How to know a garment is of good quality

The longer we use a garment, the better for the environment. But no matter how well you treat an item, if they are not of good quality, they won’t last long.

Quality will always costs more than a fast fashion item, so if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. This is not to say the price is an immediate indicator of quality, because oftentimes it is not. There are very few brands and designers that are not mass-producing in big factories today, so the best way of being sure you are buying quality is to learn how to recognise what to look for!

Many think of the material when they think of quality, but there are many more factors to take into account when looking at the quality of a garment. So how do you know what to look for?

What to look for

Material

The first thing to look at is the material. And I don’t only mean to check the label for what type of fiber it is made of. Though I like to always start with this as I tend to prefer natural or regenerated fabrics. I try to stay away from synthetic fabrics as they make me feel sweaty and cling to my body.

How is the hand of the fabric? When you touch it, how does it feel? Does it feel itchy or coarse to the skin or is it smooth and comfortable?

How does the fabric look? Is it opaque and sturdy or rather see-through? A thinner fabric risks breaking more easily. Is there any pilling or threads pulled? If I find that already at the store I don’t even bother, as it is only a sign of what’s to come.

How is the fabric made? Is it nicely woven or knitted? A sweater that is loosely knit might be pretty and in style, but there is a bigger risk of getting stuck in things an pulling threads. This is worth thinking about.

Sewing

How is the construction of the garment? Are there seems and threads unraveling or loose? Have the edges been left raw (this is a quite normal way to save money)? Has the hem been finished by hand (by invisible seem) or has it been done by machine (which will make it visible on the outside)? How does the inside of the garment look? Does it look like something you made in middle school or is the finish rather refined and clean?

The construction will together with the material determine how long the item can last. Poor construction will lead to the garment breaking sooner or later and you having to mend it or leave it to a seamstress. If you want to save the time and money that requires, do you check before buying. Look at the seems, pull them slightly to see if they hold up well. For a jersey or knit you will want there to be a bit of elasticity to it. Otherwise it will break.

Details

Is the zipper of good quality or do you struggle to zip it? Are the buttons sewn on properly or are they already falling off? Are there any prints on the garment? Do they risk bleeding or tearing off when washing?

These might seem like small things and they are, but they also tell you something about the overall quality of the garment. You don’t want to get stuck in your dress the first time you use it just because the they’ve used a cheap zipper. And sewing on buttons are not that hard, but a good quality item will have them sewn on properly from the beginning. Cheap details are often a tell tale sign of lesser overall quality.

Questions to ask yourself before a purchase

So when you are at the store examining a garment, ask yourself this:

  • How does it feel?
  • How does it look?
  • Does it hold up when I pull it slightly?
  • Are the buttons loose?
  • Is the zipper running smoothly?
How to know a garment is of good quality

Why You Should be Buying the Most Expensive you can Afford

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Most of us have probably bought some expensive item once only to realize that a higher price is not necessarily a sign of better quality. A higher price can today often be attributed to branding and marketing and thus might have very little to do with the actual quality. This, however, doesn’t mean that you should be buying cheap!

Cheap fast fashion is usually thought to be worth its price, but mostly due to the sad fact that you expect it to be of shitty quality when you pay next to nothing. It’s basically you going in with low expectations and then those expectations turn out to be true.

Even though I have already acknowledged the fact that price isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality, I do believe that we should all buy the most expensive we can afford. And here is why:

Room for Actually Paying the Makers

When a t-shirt costs 5€, there is really no room for paying the makers (unless the brand has no markup), but for a 50€ t-shirt, there is. This does not inherently mean that all 50€ t-shirts are a great buy of superior quality that is made ethically, especially if there is a fancy logo on it or in it.

So even if the price can be an indicator or that the company is paying their makers the best way to actually know if a brand is paying the makers is to do your own research.

You Will Buy Less

This one is simple math. If you buy more expensive items, you’ll have to decrease the amount to be able to purchase. So buying more expensive will force you to buy less, which in itself is a win for the planet, but it will also likely make you take more conscious shopping decisions.

