I’m going to apologize right up front here for any misspellings, grammatical errors or general goof-ups. I’m writing this on my iPad and being a student of the old-fashioned touch typing that Mrs. Bilecki taught us in high school, this hunt and peck nonsense is a kind of torture. BUT…I’m in Italy and it turns out that the remote little countryside inn in which we are staying is not that remote. It’s right near an Italian cashmere outlet! Bravisimo!! Can you believe it? Not only am I eating great food, drinking fabulous wine and looking at exquisite scenery, I’m in sweater-heaven! And cashmere is something I know about.
Gilda Radner, rest her soul, once said that her fashion sense was based on what doesn’t itch. I can totally relate to this because I’m one of those people for whom the word “angora” is a threat. Mohair, forget it. Even “virgin” wool can mean a day of endless scratching. So I have found that cashmere tends to be the best bet for me when it comes to winter warmth and style. However, not all cashmere is alike and it can be expensive. Just because the label has the C-word it doesn’t guarantee that it will be itch-free. The country of origin is often a good clue. China makes some inexpensive cashmere that can be quite nice. I actually bought a bunch of cardigans that Isaac Mizrahi did for Target a few years back that were lovely and very soft and unbelievably reasonable, but it varies. Sometimes you get what you pay for. That said, many large department stores, because of their size, are able to supply cashmere sweaters from China under their private labels for less than you’d pay for a regular old Merino from Banana Republic. Nordstrom’s “Halogen” is just such a brand. Likewise “C by Bloomingdale’s.”. They work just fine for a season or two or even three if you store them with mothballs. But don’t expect the sweater of a lifetime.
Scotland is a good bet for cashmere (think of all those sheep on the heathered hillsides) but you’ll pay for hip style. Pringle, the best known Scottish knitwear vendor, tends to be fairly conservative style-wise, but the quality of the knit is indisputable. It’s always best to let your fingers do the walking. And your neck. I hold a garment up to my neck for several minutes to judge the itch factor. I’ve had very good luck with a British company called Pure Collection. They frequently have sales through their catalogue and the quality is very nice. The same with Boden, which may even be the same company. Again, watch their website as they always have promotions. I like to stock up on bright colors. With a white tee and black pants, it’s basically my winter uniform.
In the meantime, I’m on my way to the Italian cashmere outlet. Can’t travel without bringing home a souvenir, si?