Buying clothes online the right way

Buying clothes online the right way

Dear reader,

We have a confession to make:

We tend to buy shoes that are too small.

Yes, we have studied extensively how shoes should fit. Yes, we know that shoes should be bought after a day of walking when our feet are swollen slightly. We know we should really take our time in the store, trying on different sizes. We know all the tips. Yet, we keep on repeating the same mistake.

For the wife, it has become a running gag.

Why do we repeat the same mistake over again? We think it’s because of our emotions. Buying is an emotional process, and it’s hard to remain in control.

In our case, it’s a pathology.

We’ll give you an example at the end.

It’s definitely our fault, but “ready-to-wear” can also be blamed. Don’t you find it funny when manufacturers write: “please size down/up”. Surely, they would save on returns by changing their labelling, instead of asking each one of their customers to adapt?

To be fair, sizing has improved in recent years. Especially with online tools telling us what size has been picked by people with our body size and shape.

So we’ve been doing some research to become a better online buyer. Here are some tips we can share with you:

Create a spreadsheet with clothes measurements

Here is the template we use. Feel free to duplicate it and make it your own. It features measurements in cm and inches. Pay attention to the fact that it mixes both body and clothes measurements.

Once you have created your own spreadsheet, you’ll be able to refer back to these measurements when buying online (especially for used clothes).

The armpit to armpit measurement is both the most important and the most tricky. It depends on the fabric, and its thickness. It’s best to benchmark on a similar shirt that you would own.

For trousers, it’s important to pay attention to the leg opening (at the ankle). Here is a rule of thumb:

  • Below 18 cm is a slim cut;
  • Above 20 cm is a straight cut.

As always, it’s better to have something too big rather than too small.

Try to use “clothes measurements” rather than “body measurements”

None of us are tailors. Therefore we need to face the truth: Taking body measurements takes years of practice, and we’re unlikely to become good enough in our lifetime.

Therefore, we should stick to measuring clothes based on well-fitting existing clothes in our wardrobe.

Unfortunately, some online sellers still give size indications based on body measurements. For these cases, we still store our body measurements in our spreadsheet, keeping in mind they’re mostly inaccurate.

Manufacturers are only accurate to the centimetre

Because manufacturing is not a precise science, two identical garments in size M could different in size by one centimetre. Keep this margin of error in mind.

Keep also in mind that your clothes should be bigger than your body measurements. We have made this mistake in the past…

Here are the guidelines we use:

  • Allow for at least 7 cm at the chest;
  • Allow for at least 3 cm at the waist;
  • Allow for at least 1 cm at the foot.

Now onto the crusty example that we promised you at the beginning.

Our worst failures

Recently, we finally admitted that two pairs from our collection were unbearably too small (after 6 years of wearing them!).

The first pair were Sebago Docksides boat shoes.

The second pair were Fairmount Buck driver loafers (the best shaped moccasins to our knowledge).

After 6 years of wear (admittedly with pain), you’d think they were probably half a size too small. So, did we.

And so confidently, we reordered online the exact same two pairs of shoes, half a size larger.

Both came too small.

We had been so confident that we had bought the loafers slightly used (which means we could not return them).

Anyways, we ordered another half a size larger still.

Guess what?

Still too small. Yes, both pairs were still too small!

The wife was laughing out loud at this point.

So we ordered another half a size larger (so 1 ½ size larger than originally). Only then, did they fit us well.

This is just an example, but similar sizing issues happen to us all the time! And recently, we have started to overcompensate by buying shoes that are too big…

With luck, in 40 years, we will have found the healthy middle ground — neither too small, nor too big.

So far it keeps on going:

Yesterday, we admitted that a pair of Loake oxfords, which we had carefully chosen, had finished their break in period, and were rubbing too much against our ankles. We had them already fixed with a higher heel insert, but it’s not enough apparently.

Stay tuned...



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Jamie Larson