A reasonable expectation of quality

It’s time to talk about quality. I hope I always talk about quality; I try to anyway – but now, let’s get down and dirty. I don’t think I have unreasonable expectations that the things I buy should last some time before they become un-wearable. I do also understand that a higher price does not automatically equal higher quality, BUT when I do pay more for something, I expect it to last longer. Am I wrong to believe that? I don’t think so.

A $5 cotton t-shirt is not the same as a $50 cotton t-shirt. Sure, cotton is cotton (generally, and unless it’s organic), but there are different ways of treating it to make it softer, etc. that is reflected in the price. Also, the $5 t-shirt will be just a basic v-neck tee with no shape at all, whereas my $50 casual t-shirt from James Perse is the perfect shape and style for my body. I have never been able to find another t-shirt that fits me as nicely as the casual t-shirt, and that I like wearing as much, and believe me, I’ve tried. I wish I could wear my casual t-shirts all the time, but I can’t. Because they get holes in them. I have a zillion men’s hanes v-neck tees that I wear around the house, and not one of them has a hole. But within a few wears of getting my latest white casual t-shirt from James Perse it had a hole in the front.

It’s not only my James Perse tees, most of my LnA tees have holes in them (the white ones anyway – I think it has something to do with the color? bleach?), my newest Splendid tee (the light jersey style, NOT the 1×1, which is far superior) has a hole in it, both of my Joie linen tops (so sad, because I really love them) have holes in them, my L’Agence tee has a hole in it, my Rick Owens Lilies tunic has LOTS AND LOTS of holes in it (I wore it twice)…I think that covers it. I did happen to see the Splendid top immediately before and after “the hole” and determined that it was a direct result of leaning up against the bathroom counter and the shirt getting “rubbed” against the waistband of my jeans, you know, where the button is and the placket sticks out a bit? That I can kind of understand, but seriously, it’s THAT delicate that such light friction causes a hole immediately? Incidentally, I have an orange version of that same tee (Splendid light jersey) and I don’t have any holes in it. Maybe because I never wore it with jeans?

So, what’s a girl to do? Not wear tees with jeans? Have different tees to wear with jeans – tees that are “heavier” and not so delicate? Stick to cheap tees? I don’t have the answer, but I am going to try some cheaper tees, like Everlane and see how they hold up (I’m very intrigued by Everlane, the tees are $15 or so, and they’re made in the US. I’ll take that over Gap any day – actually, I just bought two white tees, will report back as soon as I get them!). I do have one T by Alexander Wang long sleeve tee that doesn’t have any holes in it, but if you accidentally dry it, you’re in trouble. It shrunk A LOT.

Other than tees, I haven’t had a lot of issues with many other pieces. Lately, I noticed the stitching at the waistband coming out of my HELMUT leggings (I had it fixed for $7, but it still shouldn’t have happened), and the back hem of my Ann Taylor loft striped top came out completely after 1 wear – it also shrunk a lot. I’ve been toying with getting a new one, but I shouldn’t have to do that. I could also take it back and try to exchange it. I used to do that whenever I had a problem with an item of clothing – to great success. Because I don’t shop offline much anymore, maybe I don’t think I CAN do it, but it’s worth a try.

Several years ago, I took a top back to Anthropologie that shrunk in the dryer after I followed the washing instructions, and they took it back, no problem. I also took back a DarylK for Co-Op jacket I LOVED after the boning in the shoulder started sticking through; the store manager took it to their tailor to see if it could be fixed, but since it couldn’t, he refunded me the full-price of the jacket, even though I’d had and worn it already for many months. I’ve also taken shoes back to Neiman Marcus & Max Mara for them to send away and be fixed. And I’ve always had good results. Maybe that’s what we should be doing more of – taking things back and asking that the stores that sell them repair them, or replace them for them. I’ve never actually been refused. And if we DON’T do that, how will they actually know there are quality issues? It’s up to us to complain about things that don’t meet our expectations, but we don’t.

Lest you think all I’m doing is complaining…most of my pieces have held up extremely well over the years. I’m deliriously happy with how well all of my James Perse items have stood the test of time – except the casual t – many of them still look as good as the day I bought them, which in some cases was 7-8 years ago. I’ve had wonderful luck with Goldsign jeans – they last forever, my oldest pair is 7 years old. Now, I’m wearing AG and I’m pleased with the quality so far, by I’ve only had them for a few months. My Inhabit cotton & cashmere has served me incredibly well over the years – my “beeswax” cotton cardigan gets the most wear of any of my pieces, and it still looks the same as when I got it 5 or so years ago.

