Choosing quality clothing

Last week we got onto the subject of how to ensure you are buying quality clothing. I scanned the internet for information and didn’t find anything I didn’t already know so that had me feeling confident that I knew what I was talking about. I also asked my mother, who was a private professional dressmaker, and my mother-in-law who is a crafter who also sewed and repaired clothes for herself, her husband, her children and even my children for many years, for any advice they had to offer.

Below you will find our collective advice and I sincerely hope you find it useful when clothes shopping in the future. These tips aren’t a guarantee of success but if followed they sure will improve your chances of buying better quality clothes that will last well. I don’t know about you but I find poor quality products not only to be a disappointing waste of my money and time but a blight on the environment as well. I keep my recipes until I am satisfied that the products I buy live up to their function. If they don’t I return them for a refund, it is the only way I now to make a protest to companies who unleash items like this onto the market.

Stitching

  1. Check for loose thread and uneven stitching.
  2. The more stitches per inch the better. Shorter stitch length will ensure better seam strength.
  3. Hem stitching for blind hems should be completely invisible from the outside.
  4. Double seam where appropriate will also insure good seam strength.
  5. Garments with facings should include interfacing for strength and structural integrity.
  6. All edges should be finished to avoid fraying. Some fabrics such as lycra can hold together well without a finished edge but most are not so hardy.

Cut

  1. Garments should be cut straight on the grain except where a distinct 45 degree angle cut for stretch is intended. If this does not occur the garment will pull out of shape very quickly.
  2. Where a straight hem is intended it should be cut to fall at the same length all around the garment when worn. Side to side and front to back should appear even.
  3. Check all panels of the garments to make sure the pattern of the fabric run in the same direction. You don’t want to find out later that your floral design is one way up on one side of the garment and up side down on the other.
  4. Some fabrics have a nap (just as timber has a grain) such as velvet, micro-suede or velour where the surface threads of the fabric usually lay in one  particular direction. The nap usually causes the fabric to look shiny in one direction and dull in the other. Like in cut tip #3 this nap should lay in the same direction on all panels.

Finishings

  1. Buttons should be evenly spaced and sewn on firmly. Some should be reinforced behind in the case of leather, wool, fine fabrics, fabrics with a wide weave etc, where the thread is likely to pull through if not securely braced. Allowance should be made for buttons on thick fabrics to allow enough shank length to pass through the hole and sit neatly on the outside.
  2. Zippers should slide up and down smoothly. The should also be fastened into the garment neatly and be well concealed. Check for reinforcing at the bottom where they are under the most pressure. To test for fastness do the zipper up halfway then fold down the pull tab then place your finger above the slider and push down. The zipper should hold fast in its position.
  3. Trims should be firmly attached with no end exposed that are likely to fray.

Fabric

  1. Cotton and Linen blends are often lower maintenance than 100% cotton and linen. Less likely to crease, fray or even stain.
  2. Unless you are intending to by a sheer fabric you do not want your white or light coloured garments to be see through. Best to try the garment on to see how transparent it is before buying it is not always obvious when viewing it on the hanger.
  3. One fabric I would suggest you avoid is rayon, both the stretch and the non stretch varieties. The stretch variety, often labelled viscose, usually falls heavily and in large quantities doesn’t hold its shape well. It also has a habit of clinging to every imperfection on your body. The non-stretch variety is often used like a cotton fabric for dresses and blouses but is softer  than cotton and falls heavier. It crinkles easily and is very poor wearing so generally ends up tattered and holey in a very short time span. Both of these fabric feel lovely on which makes them very tempting so beware..
  4. I also am not of lover of Chenille, it is a tufted velvety fabric often knitted  into women sweaters. Being a tufted fabric the fibres are not well anchored and come out easily. Any areas that get any sort of rubbing will become threadbare quickly.

Beware the loss leader sale items

  1. These are often cheaper garment at sale prices designed to drawer you into a store in the hope that you will purchase other items while you are there.
  2. These items can be identified by the fact that they are new to store product that there are plenty of stock of.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter an item that best matches the following statement ~ This drawer is going to explode if I don’t get rid of some of what is in here.

Today’s Declutter Item

There are drawers in the end of my bed. One of the drawers has housed our unused ski clothes since we returned to Australia. I am not sure why I have kept them so long. I sold the children’s ski clothes back in the first year of my declutter mission. I guess I thought we might still ski one day but that day never came. I did consider keeping the jackets just in case of outdoor winter activities but that has never happened either. The drawer they were in was barely able to shut because of the bulk. I have managed to sell all but my husbands jacket recently so no more bulging drawer. Yay!

