material comforts

I Touched Everything at 5 Department Stores and Found the Softest Gifts

The most touchable things you can find in Manhattan.

When you talk about cozy gifts, you can get bogged down in the details — the thread count, the provenance, the fabric blend — but when it comes down to it, you really just want to know: How soft is it? I hit five department stores around Manhattan and touched all the things — scarves, blankets, gloves, clothes — in search of the ones that made my hands happiest.

The Natori Sherpa Long Robe is a polar bear hug without the mauling. It stood out as the coziest option among racks of silk satin and cashmere robes. Its faux-fur fabric is fluffy enough to throw on bare skin but it has that billowy-ness of real fur so it won’t be too hot for all-day lounging.

The Martha Stewart Collection Quilted Faux-Fur Throw’s satiny texture passed the face-contact test, which is crucial for when doubles as a pillow during couch time. I hugged and rubbed a dozen-plus throws at Macy’s and this one felt the most like something you’d want to burrito yourself in — plush yet smooth. Oddly, the lightest shade felt slightly silkier than the darker ones (perhaps because of the dye), but I prefer a darker color.

A colorful collection of wool hats, scarves, and gloves is tucked behind the costume jewelry on the first floor, and I can confidently say the Bloomie’s C-brand cashmere was the softest among them. In judging gloves, I considered bitter New York City winters past: No matter how smooth the cashmere, loose weaves mean numb fingers. The convertible mittens (available in both men’s and women’s styles) stood out particularly in the density category — these will stay tight and warm.

Bergdorf is an interesting place, so high-end that you’re actually hard-pressed to find a selection of mundane necessities like hats, scarves, and gloves. I had the best luck in the men’s building across 57th Street, which houses a collection of Loro Piana knits. The cashmere Denver hat is tightly woven and plush so it feels warmer than most knit hats. It’s technically men’s but definitely unisex.

The Ultimate Softy Award goes to the Gabriela Hearst Catherine scarf. As I was snuggling my way through soft things on the Barneys first floor, the Catherine scarf commanded attention due to its size. At over eight-feet long and made of loosely woven cashmere, it’s as lush as a newborn alpaca’s ass. Folded, it’s thick like a feather-stuffed pillow, making the other scarves nearby look spindly. When I went in for the cuddle, Catherine transported me to a long-held fantasy in which I belly flop onto a fluffy bed as feathers rain down around me.

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I Found the Softest Gifts at 5 Department Stores