Seventy years ago, the British journalist Jan Struther wrote that “only the lover and the freelance journalist” got excited by the arrival of the post. As freelancer, I can confirm that this is true. I can also confirm that my postman probably thinks that I’m an unemployed compulsive shopper, as I regularly answer the door to him dressed in my pyjamas with my hair all over the place to receive a pile of giant parcels. “They’re all for work!” I say, but I’m not sure he believes me.
Anyway, these days, of course, you can add another name to Struther’s list – the online shopper. We all know the delightful thrill of a new purchase arriving in the post. But although online shopping is meant to make things easier – and in most cases, like when it comes to getting hold of items that aren’t available in Irish shops, this is totally true – ordering clothes makes me weirdly stressed out.
Will my precious purchase arrive at all or will it be lost in the maw of the postal system? Will the clothes be the same colour and cut as they appear in the photos on the site? Will the clothes actually fit? And if they don’t, will it be a huge expensive hassle to return them to whatever country they came from?
Once that order is placed, I can’t relax until the clothes have arrived and I know they actually fit me - I am a short (5’2″), fairly flat chested size 8, so whatever I buy, there’s a risk that it’ll be saggy around the boobs and/or too long. And when it kind of fits but MIGHT be a little bit too big, that’s when more stress kicks in.
It’s one thing trying something on in a changing room – you can go away and come back later, and you haven’t made any commitment. But if you’ve already paid for something, you have to spend ages deciding whether it’s worth wrapping it up again and trekking all the way to the post office and forking out more money to send it back. So you can end up stuck with a jumper or frock you don’t totally love, just out of laziness.
And then there are the items that aren’t what you expected. A few years ago, I bought some lovely necklaces featuring cut-out sheer animal shapes from an American designer – one for myself, the others for my sisters’ Christmas presents. There were no measurements on the site, and the necklaces weren’t shown on a model, but I assumed the animals were an inch or two wide. When the necklaces arrived, they were more like breastplates – the fawn necklace I’d bought for my sister Jenny was about six inches wide and the whole thing practically covered her chest. It was cool in its own, um, large way, but also looked COMPLETELY INSANE. So that was a mistake.
Over the years, I’ve learned a more few lessons (apart from always check the measurements and don’t buy anything that hasn’t been shown a. I’ve learned that Boden’s sizes are insanely large and so I should always order the size 6 (in a petite version, if available). I’ve also learned that no, it isn’t a huge deal to send clothes back (although annoyingly, it is quite expensive as most free return shipping deals don’t apply to Ireland). I’ve learned that while buying tops is fairly safe, buying a dress or some trousers is more risky. And I’ve learned that though online clothes shopping can be a gamble, when a perfectly fitting garment arrives in the post (as this cardigan did today), it feels like a present. Albeit a present you’ve paid for yourself.
So tell me about your own clothes shopping experiences – are you addicted to Asos? Or do you need to try before you buy? And what have been your biggest triumphs – and disasters?