While this isn’t always the case, more often than not, you really do get what you pay for. For instance, don’t expect the fabulous jumper you just got on sale at Forever 21 for $14 to last you a lifetime — or even through one season, warns personal shopper and stylist Lori Gladstone. "Designer clothes generally warrant higher prices due to better craftsmanship and higher quality fabrics. A designer handbag of the finest leather should last you decades! The same goes for designer shoes.”
According to fashion consultant Kaarin Vembar, to determine quality, the first thing you should do is turn the garment inside out. "Look at the stitching,” she suggests. "The closer together the stitches and the more there are, typically the better made the garment is. Also, if there are a lot of strands coming off of the stitching it may be an indication that it will fall apart.”
Being able to spot quality clothing is an acquired talent that takes some practice, points out president and founder of Adea - Everyday Luxury Christina Di Pierro. "A great way to start familiarizing yourself is to take a trip to a high-end department store and feel your way around the top designers’ collections. Pay attention to what high-quality wools, cashmere, cotton and micro fibers feel to the touch,” she advises. "The more exposure you have to high-quality fabrics, the easier it will become to spot a good value.”
Whether you’re shopping at Saint Laurent or H&M, it's important to know your fabrics, says image consultant Marcus Stewart, aka The Fashion Doctor. "I always tell my clients to buy less synthetic fabrics and more natural fabrics, like cotton, wool, cashmere or silk, just to name a few,” he notes. "Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon or polyester, tend to have a low shelf life and almost guarantee pilling, which is a dead giveaway that your garment may not be high quality. Blended and synthetics can last just as long, but natural fabrics will offer a more comfortable feel and breathe easier overall.”
It doesn't matter if you are buying trendy, less expensive clothing or straight off the runway couture, you should always pay attention to the details, urges Stewart. “Examine the zippers, seams and print continuity before you hand over your AmEx. Metal zippers will last much longer than plastic inexpensive ones, while seams should be sturdy and line up all over the garment. Prints should match up perfectly, too. This shows that time and design went into the piece.”
Believe it or not, if a garment comes with an extra set of buttons or some thread, this is an obvious statement that the clothing will typically last longer and is a better-made piece, says Stewart.
Fashion designer Galina Sobolev of SINGLE dress recommends only buying designer brands on sale. “Otherwise, you’re paying purely for advertising pages in Vogue,” she says. “A designer product usually has a 1,000 percent mark-up, so even at 75 percent off, you’re still paying a premium for that item. Nevertheless, it will last a lifetime, and you will get your mileage out of it!” So in that respect, perhaps it is worth the splurge.
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