As the third child in a first generation American home, hand me downs were an essential part of my childhood. On the rare occasion that I was able add a garment to my already limited wardrobe, I had to get something that would last through multiple wears.
Though I didn’t appreciate it at the time, having to re-purpose old clothing and shop within limited means helped me develop an understanding of quality garment construction. Now, that I’ve been around the shopping block a few times, I know what I’m looking for in regards to quality and I pretty much go into autopilot. Before adding anything new to my closet, I use my three step T-L-C method to curate a closet to love.
Touch the fabric. There’s a reason why the jingle for Cotton’s ad is so catchy…it also holds true. “The touch, the feel, of cotton”… you know the rest. My first real interaction with a piece of clothing is when I touch it. Within seconds of feeling the garment, it’s pretty clear whether or not the fabric will irritate my skin, pill easily, or rip to shreds after a few wears. Natural fabrics like cotton, leather, and wool are generally softer to touch and last longer than their synthetic counterparts.
While I’m at it, I run my fingers over the seams and check the hems. Loose threads and a haphazard stich jobs won’t last very long. Extra buttons and intricate details are also good signs that the garment was constructed with care.
Look at the label. Now, I don’t know about you – but most of my shopping is now done online, so sometimes I have to skip ahead a step before I can actually touch what I’m buying. Whether in store or online, almost all items have tags or production descriptions detailing the composition.
It can be rare to find items with 100% natural fibers but with the right ratio, blends are great too. With blends I look to see which garment makes up the majority of the comp…if it’s natural, then that’s typically a good sign.
I make concessions for blends when it comes to clothes, but I rarely make the exception for leather goods. In my experience, shoes and bags will always last longer if constructed from 100% leather.
Check your impulses. Impulsive shopping can be dangerous. When I’m curating, I try to think rationally about how much I actually want the item and how much I’m going to wear it. Creating wish lists are one of the ways I curb my impulses. Telling yourself no is not easy, but it can be rewarding! All those no’s along the way usually add up to one amazing yes – albeit those designer shoes you’ve been coveting or that trip to Thailand.
Now let me be clear, more expensive does not mean better quality and the reverse is also true. I shop everywhere from Bergdorf to Target and I've found pieces that fit the bill at all places in between.
Happy shopping (and saving)!