I remember a time when there was nothing I’d rather do at the weekend than browse clothes shops. These days, not so much. I’d rather walk my dog in the park or visit an exhibition. I’m a big believer in work/life balance so given I spend Monday to Friday thinking, talking and writing about clothes, it makes for a more rounded personality to engage in other things on my downtime (I hope). Of course, I still want to look good and I enjoy having something new to wear as much as ever, so online shopping has proved a revelation. I used to bemoan the idea of not being able to touch an item or try it on before buying it, but the ease with which you can buy and return, plus the composition and care details provided have made these concerns redundant.
What I have noticed, though, is that I buy differently when I shop online. I realised recently that small subconscious issues influence me when I shop in-store. If I walk into Zara and the mannequin immediately facing me is wearing a blue coat, I know I won’t buy that coat because it feels like the most obvious buy in the store. It’s their statement piece and will be more instantly recognisable. Of course online, every item has equal billing, so to speak. I recently bought quite a flamboyant pair of bird-print culottes from Zara online. When I popped into the store yesterday, there they were, prominently hanging to the left of the entrance, but it didn’t bother me because I feel so fabulous when I wear them that it makes no odds whether they’re a signature Zara piece or not. I’ve made them my own anyway. And shopping on the high street is all about stamping your signature on the pieces and building a unique look around them.
Printed culottes, €49.95 at Zara
The merchandising of certain stores can also impact on how often or how much I buy. Cos is one of my favourite brands but because the pieces are so minimalist and they’re usually categorised according to colour in the store, the rails can look a little generic. Browsing Cos online is much more enjoyable, and insightful, as you can immediately see clearly all the subtle design details for which the brand is known and loved. But a rail of navy, on the other hand, can easily dilute your enthusiasm.
The styling online often influences my choices too. Pieces look very different when they’re built into a coherent look rather than hanging limply in isolation on a rail. And of course, I’m immediately drawn to the outfits that reflect my own personal style, as well as the models whose looks appeal to my aesthetic (usually those with short hair!). Often these ensembles will incorporate an item that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of buying if I’d seen it independently. The models, styling and photography on retailer uterque.com always excite me. Were I to see some of these pieces simply as cut-out product shots, I’d be a lot less drawn to them. A case in point; who wouldn’t want to be the woman in the image below? I often wonder why certain websites such as H&M and Warehouse load a product image ahead of a model shot. Model shots are so much more engaging and are far more likely to persuade a customer to buy. In an era when women click on and off websites as frequently as they blink, relying on a customer to click through the product shot to the model shot beyond to see what the garment really looks like seems a little crazy.
Off-the-shoulder blouse, €99 at uterque.com
If you’re still hesitant about online shopping, begin with a brand you buy from regularly so that you’re confident you’re choosing the correct size and you’re familiar enough with the types and quality of fabrics used. Then, relax, enjoy and wait for your parcel of delights to arrive. The expectation of its arrival is even more enjoyable than the instant gratification of walking away from a store with a bag in hand.