Woman sitting  and shopping with laptop and credit card .

Get armchair shopping cracked if you want to avoid busy shopping centres and bad purchases!

The worse the weather gets, the quicker my desire to tramp about on a windy High Street dwindles. In comparison, shopping from the comfort of my armchair with a cup of tea and no pushy sales staff seems SO much more civilised.

But, internet shopping can be far more time consuming than trudging around in person if you haven’t mastered it in the way that I have. Several clients at my October workshop mentioned that they have struggled to find things to buy online, received mountains of disappointing items, spent hours filling out forms to return their discards, or even worse, forgotten to return them and left unwanted items languishing, unloved, in their wardrobes.

So, this week I’d like to share with you my (almost) failsafe guide to shopping online. And remember, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. I am warning you now: getting good at this can be dangerously expensive!

1)      Shop at department stores

I’m a HUGE fan of shopping on-line with department stores. John Lewis is my hands-down fave so I am using that site as my example because they make it so darned easy for you. Shopping from one big store is quicker and easier because you aren’t filling in multiple payment and delivery forms and anything you need to return can go in one parcel.

At John Lewis delivery is free when you spend over £50 otherwise its £3.50, but as you’d spend more than that on parking I think this level of fee is fair. If you are panic buying for a specific event you can opt for next day delivery from £6.95. Returns are usually free and if you have paid a delivery charge but end up returning everything you ordered, they refund it! That seems like a good deal to me.

2)      Know where to look

Think about the clothes you already own that fit you REALLY well and that you love wearing. Where are they from? Shops cut their clothes for different body shapes – if you can identify two or three retailers that work for you, keep going back. There are certain brands I return to time and time again for particular clients or specific pieces.

3)      Know what you need

If you blindly go online looking for ‘something to wear’ you’ll disappear down a big hole and end up watching cat videos. Imagine you were food shopping online. You can’t just look for ‘food’ or ‘fridge items’; you need to be specific.

Have a wardrobe ‘check-in’ before you start. What do you have already?  What needs to go? Where are the gaps? For fuller instructions on sorting out your wardrobe check out this blog post.

Now make a precise shopping list. It could look something like this, for example:

  • Dark jeans
  • Two thin polo neck tops to go underneath a black dress – one red, one white.
  • A party dress
  • A warm sweater
  • A clutch bag to go with party dress

4)      Where I would shop for this list

Jeans – Many websites have a helpful ‘fit guide’ to help you to decide which style to go for.  There is always more stock and a wider range of sizes online. Gap is ALWAYS great for every body shape, and they sell jeans online in the odd numbers so you don’t have opt for a loose size 30 or a too tight 28.

Polo necks, t-shirts and camisoles – Uniqlo is AMAZING for basics. Many of the wardrobes I visit are seriously lacking in the basics department which is why the owner is struggling to wear their show-stopping tops or skirts. Visit this earlier post to learn more about the importance of having the right basics in your wardrobe (and to enjoy a nostalgic analogy about WHAM!)

Party dresses – I would always start with a department store website. With tons of concessions under one metaphorical roof, there’s a massive range and usually something for everyone.

A warm sweater – This totally depends on your budget. If you’re a fan of cashmere, it’s worth signing up to the mailing lists of brands like Pure Collection so that you’re notified of reductions and get regular voucher codes with free postage and returns. Otherwise try your favourite high street store.

Clutch bag – When you go shopping in person to buy a pair of shoes, you can guarantee the sales assistant will show you a matching bag. But here’s the thing: it’s no longer good to be matchy-matchy. Treat yourself to a gorgeous neutral or metallic coloured clutch and it will go with EVERYTHING.

Try Whistles, Russell & Bromley or John Lewis (again, I told you it was good!)

How to shop

If you’ve worked with me – or another image consultant – and have a good understanding of your style rules (the colours, styles, shapes, necklines, sleeve lengths, hemlines, prints, fabrics, textures that work best for you) this next bit is a doddle.

If not, rely on what you like. Pour yourself a glass of wine (or make a cup of tea if you don’t trust yourself to shop under the influence) and get browsing.

  • Choose your store, click on ‘dresses’.
  • Refine your search by clicking on the options that are usually down the left hand side.
    • Brand
    • Colour
    • Occasion ie work or party
    • Length
    • Shape
    • Sleeve
    • Neckline
  • If you see something you like, pop it in your basket. Don’t worry about adding loads of things; you will be refining your selection once you’ve finished looking.
  • Choose a good few dresses. You should ALWAYS over-order. If delivery and returns are free it won’t cost more to send most of it back and you are much more likely to end up with something you love. Then, move on to the next item you need.

5)      How to refine your search

  • Look at each item you’ve put in your shopping basket. You will probably find there are clear favourites once you look at a few pieces together.  Remove the runner-up items from your basket.
  • Examine the washing instructions. If you know you’ll never hand wash or dry clean anything please don’t buy it.
  • Look at how many they have in stock – if there’s only one grab it quickly.
  • Check out the front, side and back view of each piece to check there aren’t any surprising features such a very low cut back, or strange length that you hadn’t noticed.
  • Once you’re happy with your selection, checkout and wait for the packages of joy to arrive.

Packages arrive within 3-5 days as standard at John Lewis and you usually have 90 days to return unwanted items but I would NEVER recommend waiting that long as you are likely to forget. Anything that needs returning can be taken to the post office, back to the store, sent back by courier or dropped off at one of the many collection points around the country.

Trying on

The great blessing of internet shopping is that you get to try these lovely new pieces calmly, using YOUR mirror at home (one that doesn’t lie to you), with your shoes, jewellery, the right bra etc. You aren’t under pressure to decide very quickly, nor swayed by what the ‘helpful’ shop assistants or other shoppers may tell you. PLUS, you won’t be pressurised into paying an extortionate amount for the matching shrug, handbag, shoes etc. PERFECT.

Returns

If you decide to return something, wrap it back up in the original packaging STRAIGHT AWAY, even if you can’t post it for a few days. This way you can keep it in perfect condition and there won’t be any quibble on return.

It takes a week to 10 days for refunds to be processed so keep checking your account to make sure you get your money back.

This has turned out to be a much longer post than I intended BUT once you’ve mastered the art, internet shopping can save you time, stress and money.

Go forth and SHOP and don’t forget to tell me how you get on!

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