When we think of luxury clothing, the first item to come to mind is a cashmere sweater. These soft, cozy finds epitomize the phrase, with roots that date back to ancient times, when the fabric was only available to society’s most noble and elite. These days, it’s not hard to get your hands on one of these opulent splurges, be it for yourself or as a gift for a cherished loved one — if you know where to look. Read on to find out more about this premium fiber and where to find the best cashmere sweaters around.
What is cashmere?
Cashmere, which originally hailed from Kashmir (a region in Asia that now spans India, China, and Pakistan), is a luxury fiber that’s sourced from the undercoat of cashmere or pashmina goats.
Why is cashmere so expensive?
Cashmere is not a fiber that’s readily found in abundance. In fact, it’s only harvested once a year, and each goat produces just six to eight ounces initially, with yields lessening each year thereafter. “A single cashmere goat does not produce a whole lot,” New York-based cashmere goat farmer Pam Haendle told the Huffington Post in 2017. “You only harvest the fibers once a year, and most of us do so by combing the undercoat, which sheds yearly.”
She added: “Once it’s processed you’re not likely to get more than four ounces back.”
To make a sweater, knitters need cashmere from roughly two to three animals, with even more needed to produce a larger item, such as a jacket. As anyone who has ever studied economics knows, scarcity drives market value, leading to a high price tag for this premium yarn.
How to Wash Cashmere
Since a cashmere sweater is an investment piece in your wardrobe, it’s an item you’ll want to take particularly proper care of. Your best bet for prolonging its shelf life is to follow the instructions on your individual piece. While some cashmere pieces can be washed in your machine on a delicate or wool cycle, experts say it’s not a bad idea to consider placing it inside a mesh washing bag ($8.99, Amazon) to protect it from being snagged or tangled up with other clothing.
If you’d prefer to play it safe, you can also dry clean it or hand wash it with a detergent that’s formulated to be gentle on its delicate fibers, like this The Laundress wool & cashmere shampoo ($19, The Laundress).
As for drying, it’s best to leave cashmere items out of the machine, laying them flat to air dry.
The Best Cashmere Sweaters
From cozy textured turtlenecks that will make you feel warmer just by looking at them ($199.49, Nordstrom) to travel-ready wraps you can wear in a multitude of ways ($118.40, Bloomingdale’s), we’ve tracked down a slew of gorgeous cashmere pieces you’ll be itching to add to your closet — or give to your nearest and dearest this holiday season! Keep scrolling for Woman’s World’s picks for the best cashmere sweaters of 2019!
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Vineyard Vines Lurex Fair Isle Sweater
Where to buy: $288, Vineyard Vines
We adore the lodge-ready print of this festive fair isle sweater. Accented with a ribbed hem and cuffs, it’s as cozy as they come, and its 100 percent cashmere fabric can be hand-washed at home.
Vince Dolman Boatneck Pullover
Where to buy: $395, Verishop
With its delicate, semi-sheer cashmere and dainty boatneck design, this Vince pullover has an ultra-feminine feel, making for a pretty and versatile wardrobe staple that you can wear out or take the day off in — the options are endless! It features a relaxed fit and hits at the hip.
Everlane The Premium Cashmere Mockneck
Where to buy: $228, Everlane
When temperatures begin to drop, all we want to do is bury ourselves inside a cozy sweater, like, say, this premium Everlane pick. Made from grade A Mongolian cashmere, it feels “soft as a kitten,” according to one buyer, who wrote, “I’m super happy with this, and do think it’s worth the price ... I couldn’t knit this sweater in this yarn for less, and it would take me a year.”
Talbots Cashmere Asymmetric Button Poncho
Where to buy: $179, Talbots
This 100 percent cashmere poncho is crafted with grade A yarn and offers a unique draped design that buttons up at the shoulder. It comes in one of three colors and can also be worn as a wrap when left open. Reviewers praise it for being both “soft and warm,” with one writing, “Beautiful color, perfect length, and very classy look.”
NakedCashmere Selma Cardigan
Where to buy: $495 (Valued at $990), NakedCashmere
The ultimate pick in cashmere luxury comes in the form of this Selma cardigan from NakedCashmere — it’s got a whopping 840 grams of cashmere! To put that into perspective, one goat typically produces about 90 grams each year. Cable knit accents lend stylish intrigue, while a soft hood serves to provide optimum comfort.
Raved one buyer: “Incredibly plush, thick cashmere. … Easily worth twice the price.”
Charter Club V-Neck Pure Cashmere Sweater
Where to buy: $49.99 (Originally $169), Macy’s
For a more affordable cashmere option, look no further than this lightweight Charter Club V-neck, which is currently 70 percent off at Macy’s. It’s got drop shoulders and a relaxed fit, but it really shines in the texture department, with one buyer calling it “ the softest and most comfortable sweater I've ever worn!” Choose from one of six colors.
J. Crew Cable Crewneck Sweater
Where to buy: From $150.99, J. Crew
If you’re a fan of cable knits, boy, do we have the sweater for you! Not only is this J. Crew find constructed with a traditional cable design, it’s crafted from a sustainable cashmere fabric that is responsibly-sourced to ensure animal welfare. Select from one of seven classic colors.
Nordstrom Signature Cowl Knit Sweater
Where to buy: $199.49 (Originally $399), Nordstrom
An oversized cowl neck and a soft zigzag design set this 100 cashmere pick apart from the style pack. A boxy, oversized fit means you’ll be nice and snug even when winter winds are at their peak, and its soft gray hue will pair perfectly with your favorite dressy leggings.
C by Bloomingdale’s Cashmere Travel Wrap
Where to buy: $118.40 (Originally $198), Bloomingdale’s
Comfort is of the utmost importance when you’re traveling, and this cashmere wrap is just the ticket for achieving that goal. It can be draped over your shoulders like a cardigan or wrapped around your shoulders should you get chilly aboard your plane. With 13 different color options, you’re sure to find one that fits your style, and it’s exclusive to store, meaning you won’t find it anywhere else.
3D Cashmere Cocoon Cardigan
Where to buy: $49.90 (Originally $99), Uniqlo
Luxurious cashmere for less than $50? Sign us up! Uniqlo’s cocoon cardigan, which is currently half off, is made with a "3D knit" that the retailer claims is "warmer and softer” than conventional cashmere. Shoppers seem to agree, with one giving it “perfect” marks for quality. It comes in six colors and has a relaxed fit that’s great for days spent lounging.
AQUA Cashmere Fringe Cable-Knit Sweater
Where to buy: $136.80 (Originally $228), Bloomingdale’s
Cashmere doesn’t have to be basic! This sweater, which is made from 100 percent goat fibers, has plenty of fun details, from its ballooned sleeves to the double fringe trim that lines its front. There’s also cable knitting at the center and along the sleeves.
Raved one Bloomingdale’s reviewer, “I bought this beautiful sweater because of the unique style. It feels so soft and comfortable and looks great. Love every thing about it. I highly recommend it!”