How to successfully shop online for clothes

Written by:


May 18, 2023

The way we shop for our clothes has changed dramatically in the past 5 years. Not only do most brick and mortar shops have an online store, you can also shop spontaneously and instantly though your social media feeds and many online publications.

With one simple tap or click, anything that catches your eye online can be in your closet the very next day.

It’s liberating to be able to shop anywhere, anytime, without leaving the comfort of your home. Your location can no longer limit your personal style, and shopping with such spontaneity and freedom can even encourage creativity which can do wonders for your personal style and confidence.

But, (and this is a big ‘but’), on the flip side – if you don’t take a minute to stop and think about the suitability (such as will you wear it, will it suit you, will it fit your lifestyle etc….), and you don’t take the time to consider the sizing and fit…you’re at risk of purchasing yet more clothes that leave you feeling disappointed, frustrated, and confused as to why clothes don’t look good on you.

I’ve been shopping online for my clients since 2012 and 4 years ago I pivoted completely, and changed my business model to focus almost entirely on online services only. I’ve helped hundreds of women build a closet of clothes they love…without leaving the comfort of their home, and have a ton of experience and knowledge when it comes to shopping online successfully and efficiently. And in this article I’m sharing everything I’ve learned so you can shop online with focus and efficiency, and put a stop to wasting money on clothes that don’t look right.

This blog post covers everything you need to know about shopping for clothes online:

So scroll on down to read the full article, or click the links above to jump straight to the info you're looking for.

Laptop wiht text


1/     It’s easy!  There’s not need no need to leave your home and you can shop anywhere anytime

2/    If you live in a remote location, or your selection of clothing stores is limited, or doesn't cater to your tastes or size, shopping online will give you almost unlimited options.

3/   Many retailers offer a much larger selection of specialty sizes online than they do in store, so if you're petite, tall or plus size, shopping online will give you far more options than shopping in store.

4/   There are often far more discounts to be had, if you look for them.

5/   Clothes are often showcased on a person rather than hanging limply on a hanger.  This can make it much easier to get a feel for what the garment will look like on you.  Some retailers have taken it one step further and are finally starting to show clothes on models in a variety of sizes.   And others such as ASOS have videos of models wearing their collections which gives a more realistic view of the piece and helps you to get an idea of how the piece moves.

6/   You can read reviews left by other buyers.  This is fantastic as most reviews are required to leave their size and height.  It’s a great way to get an idea if the fit runs true to size, to find out how it washes, what the fabric feels like, if the color is true to the picture and if they leave photos with their review you can see how it looks on someone other than the model on the website.


If you're not careful, shopping for clothes online can be a huge time waster.  I know, because when I started shopping online for my clients it would take me almost 3 times longer to compile their collection that it would when I sourced it on foot, in stores.  It’s partly because there is so. Much. more. Choice. But it’s also because you can’t (or rather, don’t want to) order a ton of things just to find that one item.  Finding the correct item online can be like looking for a needle in a haystack and doing it successfully takes a little more thought than shopping in a store.

After years of practice I’ve developed a system for shopping for clothing online that has halved the time it used to take me, and I’m sharing the key things below:


Don’t stick to your usual brands.  Widen the net a little and try some different retailers.  If you don’t know where to start, head to some of the larger online stores that sell multiple brands such as ASOS,  Century 21,  Nordstrom, Revolve,  or  John Lewis.  And when you spot an item you like by a brand you’ve not shopped from before, head over to that retailers site to see more.

As you discover new retailers you like, make a note of them  Head to sites that sell multiple brands, and instead of searching for an item by brand, search by item type

2. Be specific with your searching, don’t just rely on the sites categories

Use the websites search bar to find the pieces you want, rather than using the retailers categories, and be specific - If you’re looking for a dress, don't just search for ‘dresses’, search for the style of dress you’re looking for.  And try searching a variety of descriptions for that style of dress, for example, if you’re looking for a dress with a kick flare, also try searching for a ‘trumpet’ or ‘mermaid’.  


Filter your search by color and size, you’ll save a ton of time and you’ll save yourself from disappointment when you find an item you like and discover it's not available in your size.

4. Make a collection

Add to your cart, any and all the items you like. When you’re done, view your cart and start to whittle it down.  Seeing all the items you like in one place will help you to narrow down your selection.

5. Start a wish-list on Pinterest

If you spot something you like, but it’s not what you’re looking for, or you don't’ have the budget for it right now, pin it to a wish-list on Pinterest.   That way, when you’re looking for a specific item, you can check to see if you've already pinned it to your board.

ipad with text


Shopping online isn’t easy, and often results in bad purchases, poor fitting clothing, and yet more clothes that end up hanging unworn in your closet, but if you follow these key points, you’ll make fewer mistakes!


It’s one thing to know your size, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of purchasing the correct size, you’ll want to know your measurements.  It’s especially useful for things such as checking the length of pants and skirts, checking sleeve lengths ,and identifying the correct belt size. 

The measurements to jot down are:

  • Arm length - Measure from the edge of your shoulder (at the point where there’s a small gap between the bones.) to your wrist. 
  • Bust - Measure the fullest part of your chest
  • Waist - Measure your natural waist, if your’/e not sure where this is, put your hand on your hip and bend over to one side.  Your thumb will naturally sit at your natural waist.
  • Hips - Measure the fullest part of your hips, not your actual hips.  This is usually about 8 inches below your belly button.
  • Leg length and height - to measure your leg length, go from the top of the inside of your leg, down to your ankle


Almost all online retailers have a size guide to help you choose the correct size.  Some even have specific recommendations for each individual item, especially if they've had feedback about the fit from past customers.  Check the guides before deciding on which size to purchase.

