how-to-shop-online

If you’d like to know how to shop online to find exactly what you’re looking for, as quickly as possible, you’re in the right place.

It’s now Week 6 of the Create Your Signature Look  (CYSL) program*. Natalie Setareh and I have been shopping online to fill in the capsule wardrobes (makeup & clothing) of our CYSL clients, and thought you might benefit from our tips as well.

Have you resisted purchasing new clothing and accessories this past year? Me too. Of course we don’t really NEED more stuff. For those of you still going strong with a commitment to #buynothing, these tips might come in handy.

For those of you who are ready to make some changes to your wardrobe, I’ve got you covered. Do you not know what to wear when you return to the office? Has your size or style changed during covid? Is it getting flat out boring in your closet? Before you give up and decide to wear sweatpants 24/7, hear me out.

Why should I buy anything?

Yes, buying nothing is the best thing you can do for the planet, but not for the economy. Updating your wardrobe can be done in any number of ways. All of these options are possible both in-person and online:

  • Swap/barter with your friends or strangers (if you’re the same size & have the same taste. I’ve tried & failed to love a good ol’ clothing swap, but I’m an anomaly. They’re wildly popular — just do an Internet search to find one near you, there are also covid-proof versions).
  • Buy secondhand.
  • Rent instead of buy.
  • Buy new. (See below ‘How Responsible is Your Brand?’) 

Online vs. In-Store

Even if you’d never shopped online pre-pandemic, you may have become an expert at it in the past year out of necessity. If you’re excited for stores to reopen, be prepared that it might not be the same experience you remember. Bricks and mortar retailers have obviously suffered, and I’m seeing that reflected in the merchandise some are offering as they re-open. There’s often less selection — items and sizes haven’t been restocked, and new collections have been minimized or not produced (actually a good thing in my opinion, but that’s a whole other topic).  

Why Shop Online

Shopping in person is often the most satisfying because it’s a 3-D experience that incorporates all of the senses. However I still find shopping online the most effective use of my time for these reasons:

  1. Location and time don’t matter. Shop whenever and wherever you want.
  2. One-stop shopping IRL almost doesn’t exist. This means that when shopping IRL (in real life) and pressed for time, you’ll go to a shopping area, a.k.a. a mall. Soulless.
  3. Usually I know exactly what I’m looking for. The more specific and less flexible you are, the less likely you are to “score” at the one shop you would have time to visit IRL.
  4. Impatience. I don’t want to learn the layout of a store, dig through racks looking for my size, or even interact with salespeople (because I know how skilled they are and that they’ll show me things I want but don’t need), 
  5. I like unique things, and online I have more options. 

Tips for a Smooth Online Experience

Google Images

If you haven’t used the Google Images feature yet, give it a try. On google.com, just click on ‘images’, drag the photo of that pair of shoes you can’t find anywhere into the search bar, then click on the camera button (“search by image”).

Even without an image, you can sometimes trick the system by playing around with the order of the words you’re using. For instance “green suede boots mens” vs. “suede boots green mens”. If you live in a country where English isn’t the main language, try searching in both English and the native language.

Filters

Filters are your best friends when shopping online. Depending on how sophisticated the website is, you can filter not only by type of garment, color and size, but even more detail such as type of fabric, neckline, sleeve/leg length and heel height. If you get too detailed you’ll sometimes come up empty-handed. If this happens, play around with deleting one or two different filters each time — you might be surprised at the different results it produces.

Preventing “the Ikea/casino effect”

In an Ikea and a casino, you are forced to walk through the entire establishment to get to the exit. The chance that you will escape without spending money diminishes with every tempting item you pass. 

This affect is also built into many shopping websites. When you see a garment you like, you click on it to open the details for that item. When you click the “back” button, some sites refuse to take you to the exact place you were. Instead they take you to the beginning of the previous page, requiring you to re-scroll through those same 90 shirts you had decided you could live without. Annoying! 

I avoid this time suck by not immediately clicking through. On a first pass, I either star the items I like, add them to my wishlist, or even my shopping cart. After I’m finished browsing a section, I’ll return to the list/cart and review the item details, deleting the item if it doesn’t make the cut.

Read the reviews

Long live reviews for keeping companies honest, and bless those individuals who actually take the time to leave their feedback. Always take the time to skim the reviews for things like sizing (runs small or large), fabric (doesn’t feel good or drape well) and care instructions (it shrunk, it’s falling apart).

The Fine Print

  • Sizing & measurements

Regardless of which country you’re ordering from, it always pays to check the size guide for each item, or at least each brand that you’re ordering. Some websites even offer garment measurements. When you seem to be between sizes, the rule of thumb is: order to fit your largest measurement. You can always take in the rest. For instance, if you have a big booty and smaller waist like me, buy pants to fit your booty and have the waist taken in by a tailor. 

  • Fiber content (Are you allergic? Are you an eco-warrior? Please don’t buy new garments out of polyester. It’s unfortunately still everywhere.) 
  • Care instructions (Are you willing to hand wash or dry clean?)
  • Return policy

Always check the return policy to avoid disappointment. Certain countries regulate this, e.g. in the EU a 14-day return policy is mandatory, but return shipping does not have to be paid by the retailer. How user-friendly is the policy (e.g. some offer to pick up returns from your address)? Which carrier is necessary/allowed (does this work for you?)?

Discounts

If you’re ordering from a site for the first time, you’ll probably get a pop-up enticing you to sign up for the mailing list in order to receive a discount on your first order. I say, why not, especially if you’re ordering a lot?! You can always unsubscribe after you place your order. Even if you don’t get a pop-up, click through to their mailing list page. They’ll advertise there if a discount is available.

How responsible is your brand?

The motto of the Good on You app (and website) is “Wear the change you want to see.” Good on You’s team of campaigners, fashion professionals and scientists have done the research on thousands of fashion brands and rated each of them based on how they treat the planet, people and animals. Enter the name of the brand you want to check out, or search by type of garment to find new, sustainable and ethical labels you didn’t know about.

Only buy what you need.

This applies to buying ‘live’ in a store as well, but when shopping online it’s a lot easier to binge-buy things you don’t need. It’s also easier to know if the new item is going to work in your wardrobe, because you can just go look in your closet! My rule of thumb: if you can’t make at least 3 outfits with an item, don’t buy it.

Hire a professional.

Shopping online can be overwhelming. There’s too much choice, and lots of information seems hidden or unclear, unless you know what you’re looking for. When you hire someone to make smart wardrobe choices for you, you pay for that person’s experience and expertise and save yourself hours of time. Estimate how much time it would take you to find exactly what you want, multiply it by your hourly rate, and add on 20% for the unnecessary irritation caused by a longer To Do list. Compare that to the cost of investing in a relationship with a professional shopper who will get to know you and build a sustainable wardrobe that fits you perfectly.

What about makeup?

Want tips for shopping for makeup? Natalie Setareh has you covered in this episode of her Be Your Own Makeup Artist podcast, available wherever you listen.

Do you have a tip to share? Please let me know and I’ll credit you when I update this post.

Create Your Signature Look

*More about CYSL: Award-winning makeup artist and makeup educator Natalie Setareh and I have joined forces to offer you a 12-week beauty and style transformation.Create Your Signature Look teaches you how to use your appearance to showcase your intelligence, personality and ambition. This is a 100% virtual program based around more than eight hours of one-on-one, completely personalized “live” makeup and style instruction.

For more information and to request your invitation (fall program starts  27 September 2021), visit www.createyoursignaturelook.com .