How to Order Clothes Online (And Get What You Want)

I’m a boutique owner with e-commerce skills – so why am I so fearful of ordering online? If I can’t get what I want locally then I will shop online, but I’m also very smart with my cash and don’t want to spend it on something I’ll just have to send back.

With this type of shopping (and possibly returning), you also have to think of carbon footprints, extra shipping and the fact that when you make the decision to buy something online it was special, on sale or just that perfect item you’d been looking for. It plain stinks to have to start the hunt all over again.

For those of you that have it nailed, I think we’d all love you to share your secrets in the comments, but for now, here are some tips that can get your online retail shopping ball rolling.

Know your measurements

You might think you can do it yourself, but just to play it safe, go to your favorite local tailor and have him or her measure you up. Get your bust, your hips and your waist measured so there’s no doubt.

Sites like Beklina have spots to click for sizing based on each size. Founder and designer Angelina Rennell says it’s important to know your measurements because designers all have slightly different sizing.

“A lot of our customers will email before making big purchases to double check on how the item is running – small, true to size, etc. We often get out the garment and measure for them. They can then compare that to their measurements. Customers should always feel comfortable emailing about sizing questions, sharing their size and inquire how the fit it running. They may say things like they’re really short or tall or big-busted and we can gauge if the style will work for them,” says Rennell.

If a brand fits, stick with it

You might be a fan of a line because you know they generally run a size large and whatever you get just always fits well. You might love the width of a certain type of shoe and the fact that they are always true to size. You know these things because you’ve always had success when buying them so stick with your winners.

Jennifer Miller owner of Charleston, West Virginia’s Mission Savvy says bamboo and hemp styles by labels such as EcoSkin are always reliably comfortable and true to size.

“The designer brings something new to the table every season and my online customers look forward to that. As far as dresses go, customers know what to expect from another tried and true label like Kelly Lane for colorful pieces. They also really appreciate that she goes up to a size XL and will follow her anywhere to get something new.”

Sizing or color question? Call the boutique!

The beauty of buying from small boutiques is that you don’t have to talk to someone halfway around the world who is not even in the boutique to get an answer.

Never feel silly calling. Small boutiques need to thrive and they can’t without you buying something that you’ll love and keep.

Julie Merriman, owner of Seattle’s Olivine says she always wants to make sure that her customers get the best possible customer service and make sure they love whatever arrives in the mail for them.

“One of the things I love about an online store versus a retail store is that people just don’t need as much help. Regardless, I am always happy to help customers with their questions,” she says.

You’ve got your order and it’s not that it fits bad, it’s just not like the picture

Before you give up and throw it back in the box or envelope to ship it back to the boutique, give them a call and tell them your feelings about the fit. Ask how they would style it and quite possibly with a few suggestions, your dream top or pants are again just that.

Olivia Bono owner of Sarasota, Florida’s Juno and Jove says a good design is made to fit lots of different body types.

“I consider the picture of the online model a starting point. You should get an idea of the fit and the unique details of the garment from the product photography, but style is about self expression. I myself am a medium, but I will often buy a size (or two) up or down depending on how I want to make that garment work on my body. We also like to keep our local tailors in business! If a pocket on the hip sags a bit too much or a wrap front top makes you feel a little too flashy, take it in to get tacked and tucked,” she says.

Beware the “Sale” designers

I have a t-shirt that says “I Heart Designers” and I really do but for those items that are always on sale, I say beware. There’s often some really good reasons why they are – including the fit, tightness, sheerness or armpit holes being too big. Or it might have been the buyer’s fault – caught up in the hype of the market, thinking they could really sell the piece or they misjudged their customer’s taste. Many things come into play and it’s worth it to call the shop you’re ordering from. If it’s cheap enough and can be altered by your favorite tailor, then it might still be worth the purchase.

For me, the big red flag is that both an urban and suburban boutique could not sell it. This means the piece was really just a design failure.

Final tip?

Make sure you don’t just buy sale items all the time. Splurge on the pieces you love versus filling your closet with clothes that are just okay.

Shouldn’t dressing be more than just being conscious? Maybe even (gasp) a lot of fun?

Image: Pecico

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.