Buying clothes online can be a difficult process, especially for women. Not being able to try clothes on can seem like a really large hindrance to making the proper clothing choices, but with a little know how it’s possible to make excellent decisions and utilize the power (and savings) of online shopping to your advantage. Here’s a guide to the picking the right size of woman’s clothing when shopping online:

Start with a Tape Measure

Clothes sizes can vary somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer (more on that below), but in order to make the best decision you need to know what your exact measurements are. This way you can compare the designers’/manufacturers’ measurements to your actual size, and then factor in some other adjustments (which we’ll talk about below).

You can do this in front of a mirror or with a friend. You want to take three different measurements:

  • Bust Measurement – Stand as normally/naturally as you can and take the measurement tape around the fullest part of your bust, under your arms and around you back, making sure that it stays parallel to the ground (so that it is an accurate measurement). You may need a friend to help you with this part, but it’s the most important measurement for many purchases, including woman’s coats/jackets and woman’s shirts.
  • Waist – Place the measuring tape just under your belly button, and remain relaxed. Many people are tempted to flex their abs here, but just keep as relaxed as possible (remember you want to get an understanding of how your body is during the course of a normal day). Wrap the measuring tape around your body, again making sure it’s parallel to the ground. Keep the measuring tape tight, but not too tight (don’t constrict your skin).
  • Hips – The last piece of the measurement trifecta is the hip measurement. For this we want to stand straight up with your feet close together (less than 6 inches apart) and measure around the full part of your waist and rear end. You can probably do this on your own, but conscript a friend to help you if you need.

Once you have these measurements taken, put them down on a piece of paper so you don’t forget them. Now we can make a better, more informed decision when deciding on what clothes to buy!

Researching the Designer/Manufacturer

  • Customer Feedback and Reviews – Our staff have done our best to research variations in sizes from one designer to the next and have included this information in our various buying guides, but if you are doing your own research, you can get a ton of value by looking at individual customer reviews. Reading a lengthy review will likely give you some insight into the sizes and feel of the clothes. Also, once you’ve gotten insight into one article of clothing from a given company or designer, chances are that will transfer over to other clothes from that same company (i.e. Carthartt tends to run small, North Face tends to run big, etc.)
  • Reach out to the Company – Many clothing manufacturers provide excellent customer service, if you really want to be sure about a given purchase, you can usually just send them an email with your measurements and see what they have to say. They’ll likely be more than happy to help you, especially considering you are about to become a customer!
  • All else Fails – Free Returns! – Veterans of the online shopping game will know this already, but it bears mentioning here. The ultimate fail safe of online shopping is free returns. Companies like Zappos made the concept of free returns very popular, and now many more companies are following suit. We always mention the products/companies that have free returns in our buying guides, because it has become an increasingly crucial aspect of online shopping for many of our customers.