I can vividly remember the first item of clothing I bought online. It was supposed to be a long, black dress with cut out shoulders. I was going to wear it to the Valentine’s Day dance, and I was beyond excited to show all my friends this cool thing I bought online. Aaaand . . . it didn’t fit. It fit like a tight crop top, not a dress, and it fit nothing like an XL dress should. After that, I almost stopped buying all clothes online because I assumed nothing would fit me correctly. Then, I started fitting into plus size clothes, and my options for shopping in-store were limited. I had to figure out how to get the fit I wanted without having to try it on first, which let me tell you, takes some serious trial and error.
Once I really learned how to shop for clothes online, my interest in shopping at brick-and-mortar retailers dwindled. Shopping for that wedding guest dress on the couch in sweats, with an ice cream in hand and Netflix playing in the background? Sign me up! Here are our tips for shopping online as a woman wearing a size 14 and up:
I know this can seem like a tedious task, but it makes all the difference when it comes to buying online. Once you know your measurements, it’s pretty easy to glance at the size guide for a particular item or brand and know where you are. To measure yourself properly, you’ll want to measure your bust size, waist, and hips, and sometimes for skirts and dresses, I like to measure the hem to make sure the garment will be long enough on me. For the most precise measurements, get undressed and pull the measuring tape over the fullest part of your bust, the smallest part of your natural waist and the fullest part of your hips when your legs are together. Don’t pull the tape too tight or too loose — this ensures the garments will fit properly! To measure the length of a dress or skirt, you can do this two ways: measure from the center of your collarbone to where the bottom hem of the dress would fit, or, my favorite way, find a dress or skirt that hits you in just the right spot and measure the length of the garment itself.
However, make sure you keep up with your measurements. I usually will measure myself once a season; too often and I know I have a tendency to get obsessive, similar to how looking at the scale all the time can be. Remind yourself not to get too caught up in what the numbers say, especially because having these are going to help you find the best pieces for your body.
Find your inspiration
Finding bloggers I love has always been easy, but finding women with a similar body type to me who also has the same sense of style can be difficult. Spend some time perusing Instagram (we know you want to!) for your favorite plus size fashion bloggers. Not only does it help to see how these pieces look on women of different body types and sizes, but they sometimes can introduce you to new brands and retailers you didn’t know existed.
Know the return policy
Returning something you bought online can be a huge hassle, but if you invested in something and it doesn’t fit exactly how you want, you gotta do what you gotta do! Before making a purchase, make yourself aware of the return policy. Retailers that allow free returns make buying that on sale dress just a little easier, whereas if a return has to be made within 30 days by mail to receive a refund, that can be a little difficult. Also, make sure what you’re buying isn’t final sale. Jewelry, swimwear, and lingerie/undergarments can often not be returned, so make sure what you’re buying is exactly what you want. (Or you have a friend with the same style!)
Find your go-to’s
I’m quick to buy any basic tee online because I have it down pat exactly the kind of fit I like. On the other hand, though, you will almost never see me buy jeans online. Especially for plus size clothing, the fit has to be right. Many retailers, especially those who mostly cater to straight sizes, don’t understand that the plus size body is DIFFERENT. Simply making the clothes a bit bigger doesn’t always cut it if you’re not an hourglass body type, and let’s face it — most people aren’t! This tip might fall more under style hacks in general, but it’s helped me figure out what exactly I can and cannot buy online.
Pay attention to brands
Along with finding your go-to pieces, finding the brands that work best for you and you trust is important. This isn’t just an excuse to buy a ton of pieces from different brands and decide which works, but over time, finding the brands that cater the best to your body type and preferences is so helpful when shopping online.
For me, I have specific plus size retailers that I only shop at for my work clothes because their tailoring is impeccable and always fit me modestly. On the other hand, I can quickly name off my favorite weekend lines that I can almost always be seen wearing at brunch or shopping with my girlfriends. Knowing the fabrics they use, the way they tailor their garments and how they usually fit on your body can help you discover which brands are the safest bet.
Make your tailor your best friend
Sometimes, you just love a piece so much, even if the measurements are a little off. In these cases, always buy the size larger and take it to a tailor to get altered. Getting a piece altered can run a little expensive, so if you’re on a budget, use this for items you either wear all the time (a blazer, black trousers, or a go-to dress) or those special occasion pieces you need to fit properly. This is also a great hack for clearance or sale items. I’ve found amazing pieces on sale that are just a little too big or don’t fit my body correctly. Taking them to my tailor only tacks on a little more money all while making the piece all the more special.