Dr Ela Manoj Dedhia 

Associate Professor, College of Home Science Nirmala Niketan, Affiliated to University of Mumbai, 49 New Marine Lines Mumbai 400020 elamanojdedhia@yahoo.com

Apparel quality has two dimensions: Physical aspects or what the garment is; and Performance aspects or what the garment does. The physical aspects of a garment determine its performance. Therefore, consumers purchase garments with specific physical aspects that they believe will fulfill their performance expectations.

Physical aspects
Garment physical aspects provide a tangible form and composition. Physical aspects include the garment’s design, materials, construction and finish. Design provides the plan for the garment style. For example, is the shirt loose or fitted. Materials include the fabric and other components that are used to produce the garment. For instance, is the shirt made of cotton or blended fabric. Construction refers to the methods used to assemble the garment. For example, which type of stitches is mostly used. Finishes involve any garment wet processing, for instance, does the shirt have a wrinkle free or a durable press finish. Garment physical aspects are intrinsic attributes; they cannot be altered without changing the product itself.

Performance aspects
A garment performance aspects determine the standards it meets and how the consumer benefits through it. Performance aspects include the garment aesthetic and functional performance. Aesthetic performance refers to attractiveness. Do the design, material, and construction of the garment fulfill the appearance expectations? Do the elements of the garment reflect good design principles? Does the garment posses classic or current fashion trends desired by consumers? And does its appearance fulfill the wearer’s emotional needs, such as wanting to impress or be accepted by others? These questions are important to ask while evaluating ready to wear garments because design impacts the visual appeal of clothing and therefore consumer’s acceptance of it.
Functional performance includes performance aspects other than appearance, namely the garments utility and durability. Utility refers to the usefulness. For example, does the shirt fit? Does it function properly for intended use? Durability or serviceability refers to how well the garment retains its structure and appearance after wear and care. Does it resist shrinkage? Does the seam remain intact? Aesthetic and functional performance occasionally overlaps. For example, fit may be an aesthetic feature (i.e attractive fit versus unattractive fit) or it might also be a functional feature (i.e comfortable fit versus uncomfortable fit) (Brown, 1998).

Fabric: a quality indicator
According to Das, 2008, the demand on the properties, appearance and durability of the materials and component in the apparel sector has increased significantly to meet the changing requirements of the consumers. A common concern in apparel performance characterization is dimensional stability, colorfastness, durability, pilling and fabric composition.
Fabric is the textile material from which apparel manufacturers produces ready-to-wear garments. The performance of the fabric does not necessarily predict the performance of the finished garment, but the two are strongly related. The right fabric is required for the garment to meet aesthetic and functional performance expectations. Manufacturers establish the required aesthetic and functional performance standards for fabric based on many factors. These factors include the design of the garment, fashion trends, consumer preferences, cost limitations, and the target market profile chosen by the company.

• Aesthetic performance of fabric
The aesthetic performance or attractiveness of fabric refers to the appearance of the fabric as it complements the appearance of the garment. However, fabric must be considered in concert with the design. Material and construction interact to produce the total aesthetic effect of the garment. Fabric aesthetics include color, pattern, color consistency, luster, opacity, and hand. All these elements of the aesthetic performance of the raw material are difficult to describe because of their subjective nature; they do not lend themselves to objective measurement.

Color and Pattern
Color is perhaps the single most important feature in initially attracting consumer to garments. However, the ‘beauty’ or ‘goodness’ of the color or pattern is subjective as there are no laboratory tests for evaluating the ‘quality’ of colors or choosing the ‘best’ design for the patterned fabric. The aesthetic evaluation of color and pattern depends on fashion trends, personal preferences, and an awareness of design elements and principles.

Hand is a broad term for the kinesthetic or movement aspects of a fabric. Hand refers not to the comfort but to the emotional sensations resulting from touching, moving, or squeezing the fabric with the human hand. Hand encompasses the following aspects of the fabric; (1) Drape ability/flexibility, (2) Compressibility, (3) Extensibility, (4) Resilience, (5) Density, (6) Texture, (7) Thermal character.

Functional performance of fabric
The functional performance of a fabric refers to its utility and durability as its component of the garment. Utility includes the influence of the fabric on these garment characteristics (1) shape retention, (2) appearance retention, (3) comfort, (4) ease of care, and (5) safety. Durability refers to the serviceability of the fabric regarding these characteristics of the garment; (1) strength, (2) abrasion resistance, and (3) resistance to degradation by chemicals and other elements of the environment. As for aesthetic performance, the functional performance of the garment is not determined fully by the fabric. The design, materials, construction, and the finish of a garment interact to determine utility and durability.

Dimensional Stability
One of the most important performance characteristics of the garment is dimensional stability, the ability of the garments to maintain their original shape and size. Dimensional stability affects the function of the garment in terms of appearance retention and fit. It also affects comfort, elongation and shrinkage.

Colorfastness is the ability of the fabric to retain its color. Colorfastness refers to color retention in reaction to laundering (bleach, water, detergent, heat), light, dry-cleaning solvents, sea and pool water, perspiration and other chemicals. Colorfastness is the relative term; no garment is completely colorfast. Lack of color may be expressed in a variety of ways such as (1) fading, (2) frosting, (3) crocking, (4) bleeding and (5) yellowing.

