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Top ten rules for shopping online

Our Top Ten Rules For Shopping Online

The list has been a long time coming and best to post just in time for the fall deliveries. Our love for online shopping has been growing as the seasons pass. What used to be a candle here, a pair of jeans there, is now our 90% dedication to buying all things online (from moisturizer to beach towels), and, if you're a regular Coutorture reader, you'll notice that our posting relies heavily on e-commerce widgets and references as a result. Part of Coutorture's plight, from the get-go, was to be an editorial site that really reveled in the process, from sewing machine to storefront (this is where the network comes in--we couldn't possibly do that alone) making for more educated fashion consumers who can do without all the dumbing-down and recycled opinion. That said, we'd like to cover our top-ten rules for online shopping. As a couple of fashionistas who've been honing this skill for some years, we've learned a thing or two along the way and thought it might be useful to share our shortlist.

1. Look when you're not looking. Make your favorite e-commerce site a bookmark and check it once a day to see what's gone on sale and what's new. Check out new e-commerce sites, ask your friends which sites they prefer, or just generally surf what's being sold online. You'll notice patterns, you'll be able to fall in love with things before you need them, and you'll just generally make better decisions because there's less pressure and more time.

2. Know what looks good on you. One of the common complaints people have about shopping online is not being able to try on items. If you're shopping for clothing start with the silhouettes and brands that you know suit your figure. There's no shame in playing it safe, especially when you first start out.

3. Shoes and handbags: your safety net. If you still feel a little strange about the prospect of buying clothing you've never seen on your body, start with handbags and shoes. These items are much easier to gauge online because, chances are, the mannequin's elbow and foot aren't all that different than your own.

4. Buy sale items at your own risk. Sale items are usually non-refundable and, therefore, are a greater risk. That said, finding I-can't-believe-I-found-this-for-a-hundred-dollars items are a dime a dozen online (we're talking like a sample sale from the gods) so we suggest you just weigh your options. Make sure you have a reliable consignment shop nearby (Tokyo 7 is our NYC pick) if you should purchase something you're not crazy about. Chances are, you'll make nearly as much as you spent.

5. Get a second opinion. If you find something you like online, locate the same item on other e-commerce sites. is one site where you can cross-check the same item on many different sites at once. One of the unfortunate things about shopping online is that color, size, and texture can sometimes be misconstrued (this is getting better, don't worry). Cross-checking items you want to purchase will help you get a sense of their actual properties and may even help you find something for less than what you found originally.

6. Read the fine print.Reading item descriptions is important to understanding the garment. For example, if a garment is 'fully lined', you can be less weary of it being super-sheer or, for Fall clothing, too light. Descriptions will tell you if something is of high or low quality, imported or domestically made, eco-friendly, or dry clean only: all considerations when buying a garment.

7. Buy big. If you're in between sizes or just generally unsure of fit, for the most part, we recommend buying the larger of two sizes. As long as you know a good tailor, and the garment allows for it, things can always be taken in or up. There's not much you can do with a too-tight frock or pair of trousers, so better to play it safe and go big. The only exception to this rule (which obviously doesn't apply to shoes in the first place) is denim. Women constantly buy their jeans too big. Denim stretches out. Jeans never, no matter how many times you stick them in the dryer, shrink. This is a common misconception and leads to, unfortunately, many less-than-perfect denim booty's.

8. Be your own private detective. When you're shopping with your friends on the weekend, keep an eye on items in the shops (most will be online). If you remember seeing something you liked online, try it on for size. If you're mad about something you see online, go find it in the department stores. The e-commerce option will almost always be in better condition and offered for a better price.

9. Remember your editorials.When you see something in a magazine, a website, or e-commerce splash page, take a look at how the items appear in the editorial. One of our favorite things to see editorialized are jeans. OAK put up an editorial this summer with a pair of high rise Acne jeans. We took note, we checked out the different colors available, we banked that information for when we might need a pair with a similar rise and fit. Point is, it's better to do a little research so you can make educated decisions. That's part of the reason clothing is editorialized in the first place; it gives consumers a context and allows them to see the garments in a different way.

10. Learn from your mistakes. It's absolutely okay to make mistakes and buy things you aren't quite in love with once they arrive on your doorstep. First of all, we firmly believe that those mistakes will be fewer than the one's made at a sample sale or H&M binge, and second of all, you can always (unless it's on sale) return your items. It's not complicated at all and doesn't require a two-hour trip uptown or anything. Just pack it up and send it back. Simple as that.

Now you can enjoy your Sunday brunch without feeling the need to flip the table over and hit the stores because (no matter how early you arrive) they will be packed. Shopping online makes for better decisions, and, makes it feel like everyday is your birthday (This package is for me?!). To us, there just couldn't be anything better.

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