Shopping online comes with a lot of perks – you can do it any time of day, you can search for exactly what you want, and you can try things on in the comfort of your own home (without fluorescent lights!). But online shopping also presents its own unique challenges, problems that I have been on all sides of.
As a costume designer and stylist I have spent years shopping for and dressing women on and off screen, and as the owner of the online boutique Bead & Reel I now help women shop from behind the (computer) screen. And while online shopping – just like women – is not and should not be one size fits all, through my years of experience I have developed some tricks to minimizing the chances of disappointment.
EMBRACE YOUR SIZE
When it comes to a person, it is on the inside what counts - but this isn’t usually true for clothing. How something looks on the outside is definitely more important than any label inside, so when shopping your goal should be to find things that make you look and feel your best, not find things that have the size tag you wish you wore. Many women are resistant to buying sizes above their idealized vision of themselves, but that little label truly doesn’t have anything to do with your beauty or worth, so ordering the size that fits you best instead of the size you want to be will help reduce frustrations and returns. The world would be so boring if everyone were actually a size small!
ASK FOR FIT ADVICE
Most online shops will supply size charts, but sometimes they are vague or don’t take into account fit variations from style to style. Don’t be shy to call or write and ask advice on size recommendations to fit with your needs and wants. Let their experts help guide you based on their knowledge of their products – that’s what customer service is for!
Different computer monitors, photo filters, styling tricks, and pre-production samples may cause slight variations from what you see in a photo and what you actually get, especially when you shop handmade or hand dyed pieces. If you are absolutely set on a very specific hue or fit or tie-dye pattern, don’t be afraid to contact the shop and ask how you can maximize your chances of getting exactly what you are looking for. Online shops don’t like returns any more than you like returning something, so communicating your expectations helps keep everyone happy.
SIGN UP FOR DISCOUNTS AND SALES
Many stores offer a first time shopper discount, but beyond that, signing up for newsletters may give you access to sales, free shipping, and other perks you won’t want to miss out on. And when you’re ready to shop, feel free to ask when their next deal will be – there might be one coming up you can wait for, or they might even be willing to let you get in on it early.
TRY A SIZE UP
Whether that perfect top you just found is sold out of your size or you’re very petite and can never find the elusive XXS, don’t be afraid to try a size up. Loose or oversized cuts are very en vogue right, and you might just decide you love how something looks when the fit is a bit more casual. And if not, see the next tip below.
TAILORING IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
There are very few styles that fit perfectly right off the rack, but that doesn’t mean they are a lost cause. If you love everything about something except for a small fit issue there are some simple adjustments that won’t cost a lot. Taking in a waistband, bringing up a hem, or making an item more fitted are all easy fixes for your local tailor or seamstress – plus this will create a piece that is uniquely yours.
GET AN EXPERT
You don’t have to do it alone - some shops offer styling services! Sites like Bead & Reel, Stitch Fix, and Tog + Porter offer personalized styling services with items delivered right to your door to take the guesswork out of what to buy.
Happy online shopping!