Working in an office with a group of young women I’m used to a constant stream of packages being delivered with new season internet purchases.
Most of the fashion comes from lower priced stores and I often perceive slight disappointment on their faces after the purchase is excitedly ripped open and examined.
The problem in most cases is the fabric. What looks absolutely brilliant online, styled by clever editors and shown on young, cool, slender models is a whole other thing when you pull it out of the box and look at it in the cold hard light of day.
Quality fabric is everything, which is why online shopping can be deceiving. What looks like Prada on your laptop may look more like Payless when it arrives.
Superior fabric is the difference between a smart coat that you can’t stop admiring or one that creases and bags and looks like you slept in it the minute you hop off the bus to work.
It’s too easy to just say that a more expensive fabric is better: true as it may be, not everyone is in the pay bracket for 100 per cent cashmere, and no one is thrilled to be shopping in the polyester section.
But there are more inexpensive fabrics that have more genuine integrity at a lower price and will give you a great cost-per-wear ratio, such as denim, canvas and pure cotton.
Despite designers regularly sending out jeans and jackets in the stratospheric price range, there is no reason to spend big dollars on denim.
The Japanese make wonderful denim which is why Uniqlo is a great go-to for jeans and outerwear.
Silk is an interesting fibre, as some silks are most definitely better than others. Interestingly pure silk is not always superior – it can be hot, prone to crush and easily stained.
Silk blends, especially silk viscose or silk/wool generally travel well, feel nice against the skin and wash like a dream (often with no ironing required).
Linen has always been touted as a chic fabric, but I tend to think that only applies if you have direct and constant access to a superior laundry and a portable iron.
In my experience linen doesn’t breathe, it creases horribly, rides up in unsightly areas (ie your crotch) and often seems more middle-aged matron than Estee Lauder perfume ad.
Save it for your sheets (actually I hate them too. They feel like you’re sleeping on a slightly damp tea towel). Maybe just save linen for your napkins and handkerchiefs. Or a jacket, if you can bear the elbow creases.
Let’s not forget knitwear. Who doesn’t hate it when your new favourite sweater has pilled (those annoying balls of accumulated fluff)?
Despite Kath and Kim’s promotion of the pilling comb, the idea is to avoid buying the item in the first place. Look for knits that contain some percentage of merino wool – this incredible fibre has enough elasticity to keep the garment in tiptop shape, without balling, which is why wool/cashmere blends are ideal.
And if the sweater is 100 per cent polyester, make sure you invest in a good deodorant.