Best cardigans evah?
January 25, 2015 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I love cardigans, but I'm tired of my cotton cardigans pilling / wearing out. What are your favorite cardigan brands that are super durable?

I am a woman, looking for cardigans at work. I do NOT think the cardigans from Gap, Loft, Ann Taylor or Banana Republic are durable by any means.

I am looking for long sleeved cotton cardigans (although some other materials could work, if they aren't terribly heavy -- I live in a mild climate). My go to work outfit is cardigan + nice blouse + jeans.

Tips on cardigan care are also appreciated, but I am a low maintenance kind of girl, so easy care brands please. Also, let me know what reasonable expectations on durability may be. I prefer cardigans I can order online. Thank you
posted by ellerhodes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 122 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: OMG OMG OMG. I love August Silk cardigans. They're so soft. Very little over stretching or pilling with wear. Like, really the best cardigans I've ever worn.

As for care, I wash mine and use a drying rack (it's helpful to lay them flat or drape them across two bars so they're mostly flat. Then I iron if needed.

On Preview: Like seriously. Buy them all. I have two and they're so freaking good. (I have over 20 cardigans, so I know my cardigans...)
posted by Crystalinne at 7:41 PM on January 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

I have had really good luck with cardigans from both J Crew and Garnet Hill.
posted by Mchelly at 7:46 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Land's End. I machine wash and dry mine, and I've had some for years that look brand new. They're also covered by a lifetime warranty, so if they start to fall apart, even years later, you can get your money back or get a replacement.
posted by decathecting at 7:51 PM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I know exactly what you mean! JCrew's mens merino cardigans don't pill on me. Where I live they only sell them online which stinks, but they do come in both regular and slim fit.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:23 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have about six of these from Nordstrom's house brand Halogen. They are three-quarter sleeve; not sure if that meets your long sleeve criteria. The ones I have are the viscose/rayon blend (the patterned ones are 100% cotton and I cannot comment on those.) I tend to run hot and I find them light and comfortable. Synthetics are much less prone to fading then cotton or cotton-blends IME.

I've been wearing, washing, and machine drying them regularly for at least three years and they've held up remarkably well. Black cardigans especially tend to fade rapidly, and the black ones haven't faded noticeably at all. The seams on the collars have needed to be restitched in a few places.

The $46 price has been holding steady for several years; less popular colors go on sale every few months. Best thing about Nordstrom's website is no minimum for free shipping.
posted by fozzie_bear at 9:28 PM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I wear a lot of cardigans and agree with your assessment of the brands you mentioned. Lands End cardigans are a bit better, though be careful with the style: they can be a bit boxy. Also, the black ones start to fade sooner than other colors, though that might be a problem with cardigans everywhere.

I have also had good luck with August Silk cardigans, especially for the price.

I've never bought a J. Crew cardigan new, but the one I bought from a thrift store looked good for a long time.

Are you using a gentle wash cycle and gentle laundry? Have you tried not running your cardigans through the dryer? Try draping them over a laundry line or a drying rack.

Another route: find a style you like at Old Navy or similar, stock up when they are on sale, and assume they'll only last a season or two. Then you can get another year or two from them as weekend/home wear.

For what it's worth, I was at Nordstrom's last weekend, and the sales woman commented about how quickly black cardigans fade -- that they stop looking fresh pretty quickly. So you might not be doing anything wrong, you know?
posted by bluedaisy at 9:30 PM on January 25, 2015

Cardigans is all I wear because no other style of top works for me. I've tried every brand of cardigan, and you're right that they all tend to crap out after a few months. The ones I got more than a year ago at Eddie Bauer are still ok, though they don't have that big a selection right now.

The important thing is to not put them in the drier. I dry them on hangers, the kind with rounded corners that don't damage the shoulders. You just have to put them on the hanger so the shoulder seam is doing the work. Then hang them up in the bathroom.

The other important thing is that you kind of always just have to keep your eye out for them.
posted by bleep at 10:14 PM on January 25, 2015

Best answer: LL Bean - if anything is unacceptable or wears out, their returns/customer service is fantastic.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:27 PM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

For me, lightweight cardigans are similar to shoes, in that I expect them to crap out with regular wear. I don't often have problems with cotton cardigans pilling (cashmere is another story), but I do tend to blow out the elbows. Surprisingly, I've had the best luck with Old Navy cardigans: they look nice for a relatively long time, but are cheap enough that I'm not disappointed when they wear out (unlike the J. Crew cardigans I've owned, which were not any more durable). If you've already tried Gap and Banana, you probably won't be impressed with the quality, but you'll be paying about half the price.

