Tips for Buying Clothes Online

I’ve never been a big online shopper, but since so many stores are still closed, I have been shopping my favorite brands online more. I haven’t purchased much, but I realized the mental hurdles it takes to go from only shopping in person to buying items online. I don’t think I’ll ever choose online shopping over going into a store consistently, but there are some brands I love that don’t have stores nearby and having more confidence shopping online is really nice alternative. I also enjoy checking out some clothes online first to get better style ideas. Check out the tips below for what I started doing to help me pick out clothes online.

Take your measurements and save in your phone: This was a common thing that would stop me from buying from an online store that was new to me. Not knowing the stretch of the fabric and not really knowing my measurements stopped me from buying lots of items, which in a way isn’t a terrible thing. But keeping your measurements on hand (and the measurements of people you often shop for, or at least their shirt, pants, and shoe sizes) will make your online shopping experience go by faster. Using a soft tape measure, record the below the measurements. I keep them in the notes app of my phone. You may not need all of these for all online stores, but it’s good to have them so you aren’t remeasuring every time you shop. Also keeping track of both your American and European sizes, in both clothes and shoes, is really helpful for shopping brands outside your country. Here is a good video on exactly how to measure each part of your body.

  • Waist
  • Inseam
  • Hips
  • Bust
  • Arms
  • Shoulder, mostly if you buy more professional office attire

Go with the basics: I really love shopping at Zara, but I tend to lean away from shopping online there. Many of their items have unique cuts and fits and when you find the right style for your body type, their clothes are awesome. But shopping on their website is harder; they tend to not have the best angles in their limited photos and it’s easy to miss important features of an item that might not be your style. So that’s why I recommend sticking to more basic items when you first start shopping online. One of my favorite brands to shop basics that does a really good job at showing you all the angles and fit of an item is Everlane. Most of their items have a video and their pictures are less artistic and more practical. Plus their items are timeless pieces and hold up really well.

Knowing fabric: This is actually a lot easier than it seems. I know very little about fabric. I couldn’t tell you what 90% of what I own is made of, until I looked at tags of what I already owned when I started shopping online more. But all I did was grab a few items I really liked and wrote down the fabric. I separated my clothes in a few categories: good for travel (dries quickly, doesn’t wrinkle easily), light summer fabric (mostly dresses), and fabrics that hold their shape (good for more professional or polished days). I added those details to the same note as my measurements. I also wrote down a few notes of what did wrinkle easily or a couple items I have in my closet that I don’t love because the fabric looks cheap or fell apart quickly.

  • Viscose: I have a shirt that’s 100% viscose from Gap. It’s a long-sleeved button up and really light and airy. It is a great summer top, EXCEPT it wrinkles like crazy. The color and style would be such a nice item to take on vacation but how bad it wrinkles in my luggage makes it a no-go for traveling.
  • 100% cotton: I have mixed emotions about 100% cotton pieces, but I do know I don’t like how 100% cotton dresses feel on me. With such little give in the fabric and the wrinkles (especially when just sitting down), I usually avoid 100% cotton dresses now.
  • Merino wool: One of my favorite materials in general, but really good for vacations. It’s not itchy like normal wool and it seems to do a really nice job at being flexible with temperatures, so it’s good when you’re not quite familiar with the weather of a new place. Plus it has antibacterial properties so your clothes don’t smell quickly. That’s the one bad things about many of my favorite synthetic materials; they tend to really absorb all sorts of odors.
  • Rayon: Especially with my dresses, a Rayon blend was the most common fabric I had in my closet. It’s stretchy, lightweight and doesn’t wrinkle easily. My dresses all look really nice, but it is definitely a more casual fabric. I probably wouldn’t wear a majority Rayon blend to a wedding, for example. 
  • Linen: Although I love the look of linen, I’ve finally decided that I’m not a linen girl. I don’t like how it wrinkles so easily and it doesn’t feel as good on my skin as others. If you’re better at keeping the wrinkles away, I would love to hear how you do it!
  • Lexy’s notes: All of my favorite t-shirts are either 100% cotton or a blend of cotton, viscose, and elastane. I have some shirts with polyester as well, and while I don’t feel too much of a difference when it’s blended with other fabrics, if there is a higher percentage, I notice it’s not as comfortable to wear as a higher cotton blend. My favorite dresses are mostly rayon with blends of cotton, viscose, and elastane. I’m not a fan of nylon fabric because it’s not breathable, which causes me to sweat more, especially during summer. 

