CHOOSING HIGH QUALITY CLOTHING
I love to talk about chic and I love to pass on the lessons of my mother who had impeccable taste. My previous article on chic was a list of 12 qualities defining chic. As I wrote them, I realized that each is its own topic, worthy of elucidation.
My first suggestion is: Buy the best quality you can afford. I’m not saying it has to be expensive, just be of value. But, what constitutes quality in clothing?
1. Natural fibers such as cotton, silk, wool and linen usually have the best look. They feel good to the hand. They feel good on the body. Cotton and linen allow air flow, and will keep you cool on a hot day. Wool holds in body heat, insulating you when temperatures dip.
I have seen and owned clothing made of synthetic fabrics that worked well for me, but they had all the other characteristics of quality.
2. Natural fabrics accept dye in subtle hues. Though they can be vibrant, the colors do not shock.
3. As usual, there are random factors. All fabrics of a type are not created equal. Better fabrics drape better and just look and feel better. Take a look back at your own clothing from past decades. When I was a pre-teen, I used to shop for clothing at Sears! Now the garments there I find seriously depressing. In my vintage clothing store, I used to see clothing labeled with brands that I felt were inferior, for example, Montgomery Ward. These garments were lovely! Beautiful fabric, well cut, well constructed. No mo’!
4. Good quality clothes are designed and cut to contour to the body in a flattering manner. Pattern making is an art and a science. A pattern maker must know anatomy and how the body moves; the give of each type of fabric and how to cut it to achieve a desired effect, such as draping; how to cut each piece so that it combines well with the others of differing shapes to make a whole garment; how to figure seam allowance so the item will fit well and be sturdy. Ideally, any print such as plaid or stripes will match up at the seams.
5. Flat, straight seams help clothing fit the body well. How often have you seen seams that are puckered, wrinkling the garment? They should be reinforced so that they will be strong. Is the hem straight? Different body types will shift hemlines, but, in general, a straight hem is a sign that somebody took the time to make a good pattern, cut the fabric skillfully and sewed it with care.
6. In general, quality clothing fabric has some thickness to it. Some designs call for thinner materials, but usually generosity of material is the rule.
7. Similarly, manufacturers will save money by using as little fabric as they can in a garment, even making it a bit smaller for the designated size! Better clothing is cut more generously which is why you will wear different sizes in different brands.
They will also skimp on the seams allowing them to split with the slightest strain.
8. Then we have the fasteners. Ever have a button that you couldn’t get through the hole? Check the stitching on the holes to ensure that there are no loose threads and that the stitching does what its supposed to do- reinforce the holes.
9. How easy is it to work the zipper? Is it sewn flat and smooth, or is it a bit lumpy?
10. Does it fit you? Fit is your fudge factor. The last years of my mother’s life, her care expenses were very high. She still loved new clothes though so I shopped sales for quality tops. Because she was in a wheelchair, the most important things about bottoms was comfort. I found a line of elastic waist, knit cotton pants at Walmart (Believe me, she never knew!) that fit her perfectly. They cost $12.00 and came in 4 colors. They looked like they had been made for her- chubby waist, flat behind, perfect length and when she wore them with a $200.00 blouse, they looked like elegant, $200.00 pants. It was very weird but I was thrilled! Each pair was made well and they lasted for a long time so the quality wasn’t too horrible.
SHOPPING FOR QUALITY IN A CHEAP STORE
I often shop in a national junior store chain. I’m always the only old lady there! It is full of synthetic, poorly made junk! But, I find one or two pieces every visit, sometimes on the $7.00 rack. Cotton overalls, a Mickey Mouse jacket, long sleeved striped t-shirts to wear to the Y- every day, practical wear that fit me well, cost me very little and provide me with a closet way too full of clothes!!!!.