Things are starting to get pretty cold, and you’re looking for holiday gifts for all the people you love. The simple solution: Buy warm, cozy gifts for yourself (you deserve them, obviously!) and maybe some lucky friends. One of the best gifts that almost everyone appreciates is a cashmere sweater. When things get cold, everybody likes to swath themselves in cashmere, so while I’m asking for a cashmere track suit for Christmas, you might consider gifting a simple sweater for Hanukkah. The ultimate in luxurious cashmere? Undoubtedly Loro Piana. The revered Italian brand creates the loveliest products, with cashmere softer than anything I’ve ever felt. The downside? You really, really have to like yourself (or the gift recipient) to shell out this much on a single sweater. — About $600, at Bergdorf Goodman
Have no fear, though. One of fashion’s worst-kept secrets: J. Crew actually sources from the same places as Loro Piana. Yep, you read that correctly. So while bored Park Avenue housewives are begging their husbands for overpriced Loro Piana, you can actually walk into your friendly local mall and walk out with essentially the same product for a fraction of the price. And, while Loro Piana sweaters come in boring colors and unconventional cuts, you can get a J. Crew cashmere sweater in almost any shape or color. The only difference I’ve been able to discern between the two is the price — and given that I spent a large portion of my life in cashmere, I can say with certainty that the softness and quality are basically the same. — About $200, at J. Crew
The Verdict: Clearly J. Crew.
Don’t love your girlfriend enough to buy her cashmere? Gloves are another winter essential that you can never have too many of, and thus make a wonderful gift (for yourself or others). If you’re like me, and you lose an average of eight or so single gloves each winter, you probably aren't looking to spend a fortune on your handwarmers. The solution? The Gap, of course. Gap sells simple, comfortable sherpa-lined suede gloves, perfect for even the coldest winter weather. If you lose a glove, there are probably at least several Gap locations within a reasonable driving distance of your house. And at this price, you can buy a few backup pairs up front, just in case. — $29.50
On the other hand, good old Barneys is known for their well-crafted, cozy gloves. In a plethora of shapes, lengths and colors, Barneys gloves are luxurious and, despite their price, unpretentious (no overbearing labels, and they’re a department store brand!). Need a long pair of bright yellow gloves? They’ve got them, lined with cashmere to boot. Short carpincho gloves? Yep, they have those too (I have a secret love affair with carpincho — look it up, and you will understand why). Barneys gloves are simply the best. Of course, if you lose one, you will be very sad. But I’ve found that having expensive gloves makes me more careful — and I am much less likely to lose them. — About $275 for leather, cashmere-lined gloves
The Verdict: Go for Barneys!