It’s Less Disposable

In today’s society, fast fashion has become the new normal. Fast fashion in itself is disposable since it’s dirt cheap and it would cost you more to repair an item than to get a completely new one.

No one wants to throw away a 200€ dress after three wears because they are sick of it. This will make you consider every purchase more. It feels fine buying a dress from H&M you know you might only wear 2-3 times, but when you invest more in an item, it’s not as disposable and you will feel the need to go for something that will last longer.

You Will Likely Care Better for it

Just like no one wants to throw away something they had to save up for two months, no one wants their expensive hard earned items to break or shrink or lose color. I know myself that tend to be more careful in my handling of delicate silk shirts and cashmere, than with cheaper synthetics. Since we know that one of the most sustainable things we can do with our fashion is to wear it for as long as possible, this is a win.

Do you feel like you handle the purchase and care of a more expensive item differently from a fast fashion one?

April challenge – shopping ban

Shopping mallIf you didn’t know, during April it’s Fashion Revolution Week. It was created as a reminder of Rana Plaza, the clothing factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on April 24th in 2013 killing 1134 people, and tries to raise the question of fair and ethical conditions within the fashion industry. As a way of honoring this week and the horrible conditions many (most) garment workers face today, I decided to make my April challenge a shopping ban.

So why did I decide to do a shopping ban? Well, mostly because over-consumption is one of the biggest problems in fashion today! In the last decades, the consumption of clothing has drastically increased, while the prices and thus salaries for those making the clothes have gone down. One of the best ways of decreasing one’s own impact through fashion is to buy less, so that’s what I’m doing! One month is a pretty short time, but sometimes it’s harder than you think because our entire society is built around shopping and consumption. We are constantly told to renew ourselves, our closets and our homes and this pressure can make even the most conscious person go crazy. For me, one month is a start and probably, I will challenge myself to a longer period soon.

So what does this small shopping ban entail? Well, it means no buying clothes, shoes, accessories, home decor, books or anything. The only thing I am allowed to consume is necessary stuff such as hygiene products, medicine, and food.

Have you ever tried a shopping ban or have you thought about doing one?

Conscious book club 2019

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One personal goal I have this year is to read more. Another is to learn more about conscious and sustainable living. Therefore I will be doing a small reading challenge, call it a book club. Every two month I will read a book related to the sustainability topic, such as consumption, fashion, plastic etc. I will evaluate the book here on the blog and discuss the topics brought up by the book.

This changes everything – Naomi Klein

A book about climate crisis and economy. In this book Naomi Klein discusses capitalism and the connection between social, environmental and economic sustainability and equality. She means that we have to change our relationship with nature and each other in order to manage this crisis and that we have to do it now.

Overdressed – Elizabeth L. Cline

The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. This book looks into the fashion industry to unveil why clothing is cheaper than ever and who is actually paying the price for it. What do we do with all the clothes produced, as well as what all this production does to society and the environment.

Turning the tide on plastic – Lucy Siegle

With this years word being single-use this is a very current book about plastic. Facts about the plastic industry, how much plastic there actually is in the world and what it is doing to us all. How do we change our habits to avoid seeing more whales being washed ashore with several pounds of plastic inside?

Rise and resist. How to change the world – Claire Press

Clare Press runs one of my favourite podcasts around and I have been longing to get my hands on this new book of hers. In this book she meets passionate change makers that work towards a better world and explores how we can all help change the world with activism.

Cradle to cradle – Michael Braungart & William McDonough

This well known book rethinks the way we make things. Must our production really damage the world? Or are there ways of increasing the effectiveness of our production in ways that harm the planet and the people less?

Doing good better – William MacAskill

How can we make a difference in this world? By using our time to help people? Or are we more effective letting our money do the job? In this book the author tries to understand effective altruism and how we can maximise our impact with our decisions.

Interested in learning more about sustainability? Why don’t you join me in my reading?

Closet goals for 2019

celia-michon-115006-unsplashFor 2019 I have decided to put up some goals for my closet and shopping. Even though I gave up reading fashion magazines in my late teens, my shopaholic behaviours have stayed. I try to be more mindful of what I consume, but when life gets a bit though I tend to turn to shopping, a habit I am trying hard to break. So this year I am putting up some closet goals for myself.

