The ultimate in luxury, a good cashmere sweater will last you a lifetime if you follow a few buying rules.
Step 1: Buy the real thing Buy a sweater made of 100 percent cashmere, as indicated on the label, rather than a blend of fibers. The real thing will be softer, lighter, last longer, and more important, be worth the money you're paying.
Step 2: Get 2-ply Get a garment with two-ply yarn instead of a single ply for a sweater that will be stronger and resist pilling. If you can see your hand through one layer of the sweater, it's probably one-ply.
TIP: Look for tightly knit sweaters and beware of loosely knit ones.
Step 3: Feel it Get hands-on and feel lots of different cashmere sweaters. Those with the best quality fibers are those that are soft, light, and have little or no pilling. Avoid sweaters that feel fuzzy, stiff, scratchy, or that don't bounce right back after you crinkle or pull the fabric.
TIP: Rub the fabric under your chin or on your neck, two especially sensitive spots.
Step 4: Know the best Know that the best-quality cashmere sweaters are those made in Scotland and Italy, as indicated on the tag. Hand knit sweaters are the highest quality, but also the priciest.
Step 5: Test dark colors Test dark-colored sweaters to make sure they are as soft as lighter-colored ones. Makers sometimes use lower-quality yarn for dark-colored dyes, saving the better-quality yarn for lighter colors, as lighter dyes will only take to higher-quality yarn.
Step 6: Use trusted sources Buy from trusted sources, such as designers and labels that specialize in cashmere, or large department stores, which employ quality control testing. Shop online to compare prices but buy in person to feel the quality.
FACT: The average single-ply women's cashmere sweater uses approximately 10 ounces of wool -- the annual production of about three or four Kashmiri goats.