Wardrobe Essentials: A Simple Sweater

Next up on my list of wardrobe essentials is a simple sweater.  I have three basic sweaters in my wardrobe that go with everything. Two are cashmere and I’m relatively new to that club, having just purchased my first cashmere sweater secondhand in February of this year. However, the feel had me immediately hooked. I have since added a second black cashmere sweater thanks to Everlane. The other is my High Low Sweater in gray from Brass Clothing. The versatility of these sweaters makes them a winter wardrobe essential.


 


What I Like

These fuss-free sweaters make getting dressed simple on cold, sleepy mornings. They are what I reach for when I have a tiring week or am not feeling creative or motivated in the outfit styling department. I am very comfortable putting together outfits with these sweaters, so I can go on automatic pilot and still feel great about what I’m wearing.

In addition to easy styling, these sweaters top my favorites list because of how they feel. The softness of throwing on a cashmere sweater cannot be beat. I have also come to appreciate how the fabric keeps me warm, but also breaths enough to not feel stifling. My classroom temperature varies hour to hour, so this has been a noticeable benefit that was new to me. The quality and weight of the Brass sweater really surprised me and it still reminds every single time why I love it so much even though it’s just a ‘plain gray sweater’.


What I Don’t Like

I often feel that to create a styled look this outfits require a little extra effort. If I wear one of these sweaters with pants or jeans it feels plain, so I typically add a necklace or bold shoes to up-style the outfit. I have other sweaters that make more of a statement on their own, which can make them easier to throw on and go. I suggest finding a ‘formula’ that works for styling your more basic pieces and stick to it.

For Cashmere…it’s three words. Dry. Clean. Only. For an item that I find myself wanting to wear over and over, that is a major downfall. I have started wearing a thin tee underneath to reduce the amount that my sweaters will need to be cleaned. However, the under layer somewhat negates the softness of the sweater. The Brass sweater is easier to care for which makes it my preference around the house or with the kids.

Last, I feel like these are the types of sweaters that are easy to over-buy. I have been tempted on more than one occasion to buy the Brass sweater in black to my wardrobe, most recently this weekend when they offered free shipping. The same holds true for the Everlane $100 Cashmere, it’s a great deal for a quality piece and I love the new cuts and colors. Plus, I know I’d wear it a lot, so it can be easy to talk myself into buying more than I need. To resist, I remind myself that I’d rather have three great sweaters in versatile colors that I wear repeatedly than a stack of great sweaters that each only get a few wears before the season is over.


Styling

I can’t think of a bad way to wear a great sweater. Skinny jeans, wide leg pants, slacks, skirts, layered over dresses, with a collared shirt underneath, under a blazer, the list goes on. A classic cut sweater in a quality fabric can never be wrong. I think the key to styling simple pieces is in the small details. A folded cuff, great boots, a necklace that makes a simple statement, or even a front tuck to show off a belt can all take the outfit up a notch without being too complicated.


Both of my cashmere sweaters are from Everlane (size medium), though I did buy one secondhand. I particularly like the nubby texture of donegal because it minimizes the look of any pilling. This year’s version is a gray donegal. My gray sweater is from Brass Clothing, still available on final sale.  I had to size up to a large.


Do you tend to choose more lightweight simple sweaters or do you prefer chunky sweaters with texture?
Or both?

More about Paige

18 Comments

    1. Despite what the tags may say, cashmere is NOT dry clean only! I’ve been hand-washing cashmere for years, with excellent results. A simple soak in the sink with a gentle soap, rinse well, press genty to get the water out (do not wring!), then roll in a towel and squeeze (again: gently) to get the rest of the excess water out. Dry flat. Good as new, and no harsh chemicals or trip to the cleaners!
      Check around the internet, you’ll see that a lot of people clean their cashmere this way.

      1. This is great advice. I know I’ve seen people say they wash their cashmere at home, but a friend tried it and said it made hers slightly fuzzy. The shape and softness was in tack, but it looked different. Have you experienced that?

        1. Hm, it’s possible that a very sleek finish might not remain so, yes. The ones that I have are already a teensy bit fuzzy to begin with, so that hasn’t been an issue for me. If your sweater has a really smooth finish and you want to keep it that way, it might be best to go the dry clean route then.
          Btw, I always wear a thin t-shirt under mine, for the same reason you state. And after wearing I hang my sweater inside-out on a padded hanger overnight to air out as well. Seems to work pretty well for multiple wearings.

          1. MJD,
            I took your advice and turned mine inside out and hung to air out a bit last night before putting it away this morning. I really appreciate the advice and reading that so many women have had success hand-washing their cashmere may just give me courage to give it a try!

            Have a great day,
            Paige

    1. I’m really enjoying your blog Paige! I am also on a similar journey trying to pare down my wardrobe and buy quality ethical items. I wondered if you had any issues with your Everlane cashmere? I purchased a cashmere cardigan from them and really was not impressed with the quality. I have owned a few cashmere sweaters in my time and Brora are my favorite brand, their Scottish cashmere is second to none. I hand wash my cashmere and have never had any issues. All cashmere will pill and a good cashmere comb will help.

