Have you ever had someone say to you: “Oh this is such bad quality!” or “This is made of high-quality material!” And then just nodded politely and agreed without really know what that meant?
You’re not alone. What makes something low or high quality? And how are we supposed to tell them apart?
As a part of the new era of slow fashion, more brands are designing and creating textiles and apparel of eco-friendly materials of higher quality in an effort to create products that last longer than one season. The idea is that shoppers will invest in higher quality garments that will have longer lifespans, which will require them to buy less. The phrase quality over quantity is very much applicable here. Alas, knowing the difference between good and bad quality is not something you were simply taught in school. That is why, we have compiled a couple of easy tips and tricks to help guide you through the unfathomable amounts of fibres, materials, textiles and garments!
1. Check the label
This might seem like a no-brainer. But what the garment is made up of is important. Looking at the label will give you an idea of the quality. In general, natural materials – like silk, linen, cotton and wool – are better in the fight against wear and tear; as well as, looking good after being washed. While synthetic, man-made fabrics are known for pilling. Blends of natural and synthetic fibres do have some pros – such as added elasticity – but it can also be bad because of its opposing electrical charges that can cause more loose fibres and thus, have a higher chance of pilling. Pilling is when you get those little balls that form on your clothes from the broken fibres that group together after a few washes and wears, which is not the best look.
2. Check the seams
The seams are pretty important as they are the very things holding everything together. If they are loose or poorly done then your clothes could fall apart really quickly. And no one wants that. You should check the seams both inside and outside by pulling of the material either side of the seam to see if there are gaps between the stitches. The more stitches there are, the tighter it is; the tighter it is, the better! It is also a good sign if the stitching matches and is straight.
3. Check the buttons and zippers
Just as seams do, the buttons and zippers help hold everything together too. The zippers should be sewn in securely and neatly with matching thread and without exposure (unless it is part of the design). Checking the buttons to see if they are tightly sewn, and the buttonholes to have a neat slot and tightly stitched, is a good clue to the garment's quality. It shows that they have not cut corners and took the time and effort to do a good job.
4. Feel it
You can test out the quality by feeling the material, pulling, stretching and scrunching. If you pull the material between both hands and stretch it you’ll be able to see the density (it should be thick and sturdy) and if it retains its shape (especially for knits). Scrunching the material will allow you to test its likeliness to wrinkle, especially after it has been in the wash or dryer. If the material of the garment doesn’t bounce back to its original shape, then it is likely that after a few wears it will start to stretch, sag or look misshapen. You could also go through your current wardrobe and use the items you’ve owned for a long time and have kept its original look and shape as a point of reference. That can give you a good idea of what good quality garments should feel like.
5. Pattern line up
If you buy something that has a pattern on it, you should check that it lines up properly. Firstly, poorly matched seams do not look good and secondly, if they don’t match you can take that as a sign of the little effort was taken in the designing and making of the garment.
6. Spare buttons
Who doesn’t love extra buttons? If your garment comes with extra buttons, that means that the brand and designer has created this garment with the intention of it lasting a long while. They want you to have the possibility to fix and repair any minor problems in the future. Isn’t that nice of them? A spare thread is a really good sign too!
7. Quality usually means a higher price tag
Cheap clothes are cheap for a reason; cost cuts. Cutting the costs of producing the garment, which could be in the fabric and/or the labour, pushes the prices down of these lower quality garments. Investing in the better and higher quality garments and textiles means that you will need to pay more for it. That being said, a more expensive price tag does not necessarily equate to higher quality.
It is probably easier to tell when something is of poor quality than of high quality. Especially since technological advances paved way for new kinds of blends and materials, which may feel great in the store but fall apart after one wash. It can be tricky. Another thing to keep in mind is that, it is difficult to generalise and come up with universal rules on how to differentiate low and high quality. But these seven steps have hopefully shed some light on this dilemma and help you shop smarter.
Do you have any other suggestions for spotting good quality garments? Please share with us!