7 Tips for Buying Clothes Online

Suffering through ill-fitting clothes, scratchy materials, and shipping costs may sway you to stick to your current closet rather than hunt through countless sites. However, now that many dressing rooms are closed, online shopping offers an experience similar to being in the store, without the concerns of social distancing. Below are some tips to enhance the digital shopping experience.

1. Know your measurements and check for size charts

The biggest concern for online clothes shopping is usually the fit, because sizes vary greatly depending on the brand. To skirt the issue, take your measurements beforehand and check the size chart. Some sites’ size charts even tell you exactly where and how to measure your body, so you start with accurate information.

2. Read the reviews

Reviews can can attest to the durability of the clothes, the condition they arrived in, their comfort, and often how true they are to the size chart. Some reviews also include pictures from customers.

3. Check the material

This tip may not be intuitive for first-time online shoppers because material is easy to access in a store, but checking the fabric is important to determine the fit, look, and texture of the clothing. Knowing what a piece of clothing is made of helps you consider how the clothes will shrink, stretch, and feel when you wear them.

4. Try to find free shipping

Many online stores offer free shipping if you spend more than a certain amount of money. Buy the clothes you need all at once, and you won’t lose your shirt on shipping costs.

5. Filter your results

Online stores tend to offer more options than brick-and-mortar places because there is no storage limit. The vast amount of choices can be overwhelming. Most sites offer filters that can narrow your search by size, style, cost, and so on and make your shopping experience more efficient.

6. Read the return policy

Even with these tips in mind, the clothes you buy online may just not work for you. And that’s okay — if you know the return policy. Just make sure to send back any unwanted clothes in the given time. If a store doesn’t allow returns, consider looking elsewhere. You can often find a link to the return policy at the bottom of any page on the site.

7. Save time to ship

It could take about three weeks for the clothing to reach you — longer if you’re shopping internationally. Normally, this isn’t a big deal; just remember not to buy the dress you need for your friend’s wedding the day before the event.

Featured image: anon_tae / Shutterstock

A Case Against Gift Giving

A recent television commercial from Nordstrom features Dean Martin singing “Go Go Go Go” while excited shoppers dash-dance through the department store. “Let’s Go Gifting!” a graphic insists over footage of silvery presents being stacked to the heavens.

If Nordstrom represents the old guard of retail, the new face of the industry, Amazon, is moving forward in a similar vein. The online giant released a commercial this year in which its signature cardboard packages — likely to be holiday presents — are characters themselves, resurrecting The Jacksons’ 1981 song “Can You Feel It” to the delight of construction workers, children, and even Amazon’s own warehouse staff. “It,” in this scenario, is presumably some incarnation of holiday spirit, restored to all by the crooning of the comforting boxes.

These messages comprise a wintry backdrop in our culture that presents are inevitable and necessary for a normal December. It’s hardly a new phenomenon; we’ve been gifting for so long that it might be difficult to imagine a holiday season without it. But what if we stopped exchanging presents?

Okay, not entirely: we can still give presents to children. I’m not a jerk.

But the guilt-driven custom of holiday shopping has got to go. Aside from kids, many people don’t seem to enjoy receiving presents on the holidays anyways — or, at least, enough to justify our panic-induced shopping sprees the week before our ritualistic offerings at the fir shrine.

Anxiety over receiving gifts, which is linked to social anxiety, is more widespread than you might think. When I talked to friends and acquaintances, almost everyone expressed having some discomfort with opening presents in front of a crowd. The uncertainty, expectations, and inevitable feigned enthusiasm make the whole formality unbearable for, I suspect, a silent majority of receivers. A study in Psychological Science found that most people give gifts with the receiver’s immediate reaction in mind rather than their long-term satisfaction. In spite of our actual needs and wants, we end up with a flashy novelty that loses appeal quickly (see: selfie sticks and hands-free phone mounts).

“You get what you get, so don’t throw a fit,” as they say. What could a few impractical gifts hurt? In the bigger picture of the economy, it could actually inflate entire industries.

In his 2009 book Scroogenomics, economist Joel Waldfogel argues that holiday gift-giving is literal waste. Waldfogel looks at the annual December spike in retail sales (typically cheered by news stories each year), and asks about the cost of a gift versus the value of that gift to the receiver. For instance, if your aunt buys you Neiman Marcus Prosecco Bubble Bath for $38 but that product is only worth $20 to you, then there is a deadweight value loss of $18 (or 47.3 percent). He found that American gift giving destroys at least 13 percent of value. Given last year’s $691.9 billion spent on holiday retail, Waldfogel’s theory would predict that almost $90 billion in value was lost. This money doesn’t just disappear into thin air, but he maintains that the tradition of gift giving undermines an economic system’s ability to distribute products efficiently and create value.

But what if we do get cash for Christmas? Or, the most-requested gifts of late, gift cards? This not only confirms that gift giving in the 21st century amounts to passing currency back and forth, but it’s also wasteful. Just about every quality of the convenient and impersonal gift card exists to maximize profits for the respective company. About one billion dollars in gift card money goes unspent each year. Customers who use their cards in a store are more likely to spend their own money as well (about 20 percent more than the gift card amount), and if they don’t use the full amount on the card they’ll likely return. People are also two-and-a-half times more likely to pay full price with a gift card. The last pitfall is unique to the modern era: a gift card won’t work if the store goes under! Some unlucky schmucks are holding gift cards for Toys ’R’ Us right now that may as well be bookmarks.

“But this is all over-analytical conjecture,” you say. “You’re missing the true meaning of trading stuff,” or, getting to the heart of the matter, “What else are we supposed to do?”

The rampant materialism of the winter holidays does seem pretty entrenched, and that’s because it is. “Just as every generation imagines that it invented sex, every generation imagines that it invented the vulgar commercialization of Christmas,” Waldfogel writes in Scroogenomics. After looking at the holiday spending statistics of the last 100 years, he found that (with the exception of the Great Depression) numbers have remained comparable, and, in fact, we used to spend a larger portion of our smaller economy on the holidays.

That doesn’t mean we’re tethered to this inefficient and antiquated tradition forever, though. The elimination of adult-on-adult gift exchanging might take some time, but it could happen.

We could finally call our own bluff on our collective insistence that the true meaning of the holidays lies in good will towards Men instead of piles of stuff wrapped in shiny paper. Remember? The central lesson behind all of your favorite holiday lore?

As the anti-materialistic story of the Grinch has been rebooted for the big screen yet again, one must wonder whether the slew of new merchandise (like finger puppets, mugs, and those blessed plush toys) is what Dr. Seuss had in mind. Unlike the worlds of Amazon and Nordstrom advertisements, Whoville exists to meaningfully reflect our own best (and worst) instincts. When they discover their tricycles, popcorn, and plums are gone, the Whos still celebrate Christmas enthusiastically. Without presents, would we still be singing “Fahoo fores, dahoo dores”? There’s only one way to find out.