My Ski Jacket

Something I Am Grateful For Today

A good friend taxiing me around today. I had no car and it was raining.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


Continue reading with these posts:

  • Non-Emergency Supplies These two comments, from Sanna and Ideealistin, kicked of the responses to yesterdays Mini Mission post.  They make a great point about how we don't need to be cluttering up our homes with […]
  • Day 83 Product Reviews We have all seen advertisements for product that enticed us into believing that "I just can't do without that!" and "I must have one!"  We have fallen in love with the idea that the […]
  • Day 144 Learn to sew From when I was quite a young child I was responsible for minor repairs to my own clothing even my school uniforms. This included  mending tasks such as sewing on buttons and stitching up  […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. Great ideas. You really need to know your stuff. I find that with food, the same thing can happen where they put produce that is not as good for sale as a lost leader. I don’t do a lot of clothes shopping, but it sounds like it is the same way with clothes.

  2. What a great concise list. I agree with all you have here. I have found that you can find good quality clothes in many low cost stores if you learn to know your labels. No matter what store you shop in, except for thrift stores, they all have one “house” label. Many times that label will be of better quality than the rest of the clothes in the store. It pays to research when you don’t need anything so that when you are in a pinch you are able to find something quickly.

  3. I too agree with all your points. As a knitter, I would add that 100% cotton sweaters do not wash and wear well because the fibers have no ‘memory’. 100% wool is lovely BUT it must be washed carefully or dry cleaned. You know how those wool sweaters turn into barbie doll jackets–hot water and agitation. If you are purchasing a knitted pullover or cardigan, check to see if the fabric has been cut at the sleeves or ‘bound off’. There should be no loose ends of yarn showing which means it was cut and could easily ravel.

    • Good tips Willow, I will add those to the post and turn it into a permanent page in the guides section I think.

      • Willow,
        My friend Holly’s sister sent her a wool jacket. The sister accidentally shrunk it and thought that it might fit Holly’s12 year old. It was a bit big for her, so Holly got the idea to shrink it again. Surely it woudn’t shrink as much the second time, right? Wrong! Now it fits the 8 year old!

        • Yes, that’s what happens to wool–it felts and shrinks.

          I knit huge ‘bags’ and shrink them in the washer to turn them in to felted bags/purses. Several years ago, I sold them regularly at fairs. Maybe I should start making them again. 🙂 And if they continue to shrink, I’ll sell them as purses for 8 year old girls.

      • Willow,
        Those are amazing tips. I wish I would have known that YEARS ago; I’ve done all the wrong things with sweaters, so much so, that I don’t even buy or wear them, at all, anymore. I’d rather just have a well made quality fleece pullover to layer on for warmth. My hubbie has several sweaters that actually look really good on him, but for me and the kids, I’ve a no sweater policy. 🙂

  4. I’m a big fan of wool, and cashmere (where the price permits!) Esp for warmth, I have more faith in the ‘natural’ fabrics, than other knitted plastic based yarns.

    • I would love to be a big fan of wool and cashmere but both make me itch. It is a shame because they are better being natural. I do buy it for outer items where I have something to protect my skin in between.

      • They irritate me too, but I have a swag of thin cotton long sleeved shirts (from Cotton On or Giodarno), and then I’m right. I wore a thickess wool jumper through school, with arms lined especially by mum! And now my work uniform has a very similar thick wool jumper – smartly, our uniforms are long sleeves too. (My school was so silly, one uniform for year round didn’t quite work!)

        And re:Moni below, yes, UNIFORMS ROCK! I was jumpers on a needs basis, given the difficulty. So if it doesn’t smell and it’s not marked (and it’s never against the skin), no washing. But then I’m not a kid! Poo and wee colours seems common, strangely!

      • Ditto, the itch factor, another reason I’ve itched-da the weater-sa!!! (isn’t pig-latin a ‘universal’ language????). hee hee. 😉

  5. Hi kids wear school uniform here – it is such a money and sanity saver! – the primary and intermediate schools generally have polar fleece jumpers for Winter, but High School (which we call “College” here but causes confusion with American College) they usually have wool mix jumper. So Friday night my house looks a bit like a laundry with 3 jerseys and 2 wool mix skirts (obviously my son wears the shorts), draped across fold out airing racks. How I miss the polar fleece that took 5 mins in the dryer!

