Shopping for clothing online can be mind-boggling. Photographs of models are deceptive or even photoshopped, making it hard to judge fit, sizing, and material quality. No matter what site you visit, you find that every item is branded and promoted in such a way that it promises to revolutionize your look and form the cornerstone of your wardrobe. Even clothing addicts might be confused by the online marketplace. But, among the smoke and mirrors of online shopping, there are a few tricks and markers of quality that will ensure you find nice clothing that works for you every time.
It’s All About the Material
Always check product details to find out what materials the clothes are made with, and stay away from any online shop that does not offer this critical information. The nicest clothes will generally be made with natural fibers such as wool, flannel, cotton, leather and suede, and fur. Silk, satin, and cashmere are the three materials that dominate designer clothing.
If you’re the average shopper, much of your wardrobe will likely consist of synthetics (like polyester, acrylic, spandex, and rayon). In other words, fibers made from plastics. It can be difficult in today’s marketplace to find natural materials that aren’t blended with some form of synthetic.
As branding and style continue to generate most of the demand, it is becoming quite common to find polyester clothing sold at high prices. These high prices imply a level of quality that many of these garments simply don’t have. For instance, when washing garments made of blended materials,it is best to dry the items naturally – using a dryer could cause your clothes to change shape as the natural and synthetic fibers may dry at different speeds.
Luckily, living in the information age gives us the opportunity to look for high-quality clothing outside of the big-name brands that inhabit the brick-and-mortar malls. For higher-end and more exclusive natural fabrics, direct your search engine to look for natural material clothing, like all-wool sweaters and high-end denim, to discover more artisanal clothing brands.
Every Material Has its Grade
Since you can’t feel the material for yourself, you will need to trust the description’s wording to know the quality of the material. While wool, cashmere, leather, and silk are all natural fibers, you will find that they still have different grades and levels of quality.
Perhaps the most important to watch out for are the different grades of leather. You may be surprised to find that leather products which are sold with the marker “Genuine Leather” are products made with the lowest grades of leather. These leathers are made from layers of scraps that are glued together and painted with a more attractive leather-style finish. “Top-Grain leather” is mid-range. It is still made from splitting the leather, but it is the nicer, stronger layer. “Full Grain Leather” is the highest quality leather. It is made from the whole hide, physical imperfections and all. It is durable and develops a richer color with use.
The Virtues of Synthetic Materials
If you are browsing online by material, there are some types of clothing that have the best performance when made with synthetic materials. You will find that a lot of athletic wear is made from high-quality synthetic materials. These materials are specially developed for breathability, lack of odor absorption, insulation, easy washing, and other considerations. They might, in fact, be exactly what you need for your daily yoga, gym or cardio session.
It Looks Good, but is it Built to Last?
As the fashion industry moves forward, production has become a fast, cheap machine. These low-quality clothes are seen as disposable. They clutter your wardrobe and your sewing hamper when they lose a button or get a hole that you will need to stitch up.
Normally when searching for quality clothing, you will be able to feel the material, look at the hem and stitchwork, and check out the corners. Though online shop photos are touched up, fashion models are more often the target of photoshopping than the clothing itself. Some online shops will offer hi-res photos of their garments, and in those fortunate cases, you can zoom in to examine the stitching. From a photo, you should be able to see if the crotch of a pair of pants is double stitched. If you can determine the grain of the garment, then you will be able to tell if the fabric is cut straight along the grain.
If you can’t see anything, then don’t hesitate to pick up a phone and call customer service for the details on the clothes you’re looking at. Since online clothing needs to be shipped, it is often cataloged in an organized way for customer service reps to find it. If you’re talking to customer service and you get the feeling that their details are coming from the same online photos, it’s a red flag that you may not get the information you need to ensure a quality purchase.
Read Reviews but Trust Your Instincts
All bodies are different, and clothes will fit you differently from other online reviewers. Not to mention everyone has different preferences, so a fit you like might be negatively reviewed by someone else. It is beneficial to read online clothes reviews but always pass them through your own filter.
If another shopper mentions that an article of clothing feels cheaply made, then you know it’s not built to last. It might have bad threads or a bad zipper and might not be worth the price tag. Other reviewers will tell you if something that you’re looking at runs true to size or a little smaller so that you can purchase the right fit. And always pay attention to reviews that mention that a garment tore or split a seam at an early stage.
Just as in stores, when something is on sale or clearance, it is probably there for a reason. Often enough, the store must rotate its inventory with the seasons, and any garment left behind must be sold. These items could be there from overproduction, or in some cases, they are on the clearance rack because they didn’t move on the retail floor. In the worst case scenario, they are being discounted because they were frequently returned.
Check the Return Policy
Any company that produces nice clothing will have enough pride in their brand to offer a good return policy. This is necessary when shopping online. Not everything you order over the internet will fit or turn out the way you imagine it to.
Good brands cultivate their image based on customers who wear their clothing and are happy with their purchasing choices. If you find that you’re stuck with an item of clothing that you cannot wear, then it doesn’t help that brand’s image or growth. A quality clothing shop will honor its merchandise with a generous return policy.
Buying bespoke is among the highest of high-end, and it is most often a term used in men’s clothing. Bespoke implies that a tailor makes by hand an item of clothing, most often a suit, to your exact measurements. Your tailor is a passionate professional, and he will normally make these suits out of the best materials. When ordering a custom suit online, make sure that you have the right measurements for yourself. Don’t order based on estimates or numbers that you remember from three years ago. Measure yourself the day you place the order and be prepared to have a local tailor do the final fit.
Shopping for Handmades, Indie Labels, and Boutiques
Browsing social media and marketplaces for makers such as Etsy, you’ll probably come across boutique fashion and clothing that’s “off the beaten track”. Many of these indie brands produce clothing in small, slow batches, meaning that they might have higher quality than their big brand competition. They’ll normally have a mid to high range price tag to make up for the increased labor and material costs of their production. Small boutiques will have customer support that is very familiar with their products to answer your questions. Explore these marketplaces, take a chance, and you might just find items you can’t get anywhere else.
Online garment shopping can offer a lot of freedom as you explore brands and items that you would not find locally. And when you are ready to complete the ensemble, jewelry and watch purchases can add another level to how you present yourself.