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How To Buy Anything Online (And Never Step Inside A Store Again)

January 2, 2013 by Samantha Lear
shefinds | Shop

Who doesn’t love online shopping? Avoiding crowds and browsing virtual clearance racks from the comfort of your couch? Yes, please. From flash sales to great vintage finds, the web has so much more to offer than your local mall. The one thing that it doesn’t provide is the opportunity to try-on and see—and smell and feel—the items IRL. All online shopping is a risk, but there are some things—perfume, glasses, shoes—that can be a tougher gamble than others.

One way to reduce that risk is to stick with brands you love already, looking at labels in your own closet and paying attention to sizes and styles that work on you. However, if you haven’t shopped a brand or a style before in-person, we do have some advice that will help you to avoid delivery day disappointment. Below, 6 tips for buying even the trickiest items online.

1. Test drive your perfume before you buy it – Fragrances are always a tough purchase—even in-store. You may fall in love at first whiff, only to realize later that, on you, the perfume smells a little like Grandma. Shopping for scents online may not allow you to spray the testers on a paper card, but it can do you one better. Many designers will offer free samples of their scents right on their site, so you can take the perfume for a spin before you commit. In addition, Sephora and some department stores will ship multiple samples of your choice to your door with any purchase. Once you’ve selected your new signature scent, head on over to discount sites like FragranceNet or Amazon to find it at a better price.

2. Take your time trying on glasses at home – Trying on eyeglasses at the store can be intimidating. You have sales clerks breathing down your neck and you probably don’t feel comfortable looking in the mirror for more than a few minutes. Now you can post up in front of your vanity (for hours if you’d like), thanks to eyeglass-makers Warby Parker. For no cost, the vintage-inspired online brand allows you to select up to 5 pairs of glasses to try on at home over 5 days. If you don’t like any of the styles, don’t worry. You can return (for free) and choose another 5 styles to test out.

3. Shop for shoes that will actually fit – We all have an idea of what our shoe size is, as it probably hasn’t changed much since you were in middle school. But sometimes outside factors—weight gain, aging, pregnancy, even Yoga—can actually change your feet. Before ordering shoes online, double-check your current shoe size by printing out a women’s foot sizing chart to stop on at home. Larger-footed ladies should check out sites like Bluefly and Zappos, which tend to keep larger sizes in stock. Even though J.Crew doesn’t always stock their size 11s and 12s in stores—they apparently “won’t fit on the shelves” —they do keep a selection of beautiful styles in stock online. And for larger-calved ladies:  sites like Piperlime and Duo tailor their tall boots for the curvier woman.

4. Ditto your bra – You can lie about your bra size all you want to lovers and friends, but you better be honest with yourself when it comes to ordering your next brassiere online. It can be tricky to know your best fit without the guidance of a store employee, but it’s completely do-able. Plus, anything to avoid some stranger fondling you in the neon lights of the fitting room. SHEfinds has an easy-to-follow sizing guide that will help you go into your next online bra purchase confidently. Back fat, be gone!

5. Shop the right hemline or inseam for your height – Sites like Forever21 and Nasty Gal tend to cater to a younger shopper with shorter hemlines on their skirts and dresses, making them great for petites. ASOS is also great for those under 5’3” as they carry a large number of styles in petite, as well as average sizes. Longer women over 5’9” can find great options in the tall sections of sites like Banana Republic—which is online-exclusive—and with leggy denim designers like Paige and 7 For All Mankind. Those that fall somewhere in the middle can still shop these sites and find dresses and pants that fit. To avoid a bad fit upon arrival, check the hemline and inseam measurement in the item description and use a measuring tape to see where the dress, skirt or pant leg will hit on you.

6. Stick to online retailers with good return policies If all else fails, free returns will minimize most of your online shopping pains. Before you even start browsing merchandise, check out the retailer’s shipping fee and return policy. Many online stores will include a convenient shipping label for a free return if your item isn’t up to par. Simply slap on and send right back, no major time or cost lost. And the cheaper the shipping the better, as most stores will only refund the price of the item, not the shipping charge.

For more help with online shopping, check out our buying guides, learn how to shop the J.Crew kid’s section if you’re petite, and find out how to design your own custom footwear online.

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