Since being made ethically has more to do with where the items are made, and how the workers are treated while they work we are going to focus heavily on the quality in this guide. It's fantastic when an item is made with the care of the workers in mind, but the quality of the garment should never fall to the wayside.
Natural fibers will often last longer than synthetics but this depends on the garment. But in cases they can work very well together, pulling the best properties from each.
Synthetics are man-made fibers like: polyester, nylon and rayon. On their own Man-Made fibers lend themselves very well to workout clothes, outerwear, intimates and technical clothing.
Natural fibers occur naturally in nature or biologically produced compounds. Like: cotton, linen, flax, silk, wool, bamboo, hemp. On their own natural fibers lend themselves well for casual wear, tailored shirts, pants, jeans and light weight outerwear.
Often natural fibers and man-made fibers can often be a force when they are combined - as you get the best parts of both to create something really great. Take for instance a lot of the best stretchy skinny jeans (the ones that still look like denim and bounce back) are made with cotton and polyurethane. Or how often heathered colours have a little bit of polyester in them, to give it that heathered look.
In this case look for a higher about of natural fibers vs man-made - and often you need to feel the fabric to really know (or ask customer service questions).
When you get the item in your hands inspect the fabric. Pull a little on the fabric, does it bounce back? Are there pills in the fabric after one wear? Does the fabric feel good on you skin when you wear it? If there is stretch is it between 2-6%?
If you can answer yes to at least 3 our of 4 of these you're in good quality.
This can be hard to see when you are shopping online, but often you can see alot by the images that are posted. Other times you are going to want to turn an item of clothing inside out to see what the seams actually look like.
KNIT GARMENTS (t-shirts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, workout gear, etc) //
•Good quality knit garments are made with tape or fabric sewn inside the back neckline and along the shoulder seams.
•Hoods are often lined with fabric.
•There are often seams that have "top stitching" or decorative stitching to hold the seam flat.
•The back rise (the butt seam) of pants should be reinforced with a top stitch.
•The side seams of garments and sleeve seams should be hidden by the hem.
•The seams should be sewn by a proper overlock machine.
•Topstitching should have a braided or chain look on the underside - regular straight stitching or zig zag stitching does not work for knit garments.
WOVEN AND TAILORED GARMENTS (pants, suits, blouses, outerwear, etc) //
You Can Often See While Shopping Online:
•Back rise or inseam should be reinforced with a top stitch.
•You should see lining, french seaming, flat felled seams or bound seams in coats and jackets.
You Need To See In Person:
•Pockets should be usable.
•Coats should be lined or the seams finished with a french seam or bound.
•Stress seams like the inseam and the front and back rise (crotch and butt seams) should be reinforced with a topstitch.
•In blouses and coats you should have darts or seams to create shape.
This can often come down to the asthetic of the garment. Many garments will have none (other than their branded and content labels). But when it comes to coats, jackets, pants and anything with a zipper take into account the quality of those trims.
ZIPPERS - check the back of the zipper pull if it says YKK in some tiny writing you have a good quality zipper (the best on the market).
BUTTONS - buttons are tougher to tell, as there are sooo many to choose from. But if you can see the white behind the colour, as if they were painted it's usually a sign they aren't the highest of quality. Also tug on the buttons a little, are they tight with no loose threads? That's a sign of quality.
SNAPS - you should be able to pull on them when you often without any tearing of the fabric, snaps that are placed in the proper way should be strongly reinforced. Same goes for denim buttons, you should be able to pull them open with no sign of the fabric straining.
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