“Today’s clothing is not as durable as it was a few decades ago,” warns Russian designer Marina Makaron. “Quality has dropped whether you shop mainstream or cheap Sunday market.” Studying the quality of your apparel ensures you’ll get the most wardrobe bang for your buck — and looking fabulous in the process certainly doesn’t hurt.
2. Dense Denim
Jeans are often considered a breed of their own in the fashion world. Like all textiles, though, not all jeans are created equal. “My first tip for buying jeans is to pay attention to the density of the fabric,” says Elana Brynes, founder and creative director at Kings of Cole clothing. To check jean density, hold the fabric up to the light and see how much light comes through. This will determine how tight the weave of the fabric is. “The tighter the weave is, the longer the jeans will last,” she says.
3. Stitch Study
Always examine the thread and stitching of your garments before buying. Makaron says that a crooked stitch doesn’t always mean poor quality — it may simply mean hand sewn — but the thickness of the thread is key. The thinner the thread, the less durable the garment typically is. Also look for double stitching, which reinforces the garment and prevents tears in the seam line.
4. Cop A Feel
Sherrie Mathieson, style consultant and author of “Steal This Style,” recommends feeling the fabric to determine its quality. “Some fragile fabrics, like silk, will easily damage via wear,” she says. “Crush a small piece of the garment in your hand and observe the result.” Adds Makaron: “The garment should feel comfortable and soft. It’s all about the touch.”
How to Save Money and What to Look For When Buying Quality Clothing
If you want to transition your own wardrobe from “disposable” fashion to high-quality pieces, don’t underestimate the power of buying pre-worn clothing. It’s a great way to get designer clothes on a budget that still have plenty of “wear” left in them. Try following these tips:
1. Know What You Want
My own wardrobe transition started with one piece of clothing: a James Perse shirt. This Los Angeles designer makes simple but high quality clothing. I stumbled onto one of his pieces at my local Salvation Army ($3.99!) and promptly fell in love with his clothes. My search for discounted James Perse clothing led me to other designers I really love as well.
I’ve since found two other James Perse tops at the Salvation Army. Both, of course, were second-hand clothes, and have now been heavily worn by me. They still look brand new.
My point here is that it helps to find a few designers or lines that really speak to you and your budget. Once you find a designer or line of clothing that really fits well and looks great on you, then scour eBay and your local thrift stores looking for them.
2. Go Slowly
This is a process that takes time, so it’s best not to rush it. Be prepared to come up empty-handed time and time again.
If you can enjoy the process, you’ll find yourself having quite a bit of fun. After all, it’s super easy to hit the mall and fill up a bag full of Abercrombie and Gap. But where’s the fun in that? Scouring consignment shops and thrift stores is like looking for treasure. And when you score second hand designer clothes for a few bucks, you’re going to feel like a million.
Now, this isn’t to say that all my quality clothing has been bought second-hand. It hasn’t. In fact, the sweater I’m wearing as I write this is a piece I paid full price for (well, actually, it was on sale). But most of what I buy is pre-worn. Again, eBay is a great place to find good deals once you’ve found a designer you like.
3. Know Quality
You’re eventually going to come across a piece you love, but have no idea who made it. It’s happened to me plenty of times.
It helps to learn how to recognize a quality piece of clothing when you see it.
Start by looking at the seams. Are they sewn properly? Grip the fabric on both sides of the seam and pull gently. If the thread holding the seams together pulls apart slightly, it’s not sewn properly.
Look at other details. Is there top-stitching? Are there four buttons on the cuff rather than three? Is there any bead work? Is there a 2-inch hem for pants? Are the buttons or fasteners sewn on securely?
All these tiny, subtle details point to a high-quality garment over a cheap one.
4. Go for a Test Run
I know it’s hard to learn how to recognize quality at first. You can shorten your learning curve by heading to a high-quality boutique or retailer, like Saks or Macy’s. Go find high-quality designer clothes and look closely at the details mentioned in step 3. Try on the clothing and see how it feels.
You’ll likely notice an immediate difference. These clothes are simply better made, and you can feel it.
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