When living on a tight budget, the easiest place to make money-saving cuts is with your shopping habits. Everyone knows that opting for a few off-brand T-shirts or thrift store finds over designer labels can put a few extra bucks in your wallet. But did you know that it can also be an easy way to fall into some harder-to-spot money sinkholes.
Saving a few bucks on clothes in the short-term can lead to an endless cycle of trashing tarnished jeans or relegating ripped sweatshirts to pajama duty, which means you spend more money replacing clothes in the long run. Luckily, all you need is to pay attention to a few essential warning signs to ensure that your clothes won’t fall apart on you!
1. Synthetic fibers: Check out the tag on any piece of clothing you want to buy. Hopefully, it lists natural fibers—silk, cotton, and wool—as its main components. Too much polyester (see it manufactured on the right) or spandex is an easy-to-spot clothing warning sign.
2. Limp collars: Give any T-shirt or blouse collar the once-over to ensure manufacturers used additional material on them, making them thicker than the rest of the shirt material. Too thin of a collar and you’ll end up with the dreaded “bacon neck.”
Hanes via Jason S. Dawson / YouTube
3. Wrinkle test: Here’s a fun test to try on any potential clothing buys. Grab a fistful of cloth, scrunch it up, and let go. If the fabric stays wrinkled, chances are it won’t be able to handle the elements in the long run.
4. Tug test: Similar to the wrinkle test, try pulling a small piece of the clothing’s fabric apart. A well-made article will snap back to its original form; the cheaply made stuff will stay stretched.
5. Loose seams: Seams are easy to overlook, but it’s important to inspect them closely. Are they straight? Are they tightly knit? Are they flat? Are they free of loose threads? If you answered “no” to any of those questions, don’t buy!
6. Weird seams: You can never go wrong when you check the seams. If the seams on an article of clothing seem too strange—they zig-zag between pieces of fabric, for instance—it could be a sign the item won’t last in a washing machine.
Howcast / YouTube
7. Back seams: When trying to find well-fitting dress clothes, look for shirts, dresses, and jackets with a seam down the back. Without that seam, clothes are liable to fit more like a potato sack after repeated wear and tear.
8. Shoe glue residue: If your shoes look like a third-grade art project, that might be an indication they were made cheaply and quickly. Glue peaking out of a shoe’s outer sole should scream a loud and clear message—avoid!
9. Uneven shoe threading: Thread holding your new shoes together might be a sign that you’ve bought a pair meant to last, but the stitching should be even, tight, and maintain a good distance from the edge of the sole (unlike the edge of the shoe here).
Real Time Revies / YouTube
10. Exposed zipper fasteners: An exposed zipper can sometimes be a fashion statement, but it’s a warning sign, too. For the most part, zipper teeth and fasteners should be concealed from view like below—that’s a sign of well-tailored article of clothing!
11. Zipper teeth: It probably goes without saying, but zipper teeth on the left and right side of an item should be the same length. That can be overlooked when making the cheap stuff, though, so be sure to double-check before you make your purchase.
12. Plastic zippers: When you’re digging in the bottom of the discounted bin, it might be tempting to buy a sweatshirt with a plastic zipper. Don’t. That’s a big-time warning sign that the garment won’t last more than a few wears.
Sailrite / YouTube
13. Imperfect buttonholes: Another clothing warning sign to look out for is a frayed buttonhole. You should see reinforced thread around the holes, and there most definitely shouldn’t be raw fabric poking out of them, as pictured here!
14. Poorly sewn-on buttons: Manufacturers are in on the fact that most people won’t sew on a new button if one falls off—they’ll just buy a new shirt. Avoid falling into this trap by making sure buttons are stitched on with thread that makes an X-pattern.
15. False advertising: Hand-stitched clothing can be a sign of high-quality stuff, but it can be tough to spot in a thrift store where mislabeled clothing reigns supreme. Hand-stitching won’t be perfectly straight (the seams should be, though) and it might carry a little pizzazz.
OtisCollege / YouTube
16. Mismatched patterns: Fabric patterns should line up. Low-end brands will save time and fabric by just stitching two similar patterns together. Though you might not care about the off-set look now, your wallet will in the long run.
17. Un-hemmable: Most pants and skirts have a hemline, which is include extra fabric tailors can use to make them longer. Buying pants or skirts without that extra material to work with can leave you stuck with clothes that don’t fit right with no hope for repair.
18. Poorly cut fabric: Unless you have a lopsided body (not judging), you’re going to want your clothes to be symmetrical. If you’re holding a particularly cheap T-shirt, fold it down the middle and make sure it lines up. You should also still try it on to be sure.
19. Thin fabric: Light fabric that makes up summer dresses doesn’t have to be thin. Hold any thin fabric up to a window or the ceiling and make sure the light doesn’t expose easy-to-rip (or unintentionally revealing) fabrics.
20. It’s in the women’s section in general: It turns out that thin tops are so in for women right now, and manufacturers are taking advantage of it. While men are usually safe, manufacturers will try to pass off cheap, thin material for almost every kind of women’s clothing. In other words, watch out ladies!
These tips alone can help you pick out clothes that will make the most of your money. Do you have any warning signs hanging in your closet?
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