Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One Hundred Percent Cashmere-One Hundred Percent eBay

I credited Katherine Hepburn when I loosely paraphrased the practice of being miserly in one area of life so that extravagance may manifest in another. Someone then asked me to track down the source and after thumbing through Scott Berg’s biography of Hepburn as well as her autobiography I had to give up on verifying the attribution. Whatever. The wisdom or rationalization therein still stands-for me at least. Cashmere is an area where my inner miser is apparent. The above photo is an attempt by me to illustrate the lush delicacy of cashmere fibers. It is not an expose on albino pubes.
I remember my first cashmere sweater. Sophomore in college and certainly-even with my clothing store discount-unable to afford cashmere. It was a gift from Miss Effie-my surrogate grandmother (told you I’ve been rewarded with mentors and great surrogates) who lived in a house next door to where I was living with some fratty boys. Initially, we thought that she was going to be a real crotchety old lady who would complain about our debauchery and antics. Nothing could end up being further from the truth. She reveled in our shacking up-our late night antics and our appetite for her Sunday dinners. After all, her daughter married a KA from Chapel Hill in the early 1960’s so she knew our ilk.

I also got a bead pretty quickly on how she was wired when I picked up that little monthly HBO pamphlet on her sofa and saw that she had circled all of the movies with L,V,N. Remember L,V,N? Language-Violence-Nudity. She wanted to be sure not to miss them. What a cool 79 year old gal. So she gives me this brown heathery v neck cashmere sweater for Christmas. Really nice. She then declares that it must be monogrammed and I relent. Hell, she bought the sweater so I figure that she’ll know how to instruct the folks to adorn it with some discreet script of A.D.G.

Fast forward one week and she is beaming as she hands the sweater back to me. I felt a wave of cold nausea when she unfurled the sweater to reveal a freakin’ diagonal billboard beginning over the left chest-adjacent to the V of the neck-with the last of the three letters almost touching the waistband. And the letters were…D.A.G. My roomies who also received sweaters from Effie were howling. I was forever known as “DAG” and I did from time to time; wear the sweater over to her house. Shut up.
Ok, I’m sure I’ve lost you by now. I never bought a cashmere sweater during the ensuing twenty years and never received one as a gift. I admired the Polo cable knit cashmere crewnecks but the MSRP of over three hundred bucks a throw was always too strong for my blood. When you walk in the main entrance of the Ralph Mansion on Madison Avenue you see a wall of them-in every color. Usually with a stunning gal working that counter-willing to sell you as many as you want-for almost four bills.
Then along comes eBay. Now I’m not above buying vintage (used) clothing but I’ve limited it to a dwindling few shops in London. I’m not a thrifter like G-Man over at An Affordable Wardrobe. I don’t have the time or attention span to develop his knack. 
But what I did discover many years ago was a cadre of sellers on eBay that handle brand new goods at a 70% discount. Are they defective? I don’t know-certainly they aren’t so flawed that I can find the problem. So at a 70% discount I’ve assembled a nice little stash of cashmere crewneck Ralphs over the past five years or so.
And I REALLY admired this baby a few years ago. Double breasted cashmere cardigan. I admired it from afar though-after pricing it at Polo Short Hills one afternoon. The sticker on this puppy was over a half grand. No thanks. I was on it like a duck on a junebug when I found it-courtesy of eBay for a Buy It Now price of around a hundred. 
Fuzzy dice be damned-I did remove the big ole Polo bumper sticker crest off of the breast pocket.

Onward. In one hundred percent cashmere. One hundred percent eBay. One hundred percent DAG


JMW said...

The monogram dabacle gave me a good laugh! Sweet of you to wear it to her house, though. Love my cashmere collection - in fact, wearing my red cashmere sweater today. That will be the only thing I miss when this winter season finally ends. :)

M.Lane said...

Almost all of my really great clothes have come from ebay!

Great post.


Anonymous said...

Someone who used to work for Ralph mentioned that it cost them about $70 to put one of those sweaters on the shelf -- advertising included.

(She also recommended against buying one for the reason that the dye lots they use damage the cashmere, and shorten its life.)

((Perhaps you know her; she runs a ladies shop in Old Town.))

Scott Alexander said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Alexander said...

It's funny you put up this post now, when I just received two Polo cashmere cable sweaters from eBay yesterday. I love the quality of these things, but I agree, the $400 price tag is just crazy.

Paul said...

Gotta love cashmere - I wore one yesterday and today, and now its getting a bit warmly for it.

Preppy 101 said...

Your monogram anecdote is just too funny! What a prince of a gentleman you are to have worn the sweater. You know it thrilled her!

There is nothing like a cashmere sweater! Love them.

ilovelimegreen said...

DAG ADG - how can I be the first to write that - no doubt it has been uttered numerous times already since you received that memorable sweater.

My 99.9% no fail rule for buying clothes on ebay - stick with brands you know, ideally items you've already tried on in stores.

Scott said...

I remember that diagonal script monogram thing vividly. My aunt gave me a sweater so adorned, once. But that was way back in the '70s, so there was worse things going on back then. The same aunt later gave me a yellow cashmere V-neck that was ripped off my body by a disgruntled football player (third string) at the fratty house. I generally stick with more pedestrian woolens these days.


heavy tweed jacket said...

