Shopping online can be tricky, and frustrating at times, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was the best way to do it. Online, you can find a better selection of sizes (I don’t know about you, but size 31-32’s are ALWAYS sold out in the stores) and colors, a wider selection of designers and products, and THE most comfortable shopping experience ever (what’s better than shopping from bed?).
We could all benefit from some tips and advice, however, so here are some of our favorite pointers for shopping online successfully.
- If you’re looking for a specific designer, start by looking through our Designer Directories first. Chances are, there are more than just a couple of places online to buy pieces by the designer you’re looking for, & one place may be cheaper than the other, offer free shipping, or have a discount code.
- If you’re not looking for a specific designer, browse through our list of Shopping Sites for ideas from great boutiques, department stores, and best of all, independent designers. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find!
- Have an idea of your size in different brands or at different stores. If you don’t, ask about sizing of specific designers in an online forum or contact a boutique/store directly. Generally, stores like Delia’s, Urban Outfitters, and Forever21 run small as they are primarily for “younger” and “smaller” women. JCrew, Banana Republic, and the Gap can be difficult to shop online if you haven’t already tried on in the store, but I personally find that they all run on the small side and don’t tend to fit a woman with hips/butt very well.
- For jeans, I don’t usually recommend buying your first high-end pair online. Go to a big department store, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Saks & Neiman Marcus all have great denim selections, and try on as many pairs as you can unitl you find the perfect pair. If you can’t, or are looking for something different, take your measurements and shop online at Revolve Clothing. They are the only boutique online that gives knee and leg break sizes in inches (which is crucial for me becuase of my larger calves) and they have lots of pictures of the jeans from different angles. Revolve also offers free shipping and returns so you can buy several pairs and send back the ones you don’t want without having to pay shipping charges. Again, when shopping for jeans online, a good message board or fashion community is your friend! Nothing beats the one-on-one advice from women who have been there and tried on every pair of jeans in her own quest to find the perfect pair.
- Again, use the designer directories to search through boutiques that sell the designer you’re looking for and find the best deal. There usually isn’t a big price discrepancy between boutiques, but you can ALWAYS find a discount code, or one site that offers free shipping over others. You can also get very different ideas on how to style a piece of clothing or how an item fits on a real body by looking through different sites. I’ve put together some examples below, but I’m sure you know what I mean…
- Unless a site is located in your state, you don’t have to pay sales tax on the items you purchase there. This is a great way to save a little money, especially if the site offers free shipping. Even if you do shop offline every once in a while (there’s still something exhilerating about trying things on and feeling pieces in person), you may find the same piece you saw offline, online, and for a better price. As an example, I recently purchased this Hobo International wallet from Zappos after looking at it at Nordstrom. The price at Zappos was only $2 cheaper, but I didn’t have to pay sales tax, and they offer free & super-fast shipping, so in the end, I saved almost $10. Not bad…
- Finally – make sure you read carefully the return/exchange policy of the website before ordering online. Don’t buy from places that offer exchanges only, or have an unreasonable time limit on returns. There are plenty of sites out there that offer free shipping and free/easy returns & exchanges you don’t have to settle for anything less. And if you have any questions about a return policy or a particular item, call or e-mail customer service – they are usually very helpful!
I hope these pointers help make online shopping a little easier, and a lot more fun.
Why you should shop online with Grechen:
Anna Sui Secretary Dress
This is a gorgeous dress, and these two pictures show how it can be styled in different ways. Comparing styling from one site to another is the closest to having your own personal stylist! You may never have thought to add a belt, or pair this dress with tights and knee-high boots, but seeing the dress at different boutiques gives you more ideas than if you had only seen it at one.
Catherine Malandrino High Waist Button Skirt
Ditto what I said above for this skirt – these different pictures show how you can transition it from warm to cooler weather, which gives it versatility you may not have thought about.
DarylK Smock Dress
I don’t know about you, but if I had seen this dress only at ShopBop (the picture on the right), I wouldn’t have given it a second look. The styling is ‘off’ and the dress is too short and pouffy. But as you can see from the other images, the dress is actually longer and can look quite a bit more sophisticated if styled differently. In the middle picture you can see how the belt looks turned around, and that the first picture must have pulled the dress tight and cinched it in the back to make the pleating less pronounced…all good things to know before purchasing a dress of this price online.
Karoo Mark Eisen Cashmere Turtleneck Dress
I don’t know about you, but there aren’t many women I know without any curves at all. None of them look like this mannequin from Intermix; which is why it’s nice to see the dress modeled on a human being, even if it is styled with leggings 🙂
Robert Rodriguez Trapeze Cardigan
What a completely different look from the same cardigan! Again, it’s the versatility that’s important here, especially from a piece this expensive. The same cardigan can be more casual, tied around the waist, and elegant as it is shown in the second picture. These images also lead you to believe that there are other ways to style this sweater – your imagination is your only limit!
Sunner Belted 3/4 Sleeve Tunic
These pictures really just give you styling ideas for the top – obviously you can pair it with jeans, but what about leggings with boots? or short leggings? Another thing to notice is whether the models are short or long-waisted. I find that ShopBop models tend to be shorter-waisted than me and therefore, most of the tops will be much longer on me than on them. (they also have longer legs). You can see the difference between the first model from Pink Mascara and the other two – the top falls lower on her legs than the other two.
Vince Wrap Cardigan
This is really a follow-on to my comment from before about seeing a piece on an actual human being…you can get a sense of how the item moves and clings. And again, the styling with a belt gives you a good idea of how to make it more versatile.
Gryson Rachel Bag
This is a huge bag. But aside from looking at the measurements, you would never know from just looking at a picture of it sitting on a platform. Many of the smaller boutique sites, such as Active Endeavors, are GREAT for showing bags on models, and in many different positions, so you can get an idea of how it looks on and different ways to carry it.