    I was told recently but a friend that wool/poly mix jerseys can go in the dryer. I have never heard of this. The obvious idea would be to experiment but school jerseys are pricey and I’d hate to end up with a child size jersey.
    Has anyone ever done anything similar?

    • Hi Moni, aren’t uniforms the best idea. When I first left school and went out to work the staff consisted of me and the two owner of the business. After a couple of months I asked the owners if I could instigate a uniform for myself as it was too hard choosing and supplying an outfit from my wardrobe everyday. They said yes and I did, it was great.

      • Over here we’ve always had school uniforms for intermediate and college, all new primary schools from the mid 90’s began with uniforms and then from the 2000’s existing schools began to opt to change to uniform. It makes it sooooo much easier. Of course, Mufti day is a big deal!
        I love the idea of uniforms but do get bored of the same colours.

        • Moni, I love that the kids wear school uniforms too. However, we’ve just moved, and their new school’s colours are gold and brown (or ‘poo and wee’ as we call them!) Their last school had the most beautiful, flattering purple polo tops with navy bottoms. NO ONE looks good in brown and gold!!

          • Hi Loretta – oh cringe! Whoever thought of brown and yellow? What were they thinking? One of my daughters would insist on moving zones if that was the uniform here.

          • Hahaha Loretta I’m so glad (NOT) that there is another school out there that subjects their students to the horribleness that is BROWN & GOLD AARRGGGGHHHHH!!!!! The instigator should be shot. Here in WA we have a school called Govenor Stirling Senior High School, back in the 80’s they played around with the colours to get the right shade but how bad can you get when its either mustard & Chocolate, dirt & gravel etc etc, in the late 90’s (I think) someone got smart and suggested dark blue and white. Yay for the students, they no longer looked like prison inmates. With all the lovely combinations of colours why would modern schools subject the kids to the horrid colours. Not far from me the Ellen Stirling Primary School has the most beautiful shade of turquoise blue for their shirts and every child looks gorgeous in it. I think I can safely say neither of these founders would have approved of the ‘Poo & Wee’ colours heehee.

            After so many years on the P&C, uniforms was my biggest job and there was no way I was letting anyone put in a suggestion for BROWN & GOLD. Our school had a gold polo but it was a lovely shade and very flattering not draining or jaundice like.

            Maybe your kids could start the process of change at their school and come up with a colour change, and a phase our period. Brown on kids is just yuck, poor babies I do feel for them. 🙂 🙂 🙂

        • I don’t know how long Australia has been all uniforms but it must be a long long time because I wore uniforms in the 70’s. I went to a catholic school though but I think I recall the state schools having uniforms way back then too. My kids didn’t wear uniforms in America and it was a bit of a nuisance.

          • Oh, I would LOVE it if uniforms could be SOP in my kids public city school. Oayyyy, maybe I shall go to town on this one and make. it. happen….

            (maybe)….

    • I’d be very cautious to dry the wool in a dryer. Washing it if it has some poly in it should be fine (on cold and a gentle cycle) but I’d suggest experimenting with already old or stained uniforms to try drying them.

      I *heart* uniforms. My youngest attended a private school that required uniforms. She loved it. I loved it. Even my wallet loved it. I’ve also taught in uniform schools–it’s a great ‘leveler’ for fashionistas and those who don’t have the finances for expensive clothes.

      • we dont have uniforms here in germany, sadly. I guess I would have loved to wear it… and I never considered it from the “mothers perspective” – it does save you money. and avoid all these discussions about school clothes and outdoor clothes. I dont know how often I ruined a “good” pair of trousers, because I didnt change my clothes after school and went straight outside playing. haha. poor mum.

    • Hi Moni,
      At my sons college they have a very smart burgundy and charcoal ensemble that is very, very attractive for a colour combo, may not sound great but it is lovely, and thanks to a very budget and style conscious ‘Uniform Shop Lady’ every article is fully machine washable and dryer proof. I mean everything, at first I was not convinced and always sent the blazer to the DryCleaners, but one day got desperate and thought what the hell here goes. Oh man, I washed it in cold and spun slightly and it came out looking like it was already pressed. MAGIC!! Not one mother at our school sends their kids uniform to the cleaners, everything is machine terrorised and comes out looking like new. The fabric is a blend and I truely thank the ladies for researching everything so well. It is a very pricey uniform for a pricey private school, but I know we have had our moneys worth out of all of the gear and it is still in excellent condition so passing on or selling will not be problem.

