What’s better than shopping for clothes? That’s right, buying clothes online. You don’t have to leave the couch, and nobody cares if you’re not wearing pants.
Especially in the modern, pandemic-ridden world, online shopping is one of the easiest and safest shopping options. Not to mention, you can find absolutely anything online. However, it’s all fun and games until your package hits the doorstep and things get real.
You’ve been waiting, watching out the window for a week. Then the doorbell finally rings. You run to the door, tear the box open, and throw everything on at once.
Okay—maybe I’m exaggerating, but let’s be honest, some of us just hide the giddiness better than others.
Regardless, online shopping is a risky game. All too often that you’ll end up sending half of your order back because it doesn’t fit right. Or worse, it looks nothing like what you ordered.
To help you avoid that dreaded trip to the post office and another week of waiting for a refund, I’m going to give you seven of the most useful tips for buying clothes online. Although not all online retailers leave you with a parachute rather than a suit coat, follow these handy practices to ensure that the risk will always be worth it in the end.
1. Dive Deep Into The Reviews
One of the most tell-tale signs of anything that you find on the internet is the buyer reviews. Usually, if they’re authentic, other users quickly let both the company and other customers know precisely what’s wrong with the product. Be that as it may, it’s a smart move to not place all of your trust in any particular review. However, if the general like-mindedness is that the jacket fits two sizes smaller than its description, it’s safe to size up, or even avoid that product altogether depending on your preferences.
There are generally plenty of reviews that blatantly throw out an item’s worst qualities, especially when they’re highly negative attributes. Luckily, previous buyers usually describe why they like the product as well. So, in most cases, the review section should be riddled with a sufficient amount of information that will warn you if you really shouldn’t buy that item. If possible, check out any photos that have been posted in the review section; they’re typically a great way to gauge a product’s genuine appearance from a real-life perspective. Also, keep a sharp eye out for a product with zero reviews or no option to even leave a review. This, in itself, indicates a red flag.
2. Double Check The Size Guide
Have you ever wondered why you wear a size 30 waist at one store and a 34 at another? No, your mind isn’t playing tricks on you. No one size guide is the same as another—most stores have their own to abide by. Even if your size is generally the same across the board, one of the most beneficial ways to ensure you buy correctly with any retailer is to use your actual body measurements to compare.
Nearly all online stores provide a size guide; it usually has its own little button next to the “Add to Cart” option and should never be overlooked. Believe it or not, taking your own measurements and comparing them with the chart provided will give you the most accurate fit when ordering clothes online. If the company doesn’t provide a detailed size guide but instead provides a generic cartoon-figurine that gives you little-to-no information, save yourself the trouble and click away.
3. Measure Your Best-Fitting Clothes
We all have that one shirt that just fits perfectly—not too short, not too long, and the neckline lands in precisely the ideal location. If you’re on the hunt for clothes that embody similar characteristics to your favorite wardrobe pieces, measure your already-owned clothes. This might seem weird and maybe even unnecessary if you’ve already measured your body, but trust me.
Ladies, this step is especially useful in the dress department. Sometimes body measurements don’t tell you how long a dress will be nor how wide the hip area is on a knit shift dress. That said, if you take measurements of your clothes that already work, you won’t need to fret over showing too much knee—or ankle, if that’s how you like it. Men, measure your longest and shortest tees to get a better idea of any shirts you’re about to buy online.
4. Know The Return Policy
A company’s return policy is of the utmost importance when you’re buying things that you’ve never tried on. All retailers have a different return window and some are much shorter than others, so it’s necessary to be up-to-date before investing your hard-earned cash on that new suede jacket. Even if you’re certain the clothes will fit, you may actually hate how they look on. And before you know it, it’s been 31 days, and you didn’t have time to stop by the post office to ship it back before the window closed.
There are a few things to look out for when glancing over that policy that doesn’t seem to make sense. Some companies don’t even accept returns, which is a major bummer. Others have the audacity to charge for them. Ensure that you note the return window and exactly how they’re willing to refund your money; store credit isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea. Not to mention, read up on the process. If you’re not willing to call their overseas office at 2 o’clock in the morning, make sure they let you initiate the return online.
5. Research Materials
Clothing materials is where the online shopping industry truly becomes interesting. Plenty of unreliable retailers will claim their sweaters are 100 percent pure cashmere. But, if they’re charging a measly ten bucks for one, you can bet your bottom dollar that sweater is probably entirely synthetic. Keep away from any open flames. Do your research. Read up on what others are saying about the authenticity of a retailer’s materials; you can learn a lot from people who actually made the mistake of purchasing from those specific companies.
The feel of a material is equally as crucial as the look and fit. And, while you can’t obviously feel clothing by merely looking at a photo, you could end up with a shirt that wrinkles easily or makes you feel like you have poison oak. That said, it’s vital to acknowledge the materials used in manufacturing. To get a clearer idea of what an online product will feel like, go through your own closet and make note of any clothes that are soft, comfortable, heavy, stiff, or itchy. Write down what they’re made of and compare the materials to the fabric contents of online items.
6. Check Secondhand Sellers
Before splurging on a $100 pair of Levi’s, check out various selling apps like Poshmark and Mercari. Even Facebook Marketplace has plenty of clothing options. If you can find the same item being sold for around the same price, it may be better to just buy new. However, you can often find secondhand clothes that are still new with tags for less than half the original retail price. Even if the item is used, most people only sell clothes that are still in decent condition. It’s always worth a glance—especially if the clothing you’re hunting for is out of your current price range.
7. Let It Sit In Your Cart
The cart is a magical page. Rather than being forced to impulse buy everything in your cart before the store closes, you can simply leave items in your imaginary cart for as long as you need, which allows time to stew on them before purchasing. Some sites enable you to leave items in your cart for up to two months before expiring them. Online shopping can excite us to the point of almost splurging on something that we might regret later. Let your items hang out in your cart, and if you’re still dying to order them in the next few days, go for it. If you just aren’t sold on something quite yet, there’s no rush. (Unless it’s on clearance or the retailer only has a limited stock).
Not to mention, when you aren’t exactly itching to cash out on that expensive pair of boots, leave them in the cart for a bit and see if they go on sale. If you’re shopping around the holidays, it is particularly beneficial to wait it out until things settle down—retailers tend to have major deals immediately following all of the hustle and bustle.
While it’s super convenient and nothing short of exciting, online shopping can quickly turn into a disaster if you’re not careful. When buying clothes online, take your time. Ensure that you’re purchasing the closest size to your measurements and look into its materials. It’s always much easier to order right the first time and avoid that bothersome voice in the back of your head that’s destined to ruin your nice lunch date by reminding you to finally stop at the post office. By keeping these few tips in mind, you’ll become a pro at buying clothes online in no time.