This post is going to be a little different. Since I started this blog I have discovered a number of great online retailers and, since I want to be able to link to the exact items I feature on the blog, I have started shopping more online and less in stores like Ross and TJ Maxx (though I still LOVE them). The result is that I get a number of questions from readers and friends about concerns they have with ordering online. Since I have learned a great many things about ordering clothing online, I thought I would put together one post with the things I’ve learned.
How to make sure you order the right size/fit.
1. Read the Reviews
Not all online retailers have reviews, but those who do often include information on how the item fits. Sometimes they suggest sizing up or down (as in the “runs large” review on these Nude pumps below). Other times they let you know that the color is slightly different or they have a picture of what the item looks like worn. I have found these reviews very helpful and always check them when I’m shopping on Nordstrom.com and Shein.com.
2. Look at the Images and/or Runway Shot
The more images there are of the product, the less risky it is to buy online. Look carefully at the images to get a sense of the type of fabric, the fit and the length (especially important for skirts and dresses).
Most retailers will have a picture of a model wearing the clothing item. Though their body type may not be exactly like your body type, there is still a lot you can learn from the picture. Look at how it fits their body. If it sits funny on the model, it will likely sit funny on you. I bought the shorts pictured below and when they came in the mail I found that since the pleats were so high, the front of the shorts bunched oddly. When I went back to look at the picture I realized that this bunching was evident in the pictures. Since then I have given more attention to the pictures before I order!
Asos.com goes beyond pictures and usually has a video of someone modeling the item. You can see an example of the product video of the dress pictured below here.
Sometimes Shein will only have a picture of the product but if you look down in the reviews you can see how someone looks wearing the item. (see example in #1 above)
3. Use Measurements
These should be present for any item you buy. Most of the time sizes are standard, but when in doubt, measure. Sometimes the picture will only be of the item and not someone wearing the item. Definitely look at the measurements in this case because it may be way shorter or wider than it looks in the picture. I always use the measurements on Shein.com to double check my sizes. This is especially important when ordering shirts that may be shorter than expected or skirts whose waist size matters.
Check the Return Policy
If you follow the tips for ordering clothing online listed above, you will hopefully not have to return the item. However, you can’t tell how well it’s really going to fit until you try it on. If it just doesn’t fit, don’t feel afraid to return it. Since it takes time, this was something I had to learn. In the end, this has almost always worked to my advantage because it is worth it for me to take the risk of ordering something I may have to return if I can get the item from a retailer that has a really great price for it online.
What to check before you buy:
- Is this a final-sale item and therefore can’t be returned?
- Do they allow free returns? If not, will they deduct an amount from your refund or will you have to pay return shipping?
- If they allow free returns, what are the stipulations? Can you only return by mail or can you return in-store?
- How many days do you have to return the item? 14 days? 30 days?
My favorite retailers are ones who include a bag in the original shipment that make it easy to drop the item back into the new bag and drop off at the Post Office. (see 2nd list below)
(Some) Online Retailers that give free, in-store returns of items bought online:
- Ann Taylor
- Ann Taylor LOFT
- Nieman Marcus
- Old Navy
- Sephora (minus original shipping charges)
(Some) Online Retailers that give free, by-mail returns of items bought online*:
- Neiman Marcus
- Old Navy
*many more retailers (like LOFT and H&M) will refund the price of the item by mail but will deduct return shipping or will not refund the cost of the original shipping
Check the Shipping Policy
How much will it cost?
- Stores differ on how much they charge for shipping for online shopping. Macys is one store I rarely order from online. They charge a lot for shipping and if the item doesn’t fit, you aren’t refunded the shipping price.
- Some stores have free shipping for all orders, no minimum.
- Revolve Clothing, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom are three of these
- Target RED card holders get free shipping on all items
- Some have free shipping if you spend a certain amount. For example, Sephora has free shipping on orders over $50.
- Asos – free shipping on orders over $40.
- Ulta – free shipping on orders over $50.
- Target – free shipping over $25 (but you can pick up in store for free!)
- DSW – free shipping $35 or more
- Some online stores charge one price for the first item and less for a second item. Jane.com is one of these.
How long will it take?
Will it ship in 2-3 days or 15-30 days? Amazon.com is a retailer where this can really matter so make sure to check! You may find a deal for $1, but it will not ship for 30 days and then it may take an additional 15 days to get to your house once shipped.
Check for Coupon Codes or Subscribe to their Email List
Every time I am ordering clothes online, I search both RetailMeNot and my email inbox for coupon codes.
RetailMeNot.com is a great site that keeps track of coupon codes for your favorite sites. I have the App on my phone with my favorite stores saved. When I go to buy something from one of those stores I pull up the store and look to see what coupon codes they have available. Sometimes there is nothing but most of the time with Sephora.com or Ulta.com, there is a coupon I can use for 15-20% off my order.
Getting on a store’s email list can be a pain because it can clutter your inbox, but if you sign up for a store’s email list they will frequently mail you special coupons or alert you to special sales (like free shipping for a limited time). I use Gmail and have all of my store emails go to one folder. When I order online I search my email for the store’s name and look to see what coupons I have saved.
Lastly in this category, often I will find items I like and then leave them in my cart. If I am subscribed to that store, certain retailers will then send me a coupon for a discount to incentivize me to check out with the items still in my cart. If I don’t need these items right away, I will often do this to save some $!
Least Risky Items To Order Online
I never order pants online unless the store has free return shipping or is local and has free in-store returns. Pants are just too tricky in their fit.
The best items to order online are:
- Tops – Tops tend to have a more standardized fit.
- Skirts – With skirts, especially A-line skirts or maxi skirts, the main place where fit might matter is at the waist and these measurements are usually included online.
- Basics – It’s hard to go wrong with solid or striped long sleeve tops, tunics, or leggings. Most of these will not have a specialized cut to them and most will look as pictured.
- Shoes – Though I prefer trying on shoes in store, shoe sizes are more standardized than most clothing items. Nordstrom is my favorite place to order shoes online because they have such a huge variety, include size recommendations, and have free shipping and free returns.
Over time, you will build a sense of the brands whose sizes you can trust and it will be easier to order clothing online with confidence. If you don’t mind returning items and the retailer offers free shipping and free returns, nothing is too risky to try online!
Tips for Online Shopping at some of my favorite discount sites:
What to know about ordering from Shein.com
- Most of the time, these items take 2 weeks or longer to arrive at your house.
- Quality is not consistent. Some items, like this great off-the-shoulder dress, are excellent quality while others, like this maxi skirt, are not as pictured.
- Often I have to size up.
- Look at the fit on the model carefully. Use measurements to choose the size.
- You can return most items but you will have to pay for return shipping.
- You earn points when ordering from Shein that then can be used for additional discounts.
Some items I own or have on my wish list at Shein.com:
Others that look worth the risk to order online:
Red Crochet Dress (looks long enough) / Sleeveless High Neck Dress / Sleeveless Yellow Light Trench
Black Off the Shoulder Tassel Sheath Dress / Asymmetrical Poncho Top
What to know about ordering from Jane.com
- Most items on Jane.com will ship from different sellers. This means each item
- may ship at a different time.
- may have different shipping rates. Some, like this skirt, have free shipping. Others have a shipping price for one item and a lower shipping price for multiple items.
- has a different return policy.
- Deals last for only 3 days and some items sell out within the first few hours of posting.
- Many items come back every so often so even if you miss it the first time, subscribe to Jane’s email or check frequently to make sure you catch it when it comes back.
- Basics from this site (especially tunics and skirts) are great quality.