Does This High-End, Sustainable Cardigan Live Up To The Hype? The R29 Shopping Team Tested It To Find Out

·12 min read

We are always on the hunt for the ever-elusive closet staple that is sustainable, high-quality, and size-inclusive. Recently, that meant keeping an eye out for the perfect fall cardigan. The ideal cardigan should be well-made, flattering, and able to withstand the cold. If you do manage to find one that ticks all those boxes, however, it’s inevitably not accessible to all bodies. So when we heard whispers that Tradlands, a sustainable clothing company, had created an ethically manufactured cotton cardigan available in sizes XXS-4X, we knew we had to learn more.

Per Tradland’s website, the cardigan is designed to be comfy, cozy, and last for years without pilling or losing its shape. Sustainability and ethical manufacturing don’t come cheap, either. The 100% cotton Shelter cardigan costs $227 dollars. Curious if it would stand up to its promise and be worthy of the lofty price tag, each member of the R29 shopping team got their own cardigan to try out courtesy of Tradlands. Read on for our in-depth investigation on the Shelter Cardigan.

Shelter Cardigan (Sienna), $227

This is the best quality sweater that I’ve ever touched. I wanted a color that had a cozy feeling and Sienna definitely gives off that vibe. The fabric felt sturdy and definitely had a bit of weight to it, yet it’s sooo comfortable and very soft. I had the A/C on high when I wore it and I didn’t feel it at all. Another plus is that it has great layering potential. NYC gets really cold, but the subways get really toasty. So a piece that’s easy to layer is paramount.

I like to wear my clothing into the ground, so I definitely need something that holds up. But as a plus-size woman, it’s a little more difficult for me to participate in sustainable fashion as much as I want. I thrift occasionally, but a lot of in-person second-hand stores don’t carry sizes that I can wear. I was excited to find out that, so far, this more inclusive option lived up to the hype.

I definitely recommend the Shelter Cardigan! Yes, it’s a little pricey, but how many $55 ASOS sweaters have I gone through over the last couple winters? By paying four times that just once, you get a sweater that last years. If you are able to invest, the math simply makes sense.

Shelter Cardigan (Navy), $227

This sweater feels expensive. The fabric was durably woven yet soft n’ slouchy at the same time, and the color was more beautiful in person than pictured on site. Although I’m not usually a navy gal, this hue was the opposite of dark and dreary; it was a much more vivid and alluring blue that popped instead of fading into the rest of my ensemble.

The fit is what surprised me most. I was immediately enamored after popping it on and have not stopped wearing it since (I’m wearing it now as I type). It is the oversized-slouchy-cropped cardigan of my dreams. The sleeves are balloon-reminiscent without being cumbersome, the v-neck is shallow enough to not threaten too much chest exposure (aka I can wear it without a shirt underneath!), and the mid-section is tapered in a way that doesn’t make me look completely shapeless while also not hugging too tightly. It feels like one of those easy-elegant pieces you can just toss on for instant ‘Where did you get that?!’ compliments.

I already own two oversized cardigans that I adore, so wasn’t expecting myself to be floored by this new addition as it seemed on the smaller, more-cropped end of the style spectrum — but, boy, was I wrong. I actually ended up loving the Shelter Cotton Cardigan exactly because of its shorter length and more tapered style. While my other oversized cardis are great for lounging around the house in, this style is one I can see myself wearing out on the town to fancier affairs — especially since I can safely sport it without needing to layer a top underneath.”– Elizabeth Buxton, Deputy Director

Shelter Cardigan (Earth), $227

“I already want to keep this cardigan on forever! In person, Earth is this beautiful goes-with-absolutely-everything warm brown that I just adore.

It’s slightly oversized, in the perfect way I want a cardigan to fit me. (I’m a size 14/16, depending on the brand and the fit I want) A little loose in the sleeves but just right in the chest and shoulders. It falls right below my hips, so it’s not too short or too long on me (I’m 5’4, almost 5’5).

Texture is a big thing for me, it’s very important that the fabric is not scratchy or uncomfortable in any way for me to wear it and love it. This cardigan checks off all of those points. I also want to invest in pieces that will last me a good while, and more often than not sustainable fashion = long-lasting.

If you’re looking for a very good quality soft cardigan and you can comfortably afford it, then yes, I completely recommend it. I could live in that thing.

The only negative is the buttons are kind of difficult to put on and off. Not because you feel like they’ll pop off, but the opposite. I think it’s to make sure they stay put. But if you don’t have great mobility/strength in your hands (like I do a little) then you might struggle.” – Mercedes Viera, Associate Deals Writer

Shelter Cardigan (Storm), $227

“I’m a neutral wardrobe girl, so naturally I chose the black color. It arrived a bit more washed and faded in tone than I expected. It’s not a true deep black, but I really like it! This sweater has a great weight to it and is both heavy (in a good way) and high-quality feeling. It’s soft, almost cotton-like without being fuzzy or itchy; and has a super nice boyfriend-fit without swallowing me whole. I for sure see myself wearing this all fall and winter long.

I’ve really been wearing cardigans for as long as I can remember and they’re absolutely a cool weather layering staple for me. I’m a quality over quantity girl when it comes to my wardrobe and knitwear is no exception. When I’m looking to invest in a sweater, I always look for pieces that are well made, will last a long time, and are a cut and color I know won’t go out of style. Also, something that will actually keep me warm is a must… I’m always cold.

