On the matter of declining quality


A dress that I ordered before Christmas arrived from J.Crew yesterday, after being backordered for over three weeks. I have been looking for a nice, somewhat dressy wool dress in grey and black. I wanted one that was a multitasker, something that I could use for dinners and interviews. Unfortunately, I had to return the dress just after putting it on for 10 minutes. While the design was flawless and the cut was flattering, the material made me feel like I had been tossed in in a forest of bramble and poison ivy. It was so itchy I wondered how anyone who actually designed the dress could think it was worth $198 and expect people to buy it without breaking out into hives.

This particular episode with J.Crew and my overall experience with plenty of "trusted" brands over the past few years have left me a quite bitter. A lot of brands that I once deemed to be of high quality and trustworthy has consistently shocked me with items that seem to be produced on parallel with Forever 21. While I may be more neurotic and picky about my clothing than the average person, I don't think it's just an overblown, sequestered conclusion on my part that the quality of a lot of clothing has deteriorated over the last 20 years. I used to buy basic t-shirts from Banana Republic because they were made of dense woven cotton but over the last few years, I haven't found a single piece that didn't shrink in the wash or wasn't see-through.

Most retailers, from the lowest end of the spectrum to the highest end are guilty of producing clothes that are shockingly bad. It's an unfortunate combination of companies looking for a quick (and oversized) profit and the onset of the fast fashion business model that has given rise to clothing that just aren't cut out to withstand more than 6 months of wear. At the lower end of the spectrum (think trendy labels), cutting costs to push clothing prices down is the key objective. It's virtually impossible to expect a cotton t-shirt today that you buy at Target for $6.99 to last as long as something that you bought for $6.99 twenty years ago. A quick punch of numbers into an inflation calculator will tell you that if you paid $6.99 in 1985, that very same item today should cost you $13.98. And yet, as consumers, we expect clothes to remain as cheap as possible and suppliers and retailers keep feeding into this crazed perception that it's possible to produce clothing at such a low price point. Well, it is possible I guess, except that something has got to give - be it at the expense of the environment, sweatshop labor, horrendous fabric and material or a combination of all the above.

The mid-range and higher-end labels are no less guilty of this trend. The problem with maximizing profits and moving manufacturing to labor camps is that it dilutes craftmanship. While machines have allowed garments to be manufactured on massive scales, low-paid workers are similarly tasked with mundane and repetitive tasks that require little to no skill. Materials are also now obtained from globally diverse sources and quality control varies within each country of manufacture. Lucy Siegle's excellent and well-researched book expands more on the dynamics of why quality of clothing has declined rapidly and I strongly recommend picking the book up even if you're not concerned about the environmental or ethical aspect of bad quality clothing. There's also a rather interesting individual economic angle to it all. Nothing annoys and riles me up more than having spent quite a few dollars only to find that the purported "luxury" item I bought won't last for more than a year (Proenza Schouler SHAME on you!).

I received a hand-me down Pringle of Scotland cardigan about 15 years ago from a well-travelled aunt. She bought it way back in the 1970s when cashmere sweaters were still Scottish-made. The sweater lasted me quite a few years before it developed an unsalvageable hole. So when I visited the UK for the first time in 1998, I was determined to find an identical sweater. I couldn't afford anything from Pringle of Scotland at that point, and instead, settled for a William Lockie lambswool sweater (£65) that I found at a family-owned Scottish purveyor in Oxford which has lasted till this day. Whenever I think about picking up a new sweater now, I hold the its quality against those two very sentimental pieces and I can safely attest that nothing below the $300 mark has ever measured up.

In 1999, The New Yorker ran an excellent article on the decline of cashmere. I think it holds true then as it does now, but on an even larger scale, traversing all materials and all garment trades. The writer wrote, "... the democratization of the [cashmere] industry means only what the democratization of any controlled system always means - that the responsibility for making choices falls to the people, which is to say the consumers."

42 comments :

  1. this is well timed as im finding that the soles of my 1 and 1/2 month of LL bean boots wearing out. its not as pricey as your dress at around $140something but still LLBean has a reputation of making well made goods to last a lifetime. this is the reason why im so jealous of menswear because i feel like they are always able to find good quality items since the consumer base (men in general) focus more on quality and cut rather than the latest trends (unlike their fairer sex). what should the females of the minority do eh?

