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  • Writer's pictureImage Innovators SA

How to shop online - without regrets

Over the past few years, online shopping has taken the world by storm, with more and more of our favourite local and international retailers launching online stores. And what’s not to love about these virtual shopping grounds? Delivery is generally pretty quick and reliable, you can shop at literally any time of day, and you don’t have to visit a store and spend your time waiting in line at the fitting room or teller – a real plus in light of the looming third wave.

Despite the numerous conveniences of online shopping, there are still some sceptics who have yet to test the water. If you’re one of them, this helpful guide from Image Innovators SA, is for you. Read on for their tried and tested tips for shopping online and loving what you buy.

Know your shape

We’ve all had a chuckle at the classic “expectation vs reality” posts that pop up on our social media feeds from time to time, but it can be discouraging if a garment you’ve purchased doesn’t fit you like it does the model.

The key to preventing this frustration is to know your body shape. By identifying and understanding your body shape, you’ll be able to recognise what kind of garments flatter your silhouette without needing to try them on. Remember that sometimes judging an item of clothing based on how it fits the model can lead you astray.

Models typically have a rectangular body shape, which means an off-the-rack garment designed for someone with a few curves might actually look better on you than on them.

Be sure to check the height of the model (usually found in the item description) to get an idea of how the item is going to fit you lengthwise.

Know your measurements

Similarly, when adding clothing to your cart, be sure to first check the size guide against your own body measurements. Sizing differs from brand to brand, so this is the most reliable way to ensure your garment will fit.

It’s a good idea to store your measurements as a note on your phone so that you always have access to them. Grab a measuring tape and a friend to help you measure, and take note of all the important measurements: bust, waist, hips and inseam (the inside of your leg, from your crotch to the floor).

For extra accuracy, visit your local tailor to have your measurements taken professionally. You can also measure some aspects of garments you own to get an idea of the kind of fits you prefer – like the length of your favourite dress or the hip measurement of your comfiest trousers – and use these to compare against items you like online.

Taking the time to do these things properly can make your online shopping adventures much more successful. If after all of this you’re still not sure of your sizing, don’t be afraid to buy two or three sizes of the same item (if your budget allows) and return the ones that don’t fit.

Be colour conscious

Aside from fit, one of the biggest challenges of online shopping is not knowing if the colour of the item you’re ordering is as pictured. It may look amazing and crisp on-screen (thanks to some clever editing) but dull and drab when it arrives at your door.

Be sure to read the product description, as most retailers will include a colour name that can help steer you in the right direction. Knowing your personal colouring will also help you get a clearer idea of what will suit you without seeing a colour against your skin.

Seeing an image or colour consultant is the best way to get an accurate reading of your colouring, but for a quick fix, take a look at the veins in your wrist. If you have greenish veins (a warm undertone), garments in warm shades will work well on you. Those with blueish veins (a cool undertone) should opt for items in cool shades. If you’re searching for a colour that’s a sure winner, look at the lightest and darkest shades in your iris – these will complement your unique colouring.

Be wary when purchasing red items online as this is the most difficult colour to interpret on-screen and will often look warmer or cooler than it actually is. If you want to play it safe, stick to neutral and universal colours like periwinkle, taupe, plum and chocolate.

Check the virtual label

Most reputable online retailers will include the details you’d find on the inner garment label in the product listing – information that can and should impact your decision to buy an item. It’s often impossible to determine the texture of an item by looking at a photo and what you see on-screen can be misleading; something that looks chic and expensive online might arrive at your door feeling as flimsy and wrinkly as tissue paper.

Familiarising yourself with the fabric content of a garment before adding it to your basket is important. If you don’t know much about fabric, don’t worry! Go through your wardrobe and pull out your favourite pieces as well as any items you have that feel itchy, hot or uncomfortable. Take a look at their tags and make a note of their material composition. You can use this as a guide when shopping online and add to it as you learn more about your fabric preferences. You can do the same with items in your closet that have pilled, shrunk or stretched.

Keep true to your style

When scrolling through a website full of exciting products that are styled to perfection, it’s easy to get swept up in trends and fads. Those army print cargo pants on a 35% off promotion might be tempting, but if your style personality is more feminine you’ll be returning the parcel to sender.

Fashion is fleeting, style is eternal.

Fashion changes seasonally, and trying to keep up with all the latest trends can be challenging and expensive – especially if you only wear a piece a handful of times because it doesn’t feel like you. By defining your unique style personality, you’ll be able to fill your virtual basket with clothing, patterns, textures and accessories that best suit you and that you’re guaranteed to love and wear.

An easy way to avoid falling prey to a full cart and an empty wallet is to make a list of items that you need or want in your wardrobe before you start scrolling. Try to stick to this list as much as possible when adding items to your cart. Once you’ve finished browsing, head to your cart and edit it down before you hit checkout. Reconsider each item and ask yourself questions like: Can I think of at least three different ways I can style this item? Have I ever worn this colour or style before? Do I have things in my closet that will work with this? Is it too similar to anything I already own?

Start with what you know

Online shopping is a fabulous way to discover new brands but if you’re just starting out, you may find it easier to try out retailers that you are already comfortable with. You probably already know your size at these stores, and getting a win on your first online purchase will help you feel more confident in the process.

After your first few purchases at familiar stores, you can begin window-shopping on new sites within your budget. Once you’re comfortable, don’t be afraid to branch out; support local designers, try smaller boutique sites or even give online thrifting a go.

Read the fine print

This is especially important when shopping on international sites. Unexpected import duties can turn your bargain shopping spree into one of your most expensive purchases ever. Custom fees can be as high as 50% of your total order cost, so be sure to factor this into your budget.

Another thing to be aware of (whether you’re shopping locally or internationally) is the returns and exchanges policy. Some online stores are fussy when it comes to what can be refunded and others don’t do exchanges on sale items so familiarise yourself with the specific store’s policy before you checkout.

Would you like to know more about dressing for your shape, colour flow direction and style personality? Find out more about our in-person and virtual consultations.


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