One of the most frustrating things about "fast fashion", aside from the damage it does to the environment and the horrid working conditions of the poor faceless Chinese sewers, is the need it creates to keep buying and buying due to poor quality. Let me tell you about what happened to me last month.
I have this great looking jacket I picked up at Zara a little over 2 seasons ago. It would have gone perfectly with this outfit I was wearing - the only problem? After wearing it for 2 seasons, the lining was ripping to shreds, the pockets were full of holes, and the collar was limp.
The moral of this story - ultimately, saving a little in the now costs a lot more in the long-run. I've got a sinking feeling that if I'd splurged on at least a really high-quality vintage piece, it would still be standing proud in my closet. That being said, there are ways to shop smartly and choose the higher quality items within the large chain-stores as well.
To make your shopping adventures a little more well-guided, here's a list of a few points to watch for next time you're shopping for that new blazer (or skirt or sweater or dress... you know what I mean)
1. Fabric Content: I'm pretty sure if the lining in that Zara jacket was something a little stronger than acetate, it probably would have held up better. Even if it seems at first that silk lining is a splurge, keep in mind that silk lasts a lot longer than most man-made fabrics. And while polyester is durable - are you going to wear something that doesn't breathe and gives you backne?
2. Stitching: This is also very dependent on your fabric content and fabric weight. The stitching should be something that you know is there but you don't really notice. If you're noticing your seams, this means that there is something off about the craftsmanship. Skips and pulls and jaggedness may seem like small flaws at first but will grow with time and constant washing, which may lead to split seams or even holes in the fabric.
3. Seams: Not to be confused with stitching, your seams need to be sturdy and appropriate. For example, a pair of pants should always have a flat-felled seam along the inner seam. There are different types of seams and finishes including French, plain and flat seams. There are also different finishes that are applied to the seams using different techniques such as pressing, binding and overlocking. The basic rule is that you don't want to be staring at the thread stitched through the fabric. A properly finished and good quality seam will lay flat in the fabric and blend into the garment "seamlessly".
4. Weight: The weight of the fabric that is! The season and purpose of the garment is going to be a big factor here. For example, if you're buying a summer dress, you don't want it to be made of a heavy twill. On the other hand, if you're buying a winter sweater, you may want it to be heavy rather than fluffy. Just keep in mind when/where you're going to be wearing it. Also feel the fabric. Is it soft and comfy to touch? Does it feel durable and strong. Does it breath?
5. Care Instructions: This is a tricky one. Keep in mind the wearability of the piece when you're looking at the care instructions. Are you really going to dry-clean that t-shirt? Do you want to have to hand-wash that dress? If you're not willing to put in the effort, don't bother putting down the cash for it. I've ruined one too many blouses thinking I could just toss them in the machine.
There's certainly a lot more to buying quality fashion, but of course, this is just a little crash-course. If you like what you see here, let us know and we'll be sure to post a part 2!