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  2. It's ridiculous, isn't it? And the issues go right through the spectrum, as you noted - fast fashion rarely works out for me, with the exception of Uniqlo, and on the higher end, I have had major problems with Etoile Isabel Marant, APC, and Steven Alan. It's made me very careful. And as a result I have ended up with a wardrobe which is very partial to designers and brands which seem to last - By Malene Birger, Aubin and Wills, Chloe, Marc Jacobs, Hoss Intropia, Kain, Tibi, Belen Echandia, Clarks, Bloch, Pringle, Lanvin, Ferragamo, Brooks Brothers, Mayank Mansingh Kaul, and a new favourite, Carven. Am hoping they don't disappoint in the future.

    I was looking at the Clare Vivier messenger bag - I own one of her clutches and love it, but not sure about committing to the bag. I seem to remember your owning it, how was your experience with it? Would you recommend it?

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  3. ah, well written and well-argued. gah, sorry to hear about your latest issue with that jcrew dress! :P there are so many brands in flux and the well-educated customer ends up having to shop selectively with each store.

    i've long been of the opinion that menswear is made at a different standard than womenswear. i think the industry gets away with it because women generally tend to shop very differently than men. unfortunate, but true.

    thanks for the link about cashmere. very interesting how the industry has evolved in the last few years...

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  4. Lucy Siegle's book is such an eye-opener, isn't it? I found that book so fascinating and I just couldn't put it down. I wish I could tell as many people as possible about it without sounding too much like a proselytiser, because I seriously think that no one could read that book and then not change their fashion-buying habits. But it's difficult to criticise people's most ingrained behaviours without them feeling a bit under attack, alas. I mentioned the sustainability of cashmere farming practices on an online forum a little while back, when someone asked where to buy cashmere cardigans (I was mentioning purecollection.com, since their sustainability practices are pretty extensively described, although I don't know about how ethical and sustainable their production line is once the fibre has been collected, and their prices are on the low side of what Lucy Siegle said to expect of quality cashmere), and I could sense a lot of people rolling their eyes when they wrote their responses to what I posted. So I'm incredibly glad that bloggers like yourself are discussing these issues and improving awareness of them in a way that people probably don't feel so defensive about!

    Sorry to hear you had an unfortunate experience quality-wise with Proenza Schouler. Me too, unfortunately (I have a PS1 Keep-All that's currently off for repairs at the Proenza Schouler workshop because the whole front of it split open after just 9 months of use). And if you read thePurseForum, LOTS of people have had problems with PS bags - straps breaking, clips snapping and scratching, material getting easily stained, screws falling out. I'm surprised it's not a PR nightmare but people apparently have very low standards. And I'm about to write an email to Marni about a pair of shoes I bought from their boutique when I was on holiday in New York - a pair of shoes that broke the *second* time I ever wore them. I got my shoe repairer to fix them, and then - yep, they broke in a difference place the *fourth* time I ever wore them. It's insane how a luxury brand's name and price-point is absolutely in no way a guarantee of quality.

    The good new is that, between my negative experiences with high-end brands and my knowledge (courtesy of Lucy Siegle and other resources I've researched) of the manufacturing practices of mid-range and cheaper brands, I've basically stopped buying fashion. It's good to reduce my consumerism to such an extent, but it shouldn't be because the situation is just so dire. And eventually I am going to need a new pair of jeans or whatever, so I'll have to buy something from somewhere, and I get the feeling I'll simply have to compromise on multiple aspects of whatever I buy. It's a pretty lousy situation.

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  5. J.Crew has been really hit or miss this year, and it's a real shame as I used to buy about half my wardrobe from them -- I have pieces from 7 years ago that are still in great shape. Pieces from 12 months ago? Not so much. Lately I've been buying a lot more vintage and I find that it works out so much better.

    Great post, and now I'm off to dig up that New Yorker article....

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  6. I was thinking about this the other day as I was putting on a Patagonia long-sleeve tee I've had for more than 10 years old. It has had no fading, pilling, or shrinkage. It made me think about all the clothes I've had since then that doesn't hold up and how low my standards must be if I don't expect the same of everything I own.

