Silly Boy Studio Top, Vintage Pleated Skirt
MY STORY: I was recently talking to my friend Tiff and we landed on the topic of how to tell whether a garment is made well or not. Initially I was a bit overwhelmed because there is a lot that goes into a high quality garment. There are a few areas that need explanation, which is why I decided divide the information into sections to make it easier to take in. From studying fashion design in school to my work experiences within the industry, I have learned and want to share 3 ways to determine whether a garment is high quality and made to last, or not.
1. Stitch Length.
In school, we learned about 'stitches per inch' or SPI, which is the number of stitches in the length of an inch. A garment that is made well will have between 10-12 SPI. In couture garments, there will be more SPI and in fast fashion there will be less. The more SPI, the stronger the seam will be and vice versa. When stitches are long and few, which is commonly found in fast fashion, it is easy for the thread to break causing the garment to fall apart.
A garment with 10 SPI takes longer to sew because there are more stitches to be made compared to a seam with 8 SPI. In the long run, the time used to sew more stitches adds up causing the cost of the garment, due to labor, to increase. This is a large reason for the pricing and quality of fast fashion items. They are made with fewer SPI and in a shorter amount of time, which costs less and lowers the quality of the garment.
There are fabrics that last longer than others. I came to learn more about durability of fabrics truly by wearing and testing different ones. For more information about lasting and sustainable fabrics, I created a list here.
On another note, care for garments is very important in extending its life in your closet. I learned in school that the more times a garment is washed, the quicker it deteriorates. The lint that culminates in the dryer is actually part of your clothes. You can see how the cycle of washing and drying can weaken the fabric of your garment. After learning this, I have tried to wear my clothes a few times before washing them because they really don't need to be washed that often if it's not soiled.
There are many types of finishings but a common one to clean raw edges is overlock. Overlock is not necessary bad - it does the job to prevent the fabric edges from fraying. From an alternative perspective, overlock can be seen as a cheap method since the process is quick and the end result doesn't look very nice. This goes back to the discussion about rapid sewing times leading to lower costs.
Besides overlocking, seams can be clean finished. This means that the raw edges are tucked into the seam and sewn down so that the inside of the garment doesn't have overlocking or raw edges. This is generally a more expensive method as it requires another row of stitches and takes longer than overlocking.
To close off this conversation, I want to share that I do inspect garments when I go to stores to see how well they are made. It is an important aspect to slow fashion and the longevity of a garment. Prior to entering the fashion industry, I wasn't knowledgable about these details, which is why I felt it was important to share this information to assist you further along your slow fashion journey. I would love to hear if you found this helpful and whether you will be looking into your garments before purchasing them.
SILLY BOY STUDIO'S STORY: Nina Woolfe is the founder of Silly Boy Studio, a women's clothing line based in Paris. She loves searching for the perfect vintage piece and has nomadic tendencies switching between Paris, where she was born, and London, where she grew up. After working in high street and luxury fashion houses, Nina wanted to create beautiful garments with her own ethos, away from fast fashion. Her take on sustainable fashion includes sourcing deadstock fabrics locally, not creating excess inventory, and designing timeless pieces with a story to be appreciated for years to come. Through Silly Boy Studio, Nina focuses on creating versatile pieces that can be worn in many different outfits. Her goal is to create variety and options for ethically made clothing.