“How to recognise a quality garment - part one, fabric”
The guide linked to above is extremely helpful, as well as interesting and educational. I already follow many of the suggestions when purchasing anything — especially because I do most of my shopping online, where it’s impossible to try to feel something before buying, which is problematic when ordering from eBay (China), YesStyle, Etsy, etc.
The above photo is relevant: the style of the dress looks unusual, just slightly eccentric, but lasting and well-structured — all things I look for in a garment. But when I saw its fabric composition, I immediately lost interest: 84% Viscose, 12% Wool, and 4% Elastane means this dress will be a pilly (the little balls that you have to shave off your clothes) rag within a week. In the post above, blogger Trish says of Viscose: “[It’s] one of the worst [man-made fabrics], and has a tendency to pill and fracture - no viscose garment will be long-lived.”
I’ll include some basic, mostly general tips below (my own words), for those of you who don’t want to take the time to read it:
- Most modern garments are made of mixed natural and synthetic fibers. In general, look for a ratio high in natural fibers and low in synthetic fibers.
- Softer fabrics (knit type) tend to pill more; especially when they’re synthetic. For that reason, avoid things like fully or mostly acrylic sweaters (I saw a soft, acrylic sweater in a boutique recently for $200. What garbage.), and polyester/cotton blends when they’re a “knit” type, etc.
- Whenever possible, go for high wool content sweaters. And don’t trust made-in-China descriptions: something labeled “wool blend” that seems too cheap to be true probably is, and you’ll get acrylic.
- Thin, soft, “jersey” type cotton blends will pill, stretch, warp, shrink, etc. Your maxi dress will shortly be an unrecognizable lump. It’s really difficult to shop for cotton online because most of the search results you get are for exactly this type.
- What you do want is the “stiff” cotton that dress-shirts are made from — that’s the good stuff. Even then, take care in the laundry so it doesn’t shrink.
- As far as cheap fabrics go, polyester is great, and apparently it’s better for the environment than other synthetics. Trish says, “polyester is an exception to [the fact that many synthetics don’t biodegrade], as if destroyed at high temperature, it results in carbon and water, making it quite eco-friendly.”
- Personally I find that my polyester clothes hold up very well, but again, you want to look for more “stiff”/smooth blends (like chiffon, for example) as opposed to soft/fluffy.
- Linen / flax and wool are my favorite materials. Linen / flax makes for excellent dresses, tops, pants — anything. By nature these will have a beautiful, interesting “natural” texture (even when wrinkled), will last a long, long time if well-cared for, and are great for any temperature since they breathe well in summer and create nice air pockets in winter (this latter, wool is great for).
- Silk and leather are also great — especially leather for any shoes you want to last more than a season.
- Those fabrics are expensive, but worth it. Whenever possible, look to add these things to your closet. The trendy, cheaper, and impulse purchases I’ve made were fun for a few wears, but I have a few quality-fabric things that I’ve loved for years. Normally I think $50+ for a top is excessive, but I’ve had one linen top from Etsy for a couple of years now and it’s still my favorite thing to wear — the construction is gorgeous and it still looks as good as day one. I’d buy 10 more from the same tailor if I could.
- The above goes double for shoes. If you want your shoes to last more than a season, invest in leather and take care of it with proper waterproofing wax and moisturizer.
- And for winter wear. High wool content or down may be pricey at first, but will keep you warm for a long time. Especially if you take style into consideration — style is different from trendiness.
- When shopping online, thankfully, Asian sites / sellers show a lot of photos of a garment being worn. You can tell how it hangs on a person, what the texture looks like, and that will clue you in to what it’s actually made of and whether it will look like shit within a week of you wearing it. Again: avoid soft, fluffy, droopy “knit” blends, and look for something with structure.
Good luck, and please feel free to message me with any questions / tips I might add to this list.
P.S. anyone interested in a “shopping guide”— something about good practices / things to keep in mind?