When I was in high school, I took a number of fashion design classes. We had the world’s most amazing teacher who patiently guided each of us in creating our first garments. Honestly, the woman deserves a saint hood for having the patience to deal with a class room full of novice teenage sewers. I’d probably of run out of there screaming! In these classes, we learned the basics of sewing and garment construction. Learning how to construct a garment has been one of the most practical skills I’ve learned in school. Now I can look at an item of clothing in a store and immediately assess the quality, fit and price. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoy shopping at Anthropologie so much. Anthropologie is a bit pricy, but the quality of the clothing is top notch.
Unfortunately, the price of a garment does not always guarantee that it is well made. When purchasing a new article of clothing, there are six basic questions that I always ask myself.
Six Question Quality Assessment
- What type of fabric is used?
- Natural Vs. Synthetic
- Inherent characteristics of the fabric
- Is this an appropriate fabric choice for this type of garment?
- How are the seams and hemline constructed?
- Do they lie flat?
- Do the seams pull apart easily?
- Is the stitching tight and even?
- If the garment features a pattern, then does the pattern match at the seams?
- Is it lined and quality of lining?
- Determine the overall quality of the notions. Notions include things like zippers, buttons and snaps.
To illustrate the application of these six basic questions, I am using this peplum top from Anthopologie.
Questions 1, 2 and 5: Fabric Choices & Lining
The fabric making up the shell of the shirt is composed of 89% cotton, 10% nylon and 1% lycra with a 100% polyester lining. I am happy with the composition of the fabric and feel that it will be able to hold the shape of the peplum. The addition of the lining will also contribute to maintaining the shape of the peplum as a good lining provides the overall foundation for a garment. Cotton is a lightweight fabric perfect for summertime heat in that it allows the skin to breathe. Basically, it allows sweat to evaporate which keeps you cooler during those hot summer months. Plus, the addition of nylon and lycra keeps the fabric from wrinkling and adds a comfortable amount of stretch.
As for the lining, I am a little disappointed that it is 100% polyester. Silk and rayon are the preferred fabrics to use when lining a garment. They are both lightweight and allow the skin to breathe. Polyester is much cheaper and does not allow moisture (sweat) to transfer through the fabric. Anthropologie most likely chose to line the top with polyester in order to cut costs. Due to polyester’s lack of breathability, this type of lining can often be too hot to wear during the summer months.
Question 3: Seam and Hemline Quality
When assessing the seams of a garment, you want to ensure they lie flat, have even stitches and do not easily stretch apart. The seams for this garment comply with all of the above. The hemline is even and features a blind hem. Cheaply made garments will just serge the hem which can leave the raw edge of the fabric exposed. Having the raw edge exposed can lead to unraveling.
Question 4: Pattern & Seam Matching
To me question number four is one of the easiest ways to immediately tell if a garment is well made. As far as garment quality is concerned, the pattern on your fabric needs to match up along the seams. A poorly made garment almost never matches. Poorly made garments never have seams that much because it requires more time, skill and material in order to do it properly. As you can see below, the pattern has been matched on the garment. There’s really only one small portion on the bottom left side that is slightly off. Honestly, I don’t think that’s too big of a deal and won’t be noticed when wearing.
Question 6: Notion Quality
Question number six involves the notions stitched into your garment. On this particular garment, the notions include the invisible zipper and snaps. The zipper slides easily and an eye and hook is used to keep it closed. The snaps on the underside of the straps snap close and open easily. The bottom snap also includes an extra thread loop to help hold your bra-strap in place.
Top: Anthropologie | Jeans: American Eagle | Shoes: White House Black Market (old, similar here) | Purse: Michael Kors (old, similar here) | Necklace: Bridesmaid Gift
Based on my six question assessment, I feel that this top is well made and will last for years to come. From a sizing standpoint the top runs small. I had to size up in order to keep it from being too tight along the bust. I also would not recommend the petite sizing. I am 5’2” and length-wise the regular sizing fit perfectly. I feel that the petite sizing would have been too short and ruined the effect of the peplum.
Photography: Susan McDonald