How to assess the quality of garments: A Beginner's Guide
July 12, 2019 8:30 AM   Subscribe

This is great. I love how well these explain the concepts.
posted by xingcat at 8:39 AM on July 12, 2019

Oh MAN this is my entire childhood playing Salvation Army CSI. My mom is still the best at this, she can somehow tell when a tarnished picture frame is actually sterling silver and re-sell it online. Being able to tell quality mensware from crap in the goodwill pile used to be valuable skill until etsy and the consignment market and fast fashion sucked up anything good - the last time I actually *found* something was in Augusta Maine cause it was all hard-wearing WASP staples and no one throws anything out until someone dies.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on July 12, 2019 [11 favorites]

This is wonderful! I get so frustrated when I buy something and it's falling apart a few months later and have been looking for something to help me identify higher quality clothes. Price certainly doesn't work!
posted by congen at 8:58 AM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

My aunt who was a trained seamstress and worked both sewing and as a pattern-maker (essentially factory owners who knew nothing about sewing/fabric or anything else would come in with an idea or with someone else's product and she would design the pattern for them to make it), would also look at the orientation of the weave on different pieces of the garment. You can save a lot of money by laying out the pattern pieces on the fabric however they fit most and then cutting them like that, but the way the garment flows, the way it eventually might stretch or shrink etc. are affected by the direction of the weave. If you line things up wrong, it will look wrong, either immediately or after a couple of washings.

I do not know how to do this. I just know that it's a thing that people who know how know how to do.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:19 AM on July 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

Penguin, when you buy a pattern, the pieces have arrows for this. Some fabrics work fine with the arrows running crosswise but others have to be lengthwise. Some, like velvets or corduroys, are even directional.

Making my own clothes what I like to do is to wash the fabric in hotter water than I should, and dry it hotter too, before I cut it out. Maybe more than once! Shrink the heck outta that stuff, tighten it up. Then when I make my garment, it will be more stable in the wash. If the fabric gets damaged by washing, I don't want to waste my time sewing it. I do this even with dry clean fabrics. I mean who are we kidding, I am not gonna dry clean it. If it won't survive the wash it won't survive being owned by me.
posted by elizilla at 10:12 AM on July 12, 2019 [18 favorites]

This is helpful advice.

Weirdly, I almost never have trouble with clothing falling apart, even if it's cheap. I don't know why. Maybe I'm lucky, or maybe it's that I don't have any kids to wrestle. I don't have to throw things out very often, and when I do, it's usually because it had some sort of accident where quality wouldn't have protected it.

One problem I have a lot though is jeans that get saggy after one wear. She doesn't address this. I usually avoid jeans with a high amount of stretch for this reason. But sometimes I'd like a tighter look - and more options in a store. Anyone cracked that code? Are there good stretch jeans that don't sag after you wear them for one day?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

This is really useful -- thank you for posting! As a lifelong thrift store and jumble sale shopper, I know a little bit about what I'm looking for in fabrics, but tend to look more at whether there are stains rather than paying attention to the seams and sizing.

It's definitely time for me to invest in a sewing machine and figure out how to adapt and fix some of the quality items I've bought over the years.
posted by vickyverky at 10:59 AM on July 12, 2019

My problem is guessing whether and how soon fabric will start pilling. The article talks about this a little with respect to cotton and wool, but most of the clothes I buy are blends of some kind or another and it just feels like a total crapshoot.

Are there good stretch jeans that don't sag after you wear them for one day?

Not a personal recommendation but I just saw this comment on the non-bagginess of Uniqlo Ultra Stretch jeans.
posted by trig at 1:04 PM on July 12, 2019

The information in the cheat sheet looks pretty good and useful, but a lot of the stuff in the more in-depth explanations is kind of confused and misleading. It doesn't do a great job of distinguishing the properties of a fiber from how it's spun, especially in the section on cotton. It's pretty fuzzy on categories, giving denim it's own section rather than being part of cotton, but lumps cashmere in with wool. It talks about viscose as a budget fiber (as opposed to high-quality), and then praises rayon, when viscose is a type of rayon.
posted by Akhu at 5:02 PM on July 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Only thing I ever learned, is I always give the (front) buttons of a potential jacket a sharp tug. If they come off or the thread lengthens or otherwise comes loose, well, I just saved myself X-hundred bucks. So these are great, thanks!
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:18 PM on July 14, 2019

This is so helpful, thank you for posting!
posted by ellieBOA at 6:01 AM on July 15, 2019

Kutsuwamushi, the advice that I recently learned about keeping your stretchy jeans from bagging is to never put them in the dryer, because the high heat damages the elasticity of the fibers used to provide the stretch.

I can't tell you for sure, but I've only recently bought 5 new pairs of jeans* and have not dried them. The two pairs I've owned for almost a year that get dried bag out and stretch after one wearing, but the hang-to-dry ones so far keep most of their shape for a good 2-3 wearings. (At which point I wash them, as I am not a proponent of the idea that one should never wash jeans.) Only time will tell if this lasts.

*After not having any for years. Thank you mom-jean trend for providing jeans with a high enough back rise that I can get the waist tailored to fit my waist and still provide butt coverage.
posted by telophase at 10:27 AM on July 15, 2019

Thanks, telophase! I'll remember that the next time I buy stretchy jeans, and see if it makes a difference.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:33 AM on July 15, 2019

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