Using what I have

For the time being I am not fully ready for a capsule or complete minimalism. I tried the 10×10 capsule challenge earlier this fall and I did not really enjoy it that much, however I might try a bigger capsule for a longer time during the year. I am planning on using as many parts of my closet as possible (I started keeping track of what I am wearing about 8 months ago) and the ones that I do not use enough, I will be selling or giving to friends.

Responsible shopping

Regarding shopping, I will be buying maximum 12 things in the year, so corresponding to 1 thing per month of the year. To some this might seem like an insane amount, while to others it’s nothing. For me this is a quite small number and I am trying to minimise my shopping over time, since going cold turkey hasn’t worked too well for me in the past. For these 12 purchases I will not be including underwear/basics, accessories or activewear/sleepwear. However, I will keep those to minimal. No going crazy just because I don’t count them.

Further, I will continue to prioritise quality, longevity, natural materials and that they are second hand or sustainably made when possible. I will do my best to avoid spontaneous shopping and instead plan my needs. I am already working on a shopping list for the coming year, since I need to save up for some of the garments. Another important thing is that I will ONLY buy stuff I love. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no!

Questions for shopping

When shopping I will keep some questions in mind to make sure I make sensible purchases.

Does it fit my closet?

The garments should fit with my closet – I should be able to create at least 3 possible outfit combinations with things I already own. No thinking that “this would look great if I only had that”…

Will I wear it at least 30 times?

Have you heard about #30wears? It is encouraging people to wear their clothes for longer. A big portion of the fashion impact comes from the actual use of the garments and by using what we own for longer we can increase the garments impact.

Is this worth the price?

Will the future CPU (cost per use) be low enough to motivate the purchase? If you want to have a CPU of let’s say 2€ then you would have to wear a 200€ coat at least a 100 times for it to be worth the purchase. For this reason I tend to only invest in more expensive garment that I know I will be using for a longer time, like coats, bags and shoes.

Personal development

My last closet goal for 2019 is that I want to learn more about sewing and making my own clothing. In Sweden you have basic sewing classes for 3-6 years in middle school and even though I have made both my own dresses and knitted mittens and embroidered table cloths, I am not near the level I would want to be!

I come from a crafty family and both my mom and my grandma used to sew, knit and crochet everything when they were young and couldn’t afford to buy new. My hopes with this goal is that I will be able to make most of my own clothes, so that I can be in charge of materials and cut and so I can get more tailored items that will not need to be taken in or hemmed.

Do you have any closet goals for 2019? Or are you just going with the flow?

My biggest challenges with sustainable fashion

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I am still quite new to the concept of sustainable shopping and conscious closets. Only about a year ago I started to learn more about this topic and more recently changing my own habits. Changing ones habits from being slightly shopaholic and always having new clothes to a more slow lifestyle is hard in itself. Trying to cultivate a sustainable closet comes with additional challenges. Since the world is mainly built on fast fashion and unethical business practices, finding sustainable options can be hard, time consuming and, let’s not forget, expensive compared to regular shopping.

Top challenges

So what are really the main challenges I face when trying to switch over to a more sustainable and ethical shopping habit?

Finding clothing I like

I can be quite picky with style and I tend to like a more expensive and elegant style. With sustainable fashion I feel like a lot of things are either boring and generic, as in all is made super minimalistic in black and white or that everyone is wearing the same Everlane pants, or colorful ethnic fabrics that are just not me. Honestly, I don’t really get the Everlane thing, they are a bit to everyday and plain for my taste, even if I do like some styles. Also they do not really have sustainable fabrics or processes which I would prefer. Also, I do not really feel comfortable in colors, especially when combined with crazy prints. So I tend to feel a bit lost in the middle at times. I have managed to find some brands I like, but they are few.

Finding materials I like

When I happen to stumble onto brands or garments I like, I get disappointed 95% of the time because of material mixes or poly. In my opinion you are not a sustainable brand if you mix in plastic at every chance you get. Sure, there are times when it makes sense, like in socks that would break very quickly without the add in. But in a woolen coat I really do not see the big point in adding synthetics. Synthetics are made from non renewable resources and should not be overused just because it’s cheap. They also make  it impossible to recycle. The fabric recycling techniques available today cannot handle material mixes, only 100% fabrics.

