Online shopping like an expert

How to buy clothes online

Even before COVID-19, buying clothes online has become the preferred shopping method worldwide.

And how convenient it is! And more and more so, as we try to limit our exposure to other people according to the instructions of the health authorities.

So here we are. In the comfort of your sofa, laptop, phone or other handheld device in hand. Saturday morning, cup of coffee in hand, and a dream in your head of the perfect sweater/dress/shirt/pants.

Or (speaking purely from my own experience) the riskier scenario is Saturday evening, glass of wine in hand, cruising the online stores dangerously close to where the waves break.

Either scenario, we await anxiously for the packet to arrive and quite often, we’re disappointed. The fabric isn’t what it looked like on screen. The cut and style that looked cute on the model in the photos doesn’t look anywhere near that on your body.

And worse, the fresh bright coral top you thought you ordered turns out to be a warm, peach/apricot hue in reality.

Here’s some tips to help you navigate the treacherous waters of online shopping.

Study the images

Online stores take care to photograph clothes with other clothes and accessories that fit the overall style of the garment. Take a good look at the images in terms of what shoes and accessories are used with it.

Is this the kind of pants that will look only good if you wear 4 inch heels like the model is wearing, or will it look equally good in the comfy sneakers that you always wear?

Know your fibres

Get to know different fibres and materials and how they feel on your body.

Does all kinds of wool make you itch, except 100% pure merino wool or cashmere? Does acrylic and polyester fibres give you the heebie jeebies and crackle with static electricity? Do you love the way raw silk or pure linen feels against your body? 

Look for the material composition of any item you're considering buying, and make sure it's in line with your preferences.

If the blouse looks great and the colour is lovely, but you discover it's made of 100% polyester and you're a natural fibres kind of woman, you know to just skip the item, otherwise you'll just be dissappointed when the packet arrives. 

Or you discover that the material information of that coveted sweater says just wool instead of 100% merino wool, and you're sensitive to itchy wool, just say no.

Imagine the item in your actual wardrobe 

This next step is important in any kind of shopping situation, but perhaps even more so when shopping online, is to think of the garment in terms of your existing wardrobe.

How many outfits can you create with this item, using other clothes and accessories that you already own? I used to skip this step so many times and I ended up with a “lone ranger” kind of item that has hung in my closet way too much because it didn’t go with any of the other clothes that I owned.

Wardrobe planning and intentional spending helps me get better at this, but I still have to remind myself from time to time, when the impulse shopping monster raises its head.

Check who's wearing it 

See if they write something about how tall the model is and what size she’s wearing.

If she’s 6’ 1’’ and wears a size 4, and you are 5’ 2’’ and wear a size 12, think through how the item will look on your body shape.

Might still be ok, depending on the style of the garment, but always important to consider.

Read the reviews

Read reviews that other people have submitted about the garment, if there are any. 

Sometimes helpful people might write things like “the legs are not long enough on my 5’9” frame” or “the size runs large, get one size smaller than what you usually wear”, things that can help you decide if it’s worth buying, or which size to order.

And sometimes you can come across some really useful warnings to stay away, or some helpful hints that tells you it's just the item for you.

How to assess colours on a screen

The perhaps most difficult part of online shopping is colour.

I have a couple of strategies for assessing the true colour of items from digital screens:

1. Turn the light on the screen way up. It helps clarify the images and bring the colour closer to what it really is.

2. Look at different images of the same item. Most often there are more than one photo, and sometimes the photos vary in colour, look through all of them to get an idea of how the item really looks in different lighting.

3. Use the filters, if the online shop provides them. Say you’re thinking of buying a blue blouse. Set the colour filter to blue and that will bring up all the blue blouses, in the same window. Seeing them all together on the same screen can help weed out the ones that are too muted, or too bright, or too warm, or too cool.

If you own a colour fan for your Season, it can sometimes be a smart trick to hold it up against the screen next to the image of the item, after you have turned the light on the screen up sufficiently. This is assuming the colours in the image are rendered correctly, which brings me to:

The most important two strategies

1. Check the shop’s return policy. Make sure you can return any item, on terms that you can live with. Don't buy from a shop that doesn't display sufficient information about the return policy.

2. Make use of the return policy.


Don’t feel bad returning something that’s not exactly like you envisioned it when you ordered.

So now that you're armed with some good strategies for online shopping

Enjoy browsing online. You're ready to tackle online shopping like a pro.

For more pro tips, scroll way down on the page and sign up for my FREE
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About the author, Jorunn Hernes

Jorunn is a Certified Personal Colour Analyst, founder of Nordic Simplicity and Scandinavian Style Academy™, the fresh, simple, Scandinavian approach to getting dressed. Jorunn will avoid social settings with more than three people but can be lured out with snacks and the promise to talk about books.

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