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  7. That's a shame about your J.Crew dress. Their clothes really seem to be hit or miss. I find a lot of the silks that they work with to look/feel cheap and not worthy of the price. I'm even more shocked to hear about that your PS1 is failing you. That is a real shame. And perhaps an even bigger shame is that people haven't openly complained about it more. Talk about a brand not living up to their "luxury" status (and consumers willing to purchase anything for the cultural capital of owning an "it" bag).

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  8. You make such a good point that some of the decline in quality can be pinpointed to consumer expectation. There's been so much talk lately about bringing manufacturing back to the US in order to create more jobs, and yet, people expect their goods to cost even less than they did decades ago. In so many industries, there's just no way to produce goods at that price without sending manufacturing overseas ... only makers of specialty items seem to survive.

    Though I have to say that I just bought a white Gap (maternity, ha!) tshirt over the fall that is nice and thickly woven and not at all see through. Quality can still be found, but it's few and far between now (and usually requires shopping in person vs online). Anyway, thanks for the thought provoking post.

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  9. And this is why I love your blog. I need a few pieces for my wardrobe but I am wondering what it would be like to have certain pieces made for me.

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  10. @ joy - LLBean isn't what it used to be anymore, neither is Lands' End or any of the old catalogue/heritage brands. It's unfortunate, but I guess that's how they keep the cost down. Even while the duck boots are made in Maine, I just think the quality of material is really shoddy.

    @ Ammu - I don't own a Clare Vivier messenger but I've tried it out and seen it. Her leather is really thin and slouchy and the bag strap was too long (unadjustable). I do own her foldover clutch and I find all her bags a tad bit expensive for what it is. I would instead recommend something from J.W. Hulme - for a few hundred more, it's bound to last you a lifetime.

    @ miss sophie - I think the difference it that most men HATE shopping, so when they buy something they want to keep it forever. That and they just want to be comfortable - so I think those who can afford it will always veer towards the well-made goods just so they don't have to deal with it. Haha, and I guess fashion has only evolved so much for men: suits, jeans, shirts and tees. It's been the same for years.

    @ Jess I totally understand the part about being a proselytizer, I keep pointing to Lucy Siegle's book just so people will at least understand the state of affairs and think more about what they buy. I read the stories about PS on TPF before I bought it - I guess I was one of the gullible folks who was more fooled by hype than substance. I'm not even sure if I can peddle the bag on Ebay since it looks pretty nasty and I've carried it for only half of last year.

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    1. Alas, we're all prone to confirmation bias - only looking at the information that supports something we agree with and ignoring the information that contradicts us. So if a person really wants to buy a PS1, they will somewhat ignore the bad reviews and focus on the positive aspects. That's true even of people who have lived with the consequences - I've seen people on the thePurseForum that have had a PS1 break somehow, but after they go through the hassle of getting it fixed, they still end up buying another PS1 in a different colour. It's kind of mind-boggling on the surface, but ultimately it's kind of typical human behaviour. It takes a fair bit of effort to be critical in the evaluation of information.

      I have a Mulberry Alexa that I want to peddle on eBay but, like you, I doubt it would be worth it. It's a yellow colour called "butter", or at least it originally was a yellow colour. I used the bag for about 10 months but the dye completely wore off in patches all over the bag, leaving big ugly black patches of the leather underneath. I am told it will cost me US$400 to get re-dyed. A bag that cost US$1000+ to start with should not need further investment like that. Incredibly disappointing.

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  11. @ Caille - Yes, J.Crew USED to make better clothing overall, they still sometimes do (case in point, their Super 120s trousers are excellent) but they do tend to cut costs wherever they can. I wish I could do vintage, but I'm just the worse at shopping in a store - I get bored and irritated to easily.

    @ Quinn - I have a Patagonia fleece jacket I bought in May for a trip which has unfortunately started pilling like crazy. I wanted to support their whole environmental stance, but I've had better luck with TNF.

    @ jennifer - I'm one those silly people who fell for the 'it' bags, sometimes mass marketing really does work for people with low will-power. I don't even know what is high-quality silk anymore, they always seem like polyester to me anyway.