Finding things that are accessible

Taking a normal shopping trip to town or the mall is really not a feasible way of shopping ethically and sustainably. The majority of brick and mortar stores are big brand and fast fashion with bad materials, bad quality and that is way too trend sensitive. So when shopping for sustainable brands you are often dependant on online shopping. I like to shop online, but since smaller brands often do not have the opportunity to offer free shipping and returns it makes it a bit risky to order when you are not sure about sizing.

Finding things that are within budget

Let’s be honest, ethically produced or sustainably made clothing is not cheap. Quality materials are more expensive than polyester and having a fair supply chain where people are being payed fair wages means more expensive end prices. I have a quite high budget and have in the later years mostly shopped in the bridge or affordable luxury category. So it is not as much of a stretch for me to be able to afford sustainable items. However, it is still very expensive especially when looking for high quality materials like cashmere and silk that can be bought for 100€ at H&M. The sustainable ditto is more towards 500€, so the difference is still noticeable.

When it comes to sustainable fashion I have come to terms with the fact that you can’t always tick all boxes. Buying something you really like, with good quality that will last a long time, that is also sustainable and ethical is like finding a four leafed clover, doable but hard. You have to compromise a bit sometimes and go with the best option available. For me, material is one of the criteria I do not like to compromise, for others it might be the ethical production. Whatever are your boxes to be ticked just remember that perfection shouldn’t stand in the way of good.

How you can make your closet more sustainable even if you shop fast fashion

henry-co-573432-unsplashFast fashion and sustainable fashion are somewhat opposites within the fashion industry. However, a lot of people feel they cannot afford to buy sustainable fashion or that the style of these brands doesn’t fit them. So how can you shop sustainable when you shop at fast fashion high street brands?

Well, it all comes down to how much you shop and of what quality. The absolute best thing is to refuse fast fashion altogether, with the second-best being reduce.

If you love a fast fashion store and you feel you cannot live without it, you don’t have to have to give it up completely. There are ways to minimize your impact that do not include changing your entire closet or only buying ethical brands.

How to have a conscious closet

Buy less

The first thing to do is to refuse and reduce. That means buying less in general and try to avoid things that are just trendy items that will be used once. The goal should be to build a long-lasting closet that represents your personal style. If possible, try to see if you can find the item second hand first. There are so many people who wear something for a week and then sell it online or hand it into a consignment store. So that should always be the first option.

Use what you have

I believe the best way of avoiding unnecessary consumption is to shop your own closet. Most people have a full closet, while still feeling like they have nothing to wear. Take some time to look around to see what you really own, you might find some forgotten favorites that could need some new love. A great way of rediscovering one’s closet is to do a challenge, maybe a 10×10 or a capsule closet where you are forced to be more creative with what you already own?

Take care of what you own

By taking care of what you own it will last longer. Make an effort to follow the washing instructions, to not wash or dry more than necessary and to mend things that break instead of discarding. When you take care of what you own, the need for constantly buying new is not as noticeable since you have a full closet of nice-looking clothes.

Sell or give away the things you no longer want or use

If you really feel that an item is not for you, then get rid of it. We should not have things that make us feel bad or doesn’t serve a real purpose. When you actually decide to get rid of something, sell it or give away to someone you know would like it. There are issues with donating and recycling clothing so I would try to avoid that if I do not know exactly where the clothes will end up. There are several great ways you can sell clothes online today, everything from eBay to depop, Facebook or the old regular flea market.

Repurpose that which is no longer wearable

If you have a dress of which you no longer like the top, maybe you can turn it into a skirt? A pair of jeans can be cropped off for a new trendy fringed crop length or simply turned into a pair of shorts or a skirt. If all else fails, make something completely new out of it. An old bedsheet can be turned into several small handkerchiefs (perfect for cold season!) and an old towel can be turned into reusable face pads. There are several ways of using old fabric for new things.

Have you made the move to shop sustainably? Or do you still have a love affair with H&M?