6 Basic 100% Wool/Cotton Sweaters for £40 and Under

Thursday, 12 September 2013
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I don't think I'm a demanding consumer. Just one with a discerning taste in fashion.  I know what I like, I know what I don't like and I know that in general, clothes that are made of natural fibers are better (breathable, pill less etc). I also don't have a spectacular budget to blow so shopping around means conscientiously looking at the fabric label, the workmanship and of course, the price tag. The gist of the matter is I like plenty of bang for my dollar (or in my case sterling pound).

I have a gorgeous Isabel Marant Etoile knitted sweater made of 100% cotton tricolor yarn. I was lucky enough to nab it at the summer sale. The funny thing, I get asked a lot about my other sweater. When I blithely utter "ASOS" and "£29", there were a few jaws dropped to the ground followed by looks of disappointment. I was expected to say something rather exciting like - Alexander Wang or Isabel Marant or even COS. The quality? Incredible. Considering how little I'd paid for it.

Lately, my fashion designer friend, Kylie and I have had several intense discussions about knitwear which she's producing for her next collection. We verbally dissected the jumper, though not too dissimilar to what I did with a sheep brain (ghastly stuff) in my first year of Psychology.  The way we were going on, you'd think that there's a science to making sweaters. First, the neckline needs to be slightly scooped to expose the collar bone but nothing too risqué. It's more flattering and slimming (especially if you've got a moon face like mine). Next, the armholes should be relatively narrow without the batwing effect. Again, it helps the sweater to drape better creating a more attractive silhouette. However, it mustn't cling or hug the body because you don't want to emphasize the bulges. The point to this is to ensure a loose fit so that there's room to layer but you don't want to end up looking like you're wearing a sweater 4 sizes too big.

My last point is more of a rant. Lately, I've gone from shop to shop to try on, feel, molest and eyeball my fair share of sweaters. All in the name of fashion, of course. There are many, I do mean, many who gladly charge £285 upwards for a wool/polyester/acrylic blend sweater. And then there is a handful that are made of 100% natural fiber (wool, cashmere or cotton) with the starting price of £19.99.

I'm an equal opportunity sweater wearer. I love plain V neck ones as well as the chunky cable knits. The merino wool and cashmere ones from Uniqlo are hands down, the best value for money. Or the other option is Saint Laurent which are incidentally sold out. The price for the privilege is £560. Yes, that's £560 for a plain v neck sweater.

If you're after 100% cotton chunky knits, you simply can't go wrong with these ones (in the collage) from ASOS and Mango. I've tried on the ones from Zara (too thin and utter rubbish polyester crap) and COS (too scratchy) and they were nowhere as good. The ivory and black cotton blend cable knit sweater from Mango (No.2)  is very similar to this season's offering from Isabel Marant Etoile. It's not wool but at nearly a tenth of the price, I can forgive Mango for the oversight.

What reasonably priced sweaters are you loving at the moment?


  1. For work, I live in Brooks Bros sweaters--and I buy most of mine from the outlet too. For casual I like Gap for classic, and then All Saints/Rick Owens for edgier stuff. Uniqlo makes good sweaters too. I look for either cotton or merino wool, since I can wear them year round and wash them at home. The second I see acrylic in a sweater or boucle, it's an instant no. Such a crap fabric.

  2. It truly is surprising what a designer can charge for a sweater which isn't even 100% wool. I can't confirm what their quality is like - as obviously this varies from brand to brand, and from the actual fabrics used.

    I always feel somewhat fulfilled when I maange to come across a sweater that is 100% natural fibres. Kind of tempted by Uniqlo...

  3. Oh I can so identify with this post. It is incredibly hard to find good quality but really well fitting knitwear which flatters. I love chunky cable knits but find they often chunk you out so have to really take care with these. But you are right, the price can vary so much across the board for very similar items i.e. plain merino, plain cashmere. Sometimes, there isn't that much in it apart from the price.

