One of the best things to learn about if you want to build a wardrobe you love is high-quality clothing. Specifically, what is high-quality clothing? What are high-quality clothing materials? Can high-quality clothing be affordable?
When I’m asked about quality, most people want a list of brands. I’ll share my recommendations in this post, but I also want to teach you how to identify high-quality clothing on your own. That way, whether you’re shopping online or in store, you’ll have all the knowledge needed to determine if an item is worth it.
Keep reading for my guide to high-quality clothing and 10 high-quality clothing brands for men and women.
How to Recognize Quality Clothing
High-quality clothing tends to be made with natural fibers, be well constructed, and fit well. Here are four things to look for when determining whether something is considered high quality.
When determining well made clothing, fabric is a great place to start. The right fabrics are integral to construction quality. Natural fibers like cotton, linen, cashmere, silk, wool, and hemp tend to hold up better over time.
Check the fiber content and percentages on the tag before you agree to the price point. You shouldn’t be paying an astronomical price for polyester or poly blends.
Stitching can be a tell all when it comes to seeing whether a piece is well made. Take a look at the stitching near the neckline and collar, specifically.
Good stitching will run equidistant to the edge of the fabric, join neatly with other fabrics, and feel taut without creating puckering. There shouldn’t be loose threads or pilling.
3. Sewn-On Details
Sewn-on elements like closure hooks, buttons, beading, zippers, and embroidery are also key indicators of quality.
Hooks and buttons should feel sturdy and be closely sewn, unless the button is functional. In that case, there should be room for the other fabric to fit behind it.
Zippers should move smoothly and be wrapped in tissue to prevent damage to the rest of the garment.
Run your hand over any beads and embroidery to ensure they don’t feel loose, roll, or pull.
4. Fit and Cut
If you’re buying a new brand for the first time, your best bet is to purchase in person. When possible, try on the piece and notice how it fits.
Is it pulling in areas that require the mobility (shoulders, chest, hips)? If the construction isn’t working on your frame, it isn’t worth the money.
Oftentimes poor fit is the result of fast fashion brands maximizing fabric consumption to improve margins. As a result, fabrics are misaligned and cut in different directions, causing seams to twist and move.
How to Find High-Quality Clothing Brands at Affordable Prices
Know When You’re Paying for the Designer Name Tag
The sentiment of paying more usually proves to be true, but we often pay sky high for designer reputations. Unless you have a large budget and a passion for designer clothes, you’ll want to be strategic in your acquisitions in order to maximize spend.
A great question to ask is, at what price are my dollars going toward the reputation of the brand rather than an increase in quality? I’ll give two examples below.
Chanel flap bags have increased at twice the rate of inflation since 1990. This is with no change in the product. In the words of Chanel, “The price of a Chanel bag reflects a sense of exclusivity, and also our values.” In this example, you’re paying for the brand.
On the other hand, Mango is a fast(er) fashion brand that consistently carries well-made clothes under $150. As the prices increase to the $200+ range, we see a greater percentage of natural fabrics in the garments. In this example, you’re paying for an increase in quality.
Buy Off Season
Buying off season is one of the most untapped strategies for acquiring high-quality clothes. Since the fashion calendar has four seasons (spring/summer, autumn/winter, resort, and pre-fall) there’s always a designer sale happening.
If you want to make the most of off-season shopping, I recommend creating a private Pinterest board with your wish list.
Pre-fall/fall items drop in price roughly in March. Resort/summer prices drop around September.
Secondhand sites such as Poshmark and Mercari are great places to find quality items at sale prices. You’ll often see quality brands like Doen, L’AGENCE, Veronica Beard, and more at 50%+ off the original price.
Check the Competition
If you want to make the most of your shopping budget, don’t limit yourself by shopping with only one retailer. Sales are happening all year and retailers mark down at different times.
This could result in savings to the tune of $100+ for the same item.
ShopStyle.com is a retailer search engine and it’s one of the best tools out there for price drop alerts. An account is completely free and you can save your favorites.
Trial and Error
Keep in mind that, even with the knowledge of how to spot quality clothes, building a wardrobe full of them involves trial and error. In particular, it can take time to nail down high-quality brands that match your personal style and your price point.
