Last updated on March 6th, 2019
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*UPDATED on 2/13/2019
Online clothes shopping — do you totally love it or do you avoid it at all costs?
I have been in both camps at various points in my clothes-wearing life. There was a time when I refused to order any clothing item online for fear of crushing disappointment. The thought of trying to return my selections brought on more anxiety than thoughts of the dentist.
Alternatively, I wandered through a phase when I wouldn’t ever be caught in an actual store, handing over actual money. I’d just order up a storm, clear (and by that I mean pay off) that “virtual number” on my credit card statement at the end of the month, and hope for the best with my hauls.
Obviously, there are pros and cons for each of these shopping strategies. Yet the idea of sitting on my couch in my PJs and having any item I want basically shipped straight to my outstretched hands was enough to make me “risk it for the biscuit,” perhaps a little too often.
Will I ever swear off of online clothes shopping? Absolutely not! And so I had to figure out the best techniques so that I can enjoy the convenience, while minimizing the risk of disappointment.
This is how I buy clothes online, while staying completely sane! Let’s get started.
Know EXACTLY what you are looking for
I think you already know this, but the internet is a big place. While window shopping through your entire local mall may be possible in one afternoon, sifting through everything online is simply outrageous!
Make a list of specific items you are looking for. Be as detailed as possible. Think about colors, fabrics, silhouettes, price points, and any unique details. This way, you can hop from website to website plugging in keywords for what you want, and moving on quickly if they don’t got it.
Don’t worry, you can always “window shop” for you don’t know what while you’re standing in line at the DMV.
Take note of your body measurements
Sizing is a huge bummer, especially when it comes to US sizes. (Seriously, they should really standardize that stuff.) However, nearly all stores have sizing charts with bust, waist, and hip measurements that correspond to each size. Even if it isn’t jumping out at you, it is probably there, so use it.
Use a soft measuring tape to measure around your bust, waist, and hips. Write down the measurements somewhere where you can easily reference them while you are online clothes shopping. No guessing here!
Consider how you like your clothes to fit
Now, just because your measurements correspond to a certain size on the chart, that doesn’t mean that is the be all, end all of sizing. Most of the time, one or two sizes up or down will work, it just depends on how you want your clothes to fit. Some of us enjoy snugger fits, while others like the looser feel. It’s completely up to you, and it’s something to consider. Yet another reason to not get hung up on the number on the label.
Research whether a brand runs small, large, or true to size
Thanks to the lack of sizing standards, a size 6 in one brand can be equivalent to a size 0 in another brand. True story.
Do a quick Google search for each brand you plan to purchase from. While I haven’t discovered one source that measures every brand, there are tons of resources out there that can help you get an idea of where your desired brand falls on the sizing spectrum.
Read customer reviews
Most of the time, customer reviews are the most honest product information you will ever find– trust them. When you come across a dishonest review, be it positive or negative, you will smell coming it a mile away. Trust your instincts and you’ll easily know which reviews to disregard.
Comments from real customers are very helpful for knowing if the garment fits smaller or larger than usual, taken with a grain of salt, of course.
They also warn you in advance if there happen to be any overall quality issues. I’ve been swayed away from purchasing garments on numerous occasions because multiple reviews complained of fading, loose stitching, super thin fabric, boot soles cracking in half (like, seriously?), etc. I’ve never regretted not buying a questionable because I have always found something I like even better!
Don’t rely on model photos to determine fit
The photos of models making the clothes look oh so good exist solely to get you to whip out your credit card. They are not there to help you see what the clothes will look like in real life.
We’ve all seen those videos showing how food photographers use all sorts of nasty (literally) tricks to make their food subjects appear scrumptious. Clothing photography is the same thing. Behind that model is a boatload of fabric clips, temporary stitches, outright wrong sizing, and Photoshop.
I look at the model to get outfit inspiration, and nothing else.
NEVER pay for shipping
Well, maybe not never, but I do highly advise against it. I manage to get free shipping on pretty much everything I order. If I am unable to get free shipping from a certain merchant, I’ll probably order from somewhere else.
Most online clothing stores offer free shipping when you reach a certain threshold, often between $50 to $100. Take advantage of it. Because hey, if you are going to place an online order, you might as well make it worth it.
Even if I have to wait for a promotion to come along (and it always does), I do that. I’m not in a hurry.
Order from retailers that have physical stores in your area
This may or may not be feasible depending on where you live, but it is something to think about. I live in Honolulu, Hawaii, which is a decently sized metro area with reasonable shopping choices. However, what’s here is what’s here. There is no such thing as driving over to the next town for a day trip, if you know what I mean.
I mainly only order from merchants that have a store I can physically walk into, and return items to, if necessary. Check the return policy to make sure, but most places accept online order returns in-store. This eliminates the frustration of repacking items, dropping them off at USPS, (0r UPS, or FedEx, since you’re at the mercy of the merchant,) getting charged for return shipping and a “restocking fee.” Seriously, what is this scam?
You get the convenience and selection of online clothes shopping, but with NBD returns!
Shop in-store once, & then shop online forever
Shopping in the mall can be fun… sometimes. When I am feeling particularly brave and equipped to fend off those pesky salespeople, I’ll go into my favorite stores and try things on for size. Maybe I’ll buy something, maybe I won’t. Either way I leave the store with something much more valuable than a new piece of clothing.
Try on a selection of different items and have fun with it. Try on that crazy skirt that you’d never dream of actually buying! You’ll see what colors and silhouettes look best on you, and you’ll know how the clothes fit overall so you know which size you ought to order.
Keep a running list of retailers that work for you
After all this research, you’ll be left with a pretty comprehensive list for which brands work for your body (and lifestyle) and which don’t.
Don’t let this information slip away from you!
Add a note to your phone, write it down in your planner, whatever you have to do. For extra credit, make note of why you like a particular store. It could be that the sizing works well, the cuts fit your body, returns are easy, the clothes are great quality for the price, among other things.
Whatever it is you like, remember it for next time. Because there will be a next time for online clothes shopping, right?
That’s all for today!
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If you find this post interesting, informative, or just plain entertaining, tell me about it in the comments below! And don’t forget, sharing is caring. Share this post!
Till next time. ♥︎
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FTC- Not sponsored by any brands mentioned. I purchase all products myself. All opinions are my own. Some links may be affiliated.