Here’s a confession: I’ve discovered I’m not a huge risk taker when it comes to fashion. The same used to be true of shopping online for great outfits. Over the past few years however, I’ve spent a fair amount of time figuring out how to get the best deals shopping on line.
I’ve spent most of my life “investment” shopping, looking for just the pieces so I can easily mix and match to create many different looks from a relatively small number of garments. I’m not afraid to spend my whole budget on one or two pieces that I wear season in and season out. While always classic, it can get a bit, well, boring. Hence my undying love of accessories. Every once in a while, I take a flyer and buy a few trendy pieces I know I will only wear for the season—and I also know I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for them either.
A few years ago, my daughter turned me on to a few shops offering very low priced items such as H&M, and Forever 21. Just like TJMaxx and Marshalls, every once in a while you find a real gem. The same holds true to some of the online retailers offering very, very low priced items. I have found several pieces I have loved and are still in my rotation, but have returned many more items immediately. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way about how to get the best from online retailers.
1. Have your tape measure at the ready and be sure to check the measurements of each item you order. Asian sizing is known for being very, very small. European sizes are often in centimeters. And, you can’t assume that all the garments on the website are cut using the same size guidelines—I’ve noticed that some websites offer a mix, some items will be made for the European/American market and other items will be made for the Asian market—so you never know from piece to piece.
2. Read the reviews and check out any photos other purchasers upload. I always, always read the reviews. Pay it forward and write reviews yourself—share the details about the garment’s quality, color and fit. Add a little about your size and shape, such as 5’7” American SX or 5’2” Curvy American petite S to give readers a reference. (Nothing is worse than the review that says “Loved it! Fit perfectly. Would buy again.”) Was the person short, tall, curvy, petite?
3. Use the magnifying feature and hover over the photos to get a good look at the details of the garment. Look closely at how it hangs, where darts are located and how it fits on the model. Look at the seams and hem as well, so you won’t be surprised when the item comes. I also magnify the item in a light color if I can, some times the details can be seen more clearly when magnified in a light color. Look for tell tale bunching, clinging or stiff fabric that doesn’t lay smooth on the model.
4. I always look to see what size the model is wearing if it’s available. I use that as a reference even if she’s a little taller or shorter than I am, it gives me a sense of what size to select and how it might fit on me.
5. Check return policies. Some companies default to merchandise credit unless you stipulate otherwise.
6. Look for a “free returns” option. Some companies offer free returns or offer unlimited returns for a nominal fee. I always double check the returns and refund policy before placing my order. I stopped shopping at a large retailer when I discovered they charged steep shipping and handling fees on both ends of the purchase. It just wasn’t cost effective to order from them online.
7. When in doubt about the size, buy two sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit. Some times a bigger size can be altered—so keep that in mind as you think about size.
8. Do a little recon before shopping an unfamiliar site: check for website reviews or complaints. Make sure they use web security features when handling payments. If in doubt, don’t shop with them.
9. Always note how long it takes to ship. I’ve gotten spoiled by Amazon, and have to remind myself that most online retailers take a week or more to ship. If the item is coming from over seas, it takes even longer. Brooke ordered a few items from a discount site in China and waited months to receive them. So if you are in a hurry for an item, even expedited shipping may not help.
10. Look for coupon codes. I open a second tab in my browser and google for coupon codes and discounts even if I think it may be a long shot. More times than not, I get a minor discount or free shipping by using discount codes.
11. Don’t be afraid to use google. Sometimes you can get a better deal or different color options just by googling the item—last year I fell in love with a Becca swim suit on one site only to find it had been sold out. I googled it and found it through two more retailers, one of which was Amazon, which meant I could have my swimsuit in a matter of days. I have also done this when I’ve been uncomfortable with a website or it’s policies.
Here’s to saving a few dollars on fun trendy items for your wardrobe and having a smooth experience as well.
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