How to buy clothes that last

Overwhelmed – the feeling many of us feel when we go shopping. There are too many brands selling too many styles, resulting in too many items to choose from. We therefore find ourselves facing hard choices about what to buy. This is where my checklist comes in to save the day.

What I have learned over the years is that it’s not enough for an item of clothing to simply be pretty. It also needs to be durable enough to last in my wardrobe for years to come. Most of my personal “fashion fails” have occurred after I found myself quickly choosing items solely based on how they look. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love beautiful clothes. That’s why I also care about being able to wear them for as long as possible. 

With this in mind, I put together a small checklist to have in your back pocket when you’re shopping, and before you run out and buy new, keep in mind that this works just as well for second hand pieces! My checklist will take you step-by-step through the methods I have learned – be it from my mom who works in the textile industry, or just lessons learned following my bad shopping experiences.

1. Check the seams

You have spotted your dream item. Look at the quality closely, starting with the seams. Pull the seams to see if the garment is tightly sewn. If it looks like it will fall apart, let it go. This quick test might just save you from a bad purchase.

2. Read the labels

And not just when buying a brand-name piece. Read garment labels to also learn more about the items you plan to buy, from its material, exact size, and the *very relevant* washing instructions. For example, if it says “dry clean only”, you might want to reconsider whether the item is really worth it.

3. Is everything secure?

I, for one, love garments with small details like buttons or other trims. If you do too, make sure they are there and are well-secured, to avoid losing them on your first wear. Also, don’t forget to look inside the item to see if it comes with replacement components, should you need them down the line.

4. Know your materials

Only buy materials you’re comfortable wearing. The best way to decide is to simply try the garment on and see how it feels on your skin. There are tons of materials that look visually appealing but that just don’t work for you. 

In terms of material quality beyond the different types of materials (cotton vs. polyester), here are some other quick checks you can do: Is it too see-through, or too light and discoloured?

5. Look for imperfections

So everything’s perfect so far. It might be worthwhile to check again. Does your item have any visible flaws like stains or small holes. If yes, are they easily repairable (ie. if buying second hand)?

6. Does it really fit?

When trying an item on, be brutally honest with yourself. Is it really your size? Do you feel completely comfortable in it? Does its form feel right or is there something weird about it that makes you ask – is it supposed to sit like this? If it feels wrong, it usually is. And be kind to yourself in that process. It not fitting correctly doesn’t have anything to do with you or your size. It’s just the cut of the item.

7. Consider the brand

When buying items that require a larger investment (ie. knitwear, outerwear), look for brands that offer repair service, if/when it becomes necessary. This will save you a lot of time and money, and make your new favourite item last much longer.

8. Think of outfit combinations

Did your item survive the quality check? Then I only have one more question for you. Will you really wear it more than once? What about more than 30 times? Before buying it, think about how it will fit in your wardrobe and existing lifestyle, to avoid it landing in the back of your closet or worse, the landfill.

You’re now good to go! Next time you’re shopping (ideally second hand but even new), consider this checklist. Choose well and make your purchases last. It only takes a couple of minutes but can help you pick an item that will last a lifetime.

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