Q. What should I look for in a cashmere sweater?
A. Although it's difficult to pick out a good sweater on your own, a keen eye and attention to detail can guide you to a superior selection.
Step 1: Check the labels. The Federal Trade Commission mandates that cashmere products be accurately labeled. Only pure cashmere sweaters can be labeled "100 Percent Cashmere." If the sweater is a blend, the manufacturer is required to state the percentage of cashmere and the percentage of other fibers. If you don't see a tag indicating the fiber content, walk away.
Step 2: Always buy from a label you trust. Large department stores and clothing companies are more likely to test their garments thoroughly for quality. Steer away from buying sweaters at small stores that don't have a great selection. Pat Slaven, who conducted an experiment for Consumer Reports testing cashmere offerings in various retail stores says, "If you're buying cashmere, it's better to go to large, reputable department stores, reputable retailers, and reputable online boutiques. If it's one store selling one kind of cashmere at a very low price, you should be wary. The big retailers have laboratories to test all their sweaters for authenticity and quality."
Step 3: Look for a tight knit. ‘The looser the cashmere is woven or knitted, the more suspicious you need to be," says Kathleen Raub, a spokesperson for the Scottish Cashmere Club.
Step 4: Does the sweater feel slippery? If so, Raub says, "this can often be an indication of overprocessing, which may result in a garment that will quickly lose its shape."
Step 5: Beware of too much pill potential. Spilhaus says, "Lightly rub the surface of a garment with the palm of your hand and see if fibers begin to roll up and or shed. This is an indication that there might be excess short-fiber content."
Step 6: Look for vibrant colors and fashionable styles. Jenna Lyons, a senior vice president of women's design at J.Crew, says, "When you see an intense vibrancy in color that means that the yarn started off very clean in its raw state and that the dying process was top quality."
Step 7: For warm sweaters, look for at least two plies. A minimum of two plies means that more than one piece of yarn were twisted together to make the garment. This ultimately means more warmth and a stronger sweater that is less likely to pop a hole.
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