I'll admit it. I'm a snob about quality. I know this isn't as big a deal to some people who just want to have fun with their clothes and don't mind a quality issue here and there, but I go a little crazy when I spend my hard-earned money on something and it just doesn't hold up. If there's a team for this, then I'm clearly on the team that would rather save up for a high quality garment that will last me years than the team that enjoys buying a trendy item that will only last a season or two. This doesn't always mean I'm comfortable with high price tags either. I often thrift shop or sew my own clothes when that fails me.
I'm not judging people on the other team at all, since I love to see what they wear and enjoy their creativity. It's just not for me.
On the off chance that this will be helpful to others, here's a draft list of factors I check when considering buying a garment. Am I too darned picky or what?
a. Natural fibers are often, but not always to be preferred over synthetic fibers. They tend to be more “breathable.” Polyesters are not breathable and tend to build up static, which is uncomfortable.
b. Natural fibers tend to be more malleable and will stretch out when worn. They do not always recover their original shape very well. Everyone has had the cotton t-shirt that stretched out beyond belief and the jeans with baggy knees. Consequently, it’s often preferable to look for natural fibers blended with more resilient fibers. Spandex and lycra can help garments recover their shape.
c. It’s nice to find nylon blended with some yarns, like wool or cotton because they improve the garment’s durability.
d. When evaluating printed fabrics, check to see if the pattern carries through to the reverse. If you find a pattern printed on one side and the reverse is plain white, that’s a sign the fabric is poorer quality.
e. The softer a yarn is, the more prone to pilling it will be. Softness is often due to a halo of long fibers that surrounds the yarn’s core. This is what makes it feel soft, but it’s also what pills. Consequently, you’re going to have to make a choice between softness and durability. If you love soft yarns, invest in a sweater comb/stone.
a. Nowadays, most commercial garments feature serged seams. For the most part, this is ok, especially on casual garments like jeans, t-shirts, etc. Just check to make sure all seams are nicely finished and none are left raw. (see image 1)
b. Sheer or thin garments are nicer when they aren’t serged, but are assembled using what’s known as French seams. (see image 2)
c. Seams should be smooth. There shouldn’t be any puckers. This is especially noticeable in satin garments and in stretchy fabrics.
d. If you’re evaluating a stretchy garment, the seams should have some give to them so they don’t “pop” or break when worn. This is when serged seams are preferable.
e. Regular patterns like plaids and stripes should match at key points, e.g. side seams. Sometimes, pattern mismatches are unavoidable, e.g. rounded seams like shoulders.
f. Patterns should be placed in a flattering manner on the garment. Check to make sure large polka dots and florals aren’t placed over your bust apex or you’ll be attracting some unwanted attention.
g. Buttons should be sewn on securely.
h. Zippers should open and close smoothly and not cause puckering on the garment.
a. Garments with linings tend to be of better quality than garments without.
b. Linings help garments fit over your body in a smoother and more pleasing manner.
c. Linings help prevent garments from catching on layering pieces worn under them.
d. Linings help garments retain their shape.
e. Polyester linings are prone to static, so make sure they don’t cling in an unattractive fashion.
f. Rayon linings are very nice to wear, but they tend to wrinkle. They’re best in skirts, dresses and pants where the linings remain concealed from view. They’re not the best choice for coats and jackets where the lining might occasionally be visible.
g. Silk linings are luxurious.
h. Coat linings should be durable. If they feel like they’re going to snag, run, etc. every time you touch the lining, then it’s not worth it.