Tips for Shopping Online

Confession: I hate going shopping for clothes. Clammy dressing rooms, racks upon racks of clothes, overly perky sales people, mannequins...the whole thing wears me out. I am by no means a fashionista, but online shopping, I can do. Since I have grown quite adept at procuring items from the comfort of my couch, I wanted to share some tips for shopping online for clothes that have come in handy for me over the years.

Consider Proportion

This is such a massive aspect of how things fit, to which I don't think enough people pay attention. The style or item may be all the rage, but if the lines are not right for YOU, then it will not be flattering. I've fallen victim of this too many times myself. For example, I used to clamor for midi-length dresses and skirts because they mostly covered my pale legs yet were cooler than a maxi. However, that style cut my legs at an odd spot, and since I'm 5'4" and not prone to wear fabulously tall nude heels with said midi length, it made me look frumpy. And if you've got an hourglass shape, honey, work that middle with a cute belt! Don't hide under boxy layers just because tunics and skinnies work on Pinterest babes.

Dress Your Age

Tough love time, ladies. If you're shopping exclusively at online boutiques that are geared toward college-ages gals, but in real life you're a 30-something executive with a mortgage and kids, it may be time to expand your shopping game. I have no qualms myself about finding some pieces from fast fashion sites like this, such as maxi dresses to wear to the lake house, or trendy tops for running errands. But anything that I plan to hang onto for more than a season (which is most things these days), I expand my search and plan to pay a little more for something that will last and continue to wear well. I'd just look way too dumb in festival-worthy gear while loading up on laundry detergent at Target.

Size Charts are Your Friend

Grab a measuring tape -- buy one if you don't have one -- and consult the size chart. It's right there with the item, a quick view before clicking "Order," and will save you a lot of grief in returns or feeling like a buffalo because you bought your normal size and it's an epic fail. Sizing is all over the place lately ("vanity sizing," you're fooling no one), so especially if this is your first order from a site or brand, don't skip this step.

Strike a Pose

Look at the model who is wearing the clothes. (If you're perusing a site that doesn't show the clothes on a person, shop elsewhere. You're gambling.) If it looks iffy on the she-giraffe with impeccable style, it's going to be a hot mess on anyone else. Wide leg pants are this way for me. They always look just kind-of-OK on the model, which translates to potato sack race-ready for gals who don't have legs for days.

Similarly, if an item is available in multiple colors, click on the images of the other colors, even if you're not into that hue. This can sometimes help you see more detail or how the fabric lays that you would have missed if you were only looking at the initial image. I find this is true a lot with items I'm considering in white or black. Once I click on some of the color options, I realize that perhaps the material isn't as nice as hoped, or I pick up on a detail or something about the cut that I would have missed.

Undergarments and Care

Some items require a one-of-a-kind bra that you have to do some swift yoga moves to get into. Or, more daring: no bra at all. If you're a strapless-bras-are-as-high-maintenance-as-I-get kinda gal, don't order that top. Or let's say that a billowy dress you love appears to be potentially see-through, consider how airy you'll feel when you have to layer underneath a slip and full-coverage panties to avoid sharing your underbits with everyone at the grocery store. Just know what works for you, and it you can't figure out the undergarment situation to make an outfit work while it's in your cart, you'll more than likely never end up wearing it. 

Also, if the idea of taking clothes to the dry cleaners makes you cringe, check the care instructions and don't buy dry clean only. This is an obvious point, but it's an easy thing to overlook and fall in love with an item that just isn't practical.

Wardrobe Harmony

If adding a new piece necessitates buying a half dozen other new pieces before it really has some semblance of outfit-potential, or if you can't envision a whole outfit around that piece using items you own (since people tend to frown upon going out in a blouse sans bottoms), you should probably pass. Chances are, that item will end up at the back of your closet with the tag still on years later. However, if you've been eyeballing a certain piece for a while that you want to incorporate into your look, think about how you will style it in a way that doesn't feel like dress-up and will elevate your overall wardrobe. (If, for instance, this purchase would be the final push to get rid of those five other sad tops that you just don't wear but can't seem to get rid of, then go for it! Less is more, and you'll inevitably get a better cost-per-wear when you have fewer but well-loved items.)

Speaking of cost-per-wear, do the math. A fabulous strapless dress that maxes out your monthly clothing budget is something you'd wear twice a year (or maybe twice ever), so consider how you might better invest in your wardrobe. If you're due for a new pair of jeans, that money might be better spent on something you know you'll wear several times a week. Example: A $200 dress is great for the cocktail party you may attend next month, but it's $200 per wear until the other party offers come rolling in. Meanwhile, if you spent that $200 on an awesome pair of jeans, you can get those down $5 per wear after just one season (assuming they're in rotation three days a week). A splurge is not a bad thing here and there, but lock down solid staples in your closet first so that you feel great in your clothes every single day, not just a few times a year.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for shopping online for clothes?


  1. I pretty much do all my shopping online....if there isn't free shipping both directions I pass.

    1. I am usually the same way. Or, I'll wait for a free shipping offer if a certain retailer doesn't normally offer it. Hard to beat that.