Are Expensive Clothes Better Quality?

2/21/2008 Shoppers expect new clothes won't have wardrobe malfunctions like torn hems, ripped seams and popped buttons. But don't run straight to the high-end clothing store yet. If you know what to look for, you can find well-made clothing for reasonable prices.

When it comes to women's clothes, a jacket, tailored pants, and a crisp white shirt are a wardrobe staple. But how can you tell they're well made?

Consumer Reports' Shopsmart just bought several similar outfits, blazers, pants, and shirts, paying anywhere from $94 dollars to $372 dollars. The outfits came from Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, H&M, J. Crew, and Talbots. To see how the clothes held up, they were either laundered three times or dry cleaned twice. Most of them did pretty well.

Consumer Reports' Pat Slaven said that the measure of quality is often found in the details, "The tighter the stitching is the lower the chances are that the garment's going to rip at the seams."

Both the Talbots and Banana Republic trousers have good, tight stitching. The white blouses Shopsmart bought each had a superior element, like Ann Taylor's thicker fabric. But banana republics' double-lined yoke and French seams put it on top for quality.

Consumer Reports did find a problem with some of the black pants. Some of the dark dye rubbed off. It's what's called "frosting." To help avoid that, you can turn your darks inside out before you wash them.

The blazers, all made of wool, had a quality touch: a pleat in the lining that enhances the fit, giving you room to move. "A little construction detail that you as a consumer never see is interfacing. Interfacing is usually laminated to the fabric. It gives support, strength, without a lot of bulk," said Slaven. With generous interfacing and fine tailoring, the Ann Taylor and J. Crew Blazers tied as the best-made ones in the group.

Important to note, Shopsmart found it wasn't always the most expensive clothes that were the best made. So it pays to know how to spot quality-made clothing before you buy.

It's always a good idea to hold onto your receipts. If you're really not happy with how your clothes are holding up, take them back.

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