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  12. Great post. I started buying cashmere a few years ago for a couple of reasons. First I'm allergic to most wool (and my allergy has got worse since the quality of wool being used has declined) which doesn't just mean itching but watery eyes and bad rashes that require prescription meds. I used to wear cotton/acrylic blends but as the cycle of diminished quality began, these looked cheap, sloppy, wore poorly and, most importantly, failed to keep me warm.

    Cashmere was the answer after I bought a vintage cardigan in London. It never pilled, never wore out and even though it was a little big, I loved it. It was also soft and remained so after being washed and worn. Alas, I left it at a friend's house and she never returned it. But almost every sweater and cardigan I've bought since has failed to maintain its quality. Most pill (J. Crew's can be terrible this way), others just lose their softness even before they're washed and feel like wool without the allergic itch. I can't afford Pringle and the other super high end brands so I can't say if they are different. If they are like other items, probably not.

    I'm stunned to hear about the quality of the PS1. It was my dream bag and completely out of reach. Thanks for saving me the money. Interestingly, I've found J Crew's bags to be excellent--they are more rugged than my designer bags and instead of falling apart or losing their shape, they age beautifully with age. I should be honest--I only have 1 J Crew bag--but it doesn't have handles that fall off or unravel like my Kooba, Mayle and Loefler Randall bags, nor has it fallen apart or looked worn before its time.

    It's touch, as you note. I want to buy ethically made, stylish clothing. I used to love Lyell for their labour practices and style, even though their collections were very limited, but now the line has closed and while Tocca has Emma Fletcher, it also manufactures in China not the US.

    For me, the answer is ebay--at least it involves recycling. Vintage is great but at this point, it's been so picked over and is often overpriced, not to mention much quality vintage is only available in tiny sizes, no good for those of us who are size 8 and 5'10."

    As for men's clothes, I think the quality is there as much of them are clothes not fashion so they tend to be worn forever. My boyfriend keeps his clothing forever and would never wear something that itches, falls apart on one wear or requires special handling. He also still wears items he's had for over 15 years. Granted, he's not the most stylish man--he's just normal--but I see the quality of the pieces he wears and there's a huge difference, say, between J Crew men's and women's clothing in the fabric and manufacturing.

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    1. Moya, I forgot to reply that I would STRONGLY advice against the PS1 - I should have just saved and bought a Sofia Coppola bag instead. Sometimes impulsive buys can work out, but more often than not, they are a bane.

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  13. Also, I wanted to add how appalled I was at last season's Etoile Isabel Marant. After looking at a dress I'd lusted after online, I was shocked--the material was Forever 21 cheap, the fit unflattering and borderline insane and it was barely finished with loose threads everywhere. As a brand, I think Isabel Marant (both Etoile and regular line) might have some of the most poorly made items in its price range.

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    1. I totally agree with you Moya. I have sold if near new or given away (because after a few washes they fell apart!) almost all of my Isabel Marant items, mainline and Etoile. The quality of her clothes are terrible. Maybe 5% of her entire collection is made in France(Jewelry and shoes), everything else is made in Romania, Portugal, Poland, India and China. Not too different from Forever 21!

      I totally bought into the hype and acquired a good number of IM pieces. Quickly, one by one they started to fall apart. I have H&M and Zara pieces that has lasted longer than hers. I can't believe at one point I paid $700 for a boucle jacket that is partly lined. That was also the point where I finally put my foot down and said to hell with all things Isabel Marant.

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  14. My No. 6 ankle boots are falling apart at the staples. $350 for what? I just bought a J Crew plaid button down for $20, marked down from $90. I don't buy from a major retailer unless the price matches the quality (i.e., just a notch higher than Target). I saw a pair of Bodkin shorts on the rack with a waistband coming apart at the seams. Sigh.

    Ever since I stopped shopping on a regular basis, I've focused primarily on hand-made clothing. Even then there are sometimes fit and quality issues. In a way I'm glad I spent like crazy 5-10 years ago because those pieces are still going strong. I think I have about 2-3 more years left before I need to do a major overhaul of my wardrobe.

    Basically I'm gun-shy when it comes to shopping.

    At least Patagonia guarantees their clothing for life. You should take it in and complain because pilling is a quality issue, not normal wear and tear.

