Unfortunately, fast fashion has seriously reduced the quality of how our clothes look today. In addition to all the social and environmental impacts of this giant industry, it is also bringing down our standards of self-presentation overall. Think about the fifties, for example — that was an era when women looked truly fantastic. Much of their clothing was still personally tailored (or handmade by their mothers); the quality of fabrics was generally much better, with less synthetics on the market; and there was a real sense of having pride in one’s appearance. This is what we need to get back to now. Not just for the sake of our own pride and looking really great, but also for the sake of building smart wardrobes. Those that offer a sense of longevity and versatility, but also don’t contribute to the negative impacts that today’s fast fashion industry is having on our world. Plus, it’s just a bonus if we look really great in the process, right?
1) Cut, make, and sew:
Image: From Bridget Jones’s Diary. Does your clothing suit your lifestyle?
The craftsmanship involved in your garment is one of the most important factors in determining its sense of longevity. If the stitching is beginning to come away, for example, or you can see loose threads hanging where they shouldn’t be, then chances are that the construction isn’t great. Have a look at the care label, too, and see where your item has been made — this can tell you a lot about the quality of the garment. Although, bear in mind that there are no hard and fast rules here. ‘Made in China’ does not always equal low quality, so do some research about a brand’s supply chain before committing to a purchase. Also, remember to take into consideration your lifestyle when thinking about whether or not a particular garment is right for you. The cut needs to be just right for your body shape, as well as for your overall lifestyle and the type of clothing you generally prefer to wear. Being bold and trying something different can be fun, too, but consider the cost per wear factor of something that doesn’t feel very ‘you’ compared with something that suits your personal style to a tee. Shop for the awesome lady that you are, rather than trying to fit into a particular idea about someone you are not.
2) Fabric is everything:
Image: From Pretty Woman. Choosing quality fabrics will really make a difference.
Quality fabrics are integral to well made clothes. Think about the Victorian era and the beautiful way that clothing looked back then. From rich textures to hand-embellished details, it was largely the fabric that defined this aesthetic. Unfortunately, since the proliferation of synthetic fabrics has taken hold, clothing has started to look a whole lot cheaper overall. When it comes to choosing between natural fibres and organic ones, though, usually the more natural the better. This is because quality, organic fibres will generally last longer and breathe better than their man-made counterparts. And, at the end of the day, it should all be about cost per wear really. Even if your garment is not 100% natural, though, you can always look for those that have these fibres in the mix. With blended fabrics, try to make sure you have a higher ratio of the natural fibres like cotton and wool, compared to synthetics. These ‘blended’ fabrics can also be quite good quality, but try to aim for at least 60% natural fibres wherever possible.
3) Hardware that actually works:
Image: From Mean Girls. If you have trouble with the zipper at first, don’t expect it to improve.
Quality hardware is a really important aspect of quality clothing. Zippers, buttons and the like are all areas that companies tend to skimp in order to save a few dollars, but that is only going to cost you in the long run. Not only does cheap hardware stand out like a sore thumb, but it can also quite literally render your garment unusable. Sticky zippers are major culprits in this particular department. If the zipper isn’t working smoothly in store, then chances are it is only going to get worse over time. So put it back and seek out another item whose buttons don’t feel like they’re already about to pop off, or whose zippers slide smoothly and stay in place when you need them to.
4) Does it need to be tailored?
Image: From The Devil Wears Prada. Does your clothing fit right, just as it is?
When trying on new clothes, consider whether — just like Mark Darcy — you really do like it just as it is. Sure, it’s true that ‘you can always have it tailored’ — which I find is a commonly used statement when trying to justify a clothing purchase. But let’s be real here. How many of us actually have things tailored on a regular basis? And also, tailoring can be quite expensive in any case. So, the general rule is that if something needs to be tailored when you first purchase it, then it probably isn’t quite right in the first place. But if you really do intend on having something altered, then at least be sure to factor the cost of that alteration into your budget, because this can add another $50 on top of the item’s overall cost.
5) Lining vs. no lining:
Image: From Bridget Jones’s Diary. Can you see my spanx in this?
No lining is often a sign of clothes that haven’t been made very well. As with the alteration idea, you probably shouldn’t purchase a garment if you find yourself whispering reassuringly, ‘well I can always wear spanx with this’. Sure, spanx have their place, but if you don’t feel comfortable in the garment already, then chances are that you won’t feel comfortable in it later on either — spanx or no spanx. And if still in doubt, wear them into the store when you try it on to be sure. Also, if a dress or skirt isn’t lined, then be aware that your underwear is going to be more visible than if it were. This could be a matter of sheer fabric, or by the simple fact that there is literally nothing between your lingerie and the outer fabric of the garment. Therefore, beware because visible panty lines are far more likely to occur in that case.
6) Wash and care:
Image: From Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. A quality garment is worth the trip to the dry cleaner’s.
Not following care instructions is one of the fastest ways to make sure that your well made clothes will deteriorate faster than they should. If the care label stipulates ‘hand wash’ or ‘dry clean only’, then that’s exactly what you should be doing. And even if the garment doesn’t stipulate so but appears to be delicate, then you should probably be hand washing it anyway. If you’re unsure about how to hand wash your clothes properly, though, then a little bit of research can go a long way. It is not just in washing that you need to take care of your clothing, either. The way that you store them is also important. For example, knitwear should generally be folded and laid on a flat surface rather than hung, because this can stretch the fibres. Blazers, jackets and most dresses should all usually be hung in order to avoid excess creasing, which can lead to the bubbling and puckering of fabric.
Image: From Confessions of a Shopaholic. Don’t find yourself surrounded by too much. Instead, invest in versatile items that you’ll wear time and again.
We know how important cost per wear is, but the real trick to nailing this concept in your personal wardrobe is to choose garments that you know you are going to wear with everything. In other words, choose pieces that are versatile enough to be worn with lots of different things and a variety of ways. A loud, statement tee is great for the fun factor, but are you really going to wear that piece on a number of different occasions and with all sorts of outfit combinations? A simple black tee, on the other hand, can be worn with almost anything and, importantly, can be dressed up or down when needed. Similarly, these classics will work much harder for you than anything that’s overly ‘seasonal’. Bold prints, complex cuts and ‘trendy’ details are all easy to spot from a mile away and won’t necessarily transition through to next season. So if in doubt, invest in the classics. No regrets.
Liked this? Read these articles about ethical fashion:
Have news tips? Send them through to us at email@example.com