Read reviews: Ok, this is something overly simple. But it’s the one simple suggestion that I will really push for. Many websites now allow customers who have bought an item to go into more details about their clothes. The websites will ask info about your measurements, how you like clothes to fit, if you think the item fit well (too big, too small, just right) and allow you to give a description of other details, like quality and fabric. If I’m not familiar with a brand, I usually will lean towards articles of clothing that have a lot of good reviews so I’m more confident it will fit me and look nice. 

Pinterest search: I learned this trick from a girl I used to work with. If you have an article of clothing you love but aren’t sure how to wear it or other items in your closet that might pair well use Pinterest for inspiration. Just type in something like “Green paper bag pants outfit” and you will be directed to a ton of styling options. Some of the ideas will be a bit obvious like pairing them with a black or white t-shirt, but you probably hadn’t thought about wearing them with a tan cheetah print top. So many clothing items now have their own names, so you can search something like “Everlane Day Crossover Sandals” on Pinterest, and you can see all sorts of styling options plus a lot more body types to help you make your decision.

Asking my fellow Tulhoma writers: Any online stores you particularly like? Sustainable, good for sensitive skin? Are there any stores you buy clothes from online often? Any other tips you want to share?

Alexys: In terms of skincare, you might think that with sustainability comes a greater price point, and while it is true most of these types of brands (not all) won’t match drugstore prices, there are plenty that offer top quality, consumer-focused products at very reasonable prices. Some of my favorites are The Ordinary (very affordable), Krave Beauty, and Jordan Samuel. These are all brands that offer high quality formulas and are good if you have sensitive skin.

When it comes to clothing, I’m much more indecisive than when I buy skincare. I actually haven’t purchased any clothing items for myself in a while. When I do shop, my go to stores are usually Target, Madewell, and Aerie. I want to buy from more sustainable brands, but unlike skincare products, it does come with a higher price point, more often than not. Since I don’t buy a ton of clothes, I don’t mind spending more if I know I’m getting a quality piece, but it can still be a turn off. My rule is to allow myself to spend more money on things I will wear a lot, like jeans, shoes, and jackets. I don’t like spending a lot on pieces I want to change and restyle more often, like t-shirts, tank tops, casual dresses, etc.    

Bethany: I most often shop online at Madewell, Nordstrom, and Lululemon. I’m always nervous to purchase clothing online because if it doesn’t fit or I just don’t like it I know I will procrastinate sending it back and then I end up stuck with something I won’t ever wear. So I tend to stick with the brands I know will fit me. To keep myself from making impulse purchases, I have made it a rule of mine to add items to my cart and let them sit there for a couple of days. If I’m still thinking about the item a few days later I go ahead and purchase it. But if a few days go by and I have forgotten about it then I didn’t really want it that bad in the first place. 

Me, Taryn: I’ll end this post with my two favorite online clothing stores: Everlane and Uniqlo. Mainly, because both of these brands really fit my style: comfortable, but still chic and classic. Their clothes last a long time and both brands (in different ways) elevate their classic clothes to make them more special, like paying attention to particular fits and having built in SPF. But the main reason I’m suggesting them for online shopping is that they don’t rotate through tons of new styles, meaning many of their items have tons of reviews. It’s easy to figure out what fits my body type and what’s worth buying. Both brands have solid followings and it’s easy to find ways to style your new pieces by searching on Pinterest or other sites. And one bonus tip about Uniqlo: although they don’t really advertise that their an outdoor brand, I see them as a go-to on so many hiking blogs and discussion boards. They are cheaper than many other popular outdoor brands, but have some of the most thoughtful pieces for layering while still looking stylish while being outdoors.

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