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  15. the down side to online shopping...it's nearly impossible to see what the quality will really be like. Shopping for anything requires one to touch, feel and try it on to determine whether it's worthy of purchase, but with the ease of online shopping, we're all cutting corners.

    Great post! It makes me realize how important it is to shop in person and sway away from online shopping (unless I've tried it on at the store)...
    I also find that depending on where clothes are manufactured, the materials tend to feel and look different. It's hard to see in photos, but undeniably noticeable in person, especially shoes and clothing.

    Gahhh J.Crew...they charge so much for their "whatever" clothes because they know Americans have no other option for nice "affordable" basics. The styling and silhouettes are great, but there's a major disjunct between the quality and price. Their sizing is also very interesting...it seems to fit only certain types of body types.

    xoxo

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  16. I am old enough to recall Topshop creating good quality clothes. Having watched them, essentially in slow motion, declining over the years, yet still upping the prices has left me cold. I have a few pieces still, from the mid 90's, which are in perfect condition (well lined frocks, appropriately sized jeans with no sag, actual wool sweaters with no pilling, etc). It makes me sad to recall how even high street stores once created value for money pieces - alas no more!

    I do feel similarly regarding higher end brands, but have managed to nail down a small few who continue to satisfy - although a few issues regarding company ethics remain unresolved for me.

    At present, I find that mid range works best for me, low key stores such as Toast (UK) & Joules have consistently delivered quality, so far......it appears to b hit and miss, doesn't it? I recently purchased a wonderful shirt from a high street store, and likewise my dream cardigan from Commes des Garcons. But these are exceptions to the rule, in my experience. And I am pretty much tied to shopping online for literally anything beyond highstreet. *angst!*

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  17. @ editor - I guess it had the intended effect :-)

    @ S - Did you read the recent NYTimes article about Apple offshoring jobs? I think it has more to do with generature an obscenely huge profit margin then there is about having to mark up prices by 10% if they are manufactured in the US.

    @ TrudiG - I don't know how it is in your city, but I think tailoring is a dying art - the only people these days who can even do a proper job are old Asian men and women. I have some handmade pieces that were tailored for me but in the end, I still had to get them re-fitted because they weren't all that great to begin with.

    @ Moya - Nobody likes it when I point out that J.Crew cashmere is just terrible - I guess the fact that is semi-affordable and apparently woven by Loro Piana makes it an untouchable subject. Have you tried Brora cashmere? I've been tempted after hearing some really good reviews about it. I find that a lot of contemporary labels like Etoile, Phillip Lim and Rag & Bone etc have been producing really shoddy work of late which is a shame since they started out being both well-made and well-priced. I can't even fathom how anyone could splurge $500 on a scratchy IM coat.

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  18. J. Crew is especially guilty in this regard - as the (self-)hype of the brand has exploded in the last 4-5 years, you can quite simply *read* the decline in quality. Three years ago, their woolen jumpers (sweaters) were 100% wool. Now, they're called "dreamy blend" or somesuch, and their primary content is nylon or acrylic. If you look at their website, you'll note that you have to conscientiously search for the fabric content, as it's hidden from first view (also a new development). I have always been a fabric purist / label reader (also for food!), and don't buy from JCrew precisely because their products are so poor, and their prices astronomically disproportionate (this season, bridesmaids' dresses which used to be silk are called "tricotine," which is foreign for $275 for polyester). It isn't a question of hit or miss - it's a deliberate policy, based on the assumed idiocy / gullibility of the consumer.

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  19. I think it's a testament to the manufacturing and craftsmanship that vintage clothing is still being worn. I cannot imagine most of the high street clothing being able to last 20, 30 or even 10 years of wear. My mother has a few pieces from the 80s that are in great shape. The seams are well constructed and the fabric of decent quality. You'll notice that most blazers aren't even lined nowadays or they are lined with really cheap fabric that falls apart. I don't think having things that need to be thrown out in a few years is good for anyone let alone the unnecessary waste created.

    It's really upsetting that the contemporary designers are copping out on quality even with the higher price point. I love the PS1 but cannot believe that it has so many issues.

