I have a new girl crush. Her name is Monica Rojas. I first “met” her through Instagram (read: stalked all her style posts for months), and eventually we exchanged emails and started chatting. She has killer personal style, an extremely enviable wardrobe, and on top of that she makes clothing from organic, recycled, and upcycled materials. Her line is available on Etsy, it’s called Amatoria Clothing, and I’m pretty much in love with it.
When I first starting talking with Monica about Amatoria, she mentioned that she’s been learning to sew the “right way,” i.e. in a way that ensures a garment will look nice and last long term. As a girl with limited closet space, quality clothing is important to me. While I’m pretty good at selecting clothing styles that I’ll want to wear for years, but I’m not always so good at knowing which pieces will actually last for years. So I asked Monica to give me some tips, and she delivered.
Here’s what she had to say:
Inspect the fabric whether the garment be cotton, gauze, silk, linen, wool, twill, polyester, velvet, and so on. Natural Fabrics are more expensive. The fabric should hold its shape fairly well if you grab a handful of it, bunch it together, then let it loose.
Fabric should be cut and sewn on the grain. If you have ever had a garment that kept twisting, it’s because it was not cut on the grain. I recently had a customer return a pair of designer jeans because they kept twisting around her leg. When laid down, the jeans looked fine, but on the body, the fabric wanted to lay the way it was woven.
Patterns and stripes should match all over the garment. Not run against each other. Plaid is the most difficult to work with, to get the pattern to match. I have a dress by H&M that I have only worn once, because I realized that the stripes in the fabric did not match in the front. It drives me crazy! I may be tearing it apart soon.
2. Seams and Hems
The edge of seams and hems of a high-quality garment are always sewn straight. They are also “finished”. They should only be left “raw” if it’s on purpose to achieve a certain look. Other fabrics should have either surging (like you see on t-shirts) or pinking. This prevents the seams from unraveling. Seams and hems should also be pressed so they lie flat.
If a garment has a hem that’s at least two inches wide, that’s another indication you are buying the best clothing available. Wide hems allow the clothing to be easily altered. A good garment should have a 5/8 of an inch seam allowance (except for knits which usually have surging).
Grab the fabric at the seams with both hands. Gently pull it. If the thread in the seams pulls apart a bit, they’re not sewn properly. The seams should be reinforced and the thread should hold securely. Stitching should be small and tight (you can sew much faster by using a larger stitch, but obviously this means less stitching and a weaker seam). The quality of thread is hard to tell by sight, but silk thread is stronger and more expensive.
Any buttons, hooks, et cetera, on the dress, skirt, suit, blouse, slacks, et cetera, should be sewn on securely. Check the garment for loose buttons and other fasteners. The button holes in a high-quality garment are often bound with thread for durability. Zippers should also move freely up and down without hesitation. YKK zippers have a good reputation, but it also depends on how the garment was made to prevent the zipper from getting caught. We had to RTV a few different garments from Elizabeth and James because the seams were sewn so that they would catch on the zipper.
Any trim that a high-quality piece of clothing has should be sewn on securely. Gently pull on the trim at different places to test it. If something has embellishments, it should come with spare beads/sequins, so that it can be repaired.
No matter what type of fabric the linings in suits, blazer, and jackets are made of, the material should be dense and opaque. If the lining was properly sewn into the garment, it will not be tight. Instead, it will hang with a bit of give so it doesn’t rip or tear.
It takes a long time to put lining into a garment, because you basically have to make two garments and then sew them together. Any piece with lining has more work-hours into it than one without. It will lay better on the body, and look better when layering. Any high-waist skirt that you want to tuck things into should have lining, otherwise it will show the wrinkles of your shirt (unless it’s thick like denim).
This skirt I’m wearing in the pictures above is my first Amatoria piece, and it’s dreamy. The material is an organic cotton, and it’s so soft and flowy that I just want to live in it forever. I wore it to brunch today, and a French woman named Gigi complimented me on it (in my experience, compliments from French men mean nothing, but compliments from French women mean everything).
For style inspiration, I highly recommend following Amatoria Clothing on Instagram, and check out her Facebook page as well for a 30% discount on your first order 😉
Amatoria organic cotton maxi skirt, vintage scarf, American Apparel top, Need Supply sandals