“Quality”… such an elusive word, is it not? What does that really mean ‘quality’?
Here is what I tend to look for when I shop for items as a general rule:
By this, I mean how well was it made? How well was it sewn together?
Things to look out for:
- No loose threads hanging out (even ones that you can pull out easily)
- Seams are straightly sewn
- When you pull lightly on the seams, they shouldn’t gap open easily
- Seams are tacked down neatly and not just flapping about, open and loose
- No obvious needle holes or marks where the seams are (the needle was too large for the fabric then)
- Linings in jackets, pants and skirts and in what fabric (polyester or viscose?)
- Functional buttons on the sleeve; not just sewn on and dangling there, but actual button holes exist & you can button or unbutton the buttons on the sleeve
If it is a print or even a stripe, they should at least have tried to make an effort to match up the print!
Nothing irks me more than an obviously botched match. It just looks strange, and it means they took ZERO CARE in doing this.
The zippers should be sewn on straight without any bumping, rippling or wonkiness.
Good quality zippers also don’t look or feel flimsy, bonus points if they are METAL zippers (usually on vintage items) and not plastic. Zippers that are good, also zip up and down easily without catching on the teeth of the zipper, and slide nicely.
The buttons and the snaps or whatever else should be in neat, straight lines, and PROPERLY sewn down (not loose or wiggling about).
Also, higher quality items tend to give a free extra button or a thread for any repairs.
Unless it is linen or seersucker and meant to be wrinkled and bobbly, the fabric should be smooth, straight and pressed.
What I then do, is take a handful of the fabric and squeeze tightly and release. If it shows wrinkles, beware that you will look a bit like a frightful mess when you sit down, bend, stand up, move around and otherwise not stand still in the garment. You may or may not like this.
I also check for the softness of of the fabric and its thickness. Generally speaking, the softer and thicker the fabric, the higher quality it is.
Hold it up to the light and if you can see through it clearly it means in sunlight you will be exposing your undergarments to the world, and that it is simply not thick enough.
In cashmere & wool especially, the softer it is, and the thicker, the more expensive it is. These natural fibres comes in varying grades and naturally, the least itchy and scratchy of them all are the best.
Even polyester has grades. Thick modern polyester looks and feels wonderful to the touch, almost like a cotton-silk blend, whereas cheap, and oftentimes vintage polyester looks and feels light, thin, and like cheap … well, polyester.
Consider if the item will pill easily as well. It is hard to tell sometimes but generally speaking, the lighter, thinner and cheaper the fabric, the more prone it is to pilling, whether it is a natural or manmade fibre.
For WAY more information than you will ever need on this subject you can start by reading this post, excellently written by others.