How to Spot High Quality Clothing

Inspect Clothing Before You Buy

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It is always discouraging when we buy a new garment that falls apart after only being worn a handful of times. But it has become somewhat challenging just to eyeball an item to determine if it is well made.

Taking a few minutes to look at the label for the fabric content and inspect clothing before you buy will always pay off if you know how high-quality clothing is constructed. This will help you score fabulous apparel on the sale racks in retail stores, in outlet stores, at garage sales, gently used stores and even at your local thrift shop.

Defining the Quality of Clothing

When we buy clothing, we expect it to last for more than one season. For starters, we want the zippers to work properly, clasps to close and stay closed, collars to lay properly, seams to lay flat and the fabric to not shrink.

Manufacturers who make high-quality clothing go the extra mile to make certain the construction standards go beyond what is average.


Better quality clothing is most often made from natural fibers such as cotton, silk, wool and leather.


Looking on the label of a shirt may tell you if the item is 100 percent cotton, but not all cotton is the same.

It all depends on the staple length of the cotton which is the length of the individual fibers that make up the item. The longer the fibers, the better quality. Pima, Sea-Island, and Egyptian cotton have the very longest staple and are therefore highest quality cotton.

You will still want to do the touch test and check a few other things before you spend extra money on what you believe it superior cotton because there is no control over calling cotton Pima, which is not.

Touch the fabric and see if it is soft. Even overly starched cotton should still feel soft to the touch.

Hold the item up to the light. Good cotton is dense meaning it should not be transparent.

Also, a new garment made of cotton should not show any pilling. If it does it is a sure indication that the quality is substandard.


Just like cotton, not all wool is the same. The quality of the wool depends on different factors including the types of animals that the wool came from, how the animals were fed and cared for, as well as how the fibers were manufactured.

The more dense the wool, the less likely it is to pill. Look for wool that is tightly woven. Hold the item up to the light. You should not be able to see through it.

Wool should not have loose strands, knots or areas that resemble small holes.

Even though an item may say 100 percent wool, you will still want to check the quality. There is a trend in manufacturing to use low-quality wool with traditionally high-quality brand names.

For example, the quality of cashmere sweaters has been compromised over the last decade. Many of today's cashmere sweaters are thin with inconsistent weaving and are prone to pilling.

Wool blended garments are more likely to pill or show wear around the neckline and cuffs.


Shoppers should also be careful when selecting silk garments. A garment may be 100 percent silk, but the quality of the silk could be lacking. Silk should feel thick and soft, not thin and scratchy. It should resist wrinkles when you squeeze the fabric.

Top-Quality Construction

Features of well constructed, top-quality clothing are easy to spot.


  • Are there loose threads or pulls in the stitching?
  • Are any threads raveling?​


  • Are the seams straight and without puckers?
  • Is there top-stitching?
  • Do fabric patterns match at the seams?
  • Is the item lined? If not, should it be?
  • Are there French seams?
  • Are there flat fell seams? (Such as the outer seam on a pair of jeans)
  • Are the seam allowances large enough to handle movement, without popping and to repair if necessary?
  • Is there an adequate hem allowance?
  • Does the zipper work properly?
  • Are the buttonholes the proper size and thread free?
  • Are there extra buttons or other notions?
  • Are the cuffs four buttons, rather than three buttons?
  • Is there a front and/or back yoke?

The more you get used to inspecting clothing before you buy, the easier it will become to spot quality.

Note: Print this list and take it with you, next time that you shop.