Keeping knitwear pristine, the desired shape, and pill-free is extremely challenging. In fact, pilling gets my award for most frustrating quality challenge these days because there is zero guarantee that knitwear won’t pill. The best I can do when I’m recommending knitwear is road-test the item and hope for the best when it comes to long-term longevity. 

I wear a lot of knitwear and ideally I want the items to last in a pristine state for at least three years. After that, it should look good enough to pass on to Dress for Success. So last year I came up with a knitwear purchasing strategy with four parts.

  1. No more pricey designer knitwear.
  2. No more cheap cashmere.
  3. Purchase 100% cotton knitwear from a range of brands because the likelihood of it pilling is far lower.
  4. Purchase wool and wool-rich knitwear from a shortlist of brands who haven’t let me down in the past.

So far my strategy is working because I’m far less frustrated with quality issues, and can continue to enjoy my knitwear.

Banana Republic was not on my shortlist of knitwear retailers because in the past, their knitwear has pilled and stretched out terribly. This recently changed with the Washable Merino Wool Sweater that comes in ten colours, regular and petite, and sizes XXS to XXL. I was drawn to the citron right away. I tried it on and loved the gently fluid yet structured fit, lightweight gauge, polished appearance, and interesting stitch interest. Prepared to give Banana Republic knitwear another chance, the citron pullover followed me home.

I put the citron sweater through its paces. I wore it three times, with no pilling or stretching out. I laundered it in the machine in a gauze bag with cold water on the delicates cycle. I dried it on a clothes rack, and was fully prepared to press it back into shape. But it didn’t need a press since the shape had not been altered. I wore it again, and it looked as great! So I went back for the blue, repeating the same road-testing process. Wore it a few times, and no pilling. Laundered it and got the same stellar results. Excellent.

At this stage I was confident about the quality of the item, so I went back for the red, pink and white because the essential filled quite a pressing wardrobe hole. I needed an assortment of simple, tailored, fine gauge, high-necked, professional, NOT cashmere, and better-than-basic pullovers that I can tuck or semi-tuck into my large capsule of high-rise pants and jeans, and wear under blazers and jackets. This was the perfect item and available in exactly my colours. So I bought five with a 60% discount. I can also wear them well into Spring because Spring in Seattle can feel like Winter.

I will continue to be extremely careful with knitwear that is not on my shortlist of tried-and-tested brands because I’ve been frustrated and disappointed with pilling knitwear a little too often. It does though feel really good to share something positive about chain-store knitwear for a change, and I’m thrilled I gave the item a chance. A win for me, and for Banana Republic. It gives me hope that things are moving back to the quality levels we were used to many years ago.