      1. Mandy,
        I honestly don’t have anything to compare my Everlane cashmere too. I do feel my secondhand purchase is softer than my new black sweater, but that could be from being previously worn. Bev above commented that she was concerned about the same thing, but washing it actually helped the softness and thickness.

        I did not realize there was such a thing as a cashmere comb – I’m going to look into those right away. I am all for taking great care of my items and keeping them around for a long time!

        I appreciate the advice,
        Paige

    1. I follow the same hand-washing technique as mjd, washing inside-out, and like her I also wear a slim tee underneath (I like Uniqlo’s Airism because it wicks sweat). In between washings I use The Laundress’ Wool and Cashmere spray to help keep the fabric smelling fresh and ward off moths. You can also fill a spray bottle with vodka and use that to kill any bacteria, or place in a plastic bag in the freezer. I pretty much do everything I can to avoid the dry cleaners due to chemicals, cost, and having to part with my items for a few days!

      1. Krystal,
        Ooo…great tips! Thank you for sharing. I am going to look into that spray. It seems like a great way to protect the investment and avoid the dry cleaners.

        I appreciate the help!
        Paige

    1. I also wash mine at home, and it does make it a little fuzzy, but I wouldn’t call it bad. I remember buying my 2nd Everlane cashmere and being concerned that the new ones were much thinner and less soft, but it was simply because my old one had been washed 2-3 times since I got it. They were the same after I washed the new one!

      1. Bev,
        Thank you so much for the input and for sharing your experience. I know I’ll be so nervous to try it, but with so many women I trust telling me first-hand that it’s going to be ok I am building up the courage to handwash 🙂

        Do you wash in a special detergent?

        Thanks again,
        Paige

    1. I also handwash all my cashmere. My mom passed along a black cashmere sweater set of hers from the 1950’s. She had only ever handwashed it. It looks still great. A few of my cashmere sweaters get a little fuzzy, but it is partly due to the quality of the cashmere itself. It is worth it to me to handwash and save my cash for the next cashmere sweater 🙂

      1. Debbie,
        Wow, that is amazing to have your mom’s cashmere set!! I am so excited to hear so many people having success handwashing their cashmere. That is a total game-changer for me!

        Thank you for sharing,
        Paige

    1. I love the way you styled these sweaters Paige! I agree with you on the styling aspect of wearing a sweater. I often find myself either over thinking it, or deciding that it’s an issue with the sweater itself and get a new one. You’ve given me something to chew on. 😉

      1. Karin,
        I was always adding more and more sweaters like this because I thought maybe if they had a color or print they would feel more interesting. Then I purged a bunch because I never loved them. Once I finally found the styling that I felt good about, it was a total game changer. My biggest challenge is not buying more and more because I tell myself they are a timeless staple. I always seem to overdo it when buying sweaters.

        Have a great day!
        xo,
        Paige

    1. I loved your point about not buying more sweaters (or anything really) because we love the ones we already have. I am ALWAYS tempted to get more of something I love, especially sweaters. The outfit formula of pants + sweater can get stale after 3-4 months in the Midwest! But your perspective here really helped me rethink my approach to sweaters and how many I really need…Thanks for your great style and perspective!

      Also, I handwash wool and cashmere sweaters with The Laundress’ wool + cashmere soap and have always had good results. But I echo some of the above comments that a sweater comb is essential! I also like the Laundress’ sweater spray–I use that and/or a steamer to freshen sweaters in between washings, which to be honest are usually seasonal.

    1. Bri,
      Thank you for the great tips on the products you use. In the past I didn’t worry too much about taking care of my items properly because I thought of clothing as ‘disposable’, so all of this is new to me and I love what I’m learning from you all!

      The winters are so much longer in the Midwest (I’m originally from Michigan) than they are here in Colorado, so getting bored with the same combinations totally makes sense. We have enough warm days scattered throughout the season when I can pull out dresses or lightweight tops to break up the monotony.

      This is the first winter I realized how tempted I was to keep adding more of these wardrobe basics, even though I was more than happy with the ones I have. Old habit, maybe? Anyhow, it’s been eye-opening and has definitely helped me avoid over-buying anything.

      Thanks again for the great tips…off to search out the soap and spray and a brush now!
      Have a great end to your week,
      Paige

    1. Yes to the hand-washing comments! Have worn wool and cashmere sweaters for several years and never dry cleaned. I hand wash them every month or two of wear, and am borderline OCD about how my clothes fit and look, so I would not hand wash if it was deleterious in either of these aspects. I will say the ribbing on sweaters can become veeeery slightly (almost imperceptibly) more snug right after washing, but this can be minimized by blocking while drying (stretching to original dimensions. I do this several times by hand as it dries.). The only things I would not hand wash are really architectural styles that rely on precise lines and that don’t have a traditional sweater shape. I am thinking of some of the cardigans that Lee of Style Bee wears. You have to figure materials like wool, cashmere, and silk have been worn for hundreds if not thousands of years, and dry cleaning is a pretty recent invention! So the material can hold up to gentle hand washing. Some say dry cleaning shortens the life of cashmere and makes it lose its softness too, but I have never tested that, personally!

      1. Alice,
        It really puts me at ease to hear so many success stories with keeping cashmere out of the dry cleaner. I am so thankful that you all shared your tips with me. Thank you, thank you!

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