Online Shopping: Being Fashion Forward?

by Nina Ashe, SexyPlus Clothing Blogger I am often asked: “Nina, darling, where ever did you get that gorgeous outfit?”  “Where did you get those killer shoes?” Some of those questions are due to my flair for putting clothes together, making an old outfit seem fresh and new, funky, sexy and classy all at the same time.  I see it as building a “role for the day”.  More on that in a later post.  Another significant part of it is simply that I own pieces that are one of a kind, vintage or simply not mass-manufactured.  Trust me, nothing worse than being in a room full of women and finding more than one who is actually wearing a piece of clothing you have on at the exact same moment. Recently, I am very often heard replying “Oh, I got this little beauty from SexyPlus Clothing”. But this wasn’t always the case.  For over a decade, I indulged my fashion sense by importing clothing, aka buying them online, which afforded me access to clothing unavailable and unseen in Canada… styles that were never recreated here from the very few plus size stores in town. But I paid dearly for this privilege as wading through the murky process of online shopping and shipping can be costly and frustrating… from wrong sizing to unexpected shipping costs.  Trial and error have made me a whiz at it, and I can now help you out as well.

And so, here is my Top 5 checklist of online shopping:

  1.      Do Your Homework It’s simply not enough to google “women’s plus size clothing” and just click on the first link found.  Oh no no.  After you have found a few online suppliers, google them in turn.  You’ll be amazed at the reviews and commentaries you’ll find if you just look for them.  And also trust your instinct.  If the website seems created by a 10 year-old with a pre-loaded homepage template, chances are the company does not have enough procedures in place to ensure a pleasant and safe shopping & shipping experience.  Read the website’s FAQs, their standard cost of international shipping (Canada often falls into that category, go figure!) and other policies.  It’ll save you a heartache and a half! 2.      Size Does Matter! Nothing worse than waiting 4 to 6 weeks for a gorgeous purple satin strapless bubble dress only to find out that their size 2X is more like a size 24 or, inversely, more close to a regular size 12!  I mean, if it’s much bigger, you always have the option of having it altered if you’ve got a good seamstress (you should ALL have a good one on your speed dial, ladies!)… but who truly wishes to incur that much more cost and time on an item that should have fit better if the website had clear indications of how the garment fits.  It’s ok if certain clothing is truly “Junior Plus” … they should clearly mention it though.  A sizing guide should be on the website somewhere as well! 3.      Confirm your Possible Return So you’re stuck with said purple satin dress and not only does it not fit, but you look like the Easter Bunny’s psycho sister.  If you didn’t do your homework and did not find out about their Return Policy, you might be stuck with it… or worse, not get reimbursed for sending it back.  So read the policy beforehand, and then call or email if you wish for a return or an exchange.  Most companies give you an RA number to put on the package you are sending back; yup, you’re responsible for those return shipping fees!  They will either promise to reimburse the cost of the item on your credit card, will honor a credit note or will ship you the same item in another size/color (again, you’ll have to take on the shipping costs).  Practice does make perfect in these cases… as does knowing how sizes truly fit from one online store to another. 4.      Don’t chance it with Customs This is the tricky part.  Not only are you often paying over $30 for shipping but you’ll most likely get dinged again by customs once it passes the border.  Nothing you can do about that.  What you can arm yourself against is the amount of taxes they’ll charge.  You particularly want to avoid the Foreign 18% tax for merchandise that is manufactured overseas.  Oh yes ladies, this is a big one. Try to find out if your garment was manufactured in North America so as to benefit from the free trade agreement, and ask the sender to state it on the shipping label so as to avoid that pesky 18% tax.  In the rare case that customs still charge it, you always have the option to refuse the receipt of the package, return it to customs and ask for a reassessment of the custom charges.  It will more often than not be granted, but you may have to wait upwards to another 8 weeks to get your order back! 5.      Voice Yourself Now, this is just a good all-around policy and a courtesy that has been lost in past years: if you are happy with your order, tell them!  And if you’re not happy:  TELL THEM!!  Be hurt and disappointed, but do remain polite and tactful.  We are ladies, after all.  Such feedback serves many purposes.  It gets your frustration off your chest and unto theirs, if they care.  It ensures that they know they got it right or wrong somewhere along the line and may gain or lose sales if more customers feel the same way.  And often, but not always, you might gain insider tips from them or store credits.  Being given a $10 credit code may not cover the cost of shipping, but it’s still $10, ladies!!  And I once wrote in and had my return shipping costs reimbursed!  Oh the power of the keyboard. Of course, though you’ll still be tested on the waters of online shopping, these tips and tricks will ensure a minimum of mishaps!  I am lucky though that I live in Toronto and can shop in store at Maximum Woman which now carries the entire SexyPlus Clothing collection. But after reviewing the SexyPlus Clothing website thoroughly, I can attest to the fact that the garment descriptions are thorough, the sizing is accurate and tested by the owner herself, the payment process is secure, the shipping and return policies are fair and clearly outlined, and of course, the styles are simply amazing, unique and very figure flattering. If I did not live here, I would definitely be a SexyPlus Clothing online customer. They have my fashion forward stamp of approval!
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