Just the right size: How to shop online

Shopping online for clothes has many benefits. There is the convenience of shopping from the comfort of your home when you don’t have time to drive to a store and browse the racks. It is also great for researching the best price for an item you already know you want, especially for wardrobe staples like a white button-down blouse or a pair of skinny jeans. There is also the thrill of finding a package with your name on it waiting at your doorstep.

Still, the concern that stops many people from pushing their virtual shopping basket to check out is sizing. To learn how to order just the right size when shopping online for clothes, follow this advice from fashion school pros in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Measure yourself

“It may seem simple, but invest in a measuring tape,” says Claude Brown, academic director of the Fashion Design and the Fashion Marketing & Management programs at The Art Institute of California – Los Angeles. “It costs less than five bucks, and will make all the difference when finding your right size online.”

Sizing can vary widely from brand to brand notes Brown, who also designs his own collection of dresses and sportswear. So if you are trying a new and unfamiliar brand, a key first step is to measure your waist, hips, bust and inseam.

Retailer sites will often have measuring guides that describe where and how to measure. Two measuring tips from Geetika Gupta, an instructor at The Art Institute of California – San Francisco who teaches courses in both fashion design and fashion marketing, is to always measure over undergarments and allow the tape to roughly skim the body, not sag or cut in.

Read charts and descriptions

Gupta, who runs her own fashion design and wholesaling business, also advises to take a close look at the size charts of the brand you are browsing. “With your measurements in hand you can figure out where you generally fit into a brand’s size ranges. Then what you want to do is read the garment description and look for keywords based on fit.” she says. Indicator words such as “high-waisted” or “boy fit” can help you decide if an item might be the right shape or style for your body, and better align with your fit preferences, which are very personal.

Brown also cautions that you can’t just rely on photos either. One of the reasons clothes can look perfect on the models is because sometimes a garment is clipped, pinned or taped to the body to look just so.

Look for low-cost shipping

Online shopping features like a live chat, virtual shopping assistants and runway videos are occasionally available, but with your measurements and new-found product knowledge, can be less applicable. Some retailer websites offer to adjust the inseam before they ship your order, which can be worthwhile, says Gupta. “However, beware the quality from mass customization websites where you enter your measurements to receive customized pieces of clothing,” she warns.

“In general, dresses, skirts and blouses can be easier to assess size and fit,” Gupta says. “I also look for sites with free or low-cost return shipping and like to order two sizes of the same item so I can try both on.” She does this until she is familiar with a brand and how it fits her.

To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.