Shopping FAQ: How to shop and buy clothes online
I get a lot of questions about how I know what to buy online and a lot of laments about how it never seems to fit when you buy it online.
I GET IT.
I have been there, done that and made lots of expensive mistakes to boot, so I thought I’d share some of my tips on how I shop online so that you don’t make the same mistakes.
Know your body type
It is dead easy to find out what type you are and if you know what already works and doesn’t work on your body this makes shopping a lot easier online.
For instance, I’m an inverted triangle (4th from the left) which means I have broader shoulders than the rest of my body, that means I generally avoid:
- Halter tops
- Spaghetti straps — as much as possible unless I can hide them with a jacket
- Puffed sleeves
- Any exaggeration or detail at the shoulders
- Horizontal lines across my shoulders (makes them look massive)
- Short cap sleeves
- Cropped jackets (really emphasizes my shoulders)
So find out what body type you are and the minute you see any of these details that you know will make you look terrible, take a wistful pass.
Know your style
You have to know what you like. Colours, patterns, lines, draping, etc.
I know for instance I love anything belted, in a wrap, high-waisted and with POCKETS.
Preferably all three at once like this skirt below:
Know your general size
As an inverted triangle, I know that my shoulders are roughly a US 6 and my body is a US 4 in standard, mostly designer brands.
Of course, mainstream brands like Banana Republic or Ann Taylor, means that I know this all translates down one or two sizes, where my shoulders are now a US 0 or 2, and my body is a US 00 or US 0.
This for me, means I am usually an XS to a M, depending on the item, and I always err on sizing up once rather than down because I know I can always take it into the tailors and you can always take it in, but very rarely can you let it out.
This has worked 90% of the time, but sometimes I get screwed with jackets because you really need to fit the shoulders. 🙁
Try the brand in person for other items
You have to really know the brands you are buying too, because some brands like Ted Baker or James Perse, use a whole other set of sizing with just 0, 1, 2 or 3. UGH.
When in doubt, go and find out where that brand is sold if you can, and try on other items in their range to see how they fit their clothes.
Are the shoulders narrow? Hips? Waist? Bust?
Make notes in various sizes and then size up or down accordingly, and keep notes for the future.
I keep notes that for high-waisted jeans, I need a size 27 to feel comfortable and then I take it in at the tailor. 26 is too tight, so I’m a 26.5, really.
Know your fabrics and your preferences
I avoid wool because it is almost always super itchy on my skin no matter how soft it is initially. I need to touch it to know.
Same with cashmere; I need to know the quality before I know I can wear it, and to do that, I either have to take the plunge blindly and pay all the costs associated (shipping, import duties, charges, taxes PLUS any returns), or I just avoid buying it unless I can touch it in person.
I know certain brands do certain things well, and I tend to stick to them. White and Warren for instance, does the only cashmere I can trust (for now) that is not itchy and is soft and gentle on my skin.
I also avoid angora and any mention of ‘rabbit’ wool because it sheds like mad and I hate it when my sweaters shed.
I hate it.
I tend to lean towards any kind of fabric that is “ponte” or a “jersey knit” because I know it is more forgiving it is shape and can stretch a little even if it’s too small.
I avoid 100% polyester because I need to know if it’s the high quality stuff or if it’s cheap & plasticky, and I can only tell that if I touch it in person.
Scrutinize the construction
As much as you can anyway.
If it’s very tailored and structured, I check the measurements VERY CAREFULLY and size up when in doubt.
When it’s stretchy or not very tailored or tight, I take my own size.
I tend to be very leery of any item that looks like it has a very high armhole or would look uncomfortable.
Google reviews of sizing and colours
I do this a lot. “Sizing for … [ brand name ] “.. and you’d be amazed how many hits you get.
I go through these reviews, I look at their body types, I try and figure out if it would fit me or not.
Cuyana for instance, I have mentioned, runs a little large, and if you are on the petite side, even their XS would overwhelm you.
This model looks perfectly sized in this wool jacket but it ran large on me, and the XS fit a little large.
I will also mention that Cuyana also has terrible colours on their site. They are not TRUE TO LIFE colours.
A navy turtleneck I bought, turned out to be this strange shade of dark blue that was unflattering on my skintone.
I was expecting navy, and got a deep blue instead, like the colour above.
When in doubt, size up once
I mentioned this above, but it’s easier to take it in at the tailors if you love it, than to have to try and take it out.
Buy with Paypal as often as you can
You can open Paypal disputes for up to 60 days after buying something.
Also, eBay is a good place to buy, they do accept a lot of returns and my last brush with eBay was with buying some Manolo Blahniks that were obvious fakes.
They immediately fixed the situation and gave me back my money plus even the import charges.
You won’t have to give your credit card info either, you can just pay via Paypal & your card is linked to your account, so it has a level of security there.
Buy only from legit companies
How to tell if they’re legit? It is hard, but I avoid any companies based in Asia, with strange names, and UNTESTED by regular people, even if it’s bloggers who have received free items.
You can tell by the way the site is set up, if it is easy to navigate and it looks like they have spent money on the site rather than having coded it in 2 days.
Understand the return and refund policies
If there are any that is.
I read carefully for the international section as I am in Canada, but I always need to know whether I CAN return it or get a full refund, or a store credit, or if I am able to return it in store.
How to buy from U.S.-only stores
As a Canadian, you understand what this means. It means you are cut off from all the goodies across the border.
I have a contact in the U.S. who very generously forwards on packages to me (I love you, you know that), and there’s my link to getting things from U.S. only sites.
If you are not that fortunate, a lot of crossborder shopping mail forwarding places have popped up, here’s a Google Search of them.
I haven’t tried any of them yet.
You basically pay for the service & have to pay for the customs, duties & taxes as well.
Or if you live close to the border like many Montrealers, they just have a P.O. box in the U.S. and drive to pick up their items once a month or so, then bring it back across.
Keep in mind customs and duties taxes
I always end up having to estimate how much EXTRA it will cost me, as I tend to always buy from the U.S. with no hope of returns or refunds, but I add another 20% on top of the price, BEFORE currency exchange conversions before deciding to commit.
It’s very expensive for Canadians to buy online from Americans, but sometimes the items are totally, TOTALLY worth it.