7 shopping tips: How to find high quality clothing

T.J.Maxx and Marshalls recently conducted a survey to find out what characteristics women associate with quality pieces of clothing. The findings were that women associate quality merchandise the most with fabric (77%), followed by stitching (64%) and then overall fit (51%).

We were able to catch up with Sara Kozlowski, Assistant Professor at Parsons The New School for Design to pick her brain on what it means to find a quality garment. 7 tips for picking the best pieces, below.

1. Be your own detective!
"Everyone should be their own personal quality detective when it comes to shopping," Sara says. "The garment tag is a great place to start! It will tell you everything you need to know about fabric composition, which is a key factor in determining whether a piece is worth buying."

2. Find a good balance.
If fabrics are blended, make sure you have a high ratio of the natural fibers (such as cotton and wool) to synthetics. Sara says "If you're buying cotton, 100 percent is the best but cotton can still be a great quality piece when blended with synthetics. Make sure there is at least 60 percent ratio of cotton to synthetics." When it comes to wool, your ratio should be at least 50/50.

3. Beware of impostors.
While wool is often found in investment pieces like coats and suits (and is really one of the best fabrics for winter), Sara warns to "beware of imposters like acrylic that look like wool but are not as durable."

"Genuine leather is often proudly labeled as such so be sure to check the hangtags, interiors, and bottom of shoes for this stamp of quality approval," Sara explains.

4. Get up close and personal.
Don't just buy something based on the tags, however. Sara encourages that you feel the fabrics to make sure they're genuine. "Leather should feel supple and buttery versus stiff. An unexpected indicator is temperature as real genuine leather tends to feel warm." She also reveals how cashmere and wool should feel and react to your touch:

"Cashmere and wool will both feel electric, so when you rub your hand or a plastic item across the surface, its fibers charge and may even create static. Wool will feel breathable and light despite being thick and textured, and true cashmere should feel soft, breathable, fluffy and rich."

5. Pay attention to stitching.
It's pretty clear that when stitching is sloppy, the garment probably won't hold up very long. But "stitching really plays a big role in overall fit as well. If the piece has high-quality stitching, it means it's well-constructed – so it should fit well, too! Pieces should lay without hugging or pulling, and the seams should align to your body."

6. Look for the details.
A high-quality garment is something you're going to have for a long time - and something its makers expect to last for a long time. So Sara says "something women should learn to look for are those well-crafted functional details like generously cut pockets or extra buttons and yarn sewn into the inside of the garment." These little details will extend the life of your new investment.

7. Value isn't just about price.
Finally, realize that a great article of clothing isn't great just because it's expensive. And pieces that are inexpensive aren't necessarily poorly made. It's important to realize that you can have both - quality pieces that are at an affordable price point. Sara's favorite place to find the best bang for your buck? T.J.Maxx and Marshalls, of course!

"Stores like T.J.Maxx and Marshalls take fashion and quality seriously. You can find all of the season's on-trend designer merchandise, and all of it first-quality, for amazing prices. Their buyers believe that value isn't just about price, but rather the right combination of fashion, top quality, brand and price. All of these are taken into consideration when selecting which pieces they will purchase, from designer handbags and leather boots to wool coats and cozy sweaters."

Happy shopping! Smart shopping, that is.
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