that I bundled everything back up and returned it on the next post. At that point they were out of Indigo, so I broke up with Pure and am still sulking in my tent like Achilles.
Well this is what cashmere is supposed to feel like. Tough – but another dimension of soft altogether. Worn here, this is the sweater I want to put on almost every day. Roomy enough for a button front underneath, sufficient shape for a little je ne sais quoi. A term I use advisedly, as in I really can’t articulate what gives this sweater such silhouette style. BTW, for anyone converting to British sizes, I’m a size 4 in J. Crew tops, and a size 12 in Brora sweaters.
Let me add a few additional data points from my chequered cashmere past. My mother gave me a Bloomingdale’s private label black v-neck two years ago. I like the silhouette, here, but it’s pilling like crazy already. Four or five years ago my sister gave me, at my request, a navy twinset from Isle of Skye. It’s too scratchy. I want my cashmere tough but not hostile. My favorite sweater ever, shown here, came from TSE. They’re doing a lot of yellowish this year so I’m out of luck. Those who favor burned hues, enjoy.
I will add that I pass right by all Brunello Cucinelli, despite the mythic mountain village which ostensibly knits their goods. I cannot imagine anything worth five times what I paid for Brora. Unless it has magic powers to fly me to Italy, in which case, value granted.
I am not sure whether it’s good news or bad that with cashmere, apparently, one gets what one pays for. On the other hand, even when one pays less, it’s a very nice sweater.
By the way, that interview with the Queen of Cashmere may be the most useful post I’ve published, so here’s the link again.