When people talk about slow fashion and capsule wardrobes, the topic of buying quality clothes always comes up. After years of shopping on the high street and buying into fast fashion, it can be hard to tell what makes a quality item. Unfortunately, we’ve all been buying poor quality clothes for so long, we don’t know how to shop for quality clothing anymore.
Since starting my capsule wardrobe and embracing slow fashion, I’ve really come to appreciate good quality clothing. Slow fashion is all about quality over quantity (whereas fast fashion is about quantity over quality), so part of embracing slow fashion is shopping for good quality clothes. Not only do good quality clothes last longer, they feel better and look better. When you invest in good quality clothes your clothes will last for years to come.
How to Identify Quality
I have found a few easy ways to identify quality clothes when you’re out shopping and to help you make good purchases.
Check the Fabric – Always check the care labels to see what the clothes are made of. When looking for quality you want to see natural fabrics like cotton, wool or leather. Natural fabrics tend to wear a lot better than synthetics and are often more comfortable.
Touch the Clothes – You want to see how the fabric feels against your skin (this is known as the hand of the fabric) so pick it up and have a good feel. Does it feel good against your skin? Does it drape well? Does the fabric feel good quality?
Light Test – Hold the fabric up to the light to check how thick it is. Thicker fabric often indicates higher quality. For example, when buying a blouse you shouldn’t be able to see your hand through the fabric.
The Pull Test – Gently tug at the fabric to stretch it and then release it. Check to see if the fabric returns to its original shape or does it look saggy. Your clothes which can resist a gentle pull.
The Scrunch Test – This is a test for those of us who don’t like ironing. Grab a chunk of the fabric and scrunch it up in your hands, when you let go check to see how wrinkled the fabric gets and how long it takes for wrinkles to fall out. Higher quality fabrics shouldn’t wrinkle that easily (obviously, there are some exceptions like silk).
Check the Zips – Look out for metal zips over plastic zips, a metal zip should last longer and be harder wearing than a plastic zip. Unless its part of the design, avoid exposed zips and look for flat zips covered with a placket. The stitching on the zip should match the rest of the garment.
Pattern Matching – When buying something made from a patterned fabric check the pattern matches at the seams. For example, you don’t want to buy a striped top if the stripes change direction at the seams.
Check Stitching – The thread used should be the same throughout and match the colour of the garment unless its part of the design. Look for straight stitches with no loose threads, also look for a high number of stitches per inch.
Buttons and Buttonholes – Buttonholes should have tight stitches and be the right size for the button (not too big or too small). Buttons should be sewn on tight, with not loose threads. Look out for pieces with a spare button, in case you need to make repairs.
Check for Lining – Look out for clothes with lining, especially jackets and coats. Clothes with a lining tend to sit better on the body as well as being more comfortable to wear.
Is It Well Cut? – Clothes should be well cut, especially tailored pieces. Look for back seams in jackets and coats and yokes (fabric which sits over shoulders and upper back) in shirts and blouses.
Hem Allowance – The hem allowance is the width between the hemline and the hem edge or the amount of fabric folded back. You want clothes to have a generous hem allowance, look for at least 1/2 inch aiming for closer to 2 inches.
Other Points to Consider
Price doesn’t always indicate quality. A high price doesn’t always mean high quality, check for quality no matter where your shopping.
Men’s Clothing is often higher quality. If you’re unsure of how to identify quality clothes head over to the men’s department to look at how their clothes are made. Men tend to buy fewer clothes than women and demand higher quality as they buy to last.
Vintage stores are another great place to look if you’re unsure of how to identify quality. Like with the men’s clothes look closely at how the pieces were made, and compare to your own clothing to see the difference in quality.
Trust your instincts, if your gut is telling you something isn’t quality then its probably right.