3. get to know what clothing styles work best for you

Try to buy clothes that make the most of your shape and fit you well, rather than clothes that look good on someone else.  If you do this, you'll build a collection of clothes that you actually enjoy wearing.  If you don't take your shape into consideration you'll end up buying clothes online that don't' look good when you try them on at home.

Not sure what clothes work best for you?

I've created a simple digital guide that will show you EXACTLY which clothes work for your shape, so you can enjoy getting dressed.

4. consider that you might want to purchase petite or tall

Petite and tall fits aren’t just longer or shorter, the entire fit of the garment is tailored to fit someone tall or petite, which means the waist will be in a different place, and sleeve length will be different.  

If you purchase an item in the correct size, but the wrong fit, it can still look terrible on you.  As one of the students in my online course Style Your Shape told me after she'd learned what clothes work the best for her unique shape - "When I was viewing the pictures side by side on my phone, it was also a huge eye opener on how incorrectly regular sized clothes (95% of my previous wardrobe) fit, as opposed to petite size clothes!”

If you're not sure if you should be buying petite, regular or tall fits, here's a rough guide:

  • Petite - if you’re 5”3 and under consider buying petite clothing
  • Regular – if you’re 5”3 – 5”7 regular should be the best fit
  • Tall – And if you’re 5”7 or above, try tall


Clothes look totally different on different body shapes, so it’s a really really good idea to view the garment on a model that is close to your size or shape, otherwise you could very well end up buying an item of clothing that doesn't look like you thought it would

There are a few different ways to view clothes on different body shapes.

  1. The first (and my favorite) is a relatively new feature, but I’m hoping that more and more brands will start to add it to their online stores - Some retailers have begun to illustrate their clothes on a variety of different sized models.  Madewell is a fantastic example of this, the little drop down menu on each product page enables you to switch to viewing the garment on a range of models from a size 26 to a  32.  It is a great way to get a feel for how an item will look on your frame.
  2. Another useful exercise is to search the brand hashtag on Instagram to see how other people have styled the item you like.  Not only does it show you how it looks on different shapes, it also gives you ideas for how you might style the piece.
  3. And lastly, keep your eye peeled for photos that people have shared in their reviews.


Because you can't touch the fabrics when you buy online, it can be difficult to know how an item will sit on your frame, and how it will move.   I recommend building up your knowledge about the most common fabrics as this will help you to understand how different fabrics will sit on your frame and which fabrics will work best for you.  

For example, soft, lightweight fabrics tend to be quite fluid so they can often soften your frame and add a little femininity, where as thick, stiff cottons are often quite bulky which can swamp a petite frame and add bulk to make you look bigger than you are.  As  a pear shape I tend to steer clear of stiff cottons on my bottom half as they have a tendency to make it look wider than it is.

7. Check the item is right for you

It’s very easy to purchase things you don’t really need when you’re shopping online so it’s a good idea to stop and think about whether the item is right for you or not.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you have anything in your closet to wear it with? It’s a good idea to have at least 3 items that will go with a new piece before you buy it.  This goes for shopping online and in-store.
  2. Do you have something similar already hanging in your closet. If you do, it might be worth holding off from buying it.
  3. Think about when, where and how you'd wear the items.  And ask yourself how much you truly like it.  It's so easy to get swept up by the latest ‘Instafamous’ items, or to feel pressure to keep up with the latest trends, so take a minute to think about why you want the clothing, when and where you'll wear it, and if you truly like it before you click to buy.
  4. And finally, will the clothing work for your shape?  Will it fit you well and show your shape off to it’s best?  If not, you’ll up what yet another piece of clothing that’s disappointing. If you’re not sure what clothing fits and flatters you the most,check out my online course Style Your Shape.

8. Check the returns policy

This is a biggy.  First you want to check that you can return the item if it’s not right.  Next you’ll want to find out if you have to pay the return shipping.  Some stores offer free returns, and some only offer free returns if you sign up to become a VIP shopper.  It pays to check before you place your order!

9. Check for discounts and offers

And lastly, it's worth doing a quick internet search for coupon codes and offers.  I also recommend visiting the retailers social media feeds to see if there are any on offers on there that aren’t showing on their site.

At the end of the day retailers don’t want you to return your purchases, and are getting better and better at pointing you towards the right clothing, in the right size.  So make sure you utilize all the help they offer.

However, if you’re still not getting it right or don’t have the time for it, then let me help you! I offer a range of online shopping packages that will help you find the perfect pieces and save time doing it, and I have an online course Style Your Shape that will teach you the skills and knowledge to dress to make the absolute best of your shape so you can build a collection of clothes you love wearing.

Do you shop online much? How often do you find yourself having to return items? Maybe you’ve nailed online shopping?! As always, join in the conversation by commenting below…I love chatting with you lovely peeps!

Hi, I'm Niki

author and personal stylist

Over the past 18 years I’ve freed thousands of women from the frustration of disappointing outfits, by showing them how to dress to make the most of their shape, and helping them build a closet that's easy to use and fun to wear.  My blog shares the tried and true tips and knowledge I've developed, to help you stop wasting money on disappointing clothes, and build a closet you enjoy wearing.

You can find out more about Niki here

And you can get in touch with Niki here