Shopping for clothes online can get you great style at bargain prices and save lots of time. Unfortunately it also comes with the worry that because you are buying a clothing item sight-unseen, it just won't fit and you've wasted your money. Here's how to make sure that never happens.
Shopping online does come with the stress of possibly having to return whatever you buy because it doesn't fit. You can't eliminate you ever having to deal with returns (and the costs of it) or exchanges, but with a little planning and some smart shopping, you can make sure it's rare.
The first, and perhaps most important thing you can do before you really start to purchase clothes online is to get proper measurements of yourself. Once you have an idea of your size, beyond "large," "size 10," or "42 waist," you'll be able shop without fear. Remember, one company's size 10 is another company's size 8. Labels and designers purposefully use "vanity sizes" to confuse customers, and even though the whole point of sizes and inches is to give consumers standards, one company's 42 inch slacks will fit drastically differently than another's. The best way to fight back is to make sure you have your own measurements. Here's how.
Obviously, the best way to get the most accurate measurements possible is to have someone else take them while you're standing normally. If you can, head to a clothing store (I know, the whole point here is to shop online and avoid clothing stores, but just this once) and have your measurements properly taken by someone who does it all the time and knows what they're doing. Once you have them, you'll be ready to shop.
Take them yourself (or have a friend help you out. The alternative to having a pro do it, of course, is to do it yourself. You have to be careful taking your own measurements—don't suck in your gut, or try to stand up straighter than you normally do—trying to "optimize" your posture or size will just lead to uncomfortable clothing in the end. Similarly, if you must take your own measurements, get a friend or family member to help out with the hard to accurately reach places, like the inseam for gents, or the bust for ladies.
Once you have your measurements, size charts will be your best friend. You won't ever need to trust that a "large" is indeed "large enough" to fit you—you can just look at the sizing chart on the website of the online shop, find yourself on it, and go from there. If you've been shopping for clothes online for a while, you may already know this, but it's even more important when you're shopping online, especially from retailers that carry different labels, designers, and clothing manufacturers.
If you're shopping from a custom clothier where everything you buy is made or tailored to order, or from a clothing store that promises consistent measurements across all of their products, you'll only need to review the sizing chart once to get a feel for what will fit you and what won't.
Grab a notebook or use your favorite note-taking app to jot down the name of the retailer you shopped with, what you bought (especially if it's from a specific designer or has a specific cut or style), its size, and how well it fits.
Keeping notes like this for clothes may sound silly, but it's really important. When you hit on a brand, a cut, or a style that really works for you, you'll be able to find it again easily. You'll also always know that a specific brand is cut a certain way and fits you well.