Serged or Zig-Zag SeamsThere should always be a set of zig-zag stitches that run along the raw edge of the seam fabric. If there is no zig-zag stitch here, then the fabric is just going to unravel in the wash right up to the straight-stitch that keeps your clothing together.
Look for 'serged' clothing. This is the kind of seam you will typically find in store-bought clothes, where the raw edge is completely overlapped by stitches. Serging means that is has been run through a serge machine that simultaneously straight stitches, zig-zags and trims extra seam fabric.
Double Straight Stitched SeamsThere should be one or two rows of straight stitches that keep the clothing together.
The stitches that keep the clothing's seams together should not be visible when you are looking at the clothing when it is right-side out. Stitches should be small and close together. Don't buy clothing that has loose stitching.
Two rows of straight stitching is preferred in pants and hoodies, or any clothing that will see a lot of wear. Don't buy pants that have one straight stitch.
Loose ThreadsBe cautious of clothing that has loose threads hanging off of it. Threads should be tied after each seam is finished to prevent the seam from unraveling.
Loose threads can also indicate a lack of detail, which can mean that the artist does not pay particular attention to quality, and is trying only to produce a large number of pieces.
Good Top Stitching'Top Stitching' is the decorative stitches that you can see while you're wearing a garment. For example, the stitching on cuffs and collars.
If the top stitching is crooked or has loose threads hanging out of it, find somewhere else to spend your money. Inspect all of the hems very carefully for crooked stitching. Handmade clothing comes with a price, and you should save your green for more experienced artists who take the time to make a quality product.
Ask About the MaterialsSome handmade clothing is made out of recycled or renewable resources that can make the cost of the clothing increase.
If you are looking at something that seems overpriced, ask the artist what it is made of. Don't pay high prices for reinvented thrift store clothing that doesn't have much money put into it. If the artist won't tell you what it is made of, or has no idea, then don't buy it. A good clothing maker will know what they are working with.
How Much Time Did it Take to Make?If you are still standing in front of that overpriced shirt and you're not sure why it costs so much, try asking how long it took to make.
There may be special stitching involved or hand-crocheted lacing that you hadn't through about before. Ask the artist how long it took to make a particular piece of clothing. They may have put more time into it than you realize.
Avoid all clothing that was made 'in a couple hours'. These are often unoriginal and frankly, you could probably make it yourself.
Try it On for Size... and Play with ItEven if something is labeled 'One Size Fits All', it is still a good idea to try everything on before you buy.
If you are at a street fair or flea market and can't try on a garment, try a few playful tests to at least check the quality of the trimmings. Give the buttons a light tug, check buttonholes for loose threads, zip and unzip the zippers. If the shop keeper tells you to stop, then don't buy from them. Don't buy from anyone who doubts the quality of their clothing.
Talk to the ArtistFind out more about who you are buying from. Do they have a family? Do some of the proceeds go to charity? What got them started in making clothing? The best part about buying handmade is that you are supporting an individual, not a faceless corporation. Having a simple conversation with the person who made the clothes can give you more insight into what went into what you're wearing.
Have you ever bought bad handmade clothes? Tell us about it at the DIY Fashion Forum.