I tried three cult-favourite cotton cardigans, and this is my honest review of them all

Hilary Hagerman
·Managing Editor
From left to right: Tradlands Shelter Cardigan, Everlane Cropped Cotton Cardigan and the cult-favourite Babaa no. 18 in plum blossom.
From left to right: Tradlands Shelter Cardigan, Everlane Cropped Cotton Cardigan and the cult-favourite Babaa no. 18 in plum blossom.

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About a year ago, I started seeing the same sweater everywhere on Instagram. It came in a variety of pastel and candy-coloured hues, draped beautifully and had the power to make everyone wearing it seem effortlessly put together. Of course, I’m talking about the cult-favourite Babaa no. 18 sweater. The knit, from the Spanish label, rose too its it girl-favourite status because of both its minimalist shape and ethical/sustainable make.

I hemmed and hawed about the Babaa no. 18 for literally a year. Finally this past summer, I bit the bullet and purchased the cardigan in Plum Blossom when the brand had their summer sale. But it didn’t come cheap. On sale, it was €210, and at regular price it will set you back €230—which is nearly $340 CAD.

While I’ve seen many people say their Babaa is their best purchase ever, the price is extremely hard to justify for most people. That’s why when Everlane introduced their Texture Cotton Crop Cardigan earlier this year, my interest was piqued. The sweater has a similar cropped silhouette, but looked a bit more fitted—and came in sizes ranging from XXS-XL. Early in September, I snapped one up in Cider, which is a perfect hue for fall.

Fast forward to earlier this month when I received a “Coming Soon” email from another one of my favourite sustainable brands, Tradlands, featuring their Shelter Cardigan. In the name of research (it’s all for research, right, not because I am a sweater addict?), I ordered a Birch cardigan as soon as it was available.

If you’re looking to invest in any of these gorgeous sweaters for fall, I’ve rounded up everything you need to know—from size and fit to shipping and duties—below.

THE SIZE AND FIT

This is one of the most prevalent questions when it comes to the Babaa no. 18—so I wanted to start things off by comparing the three cardigans.

Babaa no. 18 in Plum Blossom, one size
Babaa no. 18 in Plum Blossom, one size

The Babaa, as you might know, is one size fits all, which is a point of contention for a lot of people. I also find it a bit of a chameleon in terms of how it fits—on the brand models, it looks huge, but on many Instagrammers and bloggers I’ve stalked, it’s much more flattering.

I usually wear a size 2-4, and the cardigan fits well, but with plenty of room. The one thing I don’t like about the Babaa is how it kind of bunches up/folds in the middle when buttoned up — so I’ve usually worn this unbuttoned. It’s worth noting that the Babaa, while oversized throughout the body, has short arms. As someone who usually rolls my sleeves or pushes them up, I love this feature. But if you want full-length sleeves, that reach your wrist, that might be a problem.

Everlane Texture Crop Cardigan in Cider, size small
Everlane Texture Crop Cardigan in Cider, size small

The Everlane cardigan is more cropped than the Babaa, and more tapered throughout the body. I’m usually an extra small or small in Everlane and got this in a small. What I love most about this cardigan is its versatility—I’ve worn it buttoned up fully and tucked into jeans or a skirt, unbuttoned over a dress, half-tucked, backwards—and it has a kind of magical quality where it seems to look good no matter how it’s worn.

Tradlands Shelter Cardigan in Birch, size small
Tradlands Shelter Cardigan in Birch, size small

The Tradlands cardigan is a more straight cut than either the Everlane or the Babaa cardigan, while still being roomy. I took my true size, a small, and it fit relaxed without being too loose. The length and classic style of the Shelter Cardigan make it the best option if you’re looking for a traditional cardigan that looks good both in the office as it does for a night out.

THE MAKEUP/MATERIALS

The Babaa no. 18 Cardigan is made from 100% Spanish cotton. I can’t rave enough about how this feels when it’s on—it’s heavy without being hot and drapes beautifully.

The Everlane cropped cotton cardigan is made from 73% cotton and 27% nylon. I wasn’t sure how I would like the mix (would nylon be itchy? Would the quality feel off?) but I honestly haven’t noticed much of a difference in feel between this sweater and the other ones—and I actually think the nylon mix helps it keep its shape, which makes me feel comfortable wearing it in a variety of ways.

The Tradlands Shelter cardigan is made from 100% ethically-sourced Peruvian cotton and feels so, so luxe.

