How brainwashed by brands are you?
Do you truly care what an item of clothing really looks like, or is your love of an item based on a logo associated with a brand?
Have you ever been in a store and thought, “Yuck! That is some seriously ugly crap!” only to then realize it is a high end designer brand and suddenly you need to rethink your snap judgement. After all…those high end designers know more about fashion and style than you do…right?
We’ve been convinced that certain brands mean they are “special”.
They deserve extra attention, higher price tags and inevitably, if you purchase them, envy from those around you. You can trust those brands. Their endless marketing campaigns and pervasive comprehensive branding strategies rule our world.
Where does our common sense end and marketing brainwashing begin?
If thrifting has taught me anything, it is to look at an actual garment for what it is, and not at the brand.
Oh sure, as a reseller I know that I’ll have an easier time selling an item if it is a known brand, but that does not mean that is a higher quality piece. In fact, I often believe that brands are coasting on their old status of quality. They no longer adhere to the same high standards they advertised in the first place. This is another reason I love vintage. Vintage existed when quality still meant something. Many mid to upper level brands produce in the same factories using the same materials as fast fashion brands. The only difference is sometimes design and obviously price.
Don’t be fooled! You’re not paying for quality…you’re paying for their endless advertising campaigns.
If you want to get real about products you need to take the time to understand and recognize quality.
Don’t rely on a certain brand’s promise. They may be exaggerating or outright lying. Rely on your own eyes, sense of touch and personal knowledge.
While I shop almost exclusively via thrift stores now I’ve trained my eyes and fingers to know and understand quality workmanship. Yes, I still look at the brand, but I also look at a long list of other items.
15 Tips To Check Clothing Quality and not be Brainwashed by Brands
- Is it lined? Generally a lined garment will last longer and look better. Lining an item of clothing costs more.
- Are the seams and hem straight & finished correctly? Frayed seams are a big no-no. French seams are higher quality. At the very least seams should be finished with a serger.
- Are the seams loose? Take a good look, pull them apart a bit. Do they hold? Turning a garment inside out is the best way to see flaws with seams.
- Are the seams rippled or puckered? Rippled seams are often due to poor craftsmanship. Be sure to check the side seams and areas around zippers.
- What are the fabric contents? Natural fibres generally feel better against the skin however they often aren’t as durable as manufactured fibres. You are less likely to have pilling with natural fibres. Natural fibres are more expensive.
- Are the buttons sewn on properly?
- Does the zipper work well and is it properly sewn in? Sloppy workmanship will leave the bottoms of zippers loose or sewn in poorly with puckering at the sides.
- Metal zippers last longer are more durable than plastic zippers and less likely to catch or get stuck.
- Does it come with spare buttons?
- Do the button holes and buttons fit?
- Are the button holes sewn properly or have they started to unravel?
- Does the item hang on your body correctly, it is uniform and symmetrical where it should be? Often you can’t see flaws in an item until you try it on.
- Does the pattern match up at the seams? This is a real easy way to see if they tried to scrimp on fabric.
- Does the fabric match the cut/design? Choosing the right fabric for the design of a garment is important as to how the finished product will look. Improperly chosen fabric will not hang or lay correctly.
- Do the pockets pucker? Pockets should be positioned to feel natural and lay flat when closed. Same with collars.
If you take two minutes to take a well informed look at an item of clothing you will be able to ascertain its level of quality and be assured you are getting what you’ve paid for.
Branding influences us, but let’s not let our intelligence and common sense be ruled by marketing.
These tips are useful for discovering the quality of a garment however they do not help you decide if the piece is ideal for you. Your personal style statement and self knowledge of your body type and its best features will help you better decide if the piece would make an ideal addition to your closet and life.
Do you find yourself being brainwashed by branding?
Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share about checking clothing quality?
What a fantastic outfit, I love that coat. Wearing it with that fab skirt really make the blue dots stand out.
Brainwashed by branding? Never! I’m all about fabulous prints & colours and super quality. Usually that points to a decent label but by no means always.
Like you say, go back thirty years and fast fashion wasn’t a thing. Even bog standard high street clothes were made well. Look at our humble Marks & Spencer, I still come across their British-made 1950s cotton dresses in immaculate condition whereas their modern day questionably manufactured clothing turns up in charity shops, a few months old and as limp as a dish rag.