Here are some of my favorites:


I’m mostly happy with the quality of the pieces I buy; it just seems that as tees get thinner and thinner and slouchier and slouchier, they tend to not last as long as they should. I don’t expect things to last “forever” but as I mentioned above, I do have many James Perse pieces & jeans that will be 10 years old soon, and they still look and feel great, so why shouldn’t I expect things to last for 10-15 years?

I don’t know the answer, but I think it starts with us – the consumer – starting to hold designers & retailers accountable for the pieces we aren’t happy with. For ANY reason. If a t-shirt gets a hole in the front, it’s unwearable. If a top shrinks so much that it’s basically no longer the same top, it’s unwearable. We should take them back and ask for help getting the issue resolved somehow. I do NOT think that’s unreasonable.

What do you think? Have you had success taking something back to a retailer that didn’t meet your expectations? Have you had a negative experience? What are your highest quality pieces?

**edited to add later: look what I found!!

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 5.19.13 PM


Maybe we should be embracing our hole-y tees instead of complaining about them LOL. She probably paid a lot of money for that hole on her tee…

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  1. says

    I completely agree; I am happy to spend a bit more for a high quality basic but am very frustrated when the higher price take doesn’t correspond to higher quality. The “expensive t-shirt” brands DO offer a better fit, more current styles, and better colors, but generally speaking, no better quality. In my experience, Splendid is the absolute worst offender, but my beloved T by Alexander Wang is not far behind. If I wanted a top that was essentially disposable, I would go to Forever 21!

    On the positive side, I have generally been happy with any James Perse buys. I have also been thrilled with my Everlane t-shirts and recommend them to everyone. I purchased two t-shirts nearly a year ago, and they have both survived at least bi-weekly wearings and washings (and sometimes even dryings) without losing their shape or getting holes. My faded black one just got its first hole, at the usual waistband spot, but when I compare it to my Splendid tops that typically have holes within a month, I can’t complain. The only downside is the limited color/fit/style offerings.

    I guess my conclusion has been that price might buy you a better “look” but not necessarily better quality.

    • says

      you’re right – spending more gets you the look/style/shape that you want, but not necessarily the quality…

      which splendid tops do you have? are they light jersey or 1×1? i’ve found that the 1×1 holds up exceptionally well (i have a turtleneck, long sleeve v, a couple scoop-neck tees and a crew neck tee and they’re all hole-less) and the light jersey hasn’t. but i also wonder if there’s something about the white – maybe bleach? or something that makes it thinner, more “frail.”

      and thanks for your input on everlane, i really want to try the ryan tees, but also am tempted by the $15 basics!

      • says

        My Splendid tops are mostly the light jersey plus one “slub” striped one from Anthro, so I suppose that could be the issue. I like the fit you get with that material (nice and drapey) but man have they fallen apart quickly. Ah well.

        I think the Ryan t-shirts are next up for me- noticed that another commenter recommended sizing down and I can definitely see that being the case for the Ryans, but for the basics I found I needed to go up (or really, I am usually between sizes and picked the larger)!

        Also echoing the comment in favor of Velvet by Graham and Spencer. I don’t have a ton of it but what I do has lasted years without any issue.
        Sarge in Charge´s last blog post ..Lately

        • says

          i ordered a basic woman’s v-neck and the men’s style (in the women’s section) crewneck – both white and both in large. LOL – i can’t seem to get enough white tees…
          i definitely want to try the ryan when some of the other colors are back in stock.

          i agree with you on the fit of the splendid light jersey tees, but i definitely think the 1×1 lasts longer. they are much more snug though, so better for layering i guess. i really like this one at anthro – the sleeves are a good length and i like the lower v-neck. it looks like it’s a 1×1 too…

  2. Rachel says

    Oh, you know, this can be a frustrating thing – at least that’s what I’ve found. I’ve had issues with holes in LNA tees after just a few washes and I stopped buying them. They’re $50 and I simply can’t afford to go through basics like that. I love the Splendid “layers” long sleeve tees because they are absolutely perfect – long and soft and they look good with everything BUT they get holes fast when you wear them with jeans – little tiny holes. I have six of these shirts and I have sewn a few of these tiny holes up from the inside – I’m very careful with them and I air dry them because I think heat just makes more holes. LOL. But I love them just the same…
    Jeans always last for me – designer jeans never give my problems. I have some that are five years old and they look great. No holes, no issues.
    James Perse makes skirts, dresses and blouses that LAST – and they look great. Inhabit again – total quality.
    And Free People – you can wash their stuff and dry it and it won’t fail you.

