Online shopping is a major industry these days. This past Christmas, an estimated 45% of shoppers bought gifts online, from the United States and abroad. But just like clothing sizes and quality can differ from store to store here in America, the same can be said for a current major trend: cheap clothes from overseas.
Here, in my Special Report on KTVB Channel 7 news, is what you need to know, before you succumb to what may look like an irresistible bargain. Click the photo below to jump to the video, or scroll down to read my main tips.
Things to keep in mind when shopping online, especially “Bargain clothing and accessories” from overseas:
1. The quality of workmanship and the materials may not always be what you think. My friend Char ordered this cape that said “woolen,” and looked like it had beautiful leather trim. Cute, right? And cheap!
But when it arrived, the material was a very cheap felt – definitely NOT wool! – the trim was a shiny, inexpensive stretchy fabric, and the sleeves and zippers were all sewn crooked, with loose threads sticking out!
My friend Maryann loved a sweater she saw online, and they were so inexpensive she bought two from the same website. But one arrived with beautiful faux fur around the edges and nice, heavy, sweater material, while the second exact same item from the exact same company arrived smaller-sized, with uneven stitching, and scrawny rat-like fur around the trim!
One of the sweaters mostly looked like this:
The other one, not so much.
2. Sizes from around the world are extremely varied! For example, an American small and a Chinese small are typically NOT the same thing. A couple years ago, I had the fun privilege of traveling to Beijing, China with my husband. I loved all the shopping, but was dismayed to find very little in the clothing category that fit me. I’m fairly average-sized, I think, on a global scale, though on the small size for standard American clothing; 125lbs, 5’7″, which is a size 2-4 here. I was shocked to find that the only dresses or sweaters I could find in the Beijing markets that fit me were extra-large. I’m an XL in China!!! (And a size 8 in the UK, and 38 in other parts of Europe! Why can’t we standardize women’s sizes???) I definitely keep this experience in mind, when I shop online…
My friend Kristie looks for inexpensive Plus-sized clothing online. When this cute & simple dress popped up for $15 on Zulily, she selected the 3X size. But what came in the mail was tiny; it fit her little sister, who is an American size 2! The belted waist came right under Kristie’s chest, and the “dress” was so short, it fit more like a blouse. Also, the material was so thin, you can see through it. Definitely not what she thought she was paying for!
Kristie’s “dress” only cost her $15, but it was $15 wasted, as she could not return or exchange it, because…
3. Many items are final sale, even if they don’t say so. I ordered an Alice In Wonderland costume from Amazon.com last fall for Halloween. By the time the item arrived, the holiday I bought it for had already passed (shipping from China can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months!), but also the one-size-fits-all dress didn’t fit me. I asked the seller if I could return it, and the answer was, “Sure, as long as you pay the shipping to get it back to us.” Fine, ok, no big deal, right? Until I found out the approximate shipping of that dress back to China was $75! I’m not paying $75 to return a $25 dress!
Practical Tips for Shopping Online:
1. Always check the return policy! Can you exchange it? Can you get your money back? Will you have to pay for the shipping?
2. Study measurement charts closely, measure twice, don’t rush! Don’t be lazy! I’m talking to you, American shoppers; convert the centimeters to inches and figure it out. It’s worth your time and money!
3. When possible, read others’ ratings so you know the fit. On Amazon, for example, people can rate “Fits as expected,” and write about items that run too big or too small. But watch out for fake or “planted” reviews; take your time and listen to other customers’ opinions.
4. Study the website or retailer; have they been in business long, do they have reviews and testimonials? Even retailers on Amazon and Zulily can pop up quick, sell a few items, and disappear… I bought a costume wig that didn’t arrive after 3 months, but when I went to Amazon.com to check on my order status, the company who distributed the wig had vanished! I never got my wig, but I’m grateful that they never charged my card. Whew!
5. When in doubt, size up and alter to fit. If the item you are ordering comes from China, Korea, or Singapore, for example, go up a size from what you typically buy. It’s SO MUCH EASIER to have a seamstress nip in a waistline or shorten a hem, then it is to try and figure out how to make something that’s too small stretch to fit you!
It comes down to this: ANY shopping you do online is a gamble, no matter what country it’s from!!!
Sometimes the gamble pays off, sometimes it doesn’t! Lower your expectations, do your research, and decide if an item is worth it. Here’s one example of when it worked out really well for me. I ordered this transparent raincoat, which is one-size-fits-all. The style is loose enough, that it doesn’t really matter what the fit is! I was pleased with how it looked – so much so, that I used it in a photo shoot for another article on my blog! (My pics by Valerie Davenport Photography)
It’s definitely shorter than it looks on the Amazon.com model, but not enough to detract from it’s overall cuteness. And the best part: it’s only $15.99! (You can view more pics of it in my article here, along with the direct link to it on Amazon.com.)
So happy shopping, good luck, and remember: buy what you LOVE!!!