Shop Smart: Checking for Quality

It's a bitter pill to swallow when a newly purchased top starts falling apart at the seams before we even get to debut it at work, when the buttons of our new cardigan instantly unravel at the touch of a rowdy toddler, or when jeans go from perfect fit to saggy bottom bummer. One may find themselves thinking "Did I buy these clothes for life or to hang, untouched, in a museum?!?"

Avoid this heartbreak by taking an extra minute or two to examine the quality of the garment you are thinking of buying.  With the guidance of our local queen of ethical fashion, Chantal from Studio Intent in Calgary, we have come up with some key elements to look for as you examine the quality of a potential purchase!


Ask: How are the seams finished?

Check: Hold the seam up to a light and give it a gentle tug. If you can see light coming through the seam, it may not be finished tightly enough to last many wears.


Ask: Are the closures properly finished and secured? Do they function as they should?

Check: Ensure buttons are secured and the button holes are properly finished. Test the zipper to make sure it works well. 


Ask: How durable is this fabric? How harmful is this fabric to the environment?

Check: Natural and organic fabrics last longer and are easier on the environment than synthetic ones. For example, organic cotton uses considerably less water in its production than the chemically treated cotton. Natural fabrics are less likely to be chemically treated, are biodegradable and are more likely to last a long time. A few synthetic fabrics to avoid are polyester, rayon and nylon.

Check out this blog post to read another blogger's detailed perspective on natural fiber clothing.

 Natural fabrics we recommend looking for include:

  • Linen (made from the flax plant, durable, known for keeping wearer cool in warm temperatures)
  • Hemp (almost indestructible and requires low water for production)
  • Tencel (regenerated from wood cellulose, soft, wrinkle resistant and durable)
  • Wool [cruelty-free or upcycled] (durable, breathable, easy to care for and odour resistant) 


Ask: Is the fabric going to keep it's shape?

Check: Look at the inside label. Pants should have 3%-10% spandex to allow stretch without losing fit. Blended fabrics will maintain their shape better than 100% cotton. Check the stitching and zippers to ensure they are adequately finished.

Denim should have at least 2% spandex. You may also want to research where and how the jeans were made as denim manufacturing can be laden with harmful chemicals.  We recommend looking into Yoga Jeans, Nudie Jeans or your local consignment shop to make your next denim purchase an environmentally friendly one. 

Garment Care

Ask: What are the garment's care instructions? 

Check: Check that the garment's care instructions will fit your lifestyle and care of your other clothing items. Remember, each time you wash an item you are breaking down the materials, so washing less is typically a good way to preserve the piece, and the environment. As an alternative to washing, let the garment sit outside in the sun for a couple hours, put your denim in the freezer to kill bacteria, or concoct a blend of your favourite essential oils for a quick and refreshing spritz on the go. 

When clothing is purposefully purchased it can support a healthy livelihood for the creator, be gentle on the environment and last long enough to be passed on to someone else when you are done with it.

Want to learn more? 

Click here to read the 7 questions we ask ourselves before adding a piece to our wardrobe.

Click here to read our post on how to recycle your clothes when you are finished with them.