Is it just me, or does it seem like online shopping is just about the only option these days? Whether you’re social distancing due to the pandemic or trying to use up that coupon before it expires, there are more and more reasons why people are hopping online to shop instead of heading to the store. 

Plus, even if you do go to the store, sizing is often limited or simply not available. Especially for specialty sizes. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “We don’t have it in-store, but I’d be happy to order it for you!”, I’d be rich. 

It’s no secret that stores are carrying less and less inventory because keeping it centralized means more accuracy in buying, which is better for the retailer’s bottom line. However, with a 40-45% return rate for online purchases, (not to mention the purchases we settle for because returning them is a hassle), online shopping is clearly much harder than it should be. 

If this all sounds familiar, you are not alone. Today I’m sharing my top strategies for shopping online effectively. 

Shop your favorite stores first. 

Before you go on a wild goose chase hunting down a specific item, shop the retailers and brands you know and trust. If you know you do well in Banana Republic pants, or that Halogen blouses usually fit you well, go to those resources first. This doesn’t mean that your go-to styles have to be narrow and repetitive, but every woman has brands that work well for her. Start there.

Know what styles work for your body. 

Next, think about what works best for you and your body. You should know the necklines that work for you, and those that don’t. You should know roughly how long you like tops to be. You should know what to look for in pants to know if they have a chance of being successful for you.

I say often that my advice is meant to keep you from taking 100 things into a fitting room, to find 5 that work. It’s the same thing online. When you can look at an item’s color, shape, fabric, length, etc, etc and know if those components work for you, you’re going to be much more successful.

You should be reading clothing descriptions like food labels to see what the item is made up of. There is so much information in those descriptions, but if you don’t know how it applies to you, it’s pretty meaningless. This is also why it’s important to know clothing vocabulary and fabrics.

Read reviews for all of the details.

Online reviews are shopping gold, but you’ve got to dig a little deeper to use them well. Again, this goes back to knowing what works for your body and your style, and you should be reading reviews with that in mind. Don’t discount something just because people rated it poorly–find out why!

Yes, if everyone is saying the same thing, that the color was off, the quality was poor, whatever, chances are you can believe that. However, when women are describing how something fits, look for clues to see what it means for you. Let me give you an example review on a trench coat from Loft.


I fell in love with it at first sight. I purchased both the XL, then Large and they are both too big. The Large fits in the front, but there is way too much room in the back, Extra fabric just sits above your backside. So disappointing!! Returning both.

Shop Smarter Tip: 

Remember a couple of episodes ago when I said you can’t fix a silhouette issue with size? That’s what’s happening here. I guessed, before I read her body type description,  that this is a very straight cut coat, that is catching on her backside and causing the extra fabric to fold over her butt, instead of drape, like it’s supposed to. Sure enough, she listed her body type as curvy. No size of this jacket would be right, because the silhouette is wrong.

Another reviewer called the coat “boxy” and described her body as smaller on the top than on the bottom. I can see why this wouldn’t be the right jacket for her.

This is not a bad coat–it’s just the wrong coat for these ladies. But what I learned from these reviews is that this is probably a darn good coat for ME, who prefers less structure. Based on all the reviews which all say to size down, I’ll size down. This is probably going to end up being a pretty great coat, from a fit and flattery perspective. But if I didn’t know what to look for in the reviews, I might have passed on it.

I want to encourage you to be good online citizens and leave reviews, too. Because you’re following Everyday Style, you have knowledge that can help other women, and educated reviews that go beyond “it looked bad” are so helpful. Tell people why. Tell people that you have narrow shoulders, or you have an undefined waist. That’s the kind of information that can make online shopping easier for everyone, so do your part.

Be realistic about returns. 

Finally, shop online anticipating the returns. When I shop with clients, we often try on more than one size of an item. Even when they thought they knew their size. Even when it was from a brand they know well. Online shopping is a fact of life, and it’s here to stay. The other reality is that sizing, even within the same brand, can be wildly inconsistent. 

We need to start thinking of online shopping like how we shop in person. In the store we would take different styles, colors, and sizes, and then we buy what works. When it comes to online shopping though, we buy one thing and then get defeated when it’s not perfect. If we’d place a bigger order, our odds of finding pieces we like are much better. I know that making returns is the worst part of online shopping, so I recommend shopping from stores with a great, even free, return policy, or buying enough that you’re not paying return shipping fees for one item.

I hope you’ve found these strategies helpful and your online shopping gets a little easier! If you’re looking for more information on how to dress your body shape, check out our Masterclass.

You can listen to the full episode on Becoming A Better Online Shopper below. 

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