What exactly determines quality?

The quality of a garment is determined by the characteristics of each of its componentsfrom fiber to fabric to the very last finishing detail. To the discerning eye, quality is evident in the external appearance of a garment. It is also evident in the details not seen from the outside: interfacings, linings and construction techniques. These elements not only affect how the garment looks, but how it will retain its shape, and how it will wear. High priced garments are expected to be high quality garments, but this is not always true. We've all been disappointed after buying a new garment only to find it is no longer serviceable after a few wearing. Rather than hassle with returns and fighting with store clerks, select fashions after examining the garment from the inside and out. Before you even go into the dressing room, read the fiber content label, tug at the seams, make sure the garment is free of puckering and hangs straight.

Fashion Fabric

Each fiber has qualities that give particular characteristics to the fabrics made from those fibers. Some fibers are absorbent, some are resilient, some are less durable, etc. Each fiber has positive and negative characteristics, and there is really no one perfect fiber. However, recent innovations in fiber technology have given the consumer more durable and comfortable fabrics than ever before! The fiber content label required by federal law to be permanently attached in each garment must indicate the percentage of each fiber present in the garment. Always check this carefully! You can make many assumptions about the garment based on the fiber content alone. The characteristics of the fabric depend on the type of construction method. Some are more durable than others. The yarns per inch in a fabric are a direct indication of quality. Higher yarn count translates into a higher quality fabric.

Higher twist yarns in a fabric are stronger, indicating higher quality fabrics. Supportive Fabrics/Shaping Devices: These are fabrics used on the INSIDE of a garment, used to fulfill one of several purposes. The fabrics used for interfacings are supportive and build shape and stability in small areas. The fabrics used for underlining add support and durability to the fashion fabric. Linings add support and durability, are usually decorative and enclose construction details. All of these are a significant factor in quality of the garment. Supportive fabrics should be fastened securely, finished appropriately, and should not wrinkle or distort the fabric. Linings should be caught at shoulder seams to prevent slippage and pulling. Linings should have at least a " deep center back pleat to release extra fullness for movement. Linings and fashion fabrics should have compatible care requirements.

Construction Details

Fabric designs should be cut and sewn so the design is not distorted. Designs must be matched in construction of the garments. Plaids must match both vertically and horizontally. Matching is costly and may be difficult to find in low cost garments. Stitch length should be appropriate to the fabric used. Generally small stitches indicate quality, but some fabrics require longer stitches to avoid seam-puckering. Thread color should match the fashion fabric. Transparent thread, which easily unravels, is often used to cut costs. Endings should be secure so that they will not pull out. Puckering is a result of poor sewing techniques. Pressing will NOT correct puckering in seams. Much ready-to-wear has narrow serged seams. Other seam finishes include pinking, edge stitching, over locking, encased, bound, French, flat-felled and Hong Kong. Finished seams add durability to the garment. Hems should be invisible from the right side of the garment. Hem depth depends on fabric and style of garment. Usually more expensive garments have deeper hems, which are easier to alter. Hem finishes should be appropriate to fabric. Sleeves should be set in smoothly without signs of puckering. Sleeves should have comfortable ease in fit so that it doesn't draw or pull on the body. Collars should be placed on the garment so that both sides are symmetrical, unless indicated by design. Collars should have interfacing for support, well-defined edges and a good shape. The under collar should not be visible from the right side. Pockets, though often overlooked by the consumer, should be checked to make sure pocket depth is sufficient to be functional.


Finishing Details

All findings should be properly placed and securely attached. Check buttons to make sure they are fastened securely. Buttonholes should be properly placed and correctly sized to accommodate buttons. Bound buttonholes area a sign of quality. Machine made buttonholes should have close stitches and secure threads to prevent raveling. Zippers should zip! Zippers should be covered by the fashion fabric and be installed in such a manner to stay closed. For quality, a hook and eye is often placed at the top of the placket to ensure closure. Some quality garments have hand-picked zippers that are sewn with small hand stitches that are invisible. If there are applied designs (decorative trim) the trim should be in keeping with the quality of the garment. Check for appropriate placement and secure attachment.

Pressing is extremely important. Pressers are one of the highest paid workers in the garment industry. Garments can be ruined by improper pressing. Each detail of the garment should be pressed into position as it is being made. Whether this is done or not, is evident in the final garment. Over pressing on the right side can cause permanent indentations or show dart impressions, pocket imprints, etc.

Several other factors influence the pricing of garments. The garment may be expensive because the fabric is costly. This does not necessarily indicate a quality garment. Manufacturers may use high quality fabrics and cut corners on the construction or finishing details in order to keep price down. The exclusiveness of the design also affects price. If only a few garments of one design are cut this is reflected in a higher price. Garments composed of many pattern pieces or oddly shaped pieces require more seaming and special handling than other less intricate garments. Matching fabric design (such as checks or plaids) requires more fabric, time and labor. If done properly the garment price increases. The amount of handwork affects price. Linings stitched by hand, fabric covered snaps or buttons, hand-installed zippers and hand hemming will all increase the price. The price of the trims used (if any) influence price. Furs, lace, ribbons, buttons will increase the price.

Take a look for yourself

Visit a mass-market retailer and a high-end boutique. Concentrate on one garment type, such as suits. You will probably find a disparity among the garments. I think you will find the brand name, the garment's cost, and the type of retail store do not always match assumptions about the quality. Take your time and inspect the garment carefullyand when that curious salesclerk asks if she can help you, just smile and say, "No, I am just looking!"

About the Author:

The author is the President of Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc.

To read more articles on Textile, Industry, Technical Textile, Dyes & Chemicals, Machinery, Fashion, Apparel, Technology, Retail, Leather, Footwear & Jewellery,  Software and General please visit

To promote your company, product and services via promotional article, follow this link: