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Quality: Fabric

“Buy the best that you can afford”

We hear this advice all the time in the fashion world, but what does it mean?  Does it mean that we should spend as much money per garment as we can afford to spend?   Does it mean that we should pick only certain well-known names – or labels – rather than unknowns?

NO.

It means buy the best quality that you can afford!

But… what is quality?

The first component of a quality garment is its fabric.   I am an unapologetic fabric snob – I am all about the natural fibers.   Cotton, linen, silk, and wool are much nicer than anything made out of an ex-dinosaur.

But there’s more to good fabric than just picking “natural” over synthetic.   Once upon a time, I too thought that wool was nasty scratchy stuff – because I’d only ever felt the cheap stuff.   I was so wrong.   When I first touched the good stuff, I wanted to run right out and apologize to the nearest sheep.    Likewise, I used to think that all cotton shirting was the same – hah!   Send for a swatch of Italian shirting-weight cotton, and try to tell me that it feels like what you got from the mall.  Just try…

What makes for good quality fabric?  Fiber length.   Longer fibers are smoother fibers.   Softer fibers.  Silkier fibers.   Fibers that will drape more beautifully and are easier to make up into a more graceful garment.   Such fibers don’t pill as readily and last longer.

Not having weird chemical treatments and inclusions is generally an indicator of quality.  One doesn’t want one’s silk “weighted”, for instance.    Solid-colored fabrics should be yarn-dyed (or even fiber-dyed, in the case of Harris tweed).    Blended fabrics are acceptable, but should be natural mixes – silk/cotton is particularly nice.

When you buy the best fabric you can acquire, you’ll get a garment that will wear longer and be more enjoyable for every moment that you wear it.    You might not be able to tell the difference on Instagram, but the subtle difference in drape and color can easily be discerned by the naked eye – and that difference upgrades your outfit substantially.

I bought a piece of Harris tweed, and when it arrives in the mail, I’ll be sure to take a picture and show you how beautiful a “plain” bit of wool can really be…. look forward to that!

3 thoughts on “Quality: Fabric”

  1. I’m going to make the case for rayon here. It’s a manufactured fabric, not a man-made one, made from cellulose. (made out of an ex-dinosaur – ha!) I know that the manufacturing process is often an environmental disgrace, but the next-generation rayons like Tencel are different. And rayon *will* decompose in a landfill. It has a softness and drape that is hard to top.

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    1. Rayon isn’t terrible – but it’s not a fine quality cotton/linen either. So – I’d wear rayon (I do wear rayon, on occasion) but it doesn’t make it to the “top quality fabric” place. Some of that reasoning has to do with durability. I’ll write an addendum to this post after breakfast. 🙂

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  2. As a knitter I can definitely vouch for the reality of the difference made by the quality of wool or other animal fibers. Two yarns with the same quantity of wool in them can feel radically different, because the real determining factor is actually the wool quality and sheep breed.

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