Quality over quantity. We all know this notion well. Yet what we know in theory, we seemingly struggle within the practice when curating our wardrobes.
As mega fast fashion brands like Zara, H&M, Forever 21, and Fashion Nova take over the fashion world with cheap, damn near disposable clothing abound, mastering the ability to identify high-quality clothing is one of the most important skills you can develop today.
The fact is that sophisticated consumers are fed up with substandard clothing options.
We’re tired of being swindled into buying clothes from “reputable” brands, made with cheap materials and crap construction that fall apart after one wash or wear.
About 2 years ago, I bought what at the time seemed like a perfectly well-made, beautiful, wool winter coat from Armani Exchange. Before eagerly handing over my hard-earned $350 to the sales clerk, I remember how excited and proud I was of my newest wardrobe investment piece. My Armani Exchange coat was levels above the $30 coats on sale at Zara, and surely high quality and well made, right?
It’s only today, in retrospect, I recognize my naivety. That Armani Exchange coat ( I still have it ), has no inner lining whatsoever, terribly weak stitching at the seams, and the 70% synthetic fiber blend feels terribly itchy on my skin after a few hours. The now shapeless coat, missing its belt and loops (fell off the first week), now sits collecting dust in the back of my closet.
Like countless items in my wardrobe, it will have to be regrettably replaced sooner than later.
But try as we might to identify “quality over quantity”, it sometimes seems good quality clothing is hard to come by, and we somehow always manage to be duped by promising purchases, regardless of brand or cost.
The truth is, we are a generation mostly ignorant to what truly high-quality clothing is.
As Elizabeth Cline writes in Overdressed; The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, “as people moved away from making their own clothes, general public knowledge of garment construction faded.”
Fashion used to be tailored clothing, structured garments, with intricate workmanship, made to last a lifetime. A seventy six year old Jan Whitaker recalls in Overdressed; The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, decades back, “you never saw clothes that were sewn with a straight hem. That was considered trash. Even poor people didn’t wear clothes with a hem like that.”
Today, we collectively accept shapeless two-panel synthetic fiber blend t-shirts as fashion.
For this reason, mega-retailers can get away with cutting corners and selling crap to naive consumers.
It’s not until we recognize our ignorance, and learn to understand some basics of assessing fabric quality, garment construction, and fine craftsmanship of well-made clothing, that we can overcome the perpetual fast fashion consequences of underwhelming wardrobes, throwaway clothing, and empty wallets.
What if consumers wisened up?
There are a growing number of millennials who are doing just that.
These millennials are a breed of conscious consumers. The consumer more interested in quality than quantity. Connoisseurs of style rather than fast fashion.
And armed with an understanding of identifying well-made clothing, the subpar fast fashions brands are pedaling these days will no longer suffice.
What does high quality mean?
By definition, quality is the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind. By its nature, quality is perceptual, conditional, somewhat subjective, and may be understood differently by different people.
Generally, something of high quality is superior when measured against the standards of like kind. In other words, the best of fabric, materials, workmanship, construction, most suitable for garments intended purpose, longevity, and fits as it should.
So how does one NOT identify high-quality clothing? Here are 3 quality myths identified by The Luxe Strategist.
Quality Myth #1: The Higher the Price, the Higher the Quality
Conflating price and quality is a big mistake. Most people will see a [$500 pair of shoes and automatically assume they’re higher quality than a $100 pair of shoes. Although higher price can be an indicator of better quality materials or better craftsmanship, prices can also be unintentionally (or intentionally) deceiving.]
Quality Myth #2: There are Go-To Brands that Are Always High Quality
Be careful about associating quality with certain brands as a whole. I see it a lot on forums where people recommend brands that are “known for their quality.” But they never mention which types of clothes held up well. The type of garment matters. For example, with J. Crew, sometimes you get a great quality pair of jeans, but then everyone throws shade at their cashmere sweaters. Every brand or designer has their strengths and weaknesses. If you make your purchases based on brand alone, then you’re bound to be disappointed.
Quality Myth #3: All Fabrics Are Created Equal
The last mistake I see people make is thinking that all fabric types are created equal. “Cashmere is cashmere, and cotton is cotton,” right? I mean, both sweaters say they’re made out of 100% cashmere. Not so fast. Just because two items are both made from 100% cashmere, doesn’t mean they’re the same fabric quality. There are different grades of cashmere, and [and likewise cotton, silk, leather, and every other material].
Read The Luxe Strategist’s full post here.
How do you identify high quality, well-made clothing?
Step 1: Assess the quality of the fabric.
By far, the most important way to distinguish a high-quality garment is by the type and quality of the fabrics of which the garment is made. Generally speaking, natural fibers are the most renowned and coveted. Fabrics such as cashmere wool, pure silk, and genuine leather cost more than synthetic materials, feel nice, keep you warm, and look expensive. Materials such as cotton are also highly coveted, but then just as more high-end fabrics, not all cotton are made equal. For this reason, it’s valuable to understand how to judge not the only type of fabrics but the quality of fabrics as well.
Step 2: Assess the construction and tailoring.
Equally as important as a garment’s fabric is a garment’s construction. This is the area in which most of us are oblivious. Being able to recognize sound garment construction is extremely valuable. Knowing that a well-made blouse should have a proper yoke and why, for example. Or recognizing that jackets, skirts, and dresses should have a lining. Every woman should be able to identify clean, consistent, and reinforced stitching when selecting a wardrobe item, and identifying if seams lay properly, without any loose or stray threads is extremely handy. To a novice (as I was), it’s easy to overlook details like darts, folds sewn into a garment to improve its fit, or back seams to help shape a good jacket.
Step 3: Assess the quality of details, finishing, and craftsmanship.
They say the devil is in the details; a sure sign of a high-quality garment is the care taken and attention to details in the constructions craftsmanship. Are the buttons made of durable material, or do they cheap plastic? Are there extra buttons, thread, or beads? Is the zipper exposed, or neatly hidden? Is it made of plastic or a sturdy metal?
The Final Takeaway
Clothing is essentially our second skin; an extension of who we are in society. Just as illogical as it is to fill our minds with subpar knowledge or eat garbage foods, it’s just as illogical to cover our bodies with subpar clothing.
For women, today, its simply a matter of learning how to recognize and differentiate high-quality clothing vs crap clothing.
For the sake of style, the environment, your bank balance —learn how to spot high quality clothes, curate your style, and build a bomb wardrobe to set you free of all the negative consequences of fast fashion.
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