THE DETAILS

The Babaa no. 18 cardigan, as I said earlier, has cropped sleeves and a shorter, boxier silhouette. It features four buttons, maybe from recycled cotton fibre (!!) that add such a fun touch, especially on some of the cotton cardigans where they look a bit candy-esque.

The Everlane cropped cardigan compared to the Babaa no. 18.
The Everlane cropped cardigan compared to the Babaa no. 18.

The Everlane cardigan has a cropped, but streamlined, silhouette and features three slightly oversized buttons. I find the three buttons a bit more flattering if you’re going to be wearing the sweater buttoned.

The Tradlands Shelter Cardigan also features three buttons—but there’s a key difference between this cardigan and the Everlane one, and that’s that the Tradlands buttons are significantly smaller and also a solid cream hue. This perfectly complements the wear-with-anything vibe of the sweater—if you’re worried about oversized buttons looking too out of place in your wardrobe, this is definitely a more unassuming option.

The Tradlands Shelter cardigan is more streamlined than the Babaa no. 18.
The Tradlands Shelter cardigan is more streamlined than the Babaa no. 18.
The Tradlands sweater's sleeves are notably longer than Babaa's cropped sleeves.
The Tradlands sweater's sleeves are notably longer than Babaa's cropped sleeves.

As far as colour selection goes, Babaa far and away has the most options. The no. 18 cardigan comes in neutrals, pastels and jewel tones, and also comes in a “mini” size if you’re looking for something more cropped and close-fitting.

The Everlane Texture Cotton Crop Cardigan comes in Bone (off white), Black and Cider, the shade I have.

The Tradlands Shelter cardigan comes in Birch, the beautiful cream colour I have, as well as quail (a classic grey) and Burnt Sienna, a lovely ‘70s-looking brown with a slight orange tinge.

THE WEAR

These sweaters are all incredibly well made. I’ve been wearing the Babaa and the Everlane for more than a month — and I’ve noticed no real wear on the Everlane cardigan.

I’ve been a little disappointed with the delicate nature of the Babaa no. 18. Don’t get me wrong - it’s stunning and fits like a dream, but I’ve been noticing that some threads and stitches are coming undone on the inside, where the metal bits on the pockets of my jeans hit the sweater. It’s definitely one of those things I notice and no one else does, but for the price, I wish I didn’t worry so much while wearing it.

The Tradlands cardigan I’ve had for a little less time but have noticed no wear so far.

One thing worth mentioning is that I rarely wash my cardigans, since I always wear a shirt underneath. However, if you do plan to wash these, hand washing with a natural detergent will help them maintain their shape.

From left to right: Babaa no. 18, Everlane Texture Cotton Crop Cardigan, Tradlands Shelter Cardigan
From left to right: Babaa no. 18, Everlane Texture Cotton Crop Cardigan, Tradlands Shelter Cardigan

THE PRICE

When it comes to price, the Everlane sweater is the heavy favourite— at CAD $121, it’s definitely the most affordable of the bunch. Plus, duties and taxes are calculated and paid when you check out, so there’s no hidden fees upon delivery.

The Babaa is a cult-favourite, but it doesn’t come cheap. as I mentioned earlier. As a small silver lining, shipping is free. The other thing about Babaa is that the duties and taxes are pay on delivery. I actually purchased this and had it shipped to a friend in the U.S., where duties and customs are no additional cost, but depending on your location, I’ve heard the import costs can be up to $100 CAD. To dull the blow, Babaa does offer occasional sales, usually about twice a year, so follow them on Instagram or sign up for their mailing list for details.

Tradlands’s Shelter Cardigan retails for $227 USD, which is about $295 CAD. is similar where unfortunately, while shipping is free, duties and tax are calculated upon delivery, which can again make knowing the total cost dicey. For reference, I paid about $35 CAD for this order.

THE FINAL VERDICT

At the end of the day, it really comes down to what you’re looking for.

If you’re willing to pay the price (and put effort into caring for it), the Babaa no. 18 will last you for years to come, and even the most colourful varieties are surprisingly wearable every day (check out Instagram for inspiration).

The Everlane cropped cardigan is an on-trend number from a sustainable brand that is known for high quality goods and ethical work conditions. I’m hoping they’ll will produce the cardigan in brighter hues for winter or spring 2020—I’d love one in a red, blue or pink!

The Tradlands Shelter cardigan is a classic, understated and work-appropriate number that will make you feel like a total boss—and if you’re still not on board with a cropped silhouette, this one’s for you.

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