Buying clothes that last–how do you know when youre getting quality and when youre getting just overpriced brand name

Home Forums Women’s Fashion Tips Buying clothes that last–how do you know when youre getting quality and when youre getting just overpriced brand name

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    that title came off a bit more bitter than i meant it to

    i see this happen with everything, outside of clothes too. i was just watching this guy reviewing top cars, the best cars in the world, and him talking about all the gimmicky and even aggravating things about these 1/2 million to million dollar cars that just makes me feel like, well, brand names really do inflate prices. and everything has a brand name it seems. and outside of price inflation, the best selling brand might not be making the most sturdy (but still stylish) clothing.

    so ive always been a bit leery and paranoid (more than a bit) that what im buying isnt actually the best made thing and ends up being somewhat of a waste of money (imo, since i get the appeal behind style and brand and etc).

    but as someone without a lot of money, i want to take the route of buying few things, but buying quality things. and i just dont know how to go about doing that, i guess is what im saying. but i still want to be stylish–my mom tries to buy me the most utilitarian ugly boots for winter, but why cant there be the best of all worlds–utility/style/durability, with a sacrifice on price

    edit: a bit (totally) overwhelmed by the upvotes and all the comments, thank you for all the suggestions and i hope this post was helpful for lots of people besides myself! i want to reply to everyone but as i said, im a bit overwhelmed



    I use this all the time, literally have it pulled up on my phone in the dressing rooms

    8 Easy Ways to Recognize And Avoid Low Quality Clothing When You See It!

    As for materials, I always go for 100% natural fibres (sometimes 95% if the item needs a stretch), and the thicker/heavier/more tightly knit the better. Some things are supposed to be light and thin and gauzy by design, but the trick is figuring out when that’s by design or when that’s to save money. Many women’s clothing brands will try to convince you a winter sweater is loose knit or super thin because of the style or drape, but if it’s not warm enough for it’s intended wear, then the real reason is that a loose knit or a single ply saves material. Same with the silk work blouse that’s almost transparent but the retail staff tells you that’s “because that’s just how silk is” – is it? Does the transparency serve a design purpose? Or could they have used a less sheer silk in a different weave, a heavier momme, a different construction in the chest and shoulders so your bra isn’t on full display? Even with crepe de chine, I still go for as fluid and least translucent as possible.

    My summer go tos are cotton and silk, winters are wool and cashmere. Linen is very durable but it wrinkles too much for me.

    Edit: One more thing, high quality silks, wools and cashmeres often say “hand wash” on the care label, not dry clean only. If you see one with such a label, it’s very good indicator of high quality. (The reverse i.e. “dry clean only” = low quality is less reliably true).



    Quality of seams and construction of the garment

    Material used

    The stitching has to be perfect and flat with no loose ends or worse, threads falling about. I tend to stick with natural fabrics or a blend, but depends on the price. I’d rather have a $50 cotton or blend shirt than a silk one, because to reach that price the quality of the material must be very poor and the construction even worse.

    If you pay $199 for a white cotton shirt you’re definitely paying for a brand name, not even if Tinkerbell herself picked the cotton out of the tree of life and then all the magical fairies turned it into fabric it’s going to cost that much. I’m not against paying brand name, but I know beforehand that I’m paying mostly for the name.



    This is hard. Now that I’m 40 this is what I’ve learned since my teens/20s. Price doesn’t equal quality. Ask yourself how much of the price is being spent on a huge marketing campaign. TBH, Michael Kors is an example of this IMO. I don’t see quality that equates price. But, usually if you buy cheap clothes you get a cheap product. So, I try to search for value.

    Also, often a brand that makes really great clothes can be sold to a larger company and manufactured in a completely different way. One example that comes to mind is Vanity Fair (VF Corporation) – they purchased North Face, Vans, Nautica (recently spun off), etc. North Face IMO changed after the purchase. If you start seeing a brand reappear in major stores on a large scale, it may be worth looking into whether it has been sold recently. Look at recent reviews of products compared to older ones.

    My tip to you is to purchase clothing from companies that have an excellent return policy. The theory is that the company will not continue to carry items that have high returns and you have a safety net. These companies come to mind – Zappos, REI (store has one year return – not outlet), Nordstrom (not Rack), LLBean, and Costco (Sorel and Hunter boots). You will be able to tell within a year of wear if a product will last.