      Another thing that they handled very well was the phasing period when the uniform went through a change, although new students could still purchase the old stock at cheap prices they could wear them as they were. My son started in 2008 and the phase period was for 5yrs, didn’t affect us having to worry about it due to him jumping through the uniform sizes every term, but it was nice to know the uniform costs weren’t outrageous and that they could pass through many students.

      Have a try with your kids uniforms, the blend sounds like it can take a cold wash with a cool dry and work up from there. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. It is funny you mention ski gear because this weekend I am listing my daughter’s ski suit and mine too if I can find it. Plus all the snowboards that are too small and boots etc. As it can be unpredictable as to how long things take to sell (my personal record: 5 mins from listing) thru to 3+ re-lists, have decided to take advantage of the long weekend coming up and list it all. Fingers crossed it doesn’t all sell at once otherwise I’m going to have a major dispatch job on my hand.

    Lately I have been trying to space things out to keep it manageable but I want stuff gone already! Its a great tool for getting clutter out the door, but it requires a respectable amount of effort to achieve.

    • Hi Moni, I found I had better success selling the kids gear than I have the grown up sizes. People prefer to buy secondhand when the kids are only likely to get a season or two out of them I suppose. Where as adults like to combine practicality with fashion preferences since they are less likely to (hopefully) to grown out of theirs. Good luck with the selling and with the arm loads trying to get them to the post office.

  7. Great tips Colleen. I admit that I’m not the most thorough checker of the finer details when it comes to buying clothes, though I do like quality garments. Now that I’ve started at Vinnie’s and having to sort through donations, we’ve been taught to be REALLY picky as to what to put out in the shop. I was amazed that 90% of the clothes are not good enough quality for sale (the rest go overseas, somewhere!)

    • WE aren’t so picky at lifeline. We have a go at selling them first and them ship them off if they hang around for too long. So get sold as rags later.

      • During my time volunteering at the thrift when we did live ‘overseas’, we would send the thrift rejects to other countries. And finally we all decided even the rejects were yucky, so we really upp-ed the ant-ti about what was good enough for the store, what was good enough for the other countries, what was just plain trash (why can’t people toss their own trash?). Yup. I find it simply amazing and also simply questionable what folks think is thrift store worthy. Seriously????

        • well, either the stuff goes into the trash or the thrift store can check again what they might be able to sell, and trash the left overs then. so instead of risking to throw something out that might have been useful, the task just gets handed over… I mean seems like each store has a different limit and criteria of what they want to sell, so you can make sure to give them what they want if you give them everything. play it safe… I can actually understand that.

        • I had a friend give me a huge bag of tops she thought I could wear and that she had lost weight out of. Out of about 20 tops there were only 3 that didn’t have some sort of spot on them that didn’t come out. I took them to Goodwill and told them they were for their rag program. They cut up clothing that isn’t salable and sell bundles of them as rags to cleaning and auto repair companies, etc.

  8. I have noticed over the last decade that even clothes from “better” stores or “better” brands have diminished in quality. I am amazed at how “thin” a basic tee has become for both men and women. I still sew as often as possible. I also steer clear of garments made in China as I have found they don’t last.

    • I have noticed that too with the basic T and sometimes I even find it difficult to find basic T’s. I still suffer from my T’s getting those annoying holes in the front after a very short time. I put it down to hard bench tops and some sharper edge buttons but I sometimes wonder if they aren’t made that way on purpose so they wear out quickly.

      • what’s up with you and those front of the t-shirt holes? Do you wear a piece of jewelry that rubs at that particular point? A belt buckle?

        I love a brand of t-shirts called “ONLY” (GREAT FIT, no tags to bug me, wash and wear very well, long sleeve, short sleeve, tank, etc style options, many colors). But unfortunately I can ‘only’ find them in Europe; and not in America!!!! Do they sell those down under?

        • I love “Only”, too, as well as “Vero Moda” (their stores sell “Only” as well, so I tend to shop for both there). I just checked their websites though and it seems they are only located in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. No stores in the US or in Australia.

          They’re also nicely prized, not very cheap, but quite fine for how long they last. I found when checking my wardrobe, that I wear things I bought there for years and most of my favourites are from there.

          • Vero Moda, Street one, and (a bit too expensive but always great quality) Esprit. Those labels seem to last forever, and are often favourites.

  9. Hi Colleen,

    How hard it is to find good quality clothes! I used to make a lot of my own clothing as a university student and so had some idea of the types of fabrics available and their cost. In ready-to-wear fashion it was very rare to find anything but the cheapest fabrics, even if the garments themselves were costly. In women’s fashion, price is no guide to quality, unfortunately. A colleague of mine calls the abundance of cheap poorly-made clothing available today “landfill fashion” which I think describes them well – wear once and throw away. A depressing thought indeed.