With that said, I’m not at the point where my budget allows for me to invest in these types of higher price-point sustainable pieces all the time, but I do like shopping thrift and vintage, which I think is a great way to shop sustainably more frequently.

I feel like if you’re a cardi wearer and are able to make the investment, you won’t regret adding this to your cart. It’s a sustainable classic wardrobe staple that you’ll for sure get your money’s worth out of. It could also be a lovely gift (the holidays will be here before we know it!)” –Kate Spencer, Affiliate Strategist

Shelter Cardigan (Jam), $227

“I love a thick knit cardigan — that’s usually how I know that it is quality. The fabric isn’t fuzzy soft, but it’s definitely cozy and feels like it would retain heat well. The red color is exactly how it was pictured on site too. I’m interested in seeing if it will hold up after a wash, maybe I’ll come back and update.

All of my long arm people rejoice — this cardigan goes up to my palms (which is necessary for supreme coziness)! The cardigan also hangs nicely. I have a short torso and it rests right at the top of my butt. It’s not exactly oversized but it has a lovely loose fit. Would definitely wear it throughout fall, and I don’t even like cardigans like that.

As I get older (and save more money), I definitely see the benefits of shopping sustainably. It’s great for the planet, but shopping sustainably is also generally better for your wardrobe — higher-quality pieces, fewer non-essential items, and overall more thoughtful fashion. I also love how it often leads to safer and better work conditions for employees.

That said, I’m not sure I would splurge on it for myself. I would say this is a great gift for someone you love, but at this point in time for me, not a casual purchase. It truly is a great cardigan though! If you have the means and the desire for a well-made sustainable wardrobe stable, it’s definitely a worthy investment.” –Alexandra Polk, Lifestyle Writer

Shelter Cardigan (Birch), $227

“I own a couple of cardigans with a similar style and really gravitate towards slightly boxy, cropped button-down sweaters that I can easily throw on and feel cute in. The fabric was kind of like a cozy knit you would find at a country store, but not too thick — which I like. I got the Birch color, which is like an ivory-vanilla shade. In photos, it looked more like a soft white, but IRL it was a dreamy, creamy hue that I really like.

The fit was great, IMO. I sized down since anything too oversized tends to overwhelm my frame, and the XXS was still plenty roomy. (If you love an oversized fit, I would probably take your true size.) I loved pairing it with my favorite American Apparel high-waisted denim shorts, but it would also be super cute with jeans or cool pants.

I love sweaters and cardigans, but since moving to Miami I’m probably not going to be wearing them super often, LOL. However, this Tradlands one is light enough to throw on during a breezier evening or morning walk, and will definitely be getting plenty of use this season.

It’s pretty expensive for a cotton sweater, IMO, but if you’re comfortable spending that much on clothes already, then I’d say you’ll be pleased with the quality of this cardigan. And bonus points for the inclusive size range!” –Karina Hoshikawa, Beauty Writer

Shelter Cardigan (Sienna), $227

This cardigan is no joke — it’s surprisingly chunky and has real weight to it, which means I have no doubt in my mind that it’ll actually keep me warm through chilly days and nights.

Sienna is this rich golden caramel hue that also kinda declares “pumpkin spice season.” I’m into it. I think I would personally love to see front pockets and one more button so that I could wear this cardigan by itself like a top. Right now the V-neck plunges too deep and my boobs would definitely be on full display but I think a simple brooch or pin would do the trick in a pinch!

This price point is more than I would normally spend, but then again, it’s also coming from Tradlands, an independent fashion brand that designs with sustainability in mind. And, like with most slower-fashion brands, thoughtfulness = not cheap. If it’s within a cardigan seeker’s budget, then yes, I would recommend this! And, if not, I do see that the brand has a Well Worn Exchange program, which is a great alternative to buying new.” –Jinnie Lee, Freelance Fashion Writer

Shelter Cardigan (Jam), $227

“I got the cardigan in Jam in an XL. It’s such a good fall color, a rich red that can pretty much function like a neutral. It’s soft, but not in a cloud-like way, which I like. I like that it has a good weight to it instead of being clingy and fuzzy.

I am typically an XL in tops and my first thought taking it out of the mailer was “Should I have sized down?” But it managed to be oversized without swallowing me up. This was also my first cardigan in forever. The last ones I had were much more the super-fitted, 3-quarter-length sleeve variety you used to be able to get at J.Crew with a matching shell — uber-preppy in an Ann Taylor way. I loved that this cardigan still felt classic but way more laid back.

I live in Tennessee, so this can basically function as a jacket for most of the winter — my cardi version of a shacket. Cardicket? Jackigan? Still working on that. I did find that because it was so textured, however, it didn’t pair well with my obviously summery dresses (think linen or bright florals). I can totally see myself wearing it with jeans or a more seasonal dress all fall. Here, I tried it with overalls, and I was surprised at how it really dressed up the look.

One thing to note is that while it does button up enough to keep me covered, I was pretty cleavage-y wearing it alone. It’s definitely a look for someone with my bra size and frame — and not just a cozy, throw-it-on-for-errands look. Maybe more of a sexy nighttime bonfire vibe? I probably won’t wear it alone.

I am at the stage in my life where I’ve settled down and built out my closet enough that I no longer need to go on seasonal shopping sprees. Instead, I am always looking for strategic upgrades and additions. I already have a pretty classic style so I was excited to try something from a sustainable brand that fits my aesthetic. I think if you can invest in sustainable fashion, you should. and this is a great place to start.” –Marshall Bright, Freelance Editor

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