If I don’t like it a fancy vintage label won’t persuade me otherwise, regardless of whether I’m keeping it or selling it on. There’s no point in contaminating my rails with drab greige clothing just because it’s from a posh vintage designer – customers will just think it’s boring and walk away. Unless you wear something inside out (remember Kriss Kross from the 1980s?) nobody knows who made it. xxx
I don’t seek out certain labels because they are prestigious, but I do look at certain stores because I know certain sizes fit me, etc. I think it’s easy to feel “better” about purchasing more expensive pieces without having to admit to oneself that the garments come at a cost to others… Finding more sustainable solutions is still my goal, but I have far to go….
I’ve been buying a lot fewer clothes in the past year and am asking myself before every purchase if I “need” the item (I know I don’t truly “need” any clothes…), if I love it and how long I picture myself wearing it. I feel much better about buying less and with more purpose. I did buy a cheap dress at H&M that I instantaneously fell in love with. I literally saw the ad online in the morning and went into the store in the afternoon to look for it (we happened to be right next door; I can honestly say I’ve never done this before at any store…). While I still love the dress (and know I will wear it for years), I always feel a bit uneasy when I wear it. It’s silly in the sense that if I had paid 10x as much, it would have probably been produced under the same conditions (and may not even be better quality as you point out), yet I would probably not give it a second thought… Well, since I have been thinking about the dress so much, I do think about how clothes are produced all the time actually…
I like your list of how to check an item for quality. And it also is a reason why looking for second hand clothes makes so much sense… I have a blazer that I bought about 10 years ago, and I don’t love it, yet it’s really good quality. It looks like a blazer should look – with beautiful lining, gorgeous seams, meticulously finished button holes, etc. I know I’m hanging on to it because it’s a work of art… But I’m determined to make it work and actually wear it more!
Andrea’s Wellness Notes
suzanne carillo says
Thanks for letting me know you were having issues with your comments Andrea. Hopefully this is looked after now. They were in the spam for some unknown reason. Please let me know if you experience this problem again in the future.
I was attracted to that very same dress, so I know the lure can be intense. Plus, the fact that we are style bloggers doesn’t really help matters.
I think it is interesting that you are holding onto that piece even though you don’t love it. I’ve done the same. It’s like throwing away food…another thing I cannot stand.
Being conscious of our choices is already a good first step in the right direction.
My husband told me that apparently Zara has now been caught up in a child labour scandal which doesn’t surprise me one bit.
If you would have asked me 6 years ago if I shop at secondhand stores I would have laughed and said, “I don’t want other people’s garbage.” Now I look back and see how naive I was. Changing personal perception is huge when it comes to choosing to buy secondhand. Understanding the value and not assuming that everything in life is disposable is crucial to the survival of our planet.
I think my long comment just disappeared… Or maybe you have to approve it? I wanted to add that I love your outfit!
Andrea’s Wellness Notes
Marilee Gramith says
I will not claim that I’m immune to the lure of a name brand but 98% of the time I’m NOT persuaded to BUY because of the name on the label.
That said, I’m always taken aback a little by the fact that when I’m consignment or thrift shopping I’m attracted to style and quality only to find that I’ve chosen a name/brand label. Not always but often.
I find it very disturbing when shopping in some “boutiques”, where 75% of the clothing is ridiculously overpriced and not impressive in quality. One knee jerk fabric for me is 100% rayon/viscose. It’s crap. Since cotton has become more expensive to grow and use in clothing manufacturing (as well as environmentally damaging) many higher end specialty catalogues/ shoppes have started to use a lot of rayon. This fabric wrinkles horribly, shrinks, fades and just doesn’t hold up. A price tag of $100+ for a rayon top makes smoke come out of my ears!!! Rayon combined with cotton, linen, polyester isn’t quite as unnerving to me.
Can’t wait te read others views on this topic.
Great post Suzanne! !
Hahaha – oh yes, I have fallen for the brand thing. I’ll pass something up and then be drawn in if I notice a high-falutin’ label, especially if it’s Betsy Johnson or Vivienne Westwood. Usually the quality is there to back up the label. But I usually only fall for this if the item is on the $5 rack. I loathe spending money on something I don’t absolutely ADORE.
I don’t give this stuff a thorough visual once-over either, and in the rare case I do, I still miss things. I’m a grab and go person. Again, if it’s on the special rack, I often don’t even try it on. It could have moth holes all over it and I’ll STILL buy it if I love it.
I could never sell clothing, I’m too much of a slacker. I’ve seen you shopping in person, and you are pro all the way! And you often snag me my favourite things too. Great advice, Suzanne.
