We have all had one piece of clothing that has lasted years and years. I have a jumper which I wear on a weekly basis that I have had for many years. However, if I bought a jumper from that same brand now, it would be holey in a months time. You see, clothing just isn’t made the same anymore. It should be made to last as well as look good.

When buying clothing, whether that be online, instore, or even secondhand or at garage sales, it is always handy if you know how high-quality clothing is constructed and what to look out for.

What Is Quality?

Before getting into the different inspection criteria that you could use to assess an item of clothing, let’s ask ourselves, what exactly is quality? And going slightly further, what is low or high-quality clothing?

Generally, a product of high quality does what it is intended to do well, and will meet and even more so, exceed the expectations of the consumer. With this in mind, we can take the word ‘quality’ back to clothing and understand what low or high-quality clothing really means.

Firstly, clothing, like any other product, has a purpose. The main function it is intended for it is to protect the wearer against adverse climate conditions (and maintain decency – obviously), however, there are many other reasons why we wear clothing and why we choose to buy what we do.

  • Clothing is a form of self-expression. Through the colours, fabric type, and patterns you can express your personality through what you wear.
  • Clothing is worn for comfort. There is nothing like a pair of pants that fit ever so perfectly or a sweater that 100% nails cosiness.

So, high-quality clothing should be comfortable. We shouldn’t have to wear certain pieces for comfort, everything we wear should be comfortable anyway. So, is the fabric choice meant for cold winter months or summer months and does it keep you warm depending on which? Does the cut fit you and your unique measurements or is it awkward and unbearable? Does the fabric itch your skin or are there loose threads annoying you? All of these questions come under the term ‘comfortable’. And if your clothing is not comfortable, it generally isn’t high quality as it is not functioning how it is intended too.

There are so many boxes you could tick before assuming something is of high quality. Low and high-quality manufacturers can easily be distinguished from each other. Higher quality manufacturers go the extra mile to ensure neat seams and sleek design. They also take steps to make the garment enduring and not fade, not have the stitching come undone and generally be comfortable – as said above. Low-quality manufacturers try to keep their costs as low as possible (taking extra steps to create higher quality garments costs more money). They don’t take much into consideration other than how their pieces look on shop hangers because they just want you to buy them. They don’t actually care about you as the consumer.

Steps To Identify High-Quality Clothing

Once armed with the right information and tactics to differentiate between quality garments, you will be able to shop smart. With that said, here are our key prerequisites to think about for a high-quality item of clothing.

Check The Fabric Composition

The first thing you want to do when buying a garment is to read the fabric composition. You can do this whether you are buying in-store or online and it is usually the biggest giveaway as to whether the piece of clothing will last long or not.

Natural fibres generally hold up much longer than synthetic, man-made ones do. Despite this, natural fibres may be of low quality and therefore just as bad (in terms of how long they last) as synthetic materials.

Natural fibres could include wool, linen, cotton and silk while synthetic fibres could include polyester, nylon, acrylic, and spandex.

Feel The Fabric

Keeping the fabric composition in mind, get a feel for the top, skirt, trousers, whatever it may be, in store. It could feel fragile and rough or flexible and enduring. Get a feel for some of your own clothes with or without these fabrics that have been worn for many years. Are there any similarities?

Wool – Wool can be soft or scratchy as it has natural crimps in the fibre. Course wool has 1 or 2 crimps per inch of fibre whereas soft wool often has around 100. It can also be treated for softness by washing it in an acidic bath to smooth the roughness on the surface of the fibre, however, there are a few other ways to do this.

Linen – Linen is a very strong, cool fabric that is perfect for summer days. It is light and can withhold a large amount of moisture before feeling damp on the skin.

Cotton – Cotton is known to be very soft against the skin, hence why it is a well-known choice for those with sensitive skin.

Silk – Silk is smooth to the touch, drapes well on the skin, and absorbs moisture.

Polyester – Polyester does not stretch, does not breath, and does not absorb sweat. It also contains toxins and can be irritating on the skin.

Nylon – A waterproof material, nylon is often used in wet weather gear. It does not absorb moisture and can sometimes cause reactions on sensitive skin.

Spandex – Used primarily in active wear, Spandex is known for its exceptional elasticity capabilities. After a few washes, spandex often loses its shape which is a concern if you are finding clothes that will last.

Hold The Garment Up To The Light

By holding the piece of clothing up to the light you can answer a few questions. How dense is the fabric? Are the threads tightly woven together?

You can do the same with knits. Stretch it in a small area and if it doesn’t bounce back to its original shape, it won’t bounce back after each wear.

Check The Seams And Stitching

Are they neatly sewn or have they been run over multiple times? Are there loose threads? And are there any cut corners? Crooked lines? Missed stitches? Seams and stitches can be a major giveaway when trying to differentiate between low and high-quality clothing. Poor stitching often results in the garment coming undone after just a few wears! If you are buying new, choose pieces that have been made slow with extra care and detail.

Is The Garment Well Cut?

Cheap, mass producing clothing brands want to use as little fabric as possible. So you end up losing room in the shoulders, sleeve length etc. Not cool.  When the garment is well cut and has shape, it generally is of higher quality and will drape much better over you.

Read Reviews

Whether you are buying clothes in-store or online, go to the brand’s website and read reviews. What have people said about this garment? Has it lasted long? Does it stretch and lose shape or shrink? This really is one of the best ways to gather long term information on the piece you may be looking at. Secondhand or new.

By following these steps, you will have a greater appreciation for slowly made, high-quality clothing and also know how to scope out clothes like this that will last for years and years to come. Do you have any tips for choosing better quality garments? Let us know below!


Founder + Blogger

Hey there! I'm Brodie, the passionate blogger behind Ethically Engaged. My mission is to find ethical lifestyle options to lead you in the direction of conscious consumerism. I hope you enjoy coming along this journey with me x

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