Summer has arrived in the retail industry, resulting in a litter of high-waisted shorts, jersey crop-tops, and sheer blouses. While its widely known these clothes won’t quite live past their season, it might be wise for these consumers to take a closer look at their possible purchases. In regards to each store, here are some general guidelines to follow:

The Gap has begun focusing on mastering their key pieces, like denim. Upon inspection of a pair of jeans, everything from the flat-fell inseams to the pocket linings was done in correct, traditional manner. Even the cut seemed to fall properly, instead of twisting around the leg. However, it seems their jeans are about the only thing constructed correctly.

 

 

In summer’s light fabrics, several shirts face the possibility of unraveling or coming apart. Both of the shirts below have armholes finished improperly. The frontmost one has the industry’s favorite fake flat fell seams that leave the armhole susceptible to coming apart upon any kind of tension during wearing. The back, denim shirt appears to have correctly sewn flat fell seams, however the inside tells the true story with a strip of surged edge; a true flat fell seam would not have excess seam allowance inside.

Zara, seemingly on the higher end of mass produced clothing, also has its good and bad construction practices. There were several pairs of pants hemmed like the one below, far too big stitches. Before they were even purchased, these pants were falling apart and risked flapping open upon wear. The leopard pants here are correctly hemmed, with small enough stitches to properly hold the hem up.

However, the company’s jackets and blazers do hold some leverage with soft fabrics and clean finishes. The white jacket below shows how the shoulder seams should be pressed (albeit with some puckering, but again this is mass retail), and how the lined sleeve should fall. The blue jacket below, from H&M, shows what happens when the inside lining is too long for the actual sleeve.

At H&M, the less complicated a garment is, the more likely you are to see it last in your closet. Luckily enough, out of the several hundred styles of clothes, there is only a small handful that could be considered unique, or investment-worthy.

One of the main troubles found in lower priced apparel is that of the cut of the fabric in each garment. To save money on production, these chain stores will manipulate where the fabric grain falls on each pieces of clothing. They rotate the pieces on the bolt of fabric before cutting them so they can fit more, and therefore make more garments from the same amount of fabric. This can result in twisting leggings, ill-fitting work shirts, and tight skirts like the black one below.

This skirt has obviously been manipulated in such a way, possibly even a little in the pattern-making stage. A skirt made properly should never pucker away from the body at the front. If this were cut properly on the length grain, it would lie flat against the knees, parallel to the wearer. Here is what should happen, this one a Mason by Michelle Mason skirt from Saks Fifth Avenue:

Note: Forever 21 is perhaps the worst offender in poor garment construction. Grain lines, surged edges without additional stitching, and sloppy hems are a common thread (no pun intended) in almost every piece of clothing. The best way to approach shopping at this store is to simply try everything on. Check what happens when you move, check the hem for unraveling, and check for tearing that might not have been visible on the hanger. While it’s best to do this at every store, this practice at Forever 21 is a must.

These are just a few of the common abnormalities found in fast fashion chain stores. By taking just a few minutes to inspect garment construction, you might just save yourself both time and money.

Katie George