    • Hi itgirl, I fear you are correct. Just about everything in this day and age is not made to last including cars and even houses. I like that term “landfill fashion” although I don’t like the concept it is certainly and sadly the case. It really is time society found another way to make the money go around without wasting precious resources and polluting the planet. I hope it is an evolution that has already begun.

  10. Argh. this is one of the exceptional posts that I will get translated into german. I really dont have an idea what ‘blind hem’ is or are. 😉
    I just decided to check out a sewing course. I never learned how to use a sewing machine and I really wish I could. so that I would be able to repair and adjust all of those clothes that dont fit exactly, or are broken. and maybe I could even make something myself. that would be great.

    • Well, Lena, it’s called the same in German, too. “Blinder Saum/blinde Naht”. 😉
      It’s a kind of hem where you can’t see any stitches from the front, they’re all at the back/inside of the garment.

      • haha – even in german I really didnt know what that was. 😉 thanks for the explanation…

        I checked out the course. there is a lady who is running a “sewing café”. you can basically rent one place with a sewing machine and have a little drink with it. she also has a shop with sewing supplies and she is also offering cheap courses for beginners. I might make this a birthday present for myself.

    • Blind hem is where the hem of a garment is sewn in such a way that the stitching isn’t visible on the outside. Unlike a pair of jeans where the stitching is clearly visible.

      Good for you Lena you do that sewing course and make the most of your clothes. I love that I can repair and make clothes if I so choose. Although just this week I took up the hems on my husbands sweatpants. They were so long that he kept stepping on the back of the hems. All was good until he sat down and put his feet up on the ottoman, that was when we realised that his ankles then stuck out and got cold. I guess some things are made long for a purpose. 😆

  11. Hopefully you keep your receipts if you need to return; and if you also keep your recipes, that is ok, too (yum yum yum).

    🙂

    • I keep my receipts and the labels Annabelle until such a time has past that I think the item has proved itself. Then I throw them away. They hang on a clip on my whiteboard and I declutter them regularly.

      • I have a little metal suitcase (red with a hippo on it – so cute) that I collect all receipts for non consumable items. from office supplies, to clothes, electronics, books, prints, up to furniture. all of those things get collected in this box. I sometimes go through in order to declutter, but there arent many coming in these days, which is a good sign I guess.

      • check wording….2nd paragraph, 2nd to the last line…recipes…receipts…

  12. Colleen,
    Those are great tips, thanks! One thing I’ve noticed about Rayon is that there are MANY different types — my most-favorite fabric in the world right now is Modal which is a rayon made from beech or birch trees (depending on which source you check). Modal is machine washable and safe for the dryer, feels like pajamas but doesn’t stretch out, doesn’t fade and unlike your knit description above, does seem to be very forgiving on my “curvy” figure. My favorite line of clothing that uses this Modal is Comfy USA, but there are others who are starting to include it. If you have a chance to try it out, I recommend it!

  13. Ideealistin :

    Hi Colleen,
    thanks for all the tips (some known, some new to me).
    But a question to everybody: Do you have experience with blends like hemp and cotton for example? or cotton/linen jersey? I’d be fine with investing in better quality and preferably organic t-shirts and longsleeves when the ones I have will break (and I am afraid some of them will do that soon …), but while I feel comfortably capable of judging the seams and the cut I am always unsure how to judge whether the fabric will hold up well over time (shapewise and colourwise). Because “I’d be fine with investing” only if I got a lot of wear out of them. Everything will go into the washing machine on 40C and be tumbled (no dryer though) and I don’t want to iron t-shirts. Any experiences? I’d absolutely appreciate it (and I tend to not trust genereal online reviews too much because I am not sure what some people think of as being good quality …)

  14. The very best shirts I have found – short and long sleeve with a little give to them – is L.L. Bean. We are very fortunate to have a store close to my office here in VA and their main store (no pun intended) is in the state of Maine.
    The quality of the shirts is superb, washes well, never needs ironing and the little bit of stretch is good so that it does not fit too tightly. You can check them out online or ask for a catalog and order through the mail.

    • Hi Maggie,
      isn’t it nice when you find good quality items that suit your lifestyle. I think my husband bought some shirts for L.L.Bean when we were in Seattle recently. They are washing and wearing well too.

  15. I have considered this idea for some time now and you make very good points. Thank you!

    Dee

    PS. I think you meant to write receipts, not recipes : )

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