Some questions I ask myself when I am shopping for pieces are the following (and some take longer to answer than others, depending on the piece), plus I obviously break the rules when some items are just too incredible to pass up.
Of course, you can find quality in much older pieces (even their costume jewellery blows ours out of the water today), and in vintage wear, but sometimes it isn’t always possible.
As a general rule of thumb – avoid fast fashion places. They will always disappoint you, and unless it’s secondhand and dirt cheap, I tend to avoid fast fashion secondhand as well.
(P.S. – All of my Shop Quality series posts are here.)
Will I wear it again?
If you’re buying items on vacation, you may have what I call ‘vacation goggles’, where you think a caftan is perfectly normal and acceptable as a piece to purchase, so you buy it…. to have purchased something. This is a BAD IDEA. If you are never going to wear bright patterns or colours outside of the environment you’re in (sometimes a really tropical city or country can make you feel like you’re someone you’re not), then put it back on the shelf.
Another “will I wear it again” question comes up with formalwear. If you are going to an event, or a wedding, do you really want to spend $2000 on a dress or outfit that you may only wear once? Consider borrowing from someone, finding a thrifted or vintage piece, or renting the amazing dress instead.
Does it feel nice to touch?
If it doesn’t feel nice – scratchy, itchy, too tight, awkward.. put it back on the shelf even though it’s a great deal.
Why? Because if it doesn’t feel nice, you won’t reach for it. What do people like to wear? COMFORTABLE CLOTHES. Even if some things aren’t meant to be comfortable (a more structured dress for instance), it still can’t be a painful, awkward, or uncomfortable piece.
Who the heck goes into their closet and says: Goodness, today I want to pick out a very itchy tight sweater that gives me hives, instead of this wonderfully soft one.
NO ONE. Unless it’s to wear it for one picture and then switch to another outfit.
Am I comfortable in it?
A size too small is too small. A size too large, could be kind of cool, but if it’s truly too big for you, it may not hang as well, or look as cute as if you got it in your size. Sometimes, you need to pass on it.
(Unless it’s exquisite AND you think you can tailor it to fit you properly, which means you need to work that into the cost of the piece as well).
If you aren’t comfortable wearing it, even for your own personal style – you won’t reach for it. Pushing yourself out of your style zone is great, but not when it’s so far out you never want to wear it because neon green is just not your colour no matter how in style it is or how nice it looks on a friend.
Same goes with styles – I don’t wear strapless anything because I don’t want to hike it up. I don’t wear micro-short shorts or skirts because I don’t want to constantly adjust myself, same with low-rise anything!
Do I need to constantly adjust it?
Sometimes it feels comfortable, looks great, but that darn draping just won’t stay. I hate this. I hate wearing finicky clothes, adjusting them all the time, or feeling like I am not wearing it properly, so I am anxious, checking in every mirror and window I pass. This is EXHAUSTING.
If you constantly have to tug your skirt down, twist your shirt, and/or check yourself incessantly, this garment may not be the one for you.
Is the tailoring well done?
This is by no means an exhaustive check but:
Give the seams a tiny little pull (maybe not in the view of the clerks though), and see if they come apart or if they’re tightly sewn in.
Check to see if the patterns match up or if it looks like they just cut pieces and sewed them together without giving though to matching the patterns.
Check if the pocket pattern lines up with the pattern on the outfit – a pocket in plaid, lying on a plaid dress but off center, is just a sign of sloppy work.
Check to see if the collars and lapels lay flat without you fussing with them.
Is there a lining in the item? Linings are always a good thing, but it also matters what fabric is in them as well because a cotton lining feels better than a polyester one.
What’s the fabric like?
All natural fabrics are always the best, but there are exceptions that can be made, with great blends (a bit of polyester or rayon helps a fabric keep its shape or structure), or if it isn’t cheap flimsy polyester but the good, well woven stuff (still.. I try not to buy 100% synthetic if I can)
The fabric composition matters, but also whether or or not it is transparent. If you can see your hand through it, or if you hold it up and can clearly see people walking around through it, then it’s too thin and won’t last. Unless that’s the look you’re going for, this transparent, gauzy, tissue thin look.
A fabric can also feel good or not, and if it’s too slippery, I don’t care what the price tag says, I put it back on the rack because slippery fabrics make me think of spandex and tends to veer towards cheap rather than chic.
Is it high maintenance?
Check the cleaning tag. “Do not clean” – would you be okay with this piece NOT being washed, ever? Maybe you can wipe it down with a wet cloth (e.g. vegan leather).
If it says “dry clean only” sometimes you can get away with putting it on delicate wash and it won’t do anything, even though it says “dry clean only”, but consider if you’re willing to invest this kind of time, effort and money into a dry clean only piece. Is it worth it?
Another one is “hand wash only”, which, I can see for cashmere pieces or very delicate lace/lingerie, but I tend to also toss them into the delicate cycle in a bag, and let them air dry.
Do I have another similar piece?
This is my Achille’s heel, so to speak so I threw it in here, as it’s a question I ask myself quite often.
I love the same silhouette, shape and colour so much that I can buy it over and over and over again.
Currently, it’s asymmetrical sweaters and dresses with drape on top. I love the look so much that I am literally collecting batwing, dolman sleeve and drapey pieces in all sorts of colours and fabrics (I need to get a grip).
But if you do not have the space or the money, think if you can use something else in your wardrobe that would be just as good. Or are you replacing it? Then you have to employ the One In One Out rule.
P.S. Love this? I have all of my Shop Quality series posts here.