The internet! The greatest invention ever? If you are a shopping maven, for sure! But at the same time, the Internet can sometimes be just too big to find exactly what you want to wear. Yes there are the typical flash sale sites like Gilt or RueLaLa. Or the standard online retailers like Shopbop, Net-A-Porter, or Piperlime. We aren’t going to talk about those though.
Don’t get me wrong, they are great sites. I just find them so overstuffed with subscribers that it’s hard to get something I want there in the size or the color I covet. That said, I still hit them up for holiday gift ideas, but I like to think bigger when it comes to adding that pop of color I need.
Online Garage Sales
Let’s put it this way: if you tend to fall into one of two extremes when it comes to sizing (small feet or giant feet for example), eBay is a really good place for you. You can find shoes, bags, and more. These are often used or vintage but for a great price. Do you have to be wary of knock offs? Yes. Can you return things? Not usually. But I know most of the people my age wearing Louboutins are getting them used with a few scratches on the soles via eBay.
Online Consignment Stores
On the other hand, if you do want to pay a little extra to make sure your Chanel is legit, try The Real Real. This online consignment shop inspects all their items before putting them up for sale. They have great curators, a handbag sale every week, and so. many. shoes. WARNING! This is a dangerous website. No, seriously—I have had to unsubscribe from their email list because I’ve found myself coming up with reasons why I absolutely needed to buy a red carpet Alexander McQueen gown. That said, if you just check it out every once and a while, you can get really good deals (especially on shoes)! (I might have a shoe problem. Obviously, I have no idea what you’re talking about.)
Confession: I’m still not 100% how to use Polyvore. It’s a very powerful tool that allows bloggers/fashionistas/future Martha Stewarts to make collages out of their favorite items. But the best part is that you can click on the items on someone’s collage and it takes you to the site where you can buy it! How awesome! Polyvore can also be used to explore “red trenchcoats” or “pointy toes navy heels” and help you, as a consumer, find different sites to purchase these items. I’ve definitely used Polyvore to help me with DIY Carmen San Diego and Oswin Oswald costumes for next year.
Sometimes the best way to get great deals is to go overseas! If you don’t know where to start, check out sites like Dorothy Perkins (a UK retailer à la H&M or Topshop) and Yoox.com (an Italian mail-order company). Some like Dorothy have cute, inexpensive dresses, sweaters etc. I like them because their palette and sizing generally is complimentary with my figure. Yoox.com is a really confusing online shopping black hole. No seriously, I had to go actually look up “how to navigate Yoox” while writing this because there is just so much stuff on there. But it has everything and at the best prices. For example, right now they have some $4,000 Balmain dresses and some discounted Alexander McQueen gowns (that I totally need at age 26, right? ) Since they are an Italian company, they have direct relationships with those showrooms, so this is a good bet if you like Dolce & Gabbana.
The con is that you have to then pay to ship your stuff from god-knows-where and it’s a lot of money to return things. But if you pull together 2-4 friends and put in a big order, you can split the shipping.
Another con is that some deals are actually too good to be true. If you find yourself buying an item for a ridiculous discount, take a look around the site. Is there a customer service number? Call it. Make sure it’s a real person. There are tons of web scammers out there who build legit enough looking shopping sites, take your money, and never ship your goods.
If you always need to be up-to-date or if you feel like you keep getting invited to special occasion after special occasion, consider renting your pieces. If I want a work-appropriate Tory Burch bag for spring, I can rent it for $75/month from Bag Borrow Steal or if I have to work or attend a black tie event, I can rent an evening gown from Rent the Runway. It’s pretty cool because usually they send one size up or down so you don’t order the wrong size and find out it doesn’t fit the day before. The bad news is that I find a lot of their styles a little prom-y, overly sexy, or all kind of the same.
Do you have a seriously fashionable friend? Or a friend of friend? This isn’t exactly “online,” but I know some serious fashionistas who clean out their closet every 4-6 months with an online garage sale. For example, one girl at my university would sell designer stuff at a big discount just to always be in season. She needed to excise the old trends to get the new ones and would do so by selling off designer items for $40-100. Some were barely used, but only the lucky few people who wore her size could take part.
Whether you’re updating your own wardrobe, hunting down the perfect piece, or fulfilling the addictions of your shopaholic boss, these are all very, very dangerous places… but also the best places to get styles online! (I’m serious about The Real Real… No, I can’t afford you, Jimmy Choo’s, but you are 50% off!)
Just be sure to step away from the computer for a bit before clicking “Submit Order.”
Photo by Andy Sutterfield