Fine wool fiber separated by hand from the molted undercoats of pashmina and cashmere goats. High-end cashmere is collected by combing through the shedding goat coat for fibers that are 19 microns or less in diameter. Cashmere production is limited and a single cashmere garment may require the output of multiple goats to meet the raw material requirements to make the piece of clothing. Cashmere production is generally non-harmful to the goats themselves and the combing or shearing coincides with seasonal weather changes, so that the goats are naturally shedding their warm undercoat fibers.
Vintage cashmere is a collectors item and cashmeres from the 50s to 70s is the span of time most sought after, with an emphasis on the color and style of the garment. Manufacturers such as Lyle and Scott, Pringle, Ballentyne, Braemar were leading design houses for cashmere garments based in Scotland which is heralded as the origin of the finest cashmere clothing. Vintage cashmere that is decades old and still in great shape, without pilling (balls of fiber caused by friction that stick to and ruin the look of cashmere pieces), or stains or signs of degradation is a rare find and offers a style of decades past that is warm, soft, weather resistant and stylish. Holes or tears in cashmere can be mended by a skilled tailor, moths love to eat cashmere and other wool products and thus cashmere is hard to keep unless properly cared for and stored, all of this leads to a market without much supply. High-quality vintage cashmere from leading manufacturers aged 50-80 years old is difficult to find but is quite possibly some of the nicest pieces of clothing you may encounter.
Cashmere garments with tags stating 100% pure cashmere or just pure cashmere indicate that the cashmere is not a blend and that the entire piece is made from cashmere wool which is the finest level of production cashmere achieves. Also, garments that feature the tailor’s name or the client’s name on the tag are extremely rare and indicate that the piece was custom made for the individual whose name is stitched into the tag. One-of-one cashmere clothing is a rare vintage treasure.
Pretty Old Clothing recently came about four vintage cashmere garments all of them produced in the 1950s. To start the list is the Lyle and Scott blue/purple cardigan sweater, made in Scotland by a master manufacturer of cashmere. The piece was tailor made for the name on the tag and is extremely rare.
Second, is a Pringle of Scotland cardigan sweater from the 1950s in a light tan to pink color with brown buttons. A vintage version of a sweater that Pringle still produces, nearly thread-for-thread the design does not seem to have changed for over 70 years.
Third, is a cashmere sweater from Dalton, a notable American manufacturer of cashmere clothing. Made in the 1950s, the Dalton sweater is thick cashmere in all black with metal buttons.
And fourth is a Pringle of Scotland sweater in green that is no longer available. A tailor made sweater for the name on the tag, this Pringle cardigan was utterly rare and the quality of the design and the fabric was remarkable. The bottom hem and wrist closed tight and the shoulders were more broad with a sweeping circular neckline. The garment draped perfectly and was made in the 190s.
New cashmere and vintage cashmere share a few things in common, firstly, the process of growing and collecting cashmere has not much changed (which means that cashmere even in new pieces is still limited in supply and thus rather expensive), also the designs made in cashmere are still generally of a timeless iteration (sweaters, cardigans, vests and similar creations are the most common applications of cashmere in fashion. Vintage cashmere is a rare find in the world of secondhand clothing and finding the best pieces, custom made garments for clients of cashmere design houses over 50 years ago is a treasure.