Alternatives to the Madewell Cashmere Sweater

Cashmere Sweater

Alternatives to the Madewell Cashmere Sweater

Cashmere sweaters are a winter wardrobe staple. The ribbed turtleneck Madewell option is soft, warm and stylish. Plus, it’s sourced from progressive farms that care for their land and sheep.

To test the quality of a cashmere, gently stretch it in your hands. If it loses shape or sheds a lot of fibers, it’s likely low quality.

Quality

Cashmere sweaters are typically pricier than your run-of-the-mill winter knits, but they’re also much higher quality, and they tend to last for decades. They’re also incredibly warm, lightweight and breathable, so they keep you insulated without overheating or restricting movement. But, the luxury price tag can be daunting for anyone who’s not quite ready to make a full-on cashmere investment. That’s why we’ve rounded up some alternatives that will keep you cozy and looking stylish all season long.

Stylist Liv Schreiber loves this crewneck from Everlane because it’s “superior quality for the price.” It’s made with 100 percent Grade-A cashmere sourced from Inner Mongolia, which is softer and more durable than other kinds of cashmere. Plus, it’s backed by the nonprofit Aid by Trade Foundation to ensure the welfare of the goats and protection of natural resources.

Besides the fiber type, ply and gauge are other important indicators of quality when shopping for cashmere sweaters. “Ply refers to the number of strings Cashmere Sweater twisted together to create yarn,” Lassen explains. For the softest feel, look for 2-ply or higher, while gauge indicates the thickness. Usually, the lower the gauge, the lighter and more open-knit the garment will be. Also, inspect the sweater for “fully fashioned” marks. These appear as small, upraised marks along the seams and indicate that each front, back and sleeve was knit separately before being sewn together.

Warmth

Whether you wear it alone or layered, cashmere is one of the warmest fabrics available. It has three to eight times the insulating properties of traditional wool, but it’s also lightweight and breathable. This makes it the perfect sweater material for autumn and spring, or to add a cozy layer when the temperature dips in winter.

The fibers of a cashmere sweater trap air and slow the rate at which heat leaves your body, creating an insulated bubble that keeps you toasty warm. In addition, the superfine fibers have a high loft, which means there are more of them per inch than merino wool, making it even softer and more insulating.

While touch is a good gauge of how soft a sweater will feel, it’s important to check the label for more clues about quality. Look for the words “long-fiber” or a stamp from a company like Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), which certify a fabric’s integrity from farm to shelf, or Sustainable Fibre Alliance, which focuses on sustainable agriculture and herder well-being.

Lastly, opt for a higher-gauge knit; these are thicker and more durable than lower-gauge options. And always be sure to read the care instructions carefully, as cashmere requires gentle handling. If you follow the care guidelines, a good cashmere sweater will last for years. It will only get softer and more comfortable with age, so it’s a worthwhile investment.

Style

This sweater is lightweight enough to layer with a blazer or under a coat, but it’s soft enough to wear Cashmere Sweater on its own. It’s also a good pick for traveling, since it’ll resist wrinkles. It’s made from a double-ply fabric that’s both warm and breathable, and it’s available in a wide range of sizes.

It’s the most expensive sweater I tested, but it’s also the most luxurious. That’s partly due to the way it’s made: Coblentz’s brand cuts out the middleman with a direct-to-consumer business model, and she works with Johnstons of Elgin, an established cashmere mill in Scotland that uses 38 to 42mm fibers (the longer the yarn, the warmer and lighter it is).

Another factor that makes this sweater particularly sumptuous is its use of fuller, coarser, and thicker threads than most other sweaters we tried. This gives the knit a more rugged and ruggedly beautiful texture, and it also feels less processed than many other sweaters we tried.

It’s also a good choice for colder climates, as it has generous ribbing along the hem and cuffs that help create a seal in places where cold air can seep in. The sleeves, too, are well-finished with fully fashioned marks (which look like small upraised lines usually found where the front and back and each sleeve were knitted together before being sewn). It’s also machine washable, though I strongly recommend that you hand wash it and dry it on a flat surface to protect its delicate fibers.

Care

Cashmere, a soft and durable natural fiber, can last 30 years or more, but only if it’s properly cared for. Some people like to machine wash their sweaters, while others prefer hand washing in cold water and a little laundry detergent or wool shampoo. Whatever you choose, be sure to avoid using fabric softener; it can alter the natural softness of cashmere.

After rinsing, gently agitate the sweater in the sink or basin with your hands (only wash one at a time). Never twist or wring it; cashmere’s fine fibers are fragile and susceptible to damage. Drain and rinse well, then submerge the item in cold water again to remove excess soap suds. Never put a cashmere in the dryer! Heat will deteriorate and shrink the delicate fibers.

A little pilling will occur with age, but the severity depends on how often you wear your sweaters and whether they’re made of good or cheap yarns. To help reduce pilling, try shaving the surface with a garment shaver or with an electric razor.

Stains and spills should be treated promptly, but how often you launder your sweaters depends on how many times you wear them. For example, some women can get away with four or five gentle wears before needing to wash their sweaters. Just be sure to let the pieces dry completely before storing them.

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