You Get What You Pay For … or Do You?

An often touted statement is “You get what you pay for”, the implication being that when you pay a higher price for something, the product quality is always better. Unfortunately, in our world of fast and cheap, price is not always an accurate indicator of quality. In the world of lingerie and particularly bras, the Latin proverb “caveat emptor” certainly applies.

A few reasons that vendors use to set higher price points for their goods have to do with labels, country of origin, and manufacturing process. Let’s examine what is behind each of these.

A lot of people think that a designer name somehow automatically means that the design and quality is second-to-none. This conclusion is really only true if the design house itself actually produced the garment using time-honoured techniques. For example, an original Valentino or Dior garment would truly be a priceless garment if it were custom-made by the original design house by the same skilled hands who prepare the garments for their haute couture collections.

Unfortunately, in our money-driven world, a designer label does not guarantee that any part of the process, whether it is design, construction, or even fabric quality is consistent with an haute couture standard. Ready-to-wear designer clothes are more often than not just cheap artifacts that don’t come anywhere close to being worthy of a designer name at all. Most of these are made off-shore and quantity, not quality, is the name of the game to get maximum profit. These ready-to-wear manufacturers have nothing at all to do with the designer, except for the licensing of the designer’s name.

Another problem with labels on ready-to-wear is that most of the price pays for slick advertising. Very little money is actually devoted to the design or construction of the garment. Some well-known ready-to-wear bra brands have fancy labels, but fall very short on design, fit, and construction. While it is impossible for a ready-to-wear manufacturer to guarantee fit, the design and construction are two areas where a customer can be very discriminating.

Country of Origin
As I discussed in a previous post, not every garment that is made domestically is ethically made, or even well constructed or designed. Just as not every painter has the same skill level, so too can be said for a garment manufacturer or a custom clothier. It takes a lot of capital to properly tool a shop to do garments of a particular type, if you want consistency and efficiency.

Many shops deliberately simplify their construction or use more resilient materials, not because these changes produce a better product, but because it is cheaper. If a shop can avoid purchasing a particular machine for a task that is not used very often, chances are that the patternmaker or designer will modify the construction so that the step is omitted. It may be that the shop doesn’t want to hire a skilled person to do the task. It may be that a better quality material requires more steps, or special care, in the construction of the garment. Either way, quality will be compromised to maximize profit.

In the case of a custom clothier, not every bespoke shop is going to produce the same quality of garment. For example, some custom bra makers are better at fitting than others. Not every custom bra maker sews impeccably, and not every one has the same ability or skill set to properly consider body proportions. Many custom bra makers will opt for stretchy knits or foam cups to compensate for their less-than-accurate fitting and sewing skills.

Manufacturing Process
When it comes to garment design and construction, the manufacturing process has a lot to do with consistency. The more complicated the design, the more skilled the sewing operator must be. For example, bra cups with many seams are more complex to sew than constructing a foam cup bra. The more curved the seams are, the more complex will be the sewing.

Since a custom bra is more expensive than most ready-to-wear, the price that you pay for is usually a reflection of the fit, design, and construction. But as always, price is not always an indication of quality. In the next post, we will take a closer look at how to evaluate the quality of a custom-made bra.