This is a great posts! I do fall back on main brands primarily because I shop online and know how their clothes fit me. I do still pay attention to fabric and things you mentioned. I refuse to pay $100+ for anything rayon/polyester even if it feels like silk.
Very sage advice Suzanne! I have put designer dresses back on the rail after finding seams not finished properly. And I have items from cheaper brands that have lasted me over a decade. I try not to get sucked into brands, but I”m sure I still get hoodwinked occasionally!!
You’re looking fabulous by the way xx
I left two comments yesterday, but I think they disappeared. I’ll try again…
Good advice! I also hate when there is a pattern on a clothing piece but it doesn’t line up properly when zipped or at seams. A more picky thing but still a sign of quality, I think.
Love this outfit Suzanne! That coat especially.
I tried to buy quality, and often it is a second hand store with a designer that was the” hottest line in barney’s” and then fizzled out for what ever reason, having nothing to do with the actual garments, So I can find these beautifully designed pieces for the price of Zara piece, sometimes less, and do not see it coming and going. In every case I am impressed with the quality and design, and fabrication, Sometimes it is missing a button, but has extra buttons still in the pocket or attached to the label- but I can sew a button….
I try not to buy a brand because of it label or despite it.
You tips are fantastic and smart, and very complete.
Gorgeous boots you are wearing, too!
There are a few designers (Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen, etc.) that if I stumbled upon one of their designs in a thrift store I would probably grab it if it was reasonably priced whether I loved the thing or not. I did pick up a pink and purple wool Kenzo sweater at Talize a couple of weeks ago for $12, and had it not been Kenzo, I may not have bothered.
That said, most of the things I bring home from thrift stores are purchased because of the quality and the fit. Like you, I can usually spot a more expensive fabric on a rack of rayon/viscose/polyester dresses pretty quickly, and a well made, expensive winter coat stands out against the more cheaply made ones.
Beautifully put together outfit by the way!
You just can’t get quality like you used to, it seems. So often, when I end up buying something new, I am left rather unimpressed by the quality of it. I’ve definitely fallen into the “brandname” trap before, but I am so much more conscious of it now, and do try to seek out items of higher quality. This is a really great list- I’m going to keep this handy for when I shop!
Theresa Campbell says
Don’t get me started! Too many designers have licensed their name to companies that make inferior quality goods. So just because something has some designer’s name on it absolutely does not guarantee it is made better.
Another pet peeve of mine is having logos somewhere on the outside of the garment. I refuse to buy anything with a visible logo. If I pay for an article of clothing, I don’t feel I should also have to advertise for the company every time I wear it. And I certainly don’t feel it is prestigious to do so.
I do pay more attention to construction and fabric than to the name on the label. That’s one of the reasons I like vintage clothing.Many of the techniques used in vintage clothes are often found only in higher end clothing today, like bound buttonholes on jackets, fully fashioned sweaters, french seams, larger seam allowances. A vintage version with quality workmanship can usually be had for much less than their modern counterpart, unless you’re talking about a rare collectible label.
As far as fabrics, if it is synthetic but the quality is good and the garment is well made, I’m ok with it. I’ve run into some very inferior quality silks out there, and also some very lovely polyesters and rayons that are much nicer quality than some natural fibers. I still have a Ralph Lauren dress from the 80s that is made from a gorgeous drapey rayon, just like the kind they used in the 40s and early 50s. What vintage collectors call “cold” rayon. Feels just like silk. I’ll wear stuff made with that kind of rayon anyday. Not anything like that other cheesey wrinkley stuff. So anyone who is put off by rayon needs to be on the lookout for this kind. It is heavenly!
Marilee Gramith says
Thankyou for this information Theresa! Perhaps I can find a way to accept rayon in its vintage form and not be such a confirmed rayon bigot. =-)
This is so on point. I always gravitate toward the brand tag before anything else. Brainwashing is a good way to describe that phenomenon. It’ll be hard to break that habit, but it’s well worth the effort!
No Fear of Fashion says
In general I totally agree with all your points. Especially number 13. And I bet my flower dress inspired you for this post haha. I am more easy. Yes I do expect a trusted brand to live up to my expectations. But I am not blind. And if they doublecross me, the love is over. Materials like the plastic of my flower dress don’t bother me. I am weird in this. I can wear polyester in summer. The lining I am not so sure of. I do know that some skirts (often plisse) isn’t always lined for a reason. And if I like the garment and it looks good on me I will buy it anyway and put an underskirt underneath it.