Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to Spot Quality Part 1: Fiber Content

This summer's Olympics began with quite a controversy over our athletes' uniforms, and it has opened up discussions all over the country regarding imported clothing.  We at the studio all agree that it's not the imported-ness that was so upsetting; it was the fact that our athletes just looked sloppy!  None of the garments seemed to fit properly, which gave our athletes a much "cheaper" look, one that more than once was described as looking like flight attendants.  Yes, there were 529 of them, but a little custom fit and care would have gone a long way for a televised event the entire world was tuning in to see!

We have noticed a recent uptick in imported bridal garments as well, in which the manufacturing quality is shockingly low.  There are several very important things to know when buying garments, especially for special events.  We have found that many people who come through our shop were unaware of these key topics because, of course, most of us don't deal with custom-made garments on a daily basis!  In an effort to help stem the tide of poorly made garments in this world, we will be authoring a series of posts over the next several weeks on how to spot (and avoid!) poorly made garments, and which questions to ask before you buy.  We hope that this little bit of advice from people who see it all the time will give average women the tools necessary to pick out the best possible garment for their budget.

We will be discussing fit and construction (the biggest, most noticeable difference between beautiful and sloppy garments) in this series, but first a quick lesson in fibers!

Always, always, always (did we mention always?) look at the fiber content before you buy.  By law there there has to be a label in every garment listing the country of manufacture or origin, fiber content, and care instructions.  If the garment doesn't have those labels it could be illegally imported!

If at all possible, avoid acetate fabrics for bridal or other special event garments or in situations in which you may be sweating (altho in the South, women "glow").  Acetate does not breathe, it doesn't wick moisture from your body and it can water stain.  In a wedding with an outdoor ceremony, the extra sweat it causes to trickle down your back may literally leave water rings.  It is not used much in blending with other fibers, depending on the other fiber, so the fabric is usually 100% acetate or none at all.  A garment made of acetate cannot be let out because the stitch marks, and by proxy any holes, are often permanent.  But if your dream garment happens to have a very low percentage of acetate, you will probably not see the issues we just described.

The manufacture of synthetic fabrics has improved a lot over the years; some synthetics are so good they can fool even an experienced eye.  This can be a really good thing if you want or need a high-end garment on a budget, but it is always important to know exactly what you are buying.  We recently had a client ask us to make some hair wrap ribbons for her from fabric she had purchased at a well-know chain fabric store.  She believed it to be the 100% silk she needed, but a burn test proved it to be 100% saran, a synthetic fiber.  When I showed her a swatch of real silk to compare to her fabric she could literally feel the difference.  (Real silk has a "crunch" to it)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with synthetic fibers, and buying a garment that is partially or 100% synthetic can be a good way to get the look of a much more expensive garment for an affordable price.  But there are a few things to be aware of when it comes to synthetics: synthetic fibers do not breathe, meaning they do not allow air to flow freely through the fabric, and they do not wick, which is when the fabric absorbs and helps moisture evaporate off your body so you are less likely to sweat profusely while wearing it.  Some examples of natural fibers are cotton, wool, and silk. Some examples of synthetics are polyester, rayon, and acetate.

As we mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with synthetic fabrics, but we have often seen women come in our shop thinking their dress or other garment has a fiber content that it simply does not have.   We believe information is power, and if women know exactly what to look for when buying, they are most likely to get exactly what they wanted in the end.   Remember! look for the Fiber Content label!

Tune in next week for our next installment of How to Spot Quality!

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