You may or may not already do this, but be extra-conservative when laundering your cardigans: wash them only when they smell or have stains, rather than after every wear, and use the gentlest cycle that gets them clean. And don't carry a bag with a cross-body strap, or put a layer between your cardigan and your bag, otherwise you risk creating a diagonal band of pilling across the chest of your cardigan.

Heathered colors, if they don't feel too casual to you, tend not to show all-over fading as easily as solids.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:22 AM on January 26, 2015

I concur with the suggestions for the Old Navy cardigans.

I will also recommend a Lilly brush for pills and the like. Never ever use a sweater shaver on your sweaters - it can cut the fibers and lead to more pilling and the sweater will wear out faster.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:35 AM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

I love Monsoon cardigans and even ones I've picked up second hand on Ebay are in remarkably good condition with no piling.
posted by humph at 6:38 AM on January 26, 2015

I want to warn all cardigan seekers away from JJill. I've ended up with several of them as gifts and each has been a hot pilly mess within two wears. Not years. WEARS. I like that they are thin yet warm, and tend to be long and body "skimming" rather than boxy. But sheesh, two wears!
posted by apparently at 7:26 AM on January 26, 2015

I hand wash all of my cardigans using Eucalan, even my cotton ones. I have some from Old Navy, Gap, Banana, LE Canvas, J Crew (Jackie), and one from Loft. They all pill, the Jackies are as bad as the others, but this lone one from Loft has been holding up remarkably well. Unfortunately, I don't see it on the website - it's a v-neck long sleeve 100% cotton one I bought last summer. I wonder if this one is similar? I think the reason is it isn't as soft or drapey as the others. In fact, when I first tried it on, I didn't like the feel - tighter weave, mostly.

The one I linked to has several people noting that it washes well and one mentioned it's much better quality than other Loft cardigans. I would try it out. I had sworn off Loft but I've been really surprised by this one.
posted by umwhat at 7:31 AM on January 26, 2015

I have a really great cardigan from Talbot's. I also have had great luck with J Crew factory outlet. For some reason the sweaters I get from J Crew are more delicate and I always end up poking holes at the elbows (maybe I have extra-pointy elbows). The J Crew outlet ones that I have are definitely sturdier.
posted by elvissa at 7:32 AM on January 26, 2015

I'm currently wearing a Worthington cardigan that I got in a thrift store (!!!) and have gotten years of wear out of. They have an extensive petite line which is great for us shrimps who don't want anything too overwhelming or boxy.

They're fairly cool in summer, don't pill, and while they stretch out a bit over the course of a few wears a normal wash-and-dry snaps them back in shape.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:44 AM on January 26, 2015

Elvissa, all my summer weight J Crew cardigans have massive holes at the elbows! Your elbows are normal pointyness!
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:45 AM on January 26, 2015

I was just at a Uniqlo. The mens' cardigans, at least, were all on sale (including cashmere! $60!) and I've been really happy with the durability of their clothes so far.
posted by supercres at 8:22 AM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yea, the august silk ones, definitely. They are probably the only cardigans I have that don't feel and look cheap after 2 washes, even though they are cheaper than some of the other more expensive ones I tried.

In fact, this question just inspired me to order more in other colors.
posted by at 8:40 AM on January 26, 2015

I probably have 2-3 dozen cardigans and wear mine almost daily. I almost never have problems with holes or pilling so maybe I'm the outlier (but I wash all my clothes in hot water and dry them on warm or hot settings) and the favorite long sleeve Merona cardigans from Target last me for years. I have a black one that I've probably worn an average of once a week for five years, I'm sure I've washed it 100 times, and it's faded slightly (but again, I wash in hot water) and that's about it. I have a few other colors that are also holding up great.
posted by jabes at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2015

Best answer: I am the living embodiment of this comic, and I like Wool Overs (a mail-order company recommended in an AskMe years ago). Range of blends (cotton/silk, cashmere/merino, etc.) and styles, easy care, durable. Frequent sales/free international shipping offers. Just double-check their sizing charts for individual cardigans.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:25 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

They call it a blazer, but I would more call it a form of cardigan. It's made from flat backed ribbed cotton which I like quite well, and the material wears well: the F. H. Clothing Company doubled sleeved blazer.
posted by gudrun at 5:39 PM on January 26, 2015

Best answer: I have these in many many colors (my mom went a little crazy). They've lasted a really long time, and I am not a careful person.
posted by oryelle at 5:50 PM on January 26, 2015

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