10 Secrets Every Woman Needs to Know Before Online Shopping

Because it's never as simple as just knowing your size.

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There's nothing more irritating than ordering something online and realizing it doesn't fit. Except, of course, when you go to re-order it in another size only to find that it's sold out.

The problem is that even if you know your size, every brand fits differently and a lot of e-commerce sites tailor, pin, or retouch their clothes in photos to make them look like they fit better than they actually do. Even so, there are tricks that can help you limit your fit-disappointment.

1. Read the fit notes.
Most websites have fit notes that tell you how tall the model is and what size she is wearing, which can be particularly helpful if you're trying to figure out where the neckline, hemline, or waistline of a particular garment will fit on you. If you are shorter than the model, then you know everything will be a little longer. If you're taller, everything will be a little shorter. The fit notes may also tell you if the garment is particularly loose or tight, so you know if you need to size up or down.

2. Buy multiple sizes of the same thing.
Returning the leftovers can be kind of annoying, but if a site offers free shipping and returns, you may as well take advantage of it. Just keep in mind that it takes a lot longer to get money credited back to a debit card than a credit card.

3. Avoid anything with seams that are supposed to go directly under your breasts.
Unless you are completely flat-chested, anything with curving or diagonal seams under the chest is probably going to cut you badly (i.e. across your chest instead of under it).

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4. Stick to thicker fabrics for fitted pieces.
Flimsy fabrics are not at all forgiving, especially in more fitted silhouettes. They almost always have to be altered to fit properly and even then the fit may still be a little off. Save lightweight fabrics for looser, less tailored pieces.

5. When buying sunglasses, stick to frames that work for your face shape.
As amazing as big, circular frames might look on a website, if you have a round face, round sunglasses might not be your best option. It's all about balance. Rounder faces generally look better with more angular frames, while more angular faces look better with rounder frames. Luckily, a lot of sunglasses sites allow you to sort based on face shape or frame shape, so you don't end up falling for glasses that are unlikely to look good on you.

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Clockwise from the left: White Square Sunglasses, GUESS (opens in new tab), $82; Navy and Turquoise Sunglasses, TORY BURCH (opens in new tab), $195; Pink Round Sunglasses, MARC BY MARC JACOBS (opens in new tab), $98

6. Look for pieces that have stretch or can be adjusted.
A knit top will have a more flexible and forgiving fit that a woven one. A strappy sandal with a buckle is easier to fit than a pump. And a dress with adjustable straps works on a lot more body types than one with fixed straps.

7. Don't size up so you can layer.
It seems like a good idea in theory, but if something looks oversized and schlubby, you're not going to want to wear it. Besides, your layers are probably not that thick anyway and even fitted silhouettes usually have more room than you think they will. If anything, go for a looser silhouette, but still stick to your best size.

8. Look for dresses that mirror the natural shape of your body.A dress that already follows the natural shape of your body is more likely to fit and will require fewer adjustments. This means that if you're smaller on top, you probably want to stick to A-line silhouettes. If you're curvy, you want to look for dresses with built-in waists, etc. It's not that other shapes can't work, it's just that it's harder to know how they fit without first trying them on.

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From left to right: Navy and White Polka Dot Dress, BETSEY JOHNSON (opens in new tab), $98; Orange Printed Sundress, ELOQUII (opens in new tab), $88

9. Make tailoring part of your shopping process.
This is especially important if you are curvy or larger on the top than you are on the bottom (or visa versa). I cannot stress this enough. Most dry cleaners have perfectly capable onsite tailors who can take care of at least 90 percent of your needs for a very reasonable price.

10. Stick to simple silhouettes that are easy to tailor.
Tailoring can get really expensive if the tailor has to actually take the garment apart and recut the individual pieces. A clean, A-line dress with a zipper in the back and seams on the side is MUCH easier to tailor than something with a lot of draping or pleats or hidden side zippers. Sleeves and shoulders are also really difficult to adjust.

More on Online Shopping Tips and Tricks:

55 Best Online Shopping Sites

7 Expert Online Shopping Tips

Plus-Size Online Shopping Secrets

15 Best Shopping Hacks


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Charles Manning
Charles Manning

I'm 30 percent bunnies, 40 percent of the time.