12 signs your clothes are built to last

ShutterstockWhen it comes to clothing, quality might be more important than quantity.
  • The huge world of fast fashion means a lot of clothing purchased might not be great quality.
  • To ensure you are buying quality clothing, you can check for “finished” hems and sturdy materials.
  • You can also try pulling at the seams to see if the garment is tightly sewn.

There’s nothing worse than spending money on a garment that falls apart after just a few wears. Good quality clothing should see you through more than a single season, and there are a few simple ways to tell if your wardrobe items are well-made or flimsy.

Here are some signs that your clothes are durable and built to last.

You can’t see through the material.

ShutterstockEven light fabrics shouldn’t be sheer.

Lightweight materials can be a blessing on a hot day, but sheerness is usually a sign that a piece of clothing will have a short lifespan. This is simply because sheer material is more prone to tearing and contains fewer fibres. And expensive materials such as silk aren’t exempt from this rule – good quality silk shouldn’t allow undergarments to show through. If you can hold a garment up to the light and can’t see the outline of your hand through the material, it suggests that the garment will be more durable over time.

Your new jeans feel heavy and stiff.

ShutterstockSoft jeans might mean worse quality.

If sliding into a new pair of jeans is actually mildly uncomfortable, that actually a good sign.

According to GQ, high quality denim is usually heavier and a bit stiff at first because of the material’s higher thread count. In contrast, cheaper denim often feels soft right off the rack because they contain fewer fibres and are sometimes pre-washed with chemicals to achieve that softness, which can actually decrease their durability.

You can’t see any gaps when you pull at the seams.

ShutterstockThe seams of your clothing should be tight.

Tighter, more frequent stitches usually make for a stronger seam. On the other hand, loose stitches placed far apart can make a seam weaker and more prone to splitting. If you pull on a seam and can see through to the other side, that’s a sign that the garment might be poorly constructed. More durable clothing should usually have hardier stitches with no discernible gaps.

Your shirts include extra panels between the shoulders.

Achim Aaron Harding/Getty ImagesIt’s a great feature to look for if you’d like your shirts to last for many seasons.

Collared shirts that are built to last often include something called a “back yoke” between the shoulders. This is essentially an extra panel of material that strengthens the back of the shirt and reinforces the area against pulling and rubbing.

The fabric pattern matches up at the seams.

ShutterstockThis is especially true for plaid and striped fabrics.

A subtle way to judge the quality of a piece of patterned clothing is to see if the pattern matches up at the seams. You can also check this detail by seeing if the pattern of a shirt pocket matches the surrounding material of the shirt front.

Because matching patterns like stripes or plaids at the seams requires more time and extra material, many manufacturers of low-quality clothing skip this step. Though it’s unlikely that mismatched stripes will cause a garment to fall apart before its time, it might be a hint that the clothing brand has cut corners in other areas of design or construction as well. If the patterns on a garment do match up, it’s more likely to be higher quality.

The hems of your skirts or pants are “finished.”

ShutterstockLook at the bottom of your jeans and check for a finished hem.

Clothing that includes “raw” hems that haven’t been sewn or “finished” with extra fabric is more likely to unravel or look sloppy. Fast fashion manufacturers often simply cut the ends of pants or skirts without finishing the hem, which takes extra time and material. If the hem of a garment appears to be folded over and sewn, it’s more likely to last without fraying.

There aren’t any exposed zippers.

ShutterstockZippers shouldn’t be seen.

Clothing that is built to last should be designed in a way to minimise the chance of snags or splits. According to Altitude Blog, exposed zippers are actually prone to catching on fabric or becoming jammed with debris. Many manufacturers use exposed zippers because they are cheaper and simpler to work with, but quality garments are more likely to include zippers that are sheltered by a fabric placket. This also gives the garment a more seamless and polished look.

The label gives you plenty of details about the material.

ShutterstockWhen in doubt, read the label to find out how to care for your quality pieces.

Even the best-designed piece of clothing will suffer if improperly cared for, and a crucial part of knowing how to treat a garment is knowing what it’s made of. A piece of quality clothing should include a detailed care label that spells out in text or symbols exactly how to launder and dry the garment. Just as importantly, the label should tell you about the fabric content. At a minimum, you want to make sure the label indicates the type of textile you’re dealing with, but it’s a great sign if you’re also given information about the origin or grade of the fibres used.

Your clothing keeps its shape after being stretched.

ShutterstockQuality fibres should bounce back when stretched.

Even non-stretchy fabric shouldn’t become limp and lifeless after receiving a good tug. High-quality clothing material usually has good “recovery,” which means that the fibres spring back into shape and maintain their form after being stretched. This is crucial if a garment is meant to have a structure appearance or be worn close to the skin. To test a material’s recovery, pull a small section between your fingers.

If the material looks odd or different after being released, it might not be a good investment.

Your clothing came with extra buttons and thread.

ShutterstockDoes your jacket come with an extra button?

When a piece of clothing comes with a little baggie packed with extra buttons and a bit of spare thread, that’s a good indication that the manufacturer expects the garment to stick around long enough to need repair. As quality clothing is often more expensive than flimsier garments, including these repair materials helps shoppers protect their investment.

Everything is sewed, not glued.

ShutterstockLeather especially should be sewed and not glued.

Glue is a cheap and fast way to connect panels of fabric or leather, which is why its favoured over sewing by clothing manufacturers looking to cut costs and increase production. High-quality clothing and shoes shouldn’t show any traces of glue, especially where pieces of leather join together. A durable garment should be held together by tight, strong stitches rather than adhesive.

The clothing company provides a great warranty.

Jack Taylor / Stringer / Getty ImagesChances are you have more warranty rights than you know about.

When a brand has faith in the durability of its products, it’s more likely to offer a quality guarantee or warranty to customers. It makes no sense for a company to promise a refund on a shirt that may unravel within a month, so the inclusion of a decent warranty with clothing purchases is a good sign that the item you’re buying has a long life ahead of it. If you really want to be sure your investment is safe, ask to see a written copy of the warranty before you buy – retailers are obligated by law to show you a written copy prior to the purchase of any item over $US15.

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