Buy less, buy better.
It’s a quote you see all over the Internet. But when you’re about to invest in something new how do you know if what you’re buying is any good?
Many think spending more money means better quality but that’s not always the case. Determining whether a piece is going to go the distance isn’t always an easy task. But if you want a high-quality wardrobe you need high-quality clothes, so I’m going to show you 10 checks you can use to guarantee kick-ass quality.
What do we mean by ‘quality?’
The term quality really encapsulates a number of different aspects you look for in a garment.
Durability – You want clothes that last longer than a season and won’t fall apart after a few washes.
Structure – High-quality clothes keep their structure and shape and don’t stretch or shrink over time. Cough Primark!
Fabric – Clothes should feel comfortable and great to wear. They should also keep their colour and the fabric shouldn’t pill (my personal pet peeve!).
Construct and finish – Tidy seams, fabric that feels great, sturdy construction, and details that are actually detailed! All these things indicate you’re dealing with a high-quality garment. You don’t want something that looks like it’s been put together by a Year 7 textiles student.
If you can fill your wardrobe with pieces that meet these key aspects, you’ll be hitting all hallmarks of a high-quality item.
01 | The seams – Checking the seams of a garment is THE number one way of quickly determining whether a piece of clothing is high-quality. You don’t see them on the hanger so this is an area budget retailers will skimp on.
Why? Because it won’t impact the ‘hanger appeal’ of their clothes and they know you’re not going to give them much attention. However, in the long run, poor seams will result in clothes that lose their shape or even fall apart.
02 | Neat seams – You now know seams are where it’s at! But you need to know what to look out for. Rubbish seams tend to have loose stitches, random loose threads, and uneven lines. They may even look like they’ve been stitched multiple times. In really poor seams, you may notice the needle hole is too big for the thread that’s been used. Hold up a seam to the light and pull it gently, if the seam separates and you can see daylight leave the garment well alone. You can also try the same trick with the garment on, only instead of checking for day light check if you can see skin.
Pro-tip | This is why trying on clothes and moving in them is so important. Watch what the seams do when you sit down in a skirt or a pair of trousers. What happens to them when you twist or bend over in a top?
If the fabric is patterned the pattern on either side of the seam should match up. This is what you should find as you start to pay more for your clothes.
03 | Seam type – You don’t need to be a master tailor or seamstress and know about every single seam type. You do need to be able to recognise whether a specific seam has been used in the wrong way.
Serged seams (those zig zag looking ones) are quick, cheap, and not very strong. They’re perfect for the hems of anything light-weight. If you lift up your t-shirt chances are you’ll see a serged seam. What they’re not – is very strong. If they’ve been used on a hem of a garment with a heavy fabric there’s a good chance it’s not going to hold. What they’re also not great for is holding two pieces of fabric together – these are known as load bearing seams.
Load bearing seams are those you check for when you pull the two pieces of the fabric apart. Think – the seam that runs down the side of trousers or those used to attach the arm to the body of a jacket.
They should be solid and secure, and of course neat. You shouldn’t be able to see them from the outside (this includes hemlines for heavier fabrics).
04 | Tailoring – Our bodies are three dimensional so it’s important clothes are constructed to fit them correctly.
Pro-tip | This is why it’s a good idea to check the back of your outfit when trying on clothes in the fitting room.
When it comes to tailoring, the piece should have been constructed to fit an actual body. So jackets should include a centre seam down the back (some may have more than one), shirts should include darts to help hug the waist, and shoulders on jackets should be reinforced to avoid them losing their shape.
05 | Lining – Generally, if a jacket has a lining in a natural fabric it’s a good sign. The lining protects all the intricacies of the construction of an item.
If your item is a tailored piece or delicate it really should have a lining. Now you know why your mum would turn her nose up at anything without a lining when shopping for a winter coat as a kid.
06 | Buttons – If your buttons look as though they’re hanging on for dear life then it’s not a great sign. High-quality pieces usually throw in a freebie button attached to the care label or in a separate pouch or box.
Button holes should be reinforced and on jackets look out for key holes – button holes with a round bit on the side. These allow the button to lie flat. Budget jackets will use buttons on the cuff purely for decoration, so buttons on the cuff that actually work are something to watch out for with jackets.
07 | Zips – There’s nothing worse than a zip that gets stuck half way up. Check they run smoothly and lock at the top. They should also lie flat against the garment.
08 | Pockets – Check for reinforcements where the pockets are stitched to the piece. High-quality tailored items will have real pockets, but they may be stitched up so they look neater on the hanger. If you want to use them you’ll need to carefully unstitch them.
09 | Fabric – I could write an entire post on fabric there’s so much to look out for. To keep it simple I’d suggest making sure whatever fabric you choose feels great on the skin. It should be sturdy and not flimsy. Look out for any signs of pilling as you don’t want those little bobbles popping up and ruining an otherwise great looking piece.
10 | Labels – Woven labels are much nicer and comfortable than labels that have been printed, so look out for clothes with those. A lot of high-end pieces will have woven labels ‘tacked’ on with a couple of stitches. This is done so you can easily take them out and store them somewhere safe along with their care instructions.
When you’re next out shopping, don’t worry if you don’t remember every little detail I’ve covered in this post. Being aware of even half the things I’ve touched on will help you determine whether that next purchase has the right level of quality you need for your wardrobe.
Being aware of what goes into a quality piece of clothing means you can ‘buy less and buy better’. However, you can still be savvy about it too. It doesn’t have to cost you a fortune now you know exactly what you’re looking for. So you can get a really great wardrobe without breaking the bank.
Leave a comment below describing 3 checks you usually do when deciding whether to buy something new.
If you liked this post share it with a friend!