    Learn when to shop sales and which sales are good. After Christmas sales are often great compared to sales that have special items made just for the sale (Nordstrom Sale). Know that items sold at outlets aren’t the same quality as items sold in stores (Banana Republic, etc).

    Look at seams when you try on a product. Learn fabrics and if they are worth the extra money.

    My final tip is to invest in a capsule wardrobe of classics – jeans, boots, etc. Focus on quality for those. It’s better to spend less on trendy items that you know you will only wear a year or two.



    I’m the kind of personality who enjoys doing a lot of research and comparison with everything I buy, including clothes. I also really get kicks out of good design, where an item perfectly fulfills the job it was designed for with no excess.

    When it comes to clothes and fashion, quality can be measured in ways like what is the fabric made of, is it fit for the purpose of the garment and type of use you’re planning for it, is the stitching finished carefully so it doesn’t unravel, with no excess string hanging off from places… There’s a multitude of things to look out for when assessing the quality of a garment. [Anushcka Ree’s guide]( is a good crash course into the topic.

    And you’re right, just because it’s a popular brand or the price is high, doesn’t guarantee that the quality is comparative. A lot of super popular brands like H&M and Zara can get away with selling low quality clothing because they have the reputation of being cheap or fashionable. Since fast fashion started becoming a thing and especially after the recession, people have kind of lost their sense of what constitutes as quality since many people have literally grown up with clothes made of plastic and nothing else. That’s why you see some brands selling polyester dresses for $200 because people don’t know any better and the brands can get away with it. Hell, before I got into fashion I used to think polyester was a type of silk and acrylic was a treated type of wool or something and that it was ok to pay $100+ for “high quality” acrylic cardigan.

    That’s not to say polyester is useless. It has its uses for example in athletic and outdoors clothing because it dries quickly and is easy to take care of, and it’s good for reinforcing other fabrics to achieve a comfortable fit. But a polyester blouse is only made of polyester because it’s trying to mimic the look of silk without any of the benefits of actually wearing silk. Same with acrylic, it’s only good for trying to mimic the appearance of wool without any of the warmth or longevity of wool. Synthetic fabrics are also problematic because of how much microplastics they release to the water when washed and how much toxic waste results from their creation. (Not to say there aren’t issues with the processing of natural materials like leather and cotton.)

    I don’t mean to say that everyone needs to stop wearing synthetics and like they’re literally the worst, but if you’re interested in fashion and clothing quality I think it’s good to understand the different common fabrics and their pros and cons.



    Fabric, construction, trial and error

    This is my personal guide:

    * Do the seams match the pattern of the piece? Inspect the stiching at the label, the hem (is there hem allowance?), and around the pockets in particular. Do the seams lay flat and not pucker or look irregular? This is also a useful way to identify fakes and/or when has someone resewn a higher end label on to a cheaper piece if you want to buy from a reseller.
    * Fiber length – longer is preferble (I can tell the difference in cashmere and cotton especially).
    * Does your garment come with extra buttons (and are they cheap buttons), and a metal (and for me – invisible) zipper?
    * Pull on the garment – are the stiches durable when stretched? Are the button holes evenly stitched and solid? Are the buttons sewn in a flimsy way (shake easily, look like they will fall off quickly)?
    * Linings – Does the garment have one at all, and does the lining lay flat? Polyester linings are also a quality skimp tactic, imo. You’ll notice a number of brands offer 100% wool pants or coats/blazers, but the lining will be polyester. Pass. I prefer garments lined in silk or cotton generally.
    * How does the collar rest? There is a lot of skimping here.
    * Go to a variety of stores and touch different garments at different price points, brands, and even at different stores. Eventually you will learn how to *feel* quality differences in the fabric.

    EDIT: Most brands don’t have quality control anymore, so I always check my garments when they arrive and will exchange if necessary. Inspect any piece on you, off you, in natural light (by the window), and in your bathroom or closet with a mirror. Each of these will reveal a facet of the fabric/construction quality.



    For clothing, it’s always what the material is vs who made it. Would you want to pay $300 for a polyester blouse?

    I always try to stick to cotton, merino wool and linen for the main material. I feel better in them and they last longer. The fashion industry is mostly disposable.



    I got a degree in fashion design and worked in pattern drawing and operations for a US clothing manufacturer, and have also worked in theatrical costume shops.

    Those are my credentials.