Nice collection. Looks like a cool spring day. Gotta like ebay - the world marketplace.

Toad said...

Isn't it fabulous how removing a stupid patch can add so much value. I love it.

Laguna Beach Trad said...

I like it. Though, I doubt I could pull off the double-breasted look around here (same can't be said of the brunette hottie I'm taking out for the night).

Didn't Richard over at WASP 101 feature a similar garment?

Richard said...

I have this exact double breasted cashmere sweater/blazer. I caught all kinds of hell for posting it. The only difference with my sweater is that it has a crest.

Richard said...

ADG...you removed the patch, well, I guess we have the exact same sweater then. I posted my first comment before reading the content.

Anonymous English Female said...

ADG - The words 'cashmere' and 'ebay' are synonymous in my book. Goat pubes don't come into it. I was given an N. Peal cable sweater years ago and instantly fell victim to the old adage that once you've worn cashmere you can never wear lambwool again... none of this pseudo-chinese-2ply for me either - only the best (vintage) Scottish.

Pigtown-Design said...

Ahhh... you're speaking my language. Got my first in HS, given by a rich, old, childless 'aunt' friend of my parents. Dark forest green with abalone buttons, kind of a shawl collar. Gawd i loved that thing.

Now I have a collection of 50+ cashmere sweaters in all colours of the rainbow, even ones that don't look great on me. All bought 2nd hand from e-bay or charity shops. Wearing a dark chocolate brown one today.

I hate it when it comes time to stop wearing them. I could wear them year 'round in Wales.

I am going to take a page from Guiseppe's book and make a scarf from some of the more moth-chewed older sweaters.

I even have a great barrister's bookcase with glass doors to showcase them!

Someone told me that the best way to kill any little mothlings that might be on your sweaters is to freeze them for a couple of days.

ADG said...

JMW...I won't miss a damn thing about this winter.

M.Lane...Yes. eBay is a great thing.

Anonymous...Cashmere thing and especially those that are colored with darker thus caustic dyes are delicate perishable entities. All the more reason to buy them on eBay. Nope-don't know the Old Town store manager. Did I sleep with her?

Scott Alex....good on you. Unfortunately there was no eBay when I was your age.

Paul...I'd take your weather all day long-all year long!


Scott...yes. Thank GOD there were other more absurd things back then-to make our infractions seem minor.

LimeGreenGal...absolute good advice.

Heavy Tweed...bring your blog back please.

Toad...indeed. Sorry about grandbaby's hundred bucks.

LagunaTradCodMan...yep. There are a lot of trad things that would seem a bit out of place in SouCal. How was the date?

Richard...I remember your post. To hell with the naysayers and haters.

AnonEng...don't underestimate the utility of goat pubes.

Anonymous said...

Did I sleep with her?

How could we possibly keep track of your sex life?

(OK, we could all get together and submit that kilim chair for DNA analysis. But apart from that.)

ADG said...

Anonymous....I was just asking.

Memphis88 said...

A whole post on eBay and no seller recs? I need to know where I can get cashmere cable knits for 70% off.

Anonymous said...

Only surly old ladies who live next door to frat houses and watch violent movies have enough character to mess up your name and have you loving it!

I got my first cashmere sweater, that very same electric lime green cabled one you have there, at a Saks clearance sale for $40. I was still rolling in Pell Grant money then so it seemed a drop in the bucket.

Now that I actually understand cashmere and how it compares to the cheap Chinese wool like filet mignon to beef jerky. I'm glad I bought it.

ADG said...

David...you are cracking me up with that "rolling on Pell Grant money". Give me that damn reversible coat you've got.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Nice score. And good call taking off the crest.

Most of my cashmere comes from TJ Maxx. Lasts a few seasons before getting to fuzzy to wear even after taking care of the pills. But as long as they hover around the $25 mark after the Christmas rush, I figure I can stock up. Nothing beyond the basic black, navy, grey. My RL and Crew stuff comes from the outlets during the summers. That's when the colours leap into the wardrobe.

A black cashmere sweater will take you far and is a fine travel companion. Besides, it makes people want to pet you. Which is only creepy 25% of the time.

DAM said...

My first cashmere sweater came from my grandparents in college for my birthday. I later requested one for every gift giving holiday until I had a nice little collection, which through the college years later dwindled to the much anticipated, but never worn black cashmere turtleneck.

They weren't RL, but they were something fine.

Ian from Downunder said...

Greetings from Melbourne!! I have only discovered your solid gold blog earlier this year & have read yr earlier posts. I just wanted to say I thought the piece on REB was your best yet, probably because it came from the heart. I also lost my dad at 15 (I'm now 55) but have not been as fortunate as you re mentors. Many thanks for making my existence a wee bit more bearable. Warmest regards, Ian from Downunder.

Summer is a Verb said...

Ahhh, I want in on the eBay 70% off RL cashmere sweaters haul. I am just about tho take the plunge on an addition to that (full priced) collection and thought I was getting a deal with my $25"Gift For You" card...XXOO

CTW said...

Do you ever sell any of your clothes on ebay? If so, what is your User ID so I can keep a watch out. Maybe you will someday want to part with one of the four pairs of Belgian loafers you have. Taht will be my lucky day.