On occasion, when I get asked where I bought something I’m wearing and I respond with “online”, I get a very despondent “oh” in reply and I can tell that I somehow crushed that person’s hope of ever sourcing it. Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but close enough. The world of online shopping has long been considered a very intimidating place, especially when it comes to buying garments or accessories. For me, I dove into it out of necessity. I have to confess that I despise shopping in stores. So when I became a mother and free time became a precious commodity, I certainly didn’t want to be spending it at the mall perusing endlessly through racks of clothing. Even less appealing than wasting my free time, was the idea of dragging a usually less than compliant child along to buy myself some clothes. So I force taught myself how to be a savvy online shopper and learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I will share with you.
When starting out, try to shop online for brands or from stores you are familiar with. Make a note of your size and fit in your favorite brands that have been ‘tried and tested’ to minimize fitting issues. When you venture out of familiar territory, don’t be intimidated if something does catch your eye; just make sure to study the size charts provided for that garment.
Use the zoom tool to closely examine the garment. Check the buttons and stitching and where they are. Familiarize yourself fully with the garment front and back. Also make sure to look at all the pictures that are provided of models wearing the garment. Most often a zoom tool can be so close-up that you can really make out the weave of the fabric, which helps a lot in guesstimating the weight and density of the fabric.
READ READ READ! I can’t say this enough. Read the description of the garment, pay attention to the details described, like high waist, A-line, side slit, etc. Those details are so important! Equally, make sure to READ the fabric composition of the garment. All these details will help you create a sensory image of how this garment would feel while wearing it.
READ the REVIEWS! God bless consumers who take time out to write a review. I am not one of them, but I surely appreciate them. You can learn a lot from a consumer’s experience, especially when it comes to quality and sizing. However, do learn to filter out those reviewers who are negative nellies and so picky that nothing makes them happy.
Invest in a good forwarding mailbox such as Aramex ‘s Shop and Ship, available in most countries in the Middle East. It has multiple international addresses so you can shop from almost anywhere in the world and it’s a one-time charge to set-up.
Something I learned, so I don’t get slapped with exorbitant customs charges, is to click the gift option at checkout. I pay a little extra for that option, but because the retailer removes the price tag, customs officials have to make an estimate of the value, which is usually to your advantage especially if you purchased the item on sale. But if there is a retail price tag still on the garment, there is no arguing that.
Due to the fact that international shipping forwarders tend to charge by weight I tend to minimize shopping for shoes and handbags unless I find them on a ridiculously amazing sale for it to be cost-effective. Other ways to save on shipping is to keep a lookout for free-shipping offers, so that at least you can save on the costs of shipping to your forwarding address.
Take advantage of designer discount websites. One of my favorites is www.yoox.com. This site has a multitude of brands and incredible discounts, however it can be quite frustrating because usually the items are limited in size and quantity. However, when you do find something, it so well worth the effort! Especially if you are looking for an evening gown.
Online shopping has so evolved since the days when I started out over a decade ago. Now there are amazing apps like Shopbop or Shopstyle that you can install on your phone that helps you find what you are looking for. For example you put in the search engine “white silk blouse” and it pulls up for you all the white silk blouses available from all leading online stores! Cool features include sale alerts, favorites folder, and notifications. I can’t tell you how many times these apps have saved me from buyer’s remorse or the hassle of returning the item just because I checked to see if I can get it cheaper online.
Lastly, be prepared to make a few wrong purchases before you get it ‘right.’ It’s a learning curve, but eventually you will get the hang of it and perhaps learn a few tips and tricks of your own.
You will soon discover there is a great level of satisfaction that comes along with shopping on your own terms, from the comfort of your own bed, not having to deal with annoying sales assistants, and not having to wait for a fitting room.
Happy online shopping!
Dana Dinnawi is an Integrative Nutrition health coach specializing in empowering women to improve their health and family life. She received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she studied more than one hundred dietary theories and a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. She can be reached through her website and Facebook page.