Online shopping is probably the greatest thing since the Internet was conceived. No more hopping from store to store to find that perfect piece, no more endless lines for the dressing room and then the cashier—it’s a modern fashionista’s dream! Yet inevitably, there’s the occasional nightmare. We’ve all been there: standing in front of the mirror wearing a dress that looked so flattering on the model and so enticing in the store’s Instagram post, only to find that we’re neither flattered nor enticed by how we look in it.
To help you keep living the dream, here are five common mistakes that run the gamut from inconsistent sizing systems to navigating the smoke and mirrors around product descriptions and store policies (and how to avoid them)!
5 Common Fashion Shopping Mistakes Online
Not Verifying Your Measurements
Clothing sizes are not the same across all stores—vanity sizing? US sizes versus UK sizes? Sizes that still tend to run large or small? That’s because of the beautiful fact that body shapes and sizes are not the same across all humans!
However, that poses a wee bit of inconvenience if you’ve never bothered to know your clothing sizes beyond small or size 8. Small at a women’s boutique puts you in the bracket of clothing meant for petite girls, but small at a unisex sports store might give you something closer to a shirtdress.
So what’s a girl to do? Read the size chart very carefully, and ACTUALLY. TAKE. YOUR. MEASUREMENTS. Grab a tape measure and a friend, and take all the measurements specified in the size chart: shoulder width, arm circumference, waist line, length, all of them! Make sure to measure yourself in underwear and with no shoes on, and factor in an extra inch or two on the size chart for wiggle room. Keep a record of your measurements stowed away for the next time you need to buy clothes online!
Not Reading the Product Description
If you’re going to put your faith in buying things you can’t see, pay as much attention to every bit of information the retailer can give you as you would the fine print in a contract. Read the product description. Verify the material it’s made out of. View product photos from every angle (this is especially important for shoes!).
Just as you don’t buy clothes in stores straight off the rack, don’t buy anything that doesn’t show you how it looks on a model. Be immune to beautiful flat lays! Don’t settle for less than pictures of how naturally the clothing falls on an actual person instead of a mannequin. Plus points if the seller has videos so you can see how the fabric flows with movement.
Small disclaimer: Take even photos of clothes on a model with a grain of salt. Once again, consider that no two body shapes will be exactly the same, and no clothes will fit on two different people the same way either.
Not Canvassing Across Different Retailers
As tempting as one seller’s price can be, make it a habit to still compare your options with at least two or three more stores. Another online store might be able to give you a better deal, especially with regard to shipping costs.
Don’t neglect checking out the selections at physical stores near you too! A local shop might be able to give you the same (or almost the same) product, and save you shipping fees altogether.
Canvass public opinion on the online seller themselves. Do they send the right product on the right date? Has anyone experienced any negative interactions or received defective products? Are they responsive and true to their word? Lastly, don’t forget to reviews of the item (tip: if the shop doesn’t readily offer reviews on their products, Google “[item name] reviews” or “[item name] pros and cons”) to see how satisfied other buyers are…or aren’t.
Not Knowing Better Than to Buy Tricky Pieces of Clothing
Shooting blindly in the dark when buying ordinary items of clothing like shirts, socks, or underwear carry little risk, but that’s not the case for finicky clothes that require a precise fit like, say, gowns. Or lingerie. Or suit pieces. Or yoga pants, for that matter.
Online shopping has definitely made everybody’s lives more convenient, but there are still some very particular items of clothing that are worth making the effort of a proper fitting for.
Case in point: Even with a photo of that dress with the cutouts in all the right places, there’s no guarantee that where the cutouts are on the model won’t be loose, gaping windows to your underwear on you. Rule of thumb: if this is a piece of clothing that you would normally spend hours trying on in a store, get off the Internet and do exactly that instead. Some things, including the sharp lines of your suit jacket and the way your jeans hug your butt, are best not left to chance.
Not Reading the Return Policy
So you’ve been as proactive as you can possibly be, but you’re still in that scenario where the product that you were so excited to get in the mail doesn’t make you feel at all excited about what you see in the mirror. Don’t be too heartbroken–it happens.
Then what? The last thing you’d want to hear is that trying to return the item will be more trouble than it’s worth, or that the store doesn’t accept returns at all and you’ve essentially flushed your money down the drain. To avoid this, make sure that you read the company’s return policy before you head to check out.
A good return policy is simple, detailed, and clearly sets your expectations about every step of the process. Check where you can get the return label if you need it, whether the store will support the shipping fee for the return, and how long the window for return time will be. And don’t forget to see if they’ll refund your money or give you a tab of store credit instead. If you find a store’s return policy to be ambiguous, unfair, or even non-existent, it’s probably for the best that you walk away and never return—pun intended!
Check It All Out Before You Check Out!
Whether you live in small towns with limited options, or you simply don’t feel jazzed about putting on a bra to do errands and prefer to “adult” in your pajamas, online shopping is fast becoming the way to go.
As long as you keep these tips in mind, you can kick back on your couch as you watch your wardrobe fill itself without ever having to leave your home, and live the modern fashionista’s dream of ease and convenience.
By M Pimentel
M is a happily married Filipino mother to three little daughters, ages: 8 years, 5 years, and 4 months old. Her daily life is a struggle between being the Executive Content Director for Project Female and deciding who gets to watch television next. She specializes in creating and editing content for female empowerment, parenting, beauty, health/nutrition, and lifestyle. As the daughter of two very hardworking people, she was brought up with strict traditional Asian values and yet embraces modern trends like Facebook, vegan cupcakes, and the occasional singing cat video.