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How to Buy Clothes Online That Actually Fit

It's really difficult to shop clothing online especially when you can't try them on first. Here's how you can buy clothes online that actually fit.

A woman shopping clothes online with her tablet.

It’s happened to the best of us. You find that gorgeous little item online that you’ve just got to have. A jacket, a pair of shoes, a blouse, it’s something you’ve just got to have. But you’re no fool. You check the size. You look at the reviews to see how it fits other customers.

You know what you can wear. So you order it. And when it finally arrives, you can’t wait to try it on…until you do, and it doesn’t fit. Now you’ve wasted your money and all those good imagination moments you spent thinking about wearing the thing you bought. There’s an art to buying clothes online that will actually fit you. Learn it, and this tragic story can be avoided.

What’s Your Size?

To be honest, clothing sizes can be a little misleading. Everyone’s body is different and not everyone fits perfectly into the number system that has been invented for clothing, to say nothing of the even more vague “S,” “M” and “L” sizes.

It’s another issue that sizes also aren’t standardized among all brands. You may wear a size 9 with one brand but a size 7 with another, for example. To make things even harder, you may wear a different size depending on the item you’re buying. It’s possible to be a size 9 dress size and a size 12 pants size. So how the heck is anybody supposed to ever buy clothes online that fit?

Start by knowing your true size. The size you need to know is not based on the number system or on how close you are to being a “Medium.” There’s only one way to truly know what size your body is: measure it. You want to measure your body while you’re standing normally and ideally, while naked or wearing form-fitting clothing. If possible, get someone to help you measure yourself to get accurate numbers. Otherwise, check each measurement three times to make sure you’re taking correct measurements.

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A close look at a page of a book showing clothing size conversions.

Men need to measure their height, waist, inseam, chest, arms, and neck. Your waist is your midsection right above your belly button. Your inseam is the length of your inner leg from groin to ankle. Your arms should be measured from the top of your shoulder to the wrist. Your chest should be measured around the thickest part of your chest, usually right at the nipple level. Write down all the measurements so you can buy pants and shirts that are going to fit.

Women need to measure the bust, the waist, the hips, inseam, and arms. Take the bust measurement at the thickest part of your chest. Your waist should be measured where your belly button sits. Your hips include the rear end! Get accurate measurements and write them all down. If your body changes, update your measurements. Keep the numbers handy so you know them and have them handy when you’re shopping online.

If you try to measure yourself with a work-style tape measure, the retractable type that comes out in a hard strip, you’re never going to get an accurate measurement and you’ll turn into a comedy skit pretty quickly. You need a soft, flexible tailor’s tape measure to take your measurements. If you haven’t got one, use yarn or string. Put the string around your body instead of a tape measure and cut or knot the string to mark the endpoints. Now, you can measure this length of the string to get your accurate measurements.

What to Look For

Now that you know what your size is, right down to the inches, you can buy clothes online that have a much better chance of fitting your body. However, you do still have to take another extra step every time you intend to buy: check the size chart!

Almost every single clothing item you look at online will have a size chart, though sometimes you may have to search for it a little before you can find it. The size chart will not only tell you what sizes are available in the item you want, but it will include the measurements for those sizes.

Because sizes can vary greatly between different clothing manufacturers, you always want to check the measurements listed in inches, not just in numbers or letters. Now that you know your own measurements, you can use the size chart to pick exactly the right size you need.

You also want to check the return policy for any clothing items you buy. Sometimes, the sizing chart isn’t accurate. Sometimes, mistakes are made and the wrong size is sent out. Sometimes things happen. So make sure that you can return clothing items and that the process for doing so is relatively straightforward.

A look at sets of clothes tag labels depicting sizes.

Don’t buy any clothing items online that can’t be returned so you won’t end up wasting money. The world of online shopping is huge, so keep looking until you find an item that can be returned. If a brand doesn’t include a clear return policy with their items, you could end up having other issues with that brand anyway.

Keep Track

Pay attention to the clothing you buy online and make note of the brands and items that work and the ones that don’t. If you get a perfect pair of blue shorts from one company, write that brand down on your list of measurements, along with the size of the shorts you purchased. You may decide that you want to get the same shorts in another color in the future.

When you find clothing that fits great that you love, write the brand and the size down. If you buy items from a brand that already worked for you once, you increase your chances of getting new items that fit well when you shop in the future. Likewise, write down any brands and sizes that just don’t work at all. This way, you can avoid that brand when you’re shopping in the future.

When you keep track of your measurements and take some extra steps, online shopping can be a great way to find beautiful clothing that you love.