    I have the Mango navy cable cardigan from last year and it does wash well and hold it's shape well and given that it was £20 in the sale - what's not to love? I think I may go for jumper 2 as it's 100% cotton which I prefer to wool - just washes so much better and it's an absolute plus in my eyes. My surprise knitwear hits are actually from Gap. I never think of finding something in there but I have just found the perfect navy cotton v neck cardigan from their outlet for £17. Really can't say fairer than that given that a lot of acrylic offerings are out there for more. But I don't discount synthetic offerings immediately - it depends on the individual garment. I just try to keep it at a minimum. my recent Zara jumper which was 100% acrylic was lovely but .... went back because I couldn't handle the length of the sleeves. Just can't do soupy sleeves.

    1. Gap? I need to take another look. A friend of mine came back from the US wearing a striking jumper which she bought from Gap but I don't ever remember seeing it sold here.

  4. Hi there!! Lovely post and round up-like you I am a natural fibres gal when it come to jumpers and definitely a first port of call is Uniqlo, they are pretty hard to beat. Another good stop for under £50 is Marks & Spencers mens section, I liked the look of a couple of their sweaters which have high wool or cotton content. Of course my favourite finds are thrifted, you can't beat older jumpers that are 100% wool and are around a fiver!!

  5. Lovely post Marlene. Is there any kind of itch factor with the merino wool Uniqlo ones? Was reading the online reviews yesterday and they seem to be more highly rated than the Uniqlo cashmere ones.

    1. I'm sensitive to wool or in fact, any wool blend really but the ones from Uniqlo are absolutely fantastic. They last and last and don't itch at all.

  6. Love your blog and your style. So agree about acrylic - Iadore the leopard print wwhistles jumper in shops now but £95 for acrylic? ?? No way.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. These days, we're paying for the brand name more than ever.

  7. Great post Marlene. I love your honesty (and heck you speak the truth)! I haven't run into a sweater (recently) that I love, well that I am prepared to pay for at least. I'm trying to hold out for our trip to Japan (in February) to hit Uniqlo again. I was shocked at how amazing their clothes were and the price!

    Mandi /

  8. This is such a great post Marlene! I've avoided the knit issue until now, too much trouble. I know I'm not willing to hundreds of Euros for a designer knit and was planning on checking out Uniqlo when I will be in NY next month.

  9. I'm so glad you posted this! I'm always on the look out for a good chunky sweater, and I can never find ones that I like that won't break the bank. I love number 2 and 6 on here though! And I'm glad they seem affordable.

    1. Chunky knits are the rage now. The IM sweater is gorgeous but not everyone can afford several hundred pounds per sweater.

  10. I love my COS burgundy sweater I got last winter. It's wool and silk: soft and warm. It also doesn't pill like my merino sweaters.
    Other than that, I have a tendency to buy lots of knits from various price ranges. New or second-hand. Thanks eBay and consingment stores for some wonders now in my closet.

    1. I'll check COS out. I popped into their store but didn't see anything I like this time.

  11. Great post, Marlene! I too have been fuming over the ever increasing prices and decreasing quality. Um, hundreds for poly/acrylic/yucky blends? I also love Uniqlo and wish they were available in Canada (thank goodness for friends in the UK and US). And big thanks to you, I ordered the ASOS grey knit with star patches -- awesome design and price, whooo!

    1. Of all places, ASOS seems to be the most reasonably priced in terms of their 100% cotton knitwear. Frankly, I'm appalled at the crazy prices that brands are charging for awful quality knitwear. Unacceptable and unaffordable.

  12. That's it! Uniqlo is first stop for me on my next trip to London. I find knitwear a difficult thing to buy as so much of it irritates my skin - and like you I find it really annoying that such ridiculous prices are charged for such rubbish materials. Great post :)

    1. Helen, I've pretty much converted my entire family to Uniqlo. They really got their basics down pat at such incredible prices.

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