Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Six Rules of Buying Dresses Online

Dresses and jeans have to be the most difficult things to buy online – not from the ‘oh I’ve fallen in love with that and must have it’ point of view, but from the sheer point of fit – and none of us want to send things back. Jeans have to be the most difficult unless you’re repeating a style you already know and love.

I have, and I know that no one’s going to be surprised here, bought quite a few dresses online particularly during sale time, when ordering from boutiques such as Matches Fashion and Net-a-Porter are infinitely preferable to battling through the rails in a shop and finding that that perfect Roberto Cavalli dress is available in sizes 8 and 18 (do they make 18s?) and nothing else.

Although I’m frequently tempted by what’s on offer I’ve established six rules for buying dresses online, and if any one of these is missing I simply don’t buy, well not usually anyway, and my send-back rate is very low indeed. Please note that I’m writing for real women here, who may be ever so slightly horizontally and/or vertically challenged as most of us are and not those size 6/8 slimlines who smugly fit pretty well anything. Apologies if that’s you – I just haven’t got there yet (and probably never will) so I’m jealous.

dress mcQ dress black max dress max mara

1 Know your style; Online is not the place to experiment with a completely new style unless you expect to have to send back. Stick to what you know suits you, whether it’s wrap/shift/maxi/glamour/sexy etc and don’t stray into a completely new look whatever the current fashion dictats are. Those are best experimented with in the stores, at which point you will almost certainly return to who you are anyway. Hopefully.

2. If at all possible buy from a designer you already know and love. The fit is likely to be safer and the dress is more likely to end up in your cupboard rather than back in the box.

3. Choose something with an element of streeeeeetch. Many designers, and certainly the cleverest ones (who know how much we want dresses to flatter us) add in an element of lycra or elastane. This usually not only flatters but helps with holding lumpy bits (did I really say that?) in and overall fit.

4. Don’t be afraid of the alterations lady. As someone who is most definitely vertically challenged (5’ 2”) I expect to have to have dresses shortened. So I’ve cosied up to my local alterations person who will turn things round incredibly fast and without compromise. Dresses (and skirts and trousers) quite simply have to be the right length. Of course this doesn’t only apply to short people.

I’ve lost count of the number of items I’ve had shortened this year. I may be speaking to the converted but you go anywhere and have a look at other girls’ skirt and dress lengths (not to mention trousers) and how bad they can make a perfectly chic piece of clothing look. Yes it’s an added cost but an essential one.

dress mcq 2 dress km 2 dress km 1

5. Buy the best you can afford – you will as I’m sure you already know – get what you pay for. Buy anything by brands such as Max Mara, DvF and upwards (and the sky really is the limit), and you should not be disappointed with the quality. The same goes for the premium high street – if I’m allowed to call them that – including Reiss and Karen Millen. Go for cheap and cheerful and no matter how ‘current’, cheap and cheerful is what you will get and a one season wear if you’re lucky.

6. Don’t be tempted to become a fashion victim unless the ‘now’ print, shape, neckline, length etc suits you. I shudder when I think about ‘nude’ dresses, camel coats and drawstring waists. None of those will be entering my wardrobe for sure. The great thing about online is that you can try them all at home and even more excellent, you can send them back. Make sure you do unless you’re really, really sure.


Here things have quietened down a lot – the eldest son has gone north, the younger one has killed his car (not topping up engine oil will do it every time) and is in deepest Wales somewhere and the daughter is getting ready for uni with only one arm having been flung far and hard by the younger son in a Scottish reel on Saturday evening. And there are only four dogs in the house. And I am inevitably planning my next trip, but more about that later………………………………………………………….