As promised in our last article highlighting the traveler’s dress shirt, we are going to be diving into ways you can assess the construction of a shirt so we can easily determine the quality of the dress shirt. We will explain the things to look out for, so you can make an informed buying decision when you’re shopping.
First, look over the main seams of the item. Are they straight or crooked? Neat or messy? Stray threads, loose stitches, or areas that have been stitched over multiple times are all bad signs. There should also not be any obvious needle holes in the seams. These were likely created by a needle that is too large for the fabric - a basic manufacturing mistake that weakens its seam over time. To check how well-made this product may be, try pulling on it on either side while checking to see if it detaches at all and you'll find out! Next, make sure your garment's seams lie flat without puckering and don't break up its silhouette (seamlessly integrate with one another). We struggled with this on our first few prototypes as the material is unique in the way it lies on a surface. It is very difficult to handle which means finding really talented manufacturers was incredibly important. Lastly, unless otherwise stated by an excellent brand that cares about their products more than anything else: make sure your patterns line up where they meet each other at every angle of your product. What I mean by this is that if your shirt is stripped, those stripes should line up perfectly along the seams. Disregard this step if you are looking at a plain colored dress shirt.
Another indication of high quality is the type of seams that are used. You want neat and secure reinforced seams instead of flimsy stitches on your garment. However, depending on the size and position within your item as well as what role it plays in relation to other fabric pieces, you’ll need to look out for slightly different things:
- Turn the shirt inside out and take a look at the inside of the shirt. A common way to sew seams is by using the serging machine. We call these serge seams. With this method, there's an obvious zig-zag pattern. It takes less time than other methods and it also provides inexpensive ways to finish edges on garments like cheap t-shirts or lightweight shirts because these are not load-bearing at all (they're only finished). For stronger seams that connect two pieces of fabrics such as side seams on trousers, shoulder, or hemline, seaming should be done using a more secure method; for instance using double stitches (two rows of stitches close to each other), French Seams (shown below) where the fabric edges are folded over and then sewn together or Bound Seaming which uses strips of fabric in order for both single stitch topstitching(on one edge). If you are looking for a high-quality dress shirt, you should see mostly french seams on the inside of the shirt.
- Look at the outside of the shirt. Are the seams visible? A higher-quality manufacturer will do their best to hide their seams as much as possible unless it is part of the design. Load-bearing seams should be neat and secure, while a stable hemline is also crucial because it affects the shape of a piece. Lower quality items are sewn in place with an invisible finish stitch or serged zigzag line which can easily be seen on its exterior side.
Now let’s move on to the buttons & zippers if the shirt has them. We are seeing more and more dress shirts with different types of buttons as well as zippers so both are becoming more important to talk about.
- You should check that the buttons are spaced out evenly and securely, with at least one extra button included when buying. The extra button only applies to shirts with traditional buttons. Now that more high-quality dress shirts are coming out with shirts that incorporate snap buttons instead of the traditional button you can overlook this.
- Many shirts will have fun labels telling you something about the brand towards the bottom of the placket (the center part where the buttons are located). This is usually a good sign of a well-made garment.
- If the dress shirt has traditional buttons, take a look at the button holes. They should be clean and should be reinforced so that they last a long time. This means no raw edges should be visible on the button holes.
- The zipper quality will usually match the shirt quality. If the zipper feels flimsy and shows puckering, then that is a good sign that the rest of the shirt is likely made poorly.
Now you know a number of the most important criteria to assess shirt quality. Whether buying or wearing, this knowledge is valuable in assessing whether something feels good and will last longer than something that was made with less attention to detail.
One part of the construction that we skipped today was the sizing and tailoring. If you want to learn more about how to find the perfect fit and size for your dress shirt, we covered this in a past article that can be found here.