March 29, 2019

The Top 3 Secrets to Buying Apparel

By In City Prints
The Top 3 Secrets to Buying Apparel

One trip to the back of your closet and you may find at least one dreadful example of an apparel purchase gone wrong. If it's your job to buy for your company or organization, these tips will help to avoid the stress of making the wrong choice. You want to give a very personal gift of value to be worn and enjoyed for years to come. When your customers, prospective clients or employees get to the back of their closet, you don't want your company's shirt hanging as a misfit, never to be worn.

Why should you buy apparel? Giving apparel to promote your business is by far the #1 direct marketing product category with annual sales estimated at $5.6 billion. Nearly 30% of all promotional purchases are apparel. Fashion, form and function along with your brand image are a magical combination. Before you put your final plans into action, let's clear away the confusion and make your decision easier. There are 3 areas to consider: fabric function, gender style and quality. By focusing on these 3 areas, you can make a better selection for what works best for your project and budget. Next, I'll tell you some common goofs to avoid when buying apparel. Finally, you will see answers to some frequently-asked client questions.


1. Performance Apparel and Performance Brands are current apparel buzz words.

What is your garment going to be doing? How will it be used? Begin with the end in mind. Corporate buyers and non-profit groups are now looking for form and function as a key consideration.

100% Cotton is sharing the spotlight with many synthetic fabrics, such as performance apparel. Performance apparel has many attributes: anti-wrinkle, anti-fade, anti-pill, anti-shrink, anti-stretch, antimicrobial and moisture-wicking, to name a few. This apparel can stand hard use and constant washing demands of activities like those of restaurant servers and construction workers. Many athletic and golf apparel lines use antimicrobial fabrics to reduce bacteria growth caused by perspiration.

Keep in mind that waterproof, water-resistant and water-repellant do not mean the same thing. Waterproof garments are seam-sealed, able to withstand a specific amount of water pressure and keep the wearer dry. Water-resistant apparel is chemically treated to resist water. To be considered water-repellant, a fabric must resist penetration by passing tests before and after washing and dry cleaning. You may be hearing about a very popular performance fabric called moisture wicking. This apparel is made from synthetic materials designed to draw moisture away from the body.

Be on the look out for different names for the same performance features. Apparel makers have branded their performance products. Here are just 4 examples:

ClimaCool - Adidas technology that keeps air flowing around the garment to help regulate body temperature.

Cool FX - Izod technology that disperses moisture across the garment.

Dri-Fit: Nike water-wicking system to keep the wearer dry

StretchFlex: Bella-Alo's stretch fabric.

2. Men's and Women's styles and sizes are very different. Many brands offer companion styles to dress both men and women.

Men's shirts are shaped straight through the torso with the shoulders slightly sloping down from the collar and the sleeve sloping down at an angle. Basic fit considerations involve the neck, shoulder and sleeves. Men's sleeve lengths are offered short or long sleeves down to the wrist. Men's short sleeve shirts are worn longer on the arm, in some styles down to the elbow. Oversize shirts have the same cut yet larger in overall dimensions.

Women's shirts are tailored to better fit a women's natural shape and to give more comfort. Tailoring at the waist makes the shirt lighter and more comfortable without extra loose fabric bunching at the waist. Sleeves are typically shorter and fit closer to the shoulder. Some women's shirts are available in a length sleeve, which is flattering for women because it displays the slimmest part of the arm while covering the upper arm. Fitted at the waist, many women's shirts will feature a slight flaring at the hips.

Another key distinction in women's apparel is flaring to allow for the difference in chest sizes. Flaring flatters a woman's features, allowing for better movement and comfort without bunching of excess material. Along with the tailored contour, women's styles are cut shorter than men's shirts. Another notable difference is that women's shirt buttons are found on the left side of the placket, while men's shirt buttons are on the right.

When choosing your location for decorating apparel, be mindful of where on the body the design will be displayed. Many experienced buyers try to stay away from chest logos when dressing women.

3. Apparel quality is distinguished by 3 factors: fabric type, construction and dimensional stability.

Why do better quality garments last longer? On reason is dimensional stability; the garment will resist the tendency to shrink or distort after washing. Quality apparel will maintain its intended shape to wear well over and over again.

Look inside the garment for quality. You will see double-needle hems on better garments, two rows of stitching sewn parallel to each other. Look at the shirt's neck and shoulders and you'll find an inch of fabric sewn over the inside seams. Taped neck seams, taped shoulder seams and double needle hems secure the seams, help the garment maintain its shape and give a more finished appearance.

