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How to Shop for Clothes Online

Woman shopping online for new dress
Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

Shopping for clothing online doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Buying from home is a convenience you’ll get addicted to, but purchasing clothing that fits you and your style can be a challenge without the right tips.

Why Is Clothing Shopping Online a Challenge?

It takes skill and practice to be a successful online clothing buyer. Why is it a skill? You should know from shopping for clothing at stores that two pieces of clothing of the same size from different makers can have a whole different fit.

First off, not all materials used for making clothes are created equally. Some have more give; some less. And just because one blouse is the same size as another doesn’t mean they’ll both fit you.

It’s convenient to order clothing online, and it opens you up to many more options than what you can find locally. But how can you ensure that you get clothes that fit and look good on you?

Here’s how.

Know the Shipping Costs and Return Policy

Zappos return policy web page

Shipping costs can add up when you’re shopping online, so make sure to factor them in. Determine if there are discounts on shipping for larger orders. You may find that ordering more than a couple of pieces of clothing from the same company or seller will yield you a cheaper shipping charge than ordering only one item.

Your best bet is to find places to shop that offer free shipping. Many eBay sellers offer free shipping. Zappos has free shipping (and returns), and if you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can get free two-day shipping on many clothing items.

You should also know a seller’s return policy before you make your purchase, and that includes whether you have to pay extra shipping costs when making a return. If you get clothes that don’t fit, how much is it going to cost you to return them? Are you going to be stuck with them because it’s too costly to ship the items back?

Make sure to read through return policies carefully. Some sellers require that returned items still have the tags on them. You might need to keep them in sealed plastic if that’s how they came. And you might have a limited time during which to make returns.

Check Reviews

amazon review of blouse

With so many sellers from other countries, it’s important to know what you’re buying before you buy it. Even on eBay, there are many sellers with clothing that is being manufactured in China. These clothing items tend to run a couple of sizes too small. If you read reviews, you can get ideas as to which sizes are comparable to the size you need.

Reviews will do more than let you know which size is best; they also give you clues as to how sturdy the garment will be and whether there are other issues. Maybe someone bought those same pants, and they fell apart after the first wash. Perhaps the material on that dress is too thin.

Look at Materials

The material used to make a piece of clothing can have a lot to do with fit and comfort. Take time to understand the difference between natural and synthetic fabrics. Learn which materials are more comfortable than others, and which ones might shrink when you wash them.

Another thing that may factor in when it comes to the fabric used to make a garment is how you can wash it. Clothing that requires hand washing or can only hang dried is easy to deal with for some people, but do you want to have a monthly dry cleaning bill for items you can’t wash at home?

Read Descriptions and Size Charts

Always read clothing descriptions, whether you’re buying new or used items. You’ll find out some things about the fit, the style, and the size this way. You also need to check size charts. As mentioned earlier, there is a chance two shirts that are XL could fit completely differently when made by a different company. Since you won’t be trying these clothes on until they are delivered to your porch, you need to make sure you research sizes as much as possible.

Know Your Measurements

Close up tailor measuring tape on wooden table background

Size charts won’t help you too much if you don’t know your measurements. Grab a cloth tape measure and check your measurements that matter when it comes to proper clothing fit. Some of the measurements include:

  • Inseam
  • Bust or Chest
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Sleeve
  • Shoulders

Keep your measurements in a notebook so that you can compare them when you’re online clothing shopping.

And a Few Bonus Tips

  • Order multiple sizes: If the seller has a lenient return policy and doesn’t charge for return shipping, why not buy more than one size if you aren’t sure?
  • Be open to some differences: Computer screens can distort colors. Understand that items might not exactly match the shade you thought you were buying. Reading reviews can help with this, but not always.
  • Take sewing lessons or make friends with a tailor: If you know how to alter clothing when something doesn’t quite fit right, you’ll be ahead of the game. If you prefer fitted clothing, it’s a good idea to befriend a tailor. Then you may be able to get some bulk discounts on altering your clothing for the perfect fit.

Don’t shy away from buying clothes online because you’re afraid the clothing you buy won’t fit. Just follow these tips, and you’ll find a happy online shopping experience.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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