Sometimes life throws you an occasion you never thought in a million years you’d experience (at least not again), and you need new clothes. Nothing you own will do, and if you truly want to look like a whole snack for the night, you need more options than what’s available at your local mall. You need the internet to be your oyster.
Well this happened to me this past month. Life handed me a prom night! No, I am not in high school. And no, I was not a chaperone at a high school. This “second chance prom” was a fund-raiser for cancer research, and I needed to look fantastic and feel comfortable because I was destined to dance the night away with colleagues and potential networking clients.
For this night, I was extremely particular about the vibe I wanted to give off. I wanted my fun side to be apparent, but I also needed to class it up because my husband and I would doubtlessly encounter potential clients, and I wanted to do nothing less than dress to impress. Which is why I chose this occasion to test my theories about the best ways to shop online when getting it right really counts. And in this experience, here are the four most vital tips to shopping online I discovered for a look that’s absolutely show-stopping.
First, Gather Your Inspiration
If you’re using the internet to find an outfit perfect for your occasion, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed if you don’t go into it with some idea of what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a dress, you’ll find thousands of styles, and if you’re looking for a suit, you’ll find even more options in that arena. Luckily, many online retailers offer filters to narrow your search by cut, size, or style, so if you take some time to gather inspiration from others who’ve worn outfits that channel what you’re going for you won’t be under water when you discover all the options the internet has to offer.
Not Everything Should Be Bought Online
Don’t do what I did. On my first online order for this prom, I spent a couple of hours browsing my favorite online retailers, picked the perfect outfit, and ordered every piece for it in one go. Once I got the order, I realized that not everything is meant to be purchased online if you’re shopping for something specific. The shoes I originally ordered were too big, the dress fit awkwardly, and the coat I selected wasn’t nearly warm enough.
Through this experience, I determined it might be best to pick one piece to be delivered from the internet while the rest are either purchased physically to ensure proper fit or (even better) are pieces I trust are comfortable and stylish from my own closet. Thus, on my second order I was able to pick a jacket and some shoes from my own closet and choose some options online that coordinated with those specific items.
Give Yourself Options From the Get-Go
Another mistake I made on my first order was ordering only one of each item. I’m lucky that I left plenty of time to place another order, because putting all my eggs in that outfit’s basket meant that when nothing fit properly I had nothing to go on.
On my second order, however, I chose a favorite dress in two sizes (and one of the sizes was perfect!) and a backup style just in case my first choice just didn’t work, knowing I could return whatever didn’t fit.Both of these dresses would style nicely with the same pair of shoes and jacket, so as long as one of them fit well my outfit would be complete with little more effort. I wish I’d done this from the beginning, because I would have saved a lot of headache.
And By All Means, Only Order from Sites with Good Return Policies
I can’t stress this enough. When you’re shopping for clothes online, especially if you need them to look perfect for an occasion, you need to choose from a retailer with a good return policy. I purchased my clothes from ASOS, because they have a low minimum purchase on free shipping and free returns, but there are tons of retailers that will afford you the same luxury.
Look for sites that don’t have crazy requirements for a return (like a defective item, because an ill fit does not count as a defect), and finding sites that offer free returns is even better. Good retailers understand that ordering online is a risk they’re taking alongside you, and they’ll do whatever they can to make it a good experience for you. So don’t pass up the FAQ about returns, no matter how beautiful the pieces you find are.
I may have learned the hard way the most important tips when it comes to finding the perfect outfit online, but sometimes the best results come through trial and error! I finally settled on the perfect outfit (shown here) and received more compliments than I ever could have predicted. My look said what I wanted it to say, it was appropriate for the occasion, and it fit like a glove. But most importantly, because I was choosey about the items I purchased, I was comfortable the entire night long.