Apparel weight (light, medium or heavy weight) is not the best indicator of a garment's quality. Lightweight is about 4 oz. per square yard of fabric; medium weight is about 5 oz. and heavyweight is about 6 oz. Weight will also vary among fabrics. For example, the often-seen white t-shirt of many famous brands is available in both a 5 oz. and a 6 oz. weight. While the lighter garment is more economical, a white tee shirt is somewhat transparent and revealing. On the other hand, the ultra popular Under Armour brand features t-shirt styles that are super thin and use very light weight performance fabrics.

When choosing apparel, look for "no curl" collars on your golf shirt; choose "anti pill" fleece on your hooded pullover. If you choose a performance fabric, make sure your decorating technique will not compromise the garments performance properties.


1. Champagne tastes on a beer budget

Don't expect too much. If you buy the lowest cost garment, don't expect it to endure heavy wear and frequent washings.

2. Unisex dressing for men and women

If you want the garb to be worn, enjoyed and seen rather than stuffed into the back of a drawer, take extra care to consider the size and style for your purchase. Take a careful look at the cut, tailoring and sizes for both men and women. Not all tee shirts are cut the same; you will see notable differences among various major brands. You may need styles to include sizes up to 5XL and longer sleeve lengths for those who are tall.

3. Equating fabric weight with quality

Take advantage of our expertise. Ask for a sample to compare fabrics. Look inside for construction and fabrication. Popular t-shirt and sweatshirt brands offer a variety of weight and fabric blends.

4. Wanting to be new and different

Keep the wearer and your program theme top of mind. Let the garment be practical, made well, designed to fit the wearer and appropriate for the season or use. Look for decoration options to make the common garment new and unique. Consider packaging, presentation and distribution to make your program extraordinary and more memorable.


1. What decoration technique will work best for my garment?

First, determine whether the apparel is being used as an incentive or a promotion.


    • An apparel promotion focuses on the logo decoration on the product. An apparel promotion is marketing a product or service. It may be used as a client gift or a tradeshow uniform.

  • An incentive focuses on the garment brand; it is a gift or reward for some achievement.


Clients choose status brands for incentive programs because the perceived value is high and encourages positive action. It is the garment, more than the logo, which is attracting attention.

Decoration techniques include embroidery, applique, screen printing, digital printing, laser etching or multimedia (rhinestone, nail heads, or crystal transfer). The type of garment and the fabric will usually dictate how it is best decorated. For example, very thin performance apparel cannot be sewn so screen printing with special inks must be used.

Embroidery is recommended for incentive programs and branded apparel. The recent trend is to use color-on-color, tonal threads and a more discrete placement of the logo. This subtle embellishment creates a high perceived value. Use monogramming to personalize an executive gift.

2. Should I buy branded or non-branded apparel?

If stretching your budget is the primary consideration, save money with non-branded apparel. Private label mill brands are typically cost less, have open distribution, are designed to be decorated and are produced to accommodate your buying habits.

Branded apparel typically costs more because of the brand equity, and distribution is sometimes restricted. There may also be volume requirements to purchase and several brands have logo limitations. We suggest that, whenever you promote your brand or company, align your brand with brands that echo your quality commitment.

3. What do you need to know about eco-friendly apparel?

This newer product category is in high demand. Just like at the supermarket, expect higher price points for apparel labeled organic and natural. Many brands and private label mills are offering eco-conscious styles. Buying eco-friendly apparel promotes your business as being environmentally responsible.

Eco friendly apparel should be sustainable. Sustainable apparel is characterized by:

The use of certified organic natural fibers (wool, cotton, linen)

The use of highly renewable fibers (bamboo, soy)

The use of low-impact synthetic or recycled fibers

The use of non-toxic or reduced-toxicity fiber processes and treatments

The se of low-impact or natural dyes

Design and color choices aimed at longevity rather than planned obsolescence

Fair trade, ethical labor practices, and elimination of child labor and other exploitation

Reduced energy use throughout the product life cycle

Minimal or environmentally appropriate packaging

Eco-friendly natural fabrics: Organic cotton, bamboo, Tencel, cocona, recycled polyester. Many sustainable apparel products and fibers are performance enhanced with moisture wicking and antimicrobial properties.

Eco-friendly decoration: Trends using organic cotton thread, more water-based screen-printing and digital-print dyes. Know how natural fabrics react to different embellishment options.

At the end of the day, one of the best reasons to have a trusted adviser is to recommend the best quality and performance styles within your budget.



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