Shopping for clothes online can get you great style at bargain prices. The worry is that because you're buying sight-unseen, it won't fit and you'll waste your money or have to deal with the hassle of returns. This is how to make sure that doesn't happen.
Title image made using lole (Shutterstock). Other photos by Carl Mueller, Maria Morri, Indochino and Ariel Grimm Buying online can make it easy to improve your personal style and dress better, and take the stress and shame out of clothes buying. The one downside is the possibility of having to return whatever you buy because it doesn't fit. We can't eliminate the chance you ever having to deal with returns or exchanges, but with a little planning and some smart shopping, we can make sure it's a rare occurrence.
Take Accurate Measurements
The most important thing you can do before you start shopping for clothes online is to take proper measurements of yourself. Once you have an idea of your size that's more sophisticated than "large" or "usually a 10", you're in a much better position. One company's size 10 is another company's size 8. Labels and designers purposefully use "vanity sizes" to confuse customers, and there's also the challenge of overseas shops using different measurement standards. The best way to counter that is to make sure you have your own measurements. Here's how.
Have a professional take them for you. The best way to get the most accurate measurements possible is to have someone else take them while you're standing normally. Make a one-time trip to a tailor or specialist shop and have your measurements properly taken by someone who does it all the time and knows what they're doing. This is especially important for women and bra sizes. Having your measurements on file will also make it easier if you need to have clothes adjusted (a topic we'll return to later).
Take them yourself with help from a friend. The other strategy for measurements is to take them yourself. If you need to do that, ask a friend to help you. You have to be careful taking your own measurements -- don't suck in your gut, or try to stand up straighter than you normally would.
- For men, you have a couple of areas to pay attention to. For pants and slacks, you'll naturally want your height, waist size, and inseam, but you should also measure your hips and, if you have a more pronounced backside your "natural hips," or the width around your pelvis across your seat. Having all of those acailabl ewill make sure you know what you're in for when you buy pants and slacks. For shirts, make sure you take your chest size, your sleeve length, and your neck size. You won't those numbers for T-shirts, which tend to have generic "letter sizes", but they're essential for shirts and suits.
- For women, you have a few more things to be concerned about. You'll want to measure your bust at the fullest part of your chest, and make note of that. You'll also want to measure your "natural waist", which is the slimmest part of your torso, not necessarily your actual waist where your pants rest. Then go ahead and take your actual waist measurements. It's not often used in women's clothing, but it's good to have. Women's clothing use hip measurements more often. You'll also want your inseam for slacks and pants. If you plan to wear collared shirts and blouses, take all of the same measurements mentioned above for men as well, including neck size and sleeve length.
Choose The Right Retailers And Check The Charts
Once you have your measurements, size charts from individual retailers will be your best friend. You won't ever need to trust that a "large" is indeed "large enough" to fit you -- you can look at the sizing chart, find yourself on it, and go from there. This works both for mass-market sites (where you'll need to match yourself to what's on offer) and made-to-measure services. Look for a site-wide chart, but remember check for sizing notes on the items you're thinking about buying -- not everything will necessarily meet the standard. Look at customer reviews if they're available for a sense of whether the sizing can be trusted.
Make Notes On Where You've Bought Before
In shopping, experience counts. If you buy from a retailer and the clothes fit, that makes them a good choice for future purchases. Grab a notebook or use your favourite note-taking app to jot down the name of the outlet you shopped with, what you bought (especially if it's from a specific designer or has a specific cut or style), its size, and how well it fits.
Keeping notes like this for clothes may sound silly, but it's really important. When you hit on a brand, a cut, or a style that really works for you, you'll be able to find it again easily. You'll also always know that a specific brand is cut a certain way and fits you well. Label sizes won't be as important anymore, and you'll know that even though the size chart says you should be a size 14, this company's size 12 fits you perfectly, while that company requires you to step up to a 16, for example. After a couple of purchases, you'll have a stable of brands, designers and cuts that you know always work for you.
Find A Tailor Or Seamstress And Buy (Slightly) Large
Whether you go completely custom or buy off the virtual "rack", find a tailor or a seamstress in your community who is willing to make alterations and adjustments to your clothes for you. This is definitely a worthwhile investment. There's probably a tailor or seamstress in your neighbourhood who'd be more than happy for your business. Get your dresses and dress shirts fitted so they accentuate your figure. Get your jeans and slacks properly hemmed. We mentioned this when we discussed how to get a versatile suit, but the advice goes for formalwear and casual clothing, for men and for women. The money you'll spend is well worth it for the sharp, well-fitted look you'll achieve.
Once you have your measurements, find some retailers you can trust, and have a tailor available to make alterations to anything you buy, you'll be able to make sure any piece of clothing you buy online will fit you perfectly. It's a great feeling to buy something, either custom or off the rack, and find it fits perfectly right out of the box. All it takes is a little prep and foresight to get there.