How to Buy Clothes Online

buying online
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Avoid the malls at Christmas and buy your gifts -- and some clothes for yourself -- online.

If you love clothes but hate the hassle of visiting the mall, doing the dressing room dance and waiting in line at the register, you'll love shopping for clothes online. Apparel shopping has overtaken electronics as the consumer darling of cyberspace, and for good reason. With great photos and easy-to-navigate pages, finding that little black dress and actually having it fit once you get it home has never been easier.

Before you start checking to see how much available space you have in your closet for an expanded wardrobe, learn a few online clothes-buying tips that will help to make sure that the designer handbag of your dreams doesn't turn out to be a fashion disaster only a hobo could love.

Keep it Real

Go ahead and tell your boyfriend that you're a size two, but make sure to tell your online clothing retailer the truth. This may mean a painful few minutes with a measuring tape, but the results will be worth it. Use the charts and instructions on the clothing sites you visit to calculate your stats, and select the right sizes for your current measurements. It's the best way to ensure that you'll get a perfect fit every time. Some sites will even give you hints, like letting you know that a particular coat style runs large or small.

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Make Security a Top Priority

Most online retailers are honest, but it only takes one unscrupulous or phishing site to put your credit card information at risk. These tips will help you stay safer:

  • Buy from names you know and trust.
  • If you're exploring companies unknown to you, check them out with sites like BizRate or Epinions to see what other consumers are saying about them.
  • For increased protection, use encrypted sites. Web addresses that start with "https://" or have a closed, gold padlock in the lower right hand corner of your browser screen use encryption, an increased level of security.
  • Keep your security software updated, and consider using additional security measures to protect yourself, like browser filters and Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer Certificates (EV-SSL).
  • Don't give out your Social Security number or bank information. Reputable retail sites won't ask you for this kind of data.
  • If you receive an e-mail circular from an e-retailer, instead of clicking on the provided link to the site, type the Web address into your browser. You'll be protecting yourself from phishing e-mails that hijack you to dummy sites designed to steal your credit card information.
See the next page to learn about what transactional details to look for when buying clothes online.


Online Transaction Details

Did You Know?
Quite a few online retailers, like Macy's, Walmart and Kohl's, may have brick and mortar stores where you can return merchandise purchased from their Web sites. Having a local drop off or exchange location nearby can make online shopping virtually effortless

Pay Attention to the Un-Fun Details

When you're hot on the trail of a great pair of peep-toes, it's hard to remember to lock down the transactional details before you buy.

  • Shipping terms - Sites aren't always transparent about shipping charges. Know the amount you'll be paying as soon as possible. When freight charges are only revealed after you hit the checkout screen, review the totals carefully before you enter your payment details.

    Look on the home or information page of the site to see if there's a free freight option with minimum purchase. Sometimes it's worth spending a little more in order to get free freight. Better yet, group your purchases. Sites will sometimes sell multiples of the same or similar items at a discount. That way, you may be able to score more stuff for what the freight would have cost.
  • Payment terms - Although most sites accept credit, not all sites take all credit cards, debit cards and other online payment options. If you have a specific payment method in mind, check the terms and conditions page of the site for more information about what's accepted and what isn't.
  • Return policy - Most sites readily accept returns at full value, but it pays to make sure just in case. Some savvy online clothing retailers will also include labels for returns with easy to follow instructions.
  • Refunds - If everything doesn't work out the way you plan, make sure that the site will refund your money rather than just offeran exchange.
  • Customer service - Check the customer service portion of the site to make sure they're easy to get in touch with. Look for a toll-free customer service number. If you don't find one, consider taking a pass on the transaction.
  • Bargains - Many online retailers will court your business by offering additional discounts if you join their mailing list, use their proprietary credit card or become a member of their online club. If you like doing business with them, you can sometimes score valuable coupons, discounts and even freebees by keeping your account active.


Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • Barbaro, Michael "Less Risk Seen in Purchasing Clothes Online." New York Times. 5/14/07. 4/6/10.
  • Consumer Reports. "5 Tips for Shopping Online." 12/08. 4/5/10.
  • Consumer Reports. "Buying Clothes Online." 12/08. 4/5/10.
  • Tips for Buying Clothes Online. 3/10/07. 4/6/10.
  • Microsoft. "Online Safety." Undated. 4/5/10.
  • SafeShopping.Org. " Terms: What Are The Legal Terms Of Your Purchase?" American Bar Association. Undated. 4/5/10.
  • Yahoo. "Consumer Tips for Safe Shopping Online." 1999. 4/6/10.