It may have started out as the Fabric of Kings, but the exquisitely soft fiber known as cashmere is so democratized now it even appears in such humble offerings as socks and head kerchiefs.
Cashmere began to lose its stuffy, old money image a few seasons back when designers decided the elite knitwear melded perfectly with the dress luxuriously for yourself and cocooning trends.
Are you a cashmere addict? Meet others on the Fashion Forum.
According to Suzy Menkes in the International Herald Tribune: "Cashmere has emerged as the quintessential fiber of the late 1990s, embodying all the relevant fashion values of now. It resonates luxury, sensuality, elitism, heritage and a heady dose of mystique."
*It takes a cashmere goat four years to grow enough hair for one sweater.
*Cashmere absorbs water more quickly than wool.
*The diameter of the yarn must be under 19 microns to be classified as cashmere (In contrast, human hair has a diameter of 75 microns)
*Experts claim cashmere is eight times warmer than sheep's wool.
Agriculture, Western Australia
United States Department of Agriculture
The name cashmere comes from the Kashmir province of India, where the cashmere products of this area first attracted the attention of Europeans in the early 1800s.
Originally from the down undercoat of the Asiatic goat (Capra hircus laniger) cashmere fibers now also come from 68 breeds of goats in 12 countries, which are classified as cashmere because of a fiber diameter of under 19 microns.
According to Cashmere.org, significant supplier countries of cashmere include China, Mongolia and Tibet. During molting season in the spring, the goats have their fine underdown hairs combed and separated from the coarse outer hairs in China and Mongolia (the animals are sheared in Iran, Afghanistan, New Zealand and Australia)
Loft - Tiny air spaces trapped between the individual fibers.
Hand or handle - The feel of the finished product.
Ply - Another word for strand. The number of strands twisted together to form the yarn tells you the number of plys.
Pashmina - Finest grade of cashmere that is a short, thin inner layer hair from Himalayan goats of 12-14 microns thick.
At 12-14 microns thick, pashmina is classified as the finest cashmere. Pashmina comes from the same type of goat, except this one only lives in Kashmir and Tibet at heights of 12,000 to 14,000 feet, according to Royal Cashmere. The theory goes that the harshest weather makes for the best inner coat (pashm means "inside").
Even Martha Stewart couldn't resist hawking last year's ubiquitous fashion accessory -- the pashmina shawl or wrap. The fash pack has moved on to newer styles, but this cover-up still works great for evening in warmer climates in place of a jacket or over coats in cold climates for added color and warmth.
Often mixed with silk for added luster, the pashmina shawl takes color beautifully and is best in scrumptious soft colors like banana, lilac, ice blue, rose and seafoam. Sizes (like prices) vary widely, so check out dimensions for each vendor.