1. To quickly assess an item’s quality, hold the fabric up to a bright light.
Here’s an example of two different silk blouses held up against a strong light. “The thicker the material, the higher the quality,” Debbie Roes — creator of the Recovering Shopaholic blog — told BuzzFeed.
2. Do the “scrunch test” to see if clothes stay wrinkly.
Ball part of the garment up in your fist, hold it for a few seconds, and then let it go. Does the fabric stay wrinkled or do the wrinkles come out quickly? If it can’t stand being wrinkled for a few seconds in your hand, it’s probably not going to withstand the test of time.
3. And for a quick quality check, do the “pull test.”
Gently tug on the fabric (this works especially well with a skirt or the bottom part of a dress) and then release it. Does the fabric retain its shape? Or does the material look altered?
4. When in doubt, shop in the men’s department.
“Super thin, gauzy tops are currently a trend in women’s clothing,” Roes said. “This trend also allows designers to spend less money on materials for their garments.” If you’re looking for a shirt that’s NOT see-through, check out the men’s sections for tees and oversized button-ups with higher quality. Also, since menswear offers fewer clothing patterns, their items tend to be less expensive than the women’s equivalent.
To learn more about what to buy in the men’s section, go here.
5. Avoid exposed zippers since they can be a sign of low quality.
“Unless an exposed zipper is a design element, zippers should lie flat and be covered with a placket,” said Roes. “And unless it’s part of the design, the stitching holding the zipper in place should match the fabric.”
6. Check to see if skirts and pants have decent hem allowances — especially if you’re tall.
The hem allowance is the width between the hemline and the hem edge. If you’re tall, you already know that this extra bit of fabric can be a life-saver when it comes to tailoring items to be a little longer. “Generally speaking, straight or pencil skirts made in a medium- to heavy-weight fabric can have 1-½-inch to 2-inch hem allowances,” Roes said. “A-line skirts should have a 1-½-inch hem allowance to reduce bulk.”
7. And keep in mind that well-made pants have ~French~ seams.
French seams are a favored seam-finishing technique for designers, Roes explained, since the raw edges of the fabric are hidden in a neat finished seam.
8. Always check the care instructions label for natural fibers.
“Natural fibers like silk, cotton, and wool stand up to wear and tear better than synthetic materials,” Roes said.
9. Make sure your pattern matches at the seams.
Check the side seams of a shirt and around any pockets to instantly tell if quality is high or not. “Matching a plaid or horizontal stripe may mean using more fabric to cut out the individual pieces of the garment, which can drive up the cost,” Roes said.
10. You should also check the seams to make sure all of the thread matches.
“Quality top-stitching should be straight, in matching thread (unless the top-stitching is designed for contrast) and have a high number of stitches per inch,” Rose said.
11. You can almost always tell the quality of an item by the BUTTONS and the BUTTONHOLES.
“Buttonholes should have tight stitching and a neat slot for the button to go into,” Roes said. Touch the button and make sure it’s tightly sewn on — and make sure there aren’t a lot of threads sticking out.
12. Gently pull the seams taut to see if there are gaps between the stitches.
This quick trick can totally prevent you from wasting money on cheaply made clothes. “Better-quality garments have more stitches per inch and thus have tighter seams, which means there’s less of a chance to have the seam come apart,” Roes said.
13. Linings are always a *good* sign.
“Well-made jackets have a taped edge holding lining to the jacket material,” Roes said.
14. If you’re trying to make sure an item is actually hand-stitched, make sure the seam stitching isn’t straight.
“Stitches made with a sewing machine will result in straight, flat stitches,” according to Roes. If you’re specifically looking for a hand-stitched item in a thrift store, check to see if the stitches are on an angle or have a little ~flair~.