Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying Clothes

Public Domain. Unsplash / Chuttersnap

Following these guidelines can help you to build a higher quality, longer-lasting wardrobe.

Fashion may be fun, but it's hard on the planet. The most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency is from 2015, and it shows that Americans generate on average 75 pounds of textile waste per person per year. As Kendra Pierre-Louis writes for the New York Times, "That’s more than a 750 percent increase since 1960 and is nearly 10 times the increase in the country’s population over the same time period."

People are clueing into the shoddiness of fast fashion, however, and starting to opt for longer-lasting pieces. Retailers, possibly spooked by former fast fashion giant Forever 21 filing for bankruptcy protection, are responding by promising better quality, although their claims are suspect. Elaine Ritch, a marketing lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, told Pierre-Louis that "the clothing that they make still doesn't have any greater longevity."

Not surprisingly, it's up to shoppers to learn how to identify clothing that will last – and the more we critical we are, the better off we'll be. Our money will be spent more wisely, we'll feel more satisfied with the outfits in our closets, and we'll send a clear message to retailers that we don't want quasi-disposable crap.

But if one is not a tailor, how does one know how to recognize quality clothes? This is the gist of Pierre-Louis's excellent article, and she lists questions everyone should ask when assessing a potential purchase. These include:

1) Will I rewear it?
2) Is it see-through?
3) Does it require much care?
4) Does it feel good to the touch?
5) What happens when you tug at the seams?

These questions, each of which Pierre-Louis explores in greater detail, brought to mind another post I saw recently on Instagram from The Minimalist Wardrobe. It asked readers to share the 'shopping rules or boundaries' they follow in an effort to build a sustainable wardrobe. The suggestions were good:

1) Can I build three outfits with this new item?
2) Can I wear this both to work and in everyday life – as in, the places I actually go?
3) Does my 'best self' wear this?
4) Always buy off-season and never keep old sizes.
5) Get rid of 3 items for every new one you bring in.
6) Think about it for 2 weeks before purchasing, then look for second-hand version first.
7) Do I own something similar and does it need to be replaced?
8) Nothing that is dry clean only.
9) My reaction has to be a confident, resounding 'heck yes,' nothing less.
10) Only buy things that look like they can withstand 30+ washings at least.

These are all important considerations. Now give some thought to your own questions, to the aspects of clothing that matter most to you, and apply these every time you head into a clothing store. This is one of those rare times when being critical and judgmental pays off.

Let's move away from quick, cheap, impulsive purchases that fuel environmental destruction and inhumane labor standards and start focusing more on building quality wardrobes, full of pieces built to last decades in styles that don't go off-trend. These questions are a great place to start.