    Brands don’t mean shit. The simple fact is that there are only a small number of manufacturers in the world. Often, the person sitting at the sewing machine is making the exact same item 10x in a row, and simply pulling a different tag out of a bucket to sew on at the end.

    There are a couple of obvious brands who are known for innovation and quality… Patagonia, Filson, Carhartt… but … guess what? They don’t make “fashionable” clothes. They make extremely high quality, long lasting, brilliantly functional clothing.

    When you want something fashionable, you have two competing – and contradictory – motivations: first, styles change rapidly, so making a long-lasting garment isn’t really a strong selling point; second, there are few people who will pay what it is worth, to get a well-made garment.

    HOWEVER, having said all that, there are ways to look at ANY item of clothing and determine if it is well made or not.

    But it takes a little bit of guidance and experience. You need to have someone who knows, show you how a “good” seam is finished, or how a well-made button hole is different from one that will fray right away, or how to determine if the fabric is cut properly, so it won’t twist or hang wrong after the first wash.

    I’d suggest you find a local fledging designer to buy from. Someone who is graduating from the fashion design program at the local art school, or has a booth at the local market/fair. Someone who makes their own designs and sells them.

    Talk to them about their items. They will tell you all the details about how/why they made it this specific way. Show an interest. Ask questions. In a few minutes, you will get one hell of an education on what to look for in ALL your clothing purchases.

    Then buy something from the person. Yeah, it’s going to be more expensive than a brand or store-bought item. But you have now supported a local designer, you’ve gotten something NOBODY else will have, and that person will remember you next tine you visit their booth or shop.

    How do I know? The first person I did this with was back in 1987. And she is still a friend today. (And world-famous for her designs and quality.)

    And I have continued to do this with other designers throughout my life. It is immensely gratifying, and makes your clothes actually MEAN something. It feels great!



    There are lots of markers of quality, and some easier to spot than others.

    Seams: won’t get into technical terms, but the more complicated the better, if it’s one line of stiches with a zig-zag along the edge it’s less quality. Can tug at a seam a little, if it gives or gaps visibly, it will probably break sooner than later. Look at work jeans seams for a stronger example.

    Stitches: the shorter and closer together the stitches are the stronger it will be. Can compare cheap fast fashion with more expensive to see difference.

    Fabric: most blends of cotton/poly etc. will get pills unless high quality. Harder to tell visually. If you don’t want to deal with pilling and thinning areas try to stick with blends of naturals or synthetics. Thinner fabric isn’t always worse but take it into consideration. Knits that are loose and have gaps between each loop have less fabric and will be colder and hold up less, BUT there are different styles again just take into consideration.

    Oh man…. how secure are the buttons and fasteners, how form fitting is it (better fit is harder/expensive to do ie dress shirts that taper vs a boxy shape), there’s soooo many different things companies can do to make clothing better which will most likely translate to $ but not always. Lots of $50 clothes are just as good as $100, and $100 same quality as $50 BUT not always…. HMU if you have specific Q or wanna know some bullshit about the apparel industry (have degrees yo)



    I was just discussing this with my MIL as she has moved back to he NE after living in the SE and SW US and now needs winter clothing again.
    In the case of winter clothing, ask who the clothing is made for. I find that the target audience of the brand can be a good indicator of quality. I live in MA and while wealthy people in Boston are tripping over themselves to buy Canada goose stuff, those of us who are actually outside are wearing stuff from Columbia, North Face, Sorrel, Red Wing and Carhartt. These brands not only perform but also hold up over time as investment pieces. When I first moved to MA, I bought a classic style Columbia jacket and it’s been keeping me cozy for almost 7 years now. I’ve been wearing it here in CO on vacation in 7F snowy weather. I know this only helps for practical clothing rather than fashion.

    One decision I made when I was getting some fall clothing was to go to LL Bean over Uniqlo. I was looking for sweaters, flannels and outdoorsy clothing. Out of those two brands who has been doing that, catering to it for years? I have two other shirts from LLBean that are a few years old, have had multiple washes and still look good. My bean boots look new even though we’re a year in and I go hiking in them. I’ve had the same experience with winter thermal Henley shirts from Carhartt vs any where else you get women’s clothing; who caters to people who would be working on a cattle ranch in Montana?



