Website of the week
Historically speaking, cashmere has been both expensive and frumpy. Case in point: My very first cashmere sweater--which I was very excited about, because at the time, it seemed so luxurious and grown-up--was a black V-neck that I got for Christmas one year when I was in college. It was from Lord & Taylor, and it had a rather boxy, unflattering cut that did nothing to enhance the luxury of the yarn. (However, I was carrying around an extra 15 pounds or so--yes, I actually did gain the freshman 15--and I didn't mind hiding behind a shapeless sweater.) I had that sweater for years, until the underarms became threadbare and multiple moth holes got the better of it. In the 10 or so years since I got my extra-special present, cashmere has become less of a luxury and more typical, almost essential. Those shapeless cashmere sweaters are still sold at the big departments stores, but now you can snag one for about $80, or even less once the winter clearance sales come around. Even Wal-Mart, god forbid, has gotten in on the cashmere game, although their $50 sweaters (yes, I've been unfortunate enough to see them up close) are made, as one would imagine, of the crappiest cashmere available. And I'm sure Wal-Mart still managed to screw various goat farmers, yarn spinners, and sweater factories along the way regardless. I digress--my hatred of Wal-Mart deserves its own post. So, while prices have gone down and cashmere has become less elusive, several companies have emerged in recent years to give cashmere sweaters a more youthful and fashion-forward look--these aren't your grandmother's cashmere sweaters. White + Warren and the ultra-pricey Lutz & Patmos are two labels that come to mind, but my favorite of these new cashmeres is Inhabit, a company I stumbled across two years ago; their showroom is directly across the street from my office, and their sample sale was the rare one I attended after being handed a flyer on the street. Inhabit uses earthy, neutral colors that look good on everyone, and their sweaters are constructed very interestingly, with diagonal panels and wrap-around seams, draping techniques usually reserved for woven garments, and unfussy details like inside-out seams. But aside from their semiannual sample sales, their sweaters are somewhat hard to find, and I've only seen them in a handful of small boutiques, like Steven Alan. But, thankfully, you can now shop directly from Inhabit's website! The selection is somewhat limited, especially for those of us used to the bonanza that is their sample sale, but the styles offered are timeless, in Inhabit's own chic way.

The fine-gauge draped cashmere sweater is probably their most recognizable style (I own it in red), if only because Nicole Richie has been photographed in it. It's a much softer, less grandpa-ish take on the cardigan, and it drapes beautifully.

Here's an updated version, in a longer silhouette. I think this would look great belted, with leggings and boots or skinny jeans. I can only imagine how soft and luxurious it is.

This cashmere wrap cardigan has some of the seam detailing I mentioned earlier, making it the most flattering wrap sweater around.

A lot of the styles come in cotton too--perfect for spring and summer. The prices on these lightweight styles are a bit easier to handle too (this isn't Wal-Mart, so the sweaters don't come cheap, my friends). Inhabit's sweaters aren't what one calls "affordable luxury" (one of my least favorite oxymorons of all time); just luxury with good design. And I'll take a pricey, flattering, luxe cashmere sweater over a boxy, shapeless, $80 one anyday.

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