High-Quality Clothing Brands for Women
Now, onto my recommendations! I’m not affiliated with these brands. This is just my personal opinion as a fashion blogger.
Below is a list of the best high-quality clothing brands for men and women. It includes both high-end designer clothing brands that are worth the splurge and high-quality affordable clothing brands that will help your budget go further.
If I had to choose one place to shop for quality pieces under $200, it’d be Mango. They have everything from accessories to closet staples, workwear, activewear, loungewear, and fashion forward items.
The quality is good to great. With proper care, most items last 5+ years.
As a clothing company with ethical practices, Everlane consistently puts out high-quality products at low price points.
Some of my favorite pairs of jeans are from Everlane, and they’re all under $100.
Cuyana’s tagline is ‘Fewer, Better Things’ which goes in line with everything we’re talking about here.
4. Club Monaco
Club Monaco is considered low-end luxury. Prices range from $50 to $500, depending on the item. You get what you pay for in terms of construction, fabric quality, and color. I love that they carry seasonal basics as well as statement pieces.
5. Banana Republic
Banana Republic took a turn for the better in 2020 and the clothing style and quality has noticeably improved. I recommend shopping in store if you can as the fabrics can be hit or miss, but I’ve had great luck with sweaters (shown above) and dresses.
Totême is a luxury brand known for its limited color palette, minimalist designs, and small collections.
They don’t design according to trends, so these are wardrobe essentials that will stand the test of time.
7. Veronica Beard
Veronica Beard releases pieces that perfectly blend trendy and classic, have rich colors and prints, and are extremely well made.
The craftsmanship of the blazers and dresses is to die for, and I picked up a couple of beautiful blouses from VB this year as well.
L’AGENCE is another brand that produces seasonless, classic pieces and a few on-trend items.
I think their blazers are among the best items any woman can add to her wardrobe. I’ve also had luck with their silk dresses and camisoles.
Theory makes clean, sophisticated clothes with a contemporary edge. When they do one style right, they really knock it out of the park and tend to bring it back annually.
I am literally the poster child for Vince. While the quality has become more hit or miss in the last three years, you can find some incredible wardrobe staples if you’re willing to do trial and error.
High-Quality Clothing Brands for Men
UNIQLO was founded in Japan but has over 1,000 stores worldwide. Google any men’s fashion forum for quality clothing suggestions and UNIQLO will no doubt be on the list. They sell simple, high-quality basics that fit incredibly well for the price.
Everlane is easy on the wallet for men’s pieces that are traditionally expensive, such as outerwear, sneakers, and denim. A great spot for modernized wardrobe basics.
The quality at Bonobos is superb all around. The only downside is that they don’t carry much ready-to-wear in their stores (almost everything must be shipped). Their ties, socks, pants, and outerwear are particularly good.
4. Club Monaco
Club Monaco has great traditional men’s styles that they manage to update with current trends. The clothing is experimental yet simple and extremely well made.
5. J. Crew
J. Crew is a solid option for quality, especially if you’re looking for a discount as they have perpetual sales. I find their warm-weather styles to be better than their cold-weather collections. The men’s shorts, linen pieces, socks, and ties are noteworthy.
6. Banana Republic
With Banana Republic’s rebrand, their clothing quality has gone up across the board. We hauled my husband casual, dressy, and travel clothing for a recent resort vacation and he loved every single piece. The men’s traveler pants are his favorites.
7. Brooks Brothers
For slacks, dress shirts, suits, and sport coats, Brooks Brothers is gold. They have excellent work staples and are known for their footwear as well.
8. Billy Reid
If I had to dress my husband in one brand, it would be Billy Reid. Everything is well constructed and they carry a wide variety of pieces to suit everything from casual work settings to weekend, business meetings, travel, and more. It leans classic American, but without much prep.
I had to throw an athletic brand in here because, with WFH becoming the norm, I’m seeing more men out and about in joggers and dry fit shirts. My husband loves Vuori even more than Lululemon. Excellent quality travel, workout, hiking, and lounging pieces for men.
Carhartt is more of an outdoorsy brand, but they have a lock on long-lasting boots (some pairs last 10+ years) and cold weather jackets. When styled well, they can work in everyday casual settings and are great wardrobe additions for those in seasonal climates.