Buying Quality Clothing: Insight from an American Seamstress

Buying Quality Clothing


Take a look at the clothing in your closet.  You probably have some things that you’ve worn for years, but that still look great.  You also probably have some pieces that you haven’t worn much, but they just haven’t held up well.  So, what’s the difference?  How can you know before a purchase whether the clothing is good quality that will last.  How can you tell if it is well made? Will the fabric fade? Will it “pill” after just a few wearings?  Will it quickly look worn or lose it’s shape?

The difference is in the way that the clothing is made – the construction process.  If you educate yourself on some good quality constructions principles, then you can be confident of knowing the clothing you buy will hold up well for years to come.  I’ll be discussing  9 things to look for that show if a piece of clothing is well made.  You may not understand some terminology or things may not be clear to you.  You’re going to have to go shopping!  You may want to take the list with you.  Shop in a store that you know has lower quality clothing. Look at the clothes critically, inside and out.  (But don’t buy anything!) Then go to a high end clothing store.  Do the same thing – look critically , inside and out.  (Again, don’t buy.  You are just getting educated.)  The more you look at the differences, the easier it will be to recognize high quality that will last.

Quality Clothing Construction

  1.       One of the most important things to look for in clothing is the number of stitches per inch in a seam.  The shorter the stitches, the tighter and sturdier the seam. Hold the fabric on both sides of the seam and pull. Seams with longer stitches will pull apart and you can see the threads. Seams that rip open easily are the ones with longer stitches.
  2.       The way the clothing is finished on the inside is a good indicator of the quality.  The inside should look as neat as the outside – no loose threads, sloppy seams, loose stitching, etc.  The highest quality clothing is usually fully lined, or at least partially lined. If not lined, the seams may have a ribbon like binding on the edges.  If seams are finished with a sewn thread edge, that should also be tightly stitched.
  3.       Collars, cuffs, waistbands, front edges of blouses and shirts, and jackets should have a layer of interfacing (A special heavier fabric that goes inside to give those areas body and shape.) In clothing without it these areas will be more limp and unstructured.
  4.       Buttons should be shown securely. If a loose thread on top of a button is pulled, the thread will ravel  out and the button will pop off. Also good quality clothing will have extra buttons sewn on the inside.
  5.       Buttonholes should be neat and tightly stitched.
  6.       Plaids, stripes, and patterns should be matched at all seams and closures.
  7.       Crotch seams in pants and shorts should be double stitched. This means one layer of stitching directly on top of the first stitching. This reinforces an area that gets lots of movement.
  8.       Checking fabric quality is harder to describe. It has to be experienced.  A better quality just feels better. It has a better finish. It’s not rough to the touch.   Knit fabric should bounce back quickly when stretched.
  9.       Seams should be straight. A piece of clothing will just not hang properly if the seams are not cut and sewn straight.  You all probably have a perfect example in your closet of seams cut and sewn improperly. Many low quality tee shirts will have a seam on one side curving to the front and the seam on the other side curving to the back.  There is no way to get them to go straight down each side.


Buying good quality clothing doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on clothing.  But spending a little more money on better quality that holds up well makes more sense for the long run.  Buying fewer pieces of well made clothing that you can mix and match can  mean a smaller wardrobe, but one that you will enjoy more.  You just won’t have all the low quality things that just take up space. Happy Shopping!

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