The last time I discussed this subject, it was over two years ago. Now, we have even more shopping options online. What should we be watching out for, besides possible Identity Theft and the compromising of our banking and credit card information?
First of all, the old adage: ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably IS too good to be true” should influence your online purchasing! We should all know by now, that just because something looks good in a photo in a web store, it may not be a true representation of what the garment really is. There is PhotoShop and there are ways to pin a garment in the back to make it look good on the front. It remains ‘buyer beware’ in all online purchases unless the very same item is available for viewing and to try on and to feel, at a real brick and mortar shop.
I personally love the ease and convenience of clicking ‘buy’ and with my stored shipping and payment information, and simply having the item show up at my door. I Internet shop whenever I can for products that I am sure of, such as my favorite coffee and my favorite office supplies (yes, I have favorite office supplies!) and such.
But clothing is another animal – I am particular about the exact fit of a shoe or a garment, the construction of a shoe or garment and the feel of the materials that are used. Of course I’ve been obsessed with these features since I was a child, paving my path into getting educated in college about fashion and clothing design (I have a BFA in Fashion Design from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design) and my career as a fashion/costume designer.
Shopping for me, is a ‘touchyfeely’ expedition in addition to searching for a proper fit on my particular body. I have passed this obsession to my family, who all agree that no matter how attractive a garment looks, if it feels ‘itchy and scratchy’ it is not for us! Sensual satins and luxurious lycras are important to us.
So, if the feel and fit (and drape) are important to you (they should be) you need to investigate the return policy of ALL online clothing and costume purchases.
If you are able to see, feel and try on a garment in a local brick and mortar establishment – do so. And if you wish to keep your favorite brick and mortar stores around for another few years (or longer) BUY from that brick and mortar establishment. Many such stores are struggling to remain viable and stay in business.
I just read an article about the real possibility of our beloved Dayton’s downtown Minneapolis store closing and becoming an office building. For those of the younger generation, ask your parents about Dayton’s! Sure, years ago, it became Marshall Fields and then Macys, but many of my Minneapolis friends are horrified that this brick and mortar historic/iconic store may disappear from downtown Minneapolis.
Of course for dance costumes, you will find a multitude of options available online from around the globe. And pricing extends from extravagant to downright cheap. If cheap is what you want, you are ‘living the dream’ with so many options. But keep in mind what ‘cheap’ gets you. It generally gets you: cheap fabrics and trims, cheap construction, and cheap fit. If you can afford cheap, then my advice is to be aware of return policies, in case you change your mind.
Also develop a relationship with any particular online costume purveyor – get to know what to expect from their quality and fit. The more you know about any product you consider buying, the less you will be disappointed.
Things to consider or look into, when considering ordering ready-made dance costumes online:
- Thoroughly read the guarantees and options for returns, in case your costume order disappoints you in any way.
- Be aware of where the costume is shipping from, and if it comes from overseas – how long is shipping time. And then consider the time it will take for any returns or exchanges.
- Study the posted photos and descriptions to determine exactly what you are promised (do they post photos that are exactly the costume or sort of like the costume?).
- Be aware of what different fashion/fabric/costume terms really mean, and figure out if the company is using those terms correctly.
- How reputable is the online shopping site?
- Does the company ever send out costumes ‘on approval’ with an easy return policy?
- Does the company ever display or sell their costumes at an event, so you can actually see and feel their quality?
- Are there any options for testing the company’s sizes?
- Do the size charts really represent what the sizes are, and how they fit?
- Be aware of your actual measurements (not hoped for measurements) when picking your size.
- Try and figure out if the costumes are expected to fit tightly or not, and be aware of your preference of how you like something to fit.
- Is the costume displayed on a person, on a dress form or just on a hanger? It is best to know what the measurements are, for the person or dress form displaying the costume.
- Ask your peers if they have tried (successfully) ordering from a website you are considering. Did they have a good or bad experience?
- Are there ratings or comments by customers? If there are, please read and determine if trying this company is a wise gamble. Be aware that there may be a negative comments that should be discounted. We’ve all read restaurant and/or hotel comments that could have been posted by competitors or people with unrealistic expectations.
- Develop your imagination as to how to jazz up a lack-luster (in person) costume with adding some features or lots of additional glitz (everything looks better with more rhinestones, right?)
- Have a plan B…have a talented alterations professional that you can call to ‘fix’ your costume. Or have another costume that you can wear instead, if your online choice doesn’t work out. I know there are a lot of fabulous costumes ‘out there’ waiting for you to discover them, but I also know there are lots of ‘turkeys’ that you may not be happy with, so shop carefully and with caution, keeping in mind what the downfalls of online shopping are.
The next step up, would be to purchase costumes that are ‘cutomized’ from an already designed and created style. You have the option to pick your fabric and trim, and a size from their company size chart. It is better if you have some imagination to help envision how a particular colored fabric will look in the costume and then on you.
Satin Stitches has just joined this online web store option with our pre-designed, customizable basics and team performance costumes. We expect to continue to add many styles to our online web store. We anticipate continuing to add additional styles, to supplement our totally custom dance costume manufacturing service.
So do your homework and take an educated chance on that ‘perfect’ online dance costume. Just make sure you can easily return it, if it turns out NOT to be ‘perfect’.
(Submitted for November 2016 issue of Minnesota Dancer)
© Deborah J. Nelson/Satin Stitches Ltd.