    This happens everywhere unfortunately! I had my eye on a blanket that originally cost £44, I went in store and found it had been reduced to £22 with a further 20% off at checkout as part of a store clearout sale. Brought the blanket home thinking I got myself a bargain, read the label and it was 100% polyester. Who is paying £44 for a full polyester blanket? I was expecting maybe a poly blend with cotton…

    Now that’s not saying polyester doesn’t have its place, it’s quality has definitely improved over the years and some high price brands will use it just due to its durability in a blend.

    What I usually go on is the feel of the fabric – I had a cheap shirt I bought for £8 and it lasted 4 years (before I accidentally dyed it pink due to a rogue red sock) but it felt incredibly sturdy and well stitched! For shoes I look for things like glue overhang (which will wear away and eventually you’ll be walking around with soaking feet) and how durable they feel! You make a good point of people paying out the nose for genuine leather – just because it’s genuine doesn’t mean it will last! Keep an eye on reviews and look at the bottom of the shoes to see if they’re actually thick enough to last all winter with a lot of walking.

    Price does not always equal quality, a lot of the big brands know their customers have money and won’t see it as a big deal to replace them!



    It’s a pain in the butt! I’ve had this happen to me quite a few times. You spend more money than you’d like on something thinking it’ll last you a long time and then it doesn’t. So disappointing.

    Before I buy something expensive I check for reviews. I disregard the ones that say “I just got this and it’s so nice!” and look for ones from people who have owned it a while. If someone says they’ve had their boots for 3 years and still like them, that’s a good sign.

    Also figure out when it’s worth buying premium products to you and what isn’t. I don’t buy nice t-shirts, I buy the $5 target ones because shirts often get snagged on things when I work and the fancy ones are not worth the 4-6x the price if they’re going to get torn anyway. I rarely go to clubs/bars so I wouldn’t spend much on a club dress. Winter boots I would spend more money on because they’re keeping my feet warm and dry and that’s important. Same with a good coat. If you don’t spend much time outside in the winter (or it doesn’t get super cold where you live) then a cheaper coat might be fine. You just need to figure out what you need for your lifestyle.



    I’ve fallen for this trap many times. Shelling out good money – not hundreds and hundreds of course – but definitely where I overpaid for something with a brand name attached but just becomes yellowed/stretched out/pilled before the year is out. I’ve found through this thread though that reading the tag for materials is super important – never again high polyester blends!

    For footwear this is even worse! I used to think a couple hundred for a pair of boots is a lot – and I also used to think “genuine leather” meant great quality – but turns out a lot of brands would charge fistfuls of cash for shoes where they won’t even outright list the actual materials. I’ve been eyeing some Stuart Weizman boots for ages, and now getting cold feet (ha) because what if it’s just all marketing gimmick? I want something that would last years and years of heavy use to get my money’s worth – so I guess if someone could comment on what brands to look into that’d be helpful.



    If you have a store nearby of the clothing you like, go in and look at it. Make sure the seams are sewn correctly along the sides, the hem and the shoulders. If the seems don’t lie flat or are loosely sewn, move on.

    Look for natural fibers such as cotton, silk, wool and if it’s opaque or transparent. (Our summers are temperate, so don’t wear linen.) I do the scrunch test, even for woven cotton. I take my hand and bunch up the material in my fist. After a minute, I let it go. If the wrinkles go away in a minute or so, it’s good stuff. If not, you’ll have a problem with a garment being wrinkly every time you sit or move around in it.

    As for sweaters, be cautious. 100% wool sweaters are hard to come by though Uniqlo still has them. The ones there are thin and pill easily in my opinion. I bought some wool from Vince, Theory and Tory Burch. Buttons falling off and pills within a month, seams splitting in a few months. Truly overpriced garbage.

    I have given up on new cashmere. Loro Piana, TSE and the HE department stores cashmere feels scratchy and thin to me. I have old pieces I’ve bought through consignment and thrifting from Pringles of Scotland and old Loro Piana that are thick, soft and never pill.



    Other than the fabric, I look at the stitches and overall cut. I don’t care about brands because it can always be a hit or miss. I have a H&M cotton sundress from 6 years ago and it holds up well and looks new. I have a few sturdy 95% cotton bodysuits from F21. I have 4 merino sweaters bought from Uniqlo 4 years ago and I wear them on a rotation during cold months. I actually don’t wash them often, maybe once a month or unless I sweat a ton.

    Laundry care is also important. I use laundry bags and don’t put most of my clothes in the dryer, except for at-home T-shirts. As a student, I’m unwilling to spend a lot of money on clothes and I take extra care on clothes I can afford.

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