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  20. Thanks for the book recommendation--I'm always looking for something that's a bit more thoughtful than the run-of-the-mill fashion topics. If it's any consolation, I've found that one of those little electric sweater pill-shavers can really clean up the pills on a sweater (J.Crew, I'm looking at you!), if you put the sweater on a firm, flat surface and buzz it with the shaver for awhile.

    On the other hand, darn it, they should just go back to making higher quality knits!

    minima/maxima, a blog about minimalist style

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  21. I don't have much else to add to the discussion, except to say that I have the exact same problem and it frustrates me no end. Anyway, I would love to know what brands you trust.

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  22. Very insightful post.. When I decluttered my wardrobe, many of the stuff that didn't make the cut had synthetic fabric content, feels scratchy and uncomfortable. Once I got used to the feel of cotton, I couldn't live a day in anything else. Singapore is warm on most months and it seems that cotton and linen are the only fabrics that make sense.

    I get most of my dresses from A.P.C now.

    I agree with your sentiments on J Crew. I wish the quality was better for the hefty price tag but I do like some of the styling though.

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  23. Thanks for the tip - much appreciated!

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  24. Hi Amanda,
    I just discovered your blog and enjoyed reading it very much.

    Thank you for bringing up this point on construction and quality. A 3.1 Philip Lim top I bought shrank (unevenly too) after one wash even though I followed the washing instructions. It's upsetting that a piece of clothing that costs so much is of such poor quality. It makes me wonder how do I pick out a brand to trust, especially now since I'm working on buying less but better quality pieces that will last.

    While I agree that consumers have to make good choices, it's also true that producers will try their best to fudge their manufacturing origins especially when they cut costs so it is hard for us to find out how things are truly produced.

    - wildgoose

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  25. I too would like to know which brands you trust. I'm really hesitant to buy anything nowadays, due to really bad experiences with brands I used to trust. I live in the UK and the quality of high street clothing has really dropped in the last five years or so. I don't mind spending a bit more money if I know the clothes with last. I'm currently saving for a Burberry trench. Hopefully it will last for a long time! Thank you for this post. I love your blog and your simple classic style. x

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  26. I've noticed the same ,there is a deterioration on the way clothes are made.I have a lot of clothes given to me by my aunt,she was a seamstress ,and they are still of excellent quality esp the fabrics.I even have garments from the 70s I still wear .

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  27. Like everyone else I've noticed the same thing- especially with J.Crew (and its cashmere). Although I recently bought a pair of flats by them that have stood up pretty well, I always have to remind myself not to be suckered in by the styling. Luckily because of my small size I can stop by Crewcuts every once in a while where the price is more reflective of the quality, and even then really only when things are on sale.

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  28. I work in a boutique that sells mid ranged clothes from brands such as Acne, FIlippa K, IRO and Vince. The range in quality is sometimes shocking...500 euro wool coat that pills after 3 months just being in the rack is not okay.

    Thank you for the reading tips, this is a subject that is close to my heart!

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  29. hello amanda, i totally agree and i will look for Lucy Siegle on Amazon.fr. i've bought some things for my husband from j.crew - khakis, boxers, button-downs - and there's been quality control issues with all those things, and they were not cheap! i find that j.crew and BR sweaters lose their shape after one wearing.

    APC, i note, is heading south too. some of the cotton spring clothes look very flimsy I think, and after a few months of wear, like old Gap. i bought this stupid shawl collared cardigan, on sale, so there goes 150 dollars, and was shocked at how thin it is, in all senses of that word. it could be target. except it was originally priced at 300.

    Vena Cava, i commented about this before on your blog, but apparently they are in financial trouble and might go under. i don't know if the chicken comes before the egg or what but i noticed that their 550 dollar dresses were definitely not worth that.

    Isabel Marant - i totally hear that! i buy very few things from Isabel Marant b/c it doesn't suit me... i guess if you're very, very flat chested and tall, Marant's oversized look will look hip and ironic. (these big, boxy loose dull colored linen things, combined with my blond hair and ample bust, make me look like some sort of escapee from a east german mental hospital in the 1960s. i need waistlines and feminine details... so i shy away from that)

    i've always had a thing for vintage wool a-line skirts from the 70s. and you know, after 8 years of heavy use, that part of my wardrobe is still in perfect shape. they don't make clothes like they used to.

    ps. i try to blog. not good at it. nothing interesting to say. :( i can only dialogue. :)

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  30. This is such a well-researched and profound article. I agree with your recommendation of Lucy Siegle - quite a shocking book and it it completely changing the way I shop. I can't wait to read more of your blog!

