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The Importance of Durability

As I do my fifth load of laundry of the day, I wonder how my mother survived three kids. She suffered through potty training accidents, bed-wetting, and two boys who liked to bring home tadpoles and watch them turn into frogs in the bathroom sink.

One small girl can overwhelm me at times. Sometimes it's the ceaseless laundry resulting from three or more clothing changes per day. That's one outfit for school, one for after school, another for dinner and bedtime, then into pajamas. Other days it's when I find purple stains on the carpet due to a "magic potion" made from crushed crayons and hand sanitizer. With some shampoo thrown in for good measure, or as a thickening agent, I think.


To survive all this, one quality I look for in everything we buy is durability. Durability is the ability to endure. The ability to withstand use and cleaning and stay in good condition is critical whether we are talking about carpet, upholstery, and clothing. And I have found over the years that quality products tend to be more durable.

This doesn't necessarily mean more expensive, although often we have to pay a bit more for good quality because the materials and workmanship are more expensive.

With clothing, durability starts with the fabric. The best brands use high-quality fabrics made from sturdy yarns. They subject them to testing for colorfastness, strength and pilling (those little bumps or pills of fibers which are extremely common on sweaters but shouldn't be found on your underwear).

When I worked for Victoria's Secret, we spent years developing the testing manuals which stipulated hundreds of standards and testing procedures for mills and factories to follow.

Startups and smaller businesses rely on outside testing facilities such as SGS and Intertek to establish acceptable standards and provide testing to ensure colors don't run and fabrics don't shrink.

Something which seems simple, like whether a bright red t-shirt will retain it's vibrancy, requires several different tests. These include colorfastness to light (does it fade in sunlight?), dry crocking (will the color rub off onto your new white couch?), reaction to water (will the color bleed out in the wash, or the rain?), and more.

When fabric is made into garments, durability comes from the type of seams used, the number of stitches per inch, and the quality of the trims (elastics, buttons, zippers, etc.) If the stitch count is too low, then seams will have a tendency to fray or pull apart, especially after several washings.

We've all had buttons fall off because they were barely tacked on with a single loop of thread. Performance testing using specialized equipment should be done on finished garments according to end use to evaluate a number of characteristics, including dimensional stability (does it hold its shape in all directions after washing?), chemical analysis (are there any toxins in the fabric or trims?), and flammability, just to name a few.

Athletic apparel is tested even more rigorously including colorfastness to perspiration and water vapor resistance to ensure cooling evaporation during heavy workouts.These are just a few of the recommended tests, there are many others that brands should be performing before clothes hit the stores, including stability (does it shrink in the washer or dryer?), strength (will the fabric or seams tear under pressure?), and flammability (there are stricter standards for kids' sleepwear).

Durability is especially important when it comes to kids' clothing because they are washed so frequently. My daughter never gets more than one wear out of anything, and I imagine your kids are the same. It could be tomato sauce from dinner, syrup from the morning pancakes, blood from a scrape, or worse from a potty training accident.

Their clothes and especially underwear take a beating and let's face it, we don't usually use the gentle cycle on our kids' stuff. So it's important to look for clothing which retains its color, shape, and fit after many trips through the washer and dryer.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has established guidelines for care label instructions to ensure that customers will know what method to use for best results. Good brands will have high standards for durability characteristics like colorfastness and shrinkage. They will carefully select care label information, and will test their clothing according to the care instructions on each label to ensure that when washed according to the instructions the garments hold up.

There is no requirement for the number of wash cycles but the best brands will test at least 20 cycles and the best require 25 - 50 to ensure frequently washed products such as underwear will last a reasonable length of time.

Lucky & Me uses only the highest-quality fabrics and trims and all their products are made to last. I love that my daughter's panties, camis and bike shorts can go through the wash day after day and still look as good as new and still fit perfectly. It's comforting to know that my daughter's underwear will look good and fit her comfortably as long as she doesn't grow!


By Liz Smith. Liz has worked across the globe for many of the world's best known apparel brands, including Justice, Chico's, Victoria's Secret, and Hanes. She has worked closely with dozens of factories in more than 20 countries to ensure that production is of the highest standard. Liz has managed all aspects of garment production, from design through fabric development to sewing and merchandising - so she knows what it takes to make high-quality apparel. Liz is thrilled to share her knowledge about clothes to help discerning customers choose the finest products.