Lessons learnt when shopping for clothing online, from someone who hates shopping and doesn’t like clothing either

Before I was pregnant with D, I had a nice minimalist set of outfits I’d collected over six years of only buying things I really liked, and being pretty much the same size.

Five years later, after two pregnancies, I’m one and a half clothing sizes larger and I think this is my new natural size, and I have… nothing. Like, no clothes that fit. My favourite weekend t-shirt is one from Rhythm and Vines 2013, and I didn’t even go to Rhythm and Vines in 2013, I just got the t-shirt in a $5 sale bin at Mr Vintage. My favourite work skirt is a hand me down from my mother and my only other work skirt is also a hand me down from my mother.

So it had kinda reached the point where I obviously had to do some shopping for clothes, and ugh, I tried, but just, it’s such an epic chore shopping for women’s clothing when you don’t like shopping and need a whole new wardrobe and aren’t particularly interested in clothes and are the same height as an average man.

I really, really, really hate shopping for clothes.

It’s hard being tall, but not willowy model thin, because nothing in the shops ever fits well! NEVER. Shirts are always too narrow in the shoulders, dresses don’t have the waist at the right height and show too much leg, trousers are too short in the rise and too short in the leg, and skirts turn into mini skirts when they’re meant to be knee length.

Plus, women’s fashion is so bullshit, trying to make us look decorative with no regard to practicality, like this latest trend of tops that have an bit cut out where the shoulders are meant to be. WHAT THE FUCK, PEOPLE? I even saw some like that for KIDS! Um, sunburn alert?

I want to be able to shop for clothes like a man does – walk into ANY shop and buy something that fits and is either comfortable and practical, or polished and professional. Men have shopping so damn easy! Their fitting systems work for them, they can get shirts in the same pattern but made in “relaxed”, “slim” and “regular” fit. It’s all laid out on a platter for them to look good with no effort. Why can’t women’s shirts come in the same pattern but tailored for different bust sizes, huh?! Why is that so complicated, Mr Fashion Designer Man?

Anyway… so I’ve turned to online shopping, because at least there I can try and buy from overseas retailers that have a “tall” collection. It’s been hit and miss. Some things have been really great, some have not fit or have been slightly different to what I was wanting. Here are some of my lessons from creating a whole new wardrobe through online shopping, while trying to keep it straightfoward:

  1. Buy in the sales – this way, if it’s not quite right it doesn’t matter as much. In my recent shopping binges, I’ve gotten a dress that is not quite my taste because it’s a bit more close-fitting than I’d normally go for, but it was $50 reduced from $150 so I’m not as bothered as I’d be if it was full price. Buy two or three sale items at a time – stay under the customs tax thresholds, but make the most of flat rate shipping.
  2. Know what suits you and what you like, and stick with it. This goes for both your reliable colours and your reliable styles – I could have avoided buying my too-close-fitting dress if I’d considered it more carefully, because it was obviously, in retrospect, a close-fitting style, and I usually prefer things that are a bit less sleek. (My work image ideal would be more CJ Cregg than Joan Holloway, except my body shape is somewhere in between and I don’t have a costume designer on hand to do it all for me and make sure that every outfit is meticulously on brand. Damn it. Why can’t I be a TV character?!)
  3. If you don’t like it when you first try it on, return it straight away – don’t keep it in case it grows on you, it won’t, and you’ll wear it a couple of times and then you won’t be able to return it, and it will sit there sadly.
  4. Read the reviews – Julie from Bristol says this fabric picks up the fluff so she’s sending it back despite loving the design, thanks Julie, that’s a useful warning for someone who often has to sit down on carpet to change a last-minute nappy before going to work! Maria from Sydney says that the shoulders are very narrow, good to know Maria, that one will give me that same awkward look I had in sixth form when I was still wearing my school uniform shirts from third form, so not for me, cheers.
  5. Check your actual measurements, and check the sizing chart – sizing varies hugely between different shops. Err on the side of buying a size up, it’s fairly easy to get things taken in if needed but there’s not much you can do with clothes that are too small.
  6. Check the info panel to find out if things are machine washable. Goes without saying that working mums don’t want clothes which aren’t machine washable.
  7. Buy things you’ll want to wear a lot, because if you have no clothes and you’re trying to save time in the mornings, you’re going to need to wear everything you have a lot anyway.
  8. Use filters – online shopping can seem overwhelming, but I find it easier than a physical shop because of filters. Select size, price range, clothing type, and watch it whittle down to a manageable collection like magic.
  9. Find a couple of shops you like and buy most things from there, keep it easy.
  10. Buy undies from Thunderpants because they’re so great and then at least you always have good undies. And togs from Swanwear. And socks from Icebreaker. Not all my stuff is from overseas!

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