How to Spot Quality Clothing

10 tips to spot high-quality clothing that will last you for years

Woman eyeing shirt in clothing shop
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If you're tired of clothes that pill, fade, and fall apart after just one season, it's time to start shopping smart. Shopping smart means investing in quality clothes that look good and last longer. Here's how to spot high-quality clothing when you're shopping:

Metal Zippers

Midsection of woman wearing zippered coat
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Plastic zippers are hard to zip (and keep zipped). They also tend to go off track, and they wear out quickly. Look for garments with metal zippers and you'll avoid all of these headaches.

Spare Buttons

Laundry care symbols and spare buttons

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When an outfit comes with spare buttons, it's a sign that the designer expects it to be around long enough to require a few minor repairs, and it assures you'll have everything you need to make those repairs. If you happen to come across a garment that also includes spare thread, take that as a sign that you've found a quality item.

Natural Fibers

scarves at the shop (Morocco)
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Synthetic fabrics are notorious for piling and require a lot of special care (i.e., expensive trips to the dry cleaner). If you want your clothing to look great (wash after wash), stick to natural fibers like cotton, wool, cashmere, linen, and silk.

Strong Stitches

Red stitching on gray fabric
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Before making a purchase, inspect the stitching of the garment for signs of unraveling, missed stitches, loose stitches, snags, crooked lines, and other imperfections. Then, grab the fabric on each side of a seam, and tug lightly to see how well the garment holds together. If there's any sign of pulling apart, leave it on the rack.


Boy (8-9) wearing short jeans, low section
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Cheaper brands try to save money by using as little fabric as possible to produce a garment. That often translates into too-short shirt sleeves and pant legs, less room through the shoulders of a garment, uncomfortably short inseams, and clothes that don't drape and fit well. Try clothes on at the store to make sure they look as good on you as they do on the hanger.

Fabric Patterns that Match Up

Striped T-Shirt Hanging On Coathanger Against Patterned Wall
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Wallpaper patterns should match up at the seams, and so should fabric patterns. Take a look at the seams of any garment you're considering to see how much effort has gone into matching up patterns. For bold patterns, like plaids and stripes, a poorly-matched seam looks unsightly. Assume any sloppy match-up is a sign that little care went into the construction of the garment.

Quality Buttons and Button Holes

Stylish 'Snap Button' on a Man's Sweater - Closeup
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Examine all of the button holes for loose threads, sloppy stitching, and other defects. Then, turn your attention to the buttons. Do they appear well-made? Are they sewn on well? If both meet your expectations, finish by testing all of the buttons by gently tugging on them. And, if any of the holes prove to be too small to accommodate the button, return the piece to the rack.

Good Thread

Threaded needle
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A wimpy thread is only going to get wimpier over time. Take a minute to examine the quality of the thread that's been used to put the garment together. Does it appear to be strong enough to hold the fabric together? Could they have used something stronger? Are the stitches reinforced where they should be?

Finished Seams

Denim texture with red seam
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Look at the seams of any outfit you're thinking of buying to make sure they lay flat and are free of puckers and other irregularities. Then, flip the piece inside out, and look at how the seams were finished. Unfinished edges are a sign of poor quality. Serged edges connote quality, but French seams, flat-felled seams, and bound seams are the true mark of quality. Learn a bit about seams, so you can identify well-made pieces.

Maintain Your Clothes

Close up seamstress fingers sewing button onto tartan in workshop

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Quality clothes are an investment. If you take care of them, they'll hold up for years to come.