Tips for Successfully Ordering Clothes Online

Last year I wrote a post on why I hate online shopping. Oftentimes I would come home from work to a package and feel a mixture of excitement and anxiety as I opened it up, only to be sorely disappointed when the clothes were too big, too tight, too see-through, the wrong color, or just didn’t look right. Then you’d have to make the extra trip to the store or the post office to return it, and sometimes lose your discount coupons and pay extra for shipping in the process.


I chalked this up to just plain bad luck, but I think I was just going about it the wrong way. I swore I wouldn’t shop for clothes or shoes online ever again, but I love the convenience and savings that comes with online shopping. So I’ve slowly gotten back into the game, but this time with a few rules that help me feel okay when I open my package. Here are some tips for how to work the system. :)

Tips for Successfully Ordering Clothes Online

Shop in the store first and know your size.
I know, this kind of defeats the purpose of online shopping, but most of my bad online shopping luck has come from not knowing how the clothes run, what size fits best, and whether the materials are high quality or not. So I only buy from an online shop that have a physical store (of course, this rules out all of the online boutiques out there, but for me I’ve had too many returns to make it worth it). The stores I can order online are the Loft, Target and J.Crew. I’ve found that Gap, Old Navy and Banana sizes vary based on the outfit, so unless there’s a specific item I have tried on, I usually stick to the store only.

Make a wishlist of items, and stalk them online.
When I go to stores, I like to try on different pants, sweaters, shoes, make a mental note (or save it in my Pinterest wish list) and wait for that bad boy to go on sale. It takes a lot of patience, and it doesn’t work well for must-have items (like a dress for a wedding), but for basics and everyday clothes, I’ve saved so much money. I do this a lot with Target, especially since they offer free shipping and 5% off the purchase to anyone that has their credit or debit card.

Get promotional retail emails.
Almost every retailer has daily email alerts for sales and discounts. One email service I use is Shop it to Me. You can customize it with your favorite stores, types of style, or outfits, and every week (or day) you get a consolidated email of all the deals and sales going on. Now, you have to be careful, especially if you’re easily tempted by good deals, because it may cost you more money than save, but if you select stores you know you will shop then it can certainly help.

Look for discounts and coupon codes.
A lot of times it is cheaper to order online because of discounts codes you can apply to your order, so look on those sites for any codes before you hit that Complete Order button. One of my favorites is I like it because it saves you money (duh), but also because it has a great mission. For ever code that you use, a portion of their commission goes to feed a hungry child through one of their feeding partners. How awesome is that?

Don’t buy final sale and know the return policy.
Don’t buy anything that’s final sale, unless you know absolutely without-a-doubt that it will fit. I have had too many mistake purchases, and it’s not worth it. Similarly, always know the return policy. Can you return it in the store? How long do you have before it can be returned? What is their exchange policy? Do you need to receipt to return it?


What are your go-to online shopping sites? Have you had a lot of bad luck ordering from online-only sites? What tips do you have for shopping online? 

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  • Great tips Ginna! I definitely utilize all of these. I’m a huge online shopper. I recently heard about Hukkster ( I haven’t tried it out yet, but it says that it watches your favorite items online and lets you know when they go on sale. I’m hoping it saves time in the stalking department!

  • knowing your size is very important! this goes for shoes as well! I tried a pair of high heels last autumn in the store, then went home to find them online, and just by signing up for a mailing list (which I could later resign from), I got a $20 discount!