While more and more retailers are offering plus-size clothing in brick and mortar stores (special shout out to eloquii, which ispopping up in The Limited stores all over the country), most plus-size offerings for women above a size 14 are only available online. I’ve read reports of retailers citing customer preference . . . but I don’t know anyone who would rather buy online than in-store. Although facing those small dark rooms and 180 degree mirrors aren’t really pleasant for most people, it at least gives you the opportunity to consider the look and feel of a garment and to actually try it on and see if it works on YOUR body. But, instead, most plus-size women are forced to purchase something off the internet, wait for it to arrive by mail, hope and pray that it fits right and looks at least somewhat like it did online, and then, if it doesn’t, decide whether they want to go through the trouble of shipping it back for an exchange or for store credit. If you opt for an exchange, you usually have to repeat this little dance all over again.
I’ve been shopping online for YEARS . . . and before that, I was shopping in catalogs. So, I’ve become pretty adept at determining what will and won’t work for me before I start pressing all those buttons. Here are my top tips for successfully shopping online:
1. Look at the model. No, the point is not to spark envy of a 6 foot, barely-plus-size model who looks nothing like you. But instead to look at the model and see how the garment looks on her body. For instance, is she posing in a way that obstructs full view of the garment? Or, perhaps, can you see her underwear peeking through the fabric? Overall, if something looks, uh, not-good on the model (who has been prepped by a styling team and photographed by a professional in order to entice you to buy that item), how in the world will it look with you and your non-glam-squad-having self? Be sure to click on all views of the item, just to get a thorough look. If something looks “off” proceed with caution.
2. Read the label. Just like you read the labels on your food to see the ingredients, check out the label and read about the garment. Is it machine washable or dry clean only? What is it make out of? Polyester? Rayon? Spandex? Wool? This will make a difference in the fit and feel of the garment. If you’re not sure how, just compare against some of the items in your own closet made of the same material.
3. Balance expectations. I cannot tell you how many times I received something that I ordered online, only to toss it down in disgust and send it right back. While it can be tempting to get excited, you have to remember that sometimes things will not translate in real life the way they did online. The color might be slightly different. Or, the garment may not lay exactly the same way on you as it did on the model – after all, we all have different body types. But don’t get upset. You always have options, which leads us to the last point….
4. Don’t be afraid to return/exchange. I know. You’ve waited on this garment for nearly a week. Once you get it, even though it’s not *quite* what you’re looking for, you rationalize that maybe it could work . . . someday . . . and you stick it in the back of your closet, never to wear it again. Don’t fall into this trap. Nowadays, it is extremely rare for an online retailer not to have an exchange/return policy that will allow you to ship back the garment and, at a minimum, get store credit. Most even provide shipping labels, so all you have to do is repackage the item and send it back. Just accept that returns and exchanges are just a part of shopping online. Once I accepted that, I found it much easier to return the things I didn’t like and get my money back!
Well, there you have it. Did I miss anything? What are some of your horror stories from shopping online? Please share in the comments section!
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