Pill Resistance
Snagging and pilling detract from a garments appearance and its usefulness. Snags are pulls in fabrics made when the yarns catch on the sharp object. Pills are fuzz balls, or balls of tangled fibers that form on the surface and are held there by one or more fibers. Pills may form all over a garment, but are likely to be most noticeable where garment receives abrasion for example, in the underarm area, inside collars, and on sleeves and cuffs.

Ease of Care
For many consumers, ease of care of a fabric is an important utility feature because of its effect on the care of the garment. All the fabrics used in the garment should have same launder ability or dry-cleanibility so the finished garment retains its appearance and ability to function after refurbishing. Ease of care also refers to the garments tendency to resists soiling and wrinkling.

Abrasion Resistance/ durability
Abrasion resistance refers to the amount of rubbing action a fabric can withstand without being destroyed. One type of abrasion is caused by laundering or refurbishing process. This produces an overall loss of fibers, as seen when emptying the lint filters on washing machines, thus slightly weakening the garment during every refurbishing cycle. More severe abrasion in refurbishing occurs on many folded edge of the garment, including hems, cuffs, collars, and many squared or pointed edge. This is why holes often form first at these locations. The second type of abrasion happens in the normal wearing process. Each time the cloth is rubbed against a hard surface, a small loss of fiber occurs in this limited area of garment. Fabric must withstand degradation from the environment. To be considered durable, a garment is made of fabric with the following characteristic: (1) chemical resistance, (2) launder ability, (3) dry-cleanibility, (4) insect resistance, (5) mild dew resistance, (6) sunlight resistance (Brown, 1998).
Fabric assessment is the method by which the fabric is tested for its properties and qualities. Knowledge of fabric properties and their behavior in the processes of transforming into article of clothing is valuable information for garment manufacturers, which was unavailable till now. Recently techniques have been developed to measure the mechanical properties of fabric and use these measures quantitatively to predict performance in both garment manufacture and appearance of garments. Ten shirting fabrics were tested using an objective measurement of fabric mechanical properties. It was found out that all fabric samples except one were expected to pose problems in garment manufacturing as the formability value of all nine fabrics were less than the limit (Sudhakar, Gowda and Kannam,2007).

In the readymade market, many companies are producing their products and for a common man it becomes very difficult to choose any particular brand out of available lots under identical conditions. It is quite natural that different garments may have different behavior in terms of properties under name of different companies. Apart from functional criteria’s , fabric type plays an important role in a readymade garments formation as discussed in research done by Tarafder et al in 2007 on ‘Comparative study on physical testing of readymade shirts for quality standards’. For their study, 15 readymade shirts had been considered for investigation. All the shirts were type of polyester /cotton (80×20). Ten were of branded quality, 4 were non-branded and one tailor-made. The results of the study indicated that there was a wide variations observed in fabric specifications for a common variety of shirting fabric, like thread density, linear density, area density and crimp %. Average fabric crease recovery was observed to be fairly good but between items variation was too high. High pill resistance was shown by all the fabrics. Hydral shrinkage (%) for most of the items was quite satisfactory (Tarafder, Banerjee, et al, 2007).
It is extremely important to study consumer preferences as there is severe competition among shirt industry to capture the market share because of number of players ranging from brands to huge unbranded segment. The manufacturers and retailers of shirts need to meet the rising expectations of the consumers. It was imperative to understand consumer preferences related to each characteristic under intrinsic (quality) and extrinsic (appearance) cues for selection of a shirt due to dynamic changes in men’s clothing in terms of color, design, style and so on. The study indicates that quality and appearance cues are critical elements in consumer’s preferences for shirts. It is clearly evident that irrespective of the segment of shirts i.e casual, formal or occasional, consumers based their preferences both on quality and appearance cues. Other noticeable fact emerged was that similar preference pattern was noticed in both branded and unbranded categories of shirts. Also noticeable was that durability under quality cue and size and fit under appearance cues were considered as most significant dimensions by consumers as preference in all segments of shirts. Therefore, consumer’s preferences reports would be of immense value to the clothing industry (Dedhia E & Gupta M, 2009).

• Brown Rice, J. (1998). Ready to Wear Apparel Analysis. 2nd ed, New Jersey: Prentice     Hall, 162-170,193-195.
• Das, S. (2008). Apparels for exports: Importance of quality characterization. Indian  Textile Journal, 45.
• Dedhia E & Gupta M, (Sep – Oct 2009), Consumer preferences based on quality and  appearance cues, Journal of Textile Association, Volume 70, No. 3
• Sudhakar, J.P., Gowda, N and Kannan, S. (2007). Assessing properties of shirting fabrics  by using FAST’, The Indian Textile Journal, Iss. Oct, 146.
• Tarafdar, N., Karmakar, R., Mondal, M. (2007). The effect of stitch density on seam  performance of garments stitched from plain and twill fabrics. Man Made Textiles in India, Vol. L, No.8, 298, 301.