A big part of curating a wardrobe you love means choosing pieces that are high-quality and beautifully made. These pieces should be functional, fit your personal style and wardrobe, and go together seamlessly. These should be clothes you want to wear for a long time that you don’t want to toss after the season ends because they fell apart or because you no longer like them. Quality pieces will ensure that you fill your wardrobe with items you love and will keep for a long time.
I do have a strict clothes-buying policy now that I’ve curated an ideal wardrobe. From practical considerations to emotional, I don’t buy a piece of clothing unless it passes my criteria. An easy way to eliminate my obsession with an item is the fabrics test. If it’s not good quality, the test is simple – I don’t buy it.
How do I tell if a piece of clothing is quality based on the fabric? It’s easy!
The best way to determine if an item is high quality is if the fabric is natural. For me, natural fabrics are superior to synthetic: it’s a combination of feel, longevity, and practicality. In my experience, the financial aspect also tips the balance in favor towards natural fabrics. They might be more expensive at first glance, but I guarantee synthetic fabrics will cost you more in the long run.
Cashmere is expensive up front, but it’s an investment piece in the long run. It’s a very soft wool and incredibly warm – especially in the winter – yet lightweight at the same time, and it’s not the kind of fabric you throw out after one season. Cashmere is made to last you a lifetime – if you care for it properly. It does require special care: cashmere must be hand-washed with a special detergent and dried on a flat surface. Never hand cashmere sweaters, always fold them.
Cotton is one of the most common fabrics, and a good-quality, lightweight cotton is one of the most breathable fabrics in the world. It doesn’t irritate skin and is soft and flexible, and very low maintenance. It’s suited for all seasons and frequently used to make different textiles such as denim or chambray. Cotton can shrink, so wash it in cold water and air dry.
Leather is incredibly durable and worth investing in for quality belts, shoes, and handbags. Not all leathers are worn the same, and must be treated before the first use. Check out this guide to buying leather and find out why “genuine leather” is at the bottom of the list.
This fabric is worn best in the summertime because of its ability to keep the wearer cool and fresh. However, this fabric creases a lot, so if you hate ironing, avoid linen.
Wool keeps the wearer very warm and water-resistant, but can irritate sensitive skin and even trigger eczema. Since wool can be scratchy, they do best as a second layer: try layering a wool sweater over a classic white button-down or a soft, long-sleeved tee. I prefer to wear wool blends, such as merino wool, because I have sensitive skin and I cannot stand 100% wool.
Merino wool hails from the merino sheep, an animal indigenous to New Zealand and Australia. It has all the main benefits of wool with one significant difference: it’s very soft, because the fibers are finer than regular wool.
Silk is my favorite fabric, followed closely by 100% natural cotton. Natural, luxurious, lightweight yet strong, silk fabric has been the epitome of luxury since classical antiquity. It requires special care but wears incredibly well, and is gorgeous on a blouse.
While I try to stay away from synthetic materials (aside from swimsuits), I do wear them in blends. Materials such as acrylic or polyester blended into natural fabrics helps extend the lifespan of the item by providing a little more elasticity, strength, and improved washability. Natural fiber blends are also great: a cotton-linen or silk-linen blend will crease a lot less than natural linen. My favorite sweater(which I own in every color) is a silk-cashmere blend and incredibly comfortable.
Less Ideal Fabrics
There is no bad fabric, so to speak: it depends ultimately on personal preference, but natural is always better. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, acrylic, nylon, PU leather and more essentially come from oil and charcoal (as opposed to animals and plants) and are treated with thousands of other chemicalsduring production. These chemicals can irritate the skin and the fabrics are unable to breathe; most of them are not biodegradable and endanger our environment, because they are essentially made of plastic. When you touch synthetic fabric, you can feel the difference compared to natural fabrics. These synthetic pieces also tend to fall apart sooner than their natural counterparts, and end up costing you more in the long run, though they are cheaper up front.
Most fashion companies are not interested in durability but rather, trends. Due to this vicious cycle of fast fashion and low quality, you end up paying a steeper price for your wardrobe than that seemingly bargain of a price tag.
What about fabrics like satin or velvet?
Satin, velvet, chiffon, crepe, taffeta, and velour are not fabrics. Rather, they are simply the type of weave or finish that is made of either natural or synthetic fibers, or a blend.
Natural fabrics are better than synthetic for several reasons, but the biggest are cost per wear and economical. This doesn’t mean that the only options left are Dior and Chanel. The biggest scam of designer fashion is often quality. We are groomed into thinking that a high price tag equates to higher quality, but that’s false. Next time you see a beautiful garment with a high price tag, check the ingredients: You’ll be surprised how many of them are synthetic fabrics! Not to mention, the majority of what we pay for when purchasing a designer item is the name. You would think you’re buying a good, durable item in return, but this is not always the case. Always check the label.
So what now?
If the majority of your closet is made up of synthetic fabrics, don’t panic. There’s no need to throw everything out this instant; you will not develop some sudden, deadly toxic response to synthetic fibers. Some of these pieces might even serve you well for a long time. But going forward, do your research when curating new pieces. One way you can retain some control in your life is when your decisions are well-informed and thought out. Know what you want and decide what’s important to you. And if that’s fabric quality, then check that little tag.