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  31. for sure..even american apparel leaves now some hems unfinished (that used to be finished). and forever 21 (which im sure you havent been to in years) has deteriorated in quality- it must be an industry wide thing!

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  32. ahh such a great post!! we need more well priced and good quality stores in this country!! love you blog.

    http://vanillachic.wordpress.com/
    http://vanillachic.wordpress.com/

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  33. Such an excellently written post and I agree with you on so many counts - also just on a very small note I totally agree with you on the recent itch factor of many of J.Crew's clothes! What gives? Thank you for the Lucy Siegle recommendation, I am going to hunt down her book now!

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  34. So true. I have a vintage Jaeger Breton top that looks perfect and fits beautifully. The only thing falling apart is the label. I wash it at least once a week and almost cried when I split tomato sauce on it (the stain came out, yay!) God knows how old it is. But I can't find anything of a similar quality. For me, Uniqlo is a joke, having been through several merino wool sweaters that got holes within days of purchase. I recently bought an APC grey cotton sweater. I'm sad that to say that despite very careful treatment, it is pilling.

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  35. I was so happy to come upon your blog last night, because all of these issues have been bothering me for a long time and I often find myself wondering if it's hopeless and the day is going to come where there is absolutely nothing of good quality available to the average consumer. Actually, your posts about the low quality of "designer" items makes me wonder if we're already there. The quality issue is bad enough, when you add all the unethical/unsustainable aspects to it it's enough to stop you in your tracks (at least temporarily until I realize I need some basic like t-shirts and give in and buy some somewhere like the Gap because at least I know their basic t-shirts should get me through at least a year without disintegrating). In fact, I think the t-shirt situation might be one of the biggest clothing scams perpetrated against the female of the species in my lifetime. Not only have they found a way to make women buy shirts that are as flimsy as toilet paper (which would be a bit more acceptable if the prices were on a par with toilet paper), but because of the flimsiness everyone who falls for it will now be buying twice as many flimsy tops since they are more or less unwearable on their own. I've always raided the men's department enough to notice that the quality of their clothing is far from what it used to be, but nowhere near as ridiculous as what women seem willing to put up with.

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  36. I am from the other side. I wanted a ps1 for very long time. And i saw the complaints on purseforum on its hardware changing color etc. I brushed them off as a few extreme cases. Once i got my bag, i saw how delicate the leather is ! I know that if i throw in my laptop or dslr in it, the bag will fall apart in a few years. Looking back, i use my bag every day. Have been for the last one year. I still dont put my dslr inside it coz i know its not designed for such usage. I am still on the look out for it to fall apart. It has gone hiking and globe trotting with me and is fine. I think its a bag not designed to be a do it all bag.

    To the ones wondering why ppl buy ps1's after they know of quality issues, you should come talk to me. I fell for the design. I am yet to find such a bag with clean classic design.

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  37. I realize this post is MEGA-old, but I've been reading through your archives after just discovering your site, and I thought I'd comment anyway since I literally just purchased a black & gray wool dress to do double-, triple-, and dare I say quadruple-duty in my own wardrobe. It's perhaps not as dressy as that old J.Crew design, but it's more versatile than you might think!

    It's this one: http://www.icebreaker.com/en/womens-dresses-skirts/allure-dress/101018.html?dwvar_101018_color=187&cts=187

    I can attest as a fellow wool sufferer that the merino wool on that Icebreaker dress is soft and downright luxurious! It's not a thick material, but with tights and a cardigan can definitely be worn through the winter.

    Also note: The belt isn't attached -- and there are not belt loops -- so it can be worn without for a looser, more casual fit (perfect for summer & warmer temps), or with (tied lots of different ways) to be something perhaps sleeker.

    I am laughing at myself for even typing all of this out because I'm quite sure that, two years later, you're no longer looking for a black & gray wool dress, but perhaps some desperate internet searcher is! Never know! I am nothing if not attempting to be helpful.

    Incidentally, I've enjoyed reading your backlogs very much!

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