Buy Quality Clothing

Look for good fabric, appropriate styling and proper construction and finishing and good buys can be found at every price point.

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Wood Hangers for Clothes DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

1. Examine fiber content and care labels. Quality fabric has more natural fiber, and can endure normal laundering or cleaning processes.

2. Assess the over-all appearance. Gathers or puckers at collar, cuffs, or waistband signal a poorly made item. Topstitching should be flat and even, zippers should be hidden and smooth.

3. Check buttons, buttonholes, and fasteners. Bulging buttonholes are a bad sign; closures should be neat, tight, and adequately attached to the clothing. Check that buttons are firmly sewn.

4. Check hems. Unless a visible hem is part of the garment's design, hems should be invisible. A hem that rolls or twists is a warning that the fabric was cut off-grain and the garment will follow.

5. Eyeball the seams. Look for straight, smooth seam lines and even stitching. Seams that are stretched, skipped, scanty or bubbled will look even worse when worn.

6. Finger the finishes. Flip up the hem and check seam and hem finishes. A well-finished seam won't ravel; a generous hem will allow alterations and will help a garment hang properly.

Save Money on Clothing

Clothing, like food, is an "elastic" expense in the family budget: it can be stretched or squandered. Save money and keep the family well-clothed with these tips:

1. Shop seasonally. Best buys on clothing occur at the end of each season, when clearance sales move out winter clothing to usher in spring styles. Retailing seasons are falling further and further out-of-whack with the real world, so pay attention! Shop for clothing bargains when retailers move from one season to the next.

2. Don't buy just to buy. Shopping for clothing can be part outing, part therapy, and part social event. Stick to your list, and if you don't find what you're looking for, don't buy something else just to buy something. That's a prescription for "14 white twin sets in the closet," all bought in desperation "because I can always use another twin set."

3. Know when to mend. Clothing in need of a stitch or two can be found at great prices, but be smart about taking on garments that need repairs. Know your sewing skill level and let it guide you. There is no point in buying pants that need a new zipper if you've never touched the zipper foot ... let alone the sewing machine!

4. Shop at thrift or consignment stores. Quality "pre-owned" clothing may be purchased inexpensively at thrift or consignment stores. A bonus is that the consignor will check incoming clothing, and will reject stained or very worn garments.

Clothing the Family for Less

Garage sales, consignment stores and online auction sites can be good sources for inexpensive clothing-and buying recycled clothes makes sense and cents! Shop smart for second-hand clothes:

  • Stick with reputable sellers. At yard sales, do judge a book by the cover; a seller offering carefully hung clothing beats the neighbor's jumble of dusty garments. Online, check a seller's feedback, and look for photographs and honest descriptions before you bid.
  • Dress the part. Yard sales may not offer fitting rooms, so slip into leggings and a slim-fit T-shirt before you leave. You'll be able to check the fit on the scene.
  • Follow your nose. Give second-hand items a good sniff. If you can smell the previous owner's perfume (or worse), take a pass.
  • Look for quality labels. Brand-name labels can shortcut the search for good quality in pre-owned clothing. 
  • Check fastenings carefully. Even if a garment passes muster, a broken zipper or missing button can move it from "deal" to "dud." Inspect closures and zippers for signs of wear before buying.
  • Measure, measure, measure. Tote a tape measure, and use it to measure garment dimensions. Size labels can be deceptive-or missing altogether. A quick run of the tape tells the true story about sizing.
  • Shop your friends' closets. An overlooked source for inexpensive clothing? Your friends! Organize clothing swap parties with friends; their closet wallflower is your new friend-and the price is right. Free!

Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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