Shopping: Can We Talk About Quality?

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting ready to go to an interview with a recruiter. Since I work in a creative field (I’m a digital copywriter), I wasn’t in a business suit, but instead in wearing some pretty classic J.Crew. You know. A pencil skirt. Not-quite-a-statement necklace. And a silk Blythe blouse (they don’t make it anymore, but here’s a similar option if you’re interested. After this post, you might not be).

This looks great, I thought. Until I looked down a my sleeve and saw a giant rip in the silk.


It was about two inches or so long. Shit, I thought. Should I wear a blazer? The blazers I own look really frumpy with a pencil skirt, that was a no. Can I just chance it and hope she doesn’t notice? No, too risky. Should I change my shirt and go with this option?


Maybe, but it was a cold day and I had a Heattech top underneath, which even with its scoop neck was still visible thanks to the deep V of the blouse. OK, I guess I’ll just go with a cardigan, which is fine, looks nice and all, but isn’t quite what I wanted.

The rip in the sleeve was annoying, but I got even more annoyed when I got home, took the blouse off and looked at other areas of it. In parts of the shoulder, the silk was pretty much completely worn away and you could see through the silk and there were other areas, like on the back, where the silk was starting to fray. I know I’ve complained about J.Crew’s silk before, but this felt beyond the pale. Should a shirt completely fall apart and wear out after a few years of not very frequent wear?

I can’t remember when I got the blouse, but it was either 2012 or 2013, so I’ve had it for either less than four years or less than three. Is a lifespan of more than three years too much to ask? I don’t think so, because I’ve had blouses and dresses from Target and New York & Company last for much longer even though they cost so much less.

That got me thinking about quality. I know “you get what you pay for” and all that, but how much is too much to expect from our clothing? Is it too much to think that a shirt that has a sticker price of upwards of a $100 won’t just randomly tear on some random day for seemingly no reason? Or can we only reasonably expect longevity from the  most expensive clothing?

Also, it made me wonder why there’s this move away from making garments that last. As I mentioned, I’ve had relatively inexpensive pieces of clothing last me for years and years, but I bought them at least a decade ago. And, yet, I feel as if everything I’ve purchased from J.Crew in the past 2 or 3 years has just not been up to snuff and has either worn out quickly or required a lot of effort to keep it looking good. It’s not as though the rip  is on a stress point, like the shoulders. It’s not really even on the seam, it’s about 1/16 inch to the side of it.

So why is it that retailers think it’s OK to sell us stuff that’s just no good these days? I know there’s fast fashion, but I’m an adult. I’m looking for stuff I can hang on to for years, so that I can look back in amazement on a blouse in 10 years and think, hey, I got this a decade ago. It’s still going strong. (As a funny side note – I was just in J.Crew and they had signs all over the store stating that they believe in “forever fashion, not fast fashion.” OK, prove it by making stuff that doesn’t completely break down.)

Clearly, making stuff that falls apart does make people more likely to buy  more, but that model doesn’t seem to be working either, looking at the constant markdown games stores need to play these days. Isn’t it better for a retailer to earn my confidence and trust instead of selling me stuff that I’ll need to replace very two years, if I’m lucky?


2 thoughts on “Shopping: Can We Talk About Quality?”

  1. Wow. That’s crazy.

    So I looked up online images of this blouse and it is sheer (especially in the lighter colors) and seems to have a sheen. It’s silk, for sure, but what weight? And what particular composition?

    I bet it is a very lightweight sandwashed silk (possibly a crepe de chine, maybe even a china silk) in a poor composition. Technically silk, but better for linings? (Though that lightweight and we are talking about lining something not very fitted so there is less wear and tear on the silk itself.)

    Dumb choice, J. Crew. That stinks for you, as it is a great shape for office wear. I really hope that if J. Crew moves back to all silk offerings that they up the quality and charge more if need be. If the thing won’t fall apart after a few years, then women will buy it because they need long-lasting staples.

    Fwiw, you can buy crepe de chine silk that is super luxurious and more heavyweight, and make it into something long-lasting.

    • That’s a great way to put it – it definitely feels better suited for a lining. Even the black is slightly sheer (not enough to require an undershirt, but you can see completely through it when you hold it up to the light).
      Thanks for the tip on where to buy silk, too! I’ve only ever seen Liberty silk on offer, which is crazy expensive.

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