  3. says

    Okay, don’t be shocked but I wear GoldHawk slips under all of my clothes, EVERYDAY, and sometimes I even sleep in them, and I wash them in the machine (they are 100% silk), air dry them and then IRON them and they have NO holes and are all in beautiful condition. I even iron the lace trim. It’s crazy, but I swear, they are incredible and they look great under thin t’s. As for other basics, my T by A Wang t-shirts get holes after one wash, all of my fluxxus t-shirts have holes around the belly button, where I lean against the sink. I have had good luck with Wetherley, but they are expensive as are my Stateside t’s which also have held up. I’ve also had good luck with my T Los Angeles shirts and my Wildfox t-shirts. Here’s my tip of the day in terms of quality, if you want a super soft t-shirt that’s a little bit trendy, very soft, and may or may not get holes, head straight to Brandy Melville where the t-shirts are super cute, flattering and will make you feel a little bit hipper than usual. And if they get a hole or two, they will look even better, plus they are usually under $25.00.
    Noa Ehrlich´s last blog post ..Oh Bags!

    • says

      i wondered as i was writing this if we should actually be wearing light slips underneath tees or whatever to keep them from getting holes, especially from jeans. i would be way to hot here in the summer, but it’s definitely worth a try in the winter time…

      i’ve wanted to try stateside, they’re not that much more than JP, and i love the v-neck style they have up on shopbop…
      and thanks for the brandy melville rec. some of those aren’t bad, and cheap. although i prefer cotton to rayon in general.

  4. Ina says

    I used to be a huge fan of James Perse but I think their quality has gone down quite a bit. Also, is it just me or is polyester in everything these days? I simply boycott anything polyester. Same goes for Modal – in my experience, anything Modal stretches beyond belief and loses its shape. I’ve been pretty happy with Everlane t-shirts so far. They do stretch quite a bit, though, so sizing down is a good idea.

  5. Laurel says

    I completely agree with all your points, Grechen. Besides taking items back to retailers, maybe another way that we as consumers can help improve quality is by talking openly about brand quality, which is what we’re doing here. Regarding specific brands, I’ve only been “collecting” James Perse for the past year, so I can’t speak about the long term, but so far, everything has been excellent. In contrast, I recently bought three Splendid T-shirts and two of them developed a hole in the first wash. I haven’t even worn the third one because I’m afraid of ruining it! I don’t put anything in the dryer, by the way, so any damage was caused only in the washing machine on a permanent press cycle. I am a big fan of Velvet and have many of their tops. All of them have held up very well, so I would recommend them.

    • says

      i do the same thing sometimes – i DON’T wear things i love because i’m afraid they’ll get a hole or something. what’s the fun in that? also, it’s a complete waste of money, we buy things to wear, not to sit and look at LOL

      i had a velvet tee many many years ago and i cut it up to do some stupid DIY or something, then i never wore it again. i always liked how soft it was, and the fit was great. i haven’t tried any velvet tees recently though, perhaps i will! thanks for the recommendation!! Velvet dresses are amazing – i have one that’s 6-7 years old that’s still in great shape.

  6. Mamavalveeta03 says

    I take things back if they don’t live up to my quality expectations. I bought a beautiful black Cambridge Cable turtleneck from J Crew before Christmas, and wore it once. You would have thought a cat was murdered in our Kia! There was black fuzz EVERYWHERE. They didn’t want to take it back since it was worn, but they know me, and know that I do a LOT of business in their store, so they took it back. I got the perfunctory warning: “We won’t do this again.” (yeah, right….) But, I believe that we have rights as consumers, and buying power; they’ll listen to us if we make our voices heard….with our dollars!
    And as for favorites: No problems with jeans, although I have had buttons come loose at the waist. But my all-time favorite tees are Velvet, Splendid (I haven’t had any problems…knock on wood!), and James Perse. I have had problems with Nation LTD, but I still love them, and C & C California, which I must have looked at wrong and it developed a hole. I, too, NEVER put my good tees in the dryer, and always wash on gentle.

    • says

      lol at your C&C experience. i have only a couple of turtlenecks from them and they’re thicker, so no problems there. i think it’s just inevitable that if the material is very thin, it’ll get a hole. no matter where it comes from or who makes it. it’s the nature of the fabric i guess.

      i went back to loft today to see if they’d exchange my striped shirt for a new one, and they did! it took less than 5 minutes. i am very pleased. now i feel like i should shop there more often 😉

    • says

      that’s a shame to hear about land’s end cashmere. from what i know, most of their other things are pretty good quality.
      i don’t have any experience with j crew.

  7. Safran says

    Love the post! Do you think sizing up one size on the LOFT top would be enough? I bought it in L but haven’t worn or washed it, so I’m wondering if I should try to exchange it for an XL (since I’ll definitely be putting it in the dryer) or try to return it.

    • says

      if you want it to fit like the large AFTER you dry it, then i’d get the XL.
      anyway, if you’re not happy with the fit after you wear/dry it, i think they’ll take it back or exchange it for you. i didn’t have a problem exchanging mine, the sales associate was really surprised that it shrunk so much.


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