How to Shop Online (And Not Get Screwed)

(PRNewsFoto/Gilt Groupe, Inc.)

Gilt, Rue La La, ideeli, HauteLook — we’ve all been there. What else have we all been? Completely excited and anxious, anticipating our latest purchase, an amazing deal we found online and just couldn’t resist. Seven for All Mankind jeans for $40 … yes, please! Then our pretty package arrives and we rip through the tape and bubble wrap only to find something we did not want. I mean, yes, it’s exactly what we ordered, but maybe the fabric is shiny or stretchy, the wrong color, the wrong fit, on and on. So many pitfalls, so little money for re-stocking fees. But fear not: You can learn from my mistakes. So, how do you make sure you’re making quality clothing purchases online?

1. Make Google Images your best friend.

Those pictures of super skinny models can’t always be relied on to give you an accurate picture of how clothes will fit, and the same goes for the lighting. Once you’ve narrowed your shopping choices, double check them by running the name through a search engine to see what pops up. Sometimes it can make or break a purchase. I was on the fence about a fairly expensive Rachel Zoe skirt, and I was tipped toward “add to cart” when I saw how the print and its neon/neutral color combo popped. Gorgeous!

2. Don’t look at the original price.

It’s so tantalizing. You think, “Wowzers … I could buy this $300 shirt for only $39! Thanks, Gilt, my new bestie!” Stop right there. Yes, that shirt was once worth $300, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it. Concentrate on the sale price. If you walked into a store and saw that shirt, not on sale, for $39, would you still be as interested? That heavily marked down price makes quite the intoxicating shopping cocktail. Don’t fall for it! Unless you would be willing to put down the money without knowing the markdown, then keep away from “add to cart.”

3. Measure carefully.

Like really, really carefully. But first, look at the size chart for the specific brand you’re shopping. Each designer and each designer size will fit differently from another. So though you may be a size 27 (god willing) in 7 For All Mankind, it might be a tight fit in your AGs. Next, get out a piece of string and wrap it around your wait, chest, bust, etc. Then take the string and measure the length you just wrapped around your body. Now you have a true size to compare to the chart.

4. Or find it in the store, then buy online.

We shop online deals, not necessarily for speed, but for the low, low prices on designers. If you take your measurements and still aren’t sure the clothes will fit, then head to Macy’s. Or Bloomingdale’s or anywhere that carries the same brand you’re stalking and try on similar clothes in similar cuts. You’ll get a sense of what will fit and what won’t, what will look fabulous and what will be all wrong. This works especially well with shoes.

5. Buy from familiar brands.

I love Seven jeans. I know exactly what size I am in three different cuts (because I’m a different size in each), but I know that what I buy online will be well worth the money spent. So when I need jeans, I specifically look online for Seven sales with deep discounts. The same goes for Robert Rodriguez, Jay Godfrey and L.A.M.B.

Add your own online shopping suggestions in the comments below. More importantly, let me know of any online-deal clothing websites that I might be missing out on.

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