It’s getting harder and harder to find quality wardrobe items. A high price point does not guarantee high quality, and a low price point is even more of a gamble. Most fashion retailers offer inconsistent quality at best. Brands that give us consistently high quality are few and far between, so when you find them it’s like discovering hidden treasure. That’s the consistent new normal.

Take these two items from Banana Republic bought within the last year. The first is a pair of cropped orange pants that I absolutely adore, but the quality is disappointing. They are perfect for the first few hours of the day, but stretch out dramatically thereafter. The fronts have pilled too. Granted, I washed and wore these pants very frequently, which might be why they’re wearing out. But that shouldn’t happen within the same season of purchase.

Next is my best ever purchase from Banana Republic earlier this Spring. I LOVE this dress. It’s a lined navy cotton lace midi dress that puts designer wear to shame. It’s beautifully made, fits like a dream, and swooshes with the best of them. It doesn’t crease when you wear or pack it. It comes straight out of the suitcase looking like a million bucks. It holds its shape and does not stretch out during the day. It’s 100% cotton lace and very breathable. It’s machine washable, AND air-dries perfectly on a hanger as if it’s just been pressed by the cleaners. It’s a truly remarkable frock.

I can’t boycott retailers after they’ve given me an inferior garment, because the next purchase might be a gem. If I’d decided to never purchase from Banana Republic again, I’d have missed out on the fabulous navy lace dress.

It’s all highly annoying. We try to make discerning decisions about quality before we purchase an item, but we only know how they really perform after the wear-and-wash road test. It seems that consistently inconsistent quality has become a part of modern retail and fashion.