Plastic zippers are harder to zip (and keep zipped), go off track more often, and wear out quickly. Look for garments with metal zippers, and you’ll avoid all of these headaches, plus many more.
When an outfit comes with spare buttons, it’s a sign that the designer expects it to be around long enough to require a few minor repairs, and an assurance that you’ll have everything you need to make those repairs. If you happen to come across a garment that also includes spare thread, take that as a very good sign that you’ve found a quality item.
Synthetic fabrics are notorious for piling, and require lots of special care (read: expensive trips to the dry cleaner). If you want your clothing to look great wash after wash, stick to natural fibers like cotton, wool, linen and silk.
Inspect the stitching of any garment that you’re considering for signs of unraveling, missed stitches, loose stitches, snags, crooked lines and other imperfections. Then, grab the fabric on each side of a seam, and lightly tug to see how well the garment holds together. If there’s any sign of pulling apart, leave it on the rack.
Cheaper brands try to save money by using as little fabric as possible to produce a garment. That often translates into too-short shirt sleeves and pant legs, less room through the shoulders of a garment, uncomfortably short inseams and clothes that just don’t drape and fit like they should. Try clothes on at the store to make sure they look (and feel) as good on you as they do on the hanger.
Fabric Patterns that Match Up
Wallpaper patterns should match up at the seams, and so should fabric patterns. Take a look at the seams of any garment that you’re considering to see how much effort has gone into matching things up. For bold patterns, like plaids and stripes, a poorly-matched seam can really stand out – and not in a good way. Take any sloppy match-ups as a sign that little care has gone into the construction of the garment.
Quality Buttons and Button Holes
Examine all of the button holes for loose threads, sloppy stitching and other defects. Then, turn your attention to the buttons. Do they appear well-made? Are they sewn on well? If both meet your expectations, finish by testing all of the buttons out. If any of the holes prove to be too small or difficult to button, return that piece to the rack, and continue your hunt.
Wimpy thread is only going to get wimpier over time, so take a minute to examine the quality of the thread that’s been used to put the garment together. Does it appear to be strong enough to hold the fabric together? Could they have used something stronger? Are the stitches reinforced where they should be?
Look over the seams of any outfit that you’re thinking of buying to make sure they lay flat and are free of puckers and other irregularities. Then, flip the piece inside out, and look at how the seams were finished. Unfinished edges are a sign of poor quality. Serged edges are better, but French seams, flat-felled seams and bound seams are the true mark of quality.