Fortunately for me, both of my parents preferred quality over quantity and were willing to spend a little more to purchase something that would last. This was quite beneficial to me when mom and I went clothes shopping. Couple that with the fact that I learned to sew in middle school and high school, back when they still had Home Economics in school, I now have a true appreciation for a well-made garment. Today I thought I would share some of my insights to maybe help you on your next shopping trip.
Whether you are shopping in person or online, there are ways to tell a quality garment so that you are getting what you are paying for.
Quality Fabrics – What to Look For
First, check the fabric content. Natural fibers like cotton, silk, and wool will stand up better than synthetic materials, meaning they will wash better, keep their shape and last longer. Cotton and Rayon are my two favorite fabrics because they are soft and drape the curves nicely. Rayon or Viscose, as it is sometimes called, is also a non-synthetic material because it is a fiber manufactured out of wood pulp. Spandex is often added with some of these fabrics which allows the garment to stretch more and be more comfortable. And as we all know, being more comfortable is always a good thing. Fortunately, with new technology, some of the polyesters are looking better and wear longer, so a cotton/polyester blend can be a good choice as well.
As you begin to look closely at fabrics, you will notice what is called the “hand” of the fabric, which is how it feels to the touch. I am sure you have picked up a cozy sweater and noticed the weight in your hand, the thickness of it and how soft it is. Those are the signs of a quality fabric. It seems that fabrics are getting thinner and thinner these days, some because of style, but also because of cost.
Years ago, when my daughter was about 4 years old, she was in my brother’s wedding and they asked me to make her flower girl dress. It was to resemble the bride's dress which was lace covered satin on top, sheer lace sleeves and two satin ruffles for the skirt. When I went to buy the fabric, there was an array of various satins to choose from at an array of prices. Because this was a special event, I paid a little extra to purchase a fabric that was not flimsy, but had a good weight and sheen to it. This allowed the ruffles to flare out from the dress, which made all the difference in the world. Unfortunately, the seamstress who made the bride’s dress did not do the same and I felt terrible for my new sister-in-law. Instead of draping beautifully, as a wedding dress should, it was limp and just hung on her and to make matters worse, there were strings hanging from the bottom of the dress because it was not hemmed properly. I still have my daughter’s dress to this day; it reminds me of the difference that paying a little attention to quality can make.
Plaids, Patterns & Stripes
You will also want to look closely at any plaids, patterns or stripes on a garment. One of the first things you learn in sewing is fabric with nap, and that you need more fabric to lay out your pieces, so they are all going in the same direction. The stripes or pattern on a garment should match up at the seams, yolk, plackets, and sleeves. The Tribal brand shirt pictured here is a beautiful example of how your seams should be. They have taken such care in lining up the pattern, that you can barely tell where the side seam is. Notice how the pattern on the sleeves matches the pattern on the bodice, giving it a clean, cohesive look. This kind of care and extra fabric can make an item cost a bit more, but it is well worth it for a nice garment. The Tribal brand is known for this kind of quality which is a big reason why we have it in our store. Another common area to look at is the front placket of a button-up shirt. I have walked away from many shirts that the pattern did not line up and made the shirt look sloppy.
Recently I was out with my husband at a restaurant and noticed a woman’s striped blouse that I was admiring until she turned to walk away and I saw that the stripes along the back seam did not match up at all. It totally ruined the look of the shirt.
It’s all in the Lining
One thing I learned firsthand when I started a career was the difference of a well-made suit, blazer, dress or skirt. Not only does the fabric matter but also if it is lined. A lining in this kind of garment is crucial in my opinion, as it will not only add the weight needed to some lighter fabrics but helps any fabric to drape well. It will also cover some unwanted curves, as well as make light colored garments less see through. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many.
Stitching is also important, so take a look at any topstitching to see that it is straight and doesn’t have any loops in it. Gently pull on a side seam to see if there is any light coming through. A tighter stitch will hold much longer and help to keep the proper shape of the garment. Check the hem to see that ample fabric has been used and it has been stitched correctly. That seems to be a common area where mistakes are made.
As you look at the quality of a garment, make a mental note as to where you purchased it and what brand it is. Most stores will carry a similar quality with all their brands and most brands will have a certain level of excellence because their reputation depends on it. Not to say that quality brands don’t still have their mistakes or mishaps from time to time, but they are much less frequent.
Some of this will be more difficult to do if you are an online shopper, however, just make sure there is a good return policy and look over your garments as soon as they arrive.
There is nothing like going to that tried and true dress or special shirt that you know always looks great on you because it was made to last.