Last month, I went to Amsterdam on an annual business trip. Mid-November in North Sea countries usually means cold rain or damp blustery days. It’s pretty chilly there, (even for a cold-hardened, former Midwesterner), setting up perfect conditions for sweater shopping.
This year, mohair seemed to be everywhere. Amsterdam was wrapped in the stuff.
“You’d have to be stoned (a reasonable possibility in Holland) or clueless to miss the message: if you’re on-trend, you’d better be in an earth-toned longish, bulky-knit mohair blend sweater.”
I endorse shopping while straight, having made a few serious purchase mistakes in the past when not-entirely-alert. It was easy to succumb to the pull of Euro-style. Sweater-y shops were on every street.
Here’s what I bought.
The label said “10% mohair.” The sweater cost only 20 euros, about $35. Savvier shoppers would have taken the amazingly low price as a warning sign: this mohair was probably sheared off a genetically-modified goat.
It felt fine for the two minute try-on in the fitting room. As you can see, it’s a loosely-knit, see-through thing, requiring an underlayer.
I wore it with a silk turtleneck the next day and was okay for a few hours. At dinner that evening with our Dutch colleagues, my skin started crawling. The situation escalated rapidly to crisis-level somewhere between menu-reading and cocktail-ordering. Scratching and grimacing through the first course, I surrendered to impending madness during the entrée and frantically peeled off the sweater. Distracted by the image of fire ants attacking, I somehow resisted the urge to go bra-only at the table.
A devoted stiletto-fan, I remain faithful to the maxim that being fashionable may require sacrifice. The mohair, however, drags me far beyond sacrifice. Vivid images of medieval pre-saints wearing hairshirts come to mind.
Observing my deteriorating condition at dinner, one of our practical-minded Dutch pals offered up a fix.
“I’ve heard that storing mohair in the freezer makes it stop itching.” Ronald’s advice came from his clear-eyed, honest-looking Dutch face, so the cure seemed plausible.
“You’re playing with me, Ronald,” I thought as I skeptically stashed the offensive thing in our freezer as soon as we returned home. It’s been there nearly a month. Here it is, resting innocently.
Last night, the mohair’s long rehab session ended. Noticing that it wasn’t frozen or even slightly cool, I was instantly suspicious. Within a minute of putting it on, I was back on the Devil’s hitlist.
Today, I tried to pawn the creature off on friends. Most people, it seems, have an issue with mohair sweaters. A few questions arise here.
How can these things be “fashionable” if they’re unwearable by a chunk of the sweater-wearing public? How did they even get on the fashion short-list in the first place?
Extreme paranoia about terrorism is also all the rage these days. I have a few scratchy theories:
• Could mohair-producing Middle Eastern goats be part of an Al Qaeda plot to punish non-burqa-wearing women?
• Maybe a special kind of mohair is being exported to infidel markets?
• Will itchy-bitchy mohair-sweater-wearing women pose a bigger threat to the Good Ol’ American Family than gay marriage?
(Anything’s possible. Just watch the news.)
I don’t know the answer. But here are a few suggested antidotes to the dermatologic toxin of mohair.. even at a 10% dilution.
“Best way is to wash the shirt/sweater gently in a wool-wash detergent and then rinse in a fabric conditioner.
If this fails and the product is still itchy, then I suggest you drop a line to the manufacturer. He has used a wool which isn’t suitable to the product – ie too coarse and therfore not ‘fit-for-purpose’ . The right wool wouldn’t itch!
Hope the conditioner works!”
“I think you might need to create a warning label with disclaimers about clothing that needs to be stored in a freezer!”
“Have you tried it with a cotton shirt underneath? Seems obvious but it keeps the mohair off the skin.”
I’m open to anything and welcome your suggestions.