Ladies and gentlemen! Don't fear the world of online shopping. It can be used as a powerful tool in your attempts to achieve the most rockin' wardrobe. I feel like a lot of people avoid online shopping thinking that they won't ever be able to find anything that fits them, but if you follow my advice below, I guarantee you it will improve your online shopping experience and end in success. I get a large percentage of my pieces online, as I browse online at various things I'd like to purchase (or dream about purchasing) daily. Sadly, it's become a part of my everyday routine (lol). Wake up, shower, dress, coffee, check email and Facebook, online shop/browse.
I have some useful tips for those who view online shopping as daunting, because you are missing out on what these websites have to offer especially if you live in San Francisco because unfortunately, we all know that SF's in-person shopping selection is not what we'd describe as a fashion-savvy person's dream. Online shopping is an SF girl's (or guy's) way of getting what is only available in Europe, New York, Vegas or L.A.
Be familiar with your measurements. Every brand runs their sizing differently. A size 2 in some brands is equivalent to a medium-large in others, and an xs can be considered equivalent to a size 6 as well. So, being familiar with your sizing really helps, as most online shopping websites have information on whether that particular brand runs small, large or true to size. Also, many sites offer "customer reviews", and I find these to be very helpful in determining the fit and quality of the product in real-life. I usually read a bunch, and then take what is repeatedly being said in numerous reviews as accurate. It also helps to be familiar with a particular brand themselves. For example, if you happen run across a brand you know you like in person, try a few of their items on just for sizing (even if you aren't interested in buying them). That way, you'll be familiar with how their clothes, shoes ect. fit you when you are deciding whether to pull the trigger on a piece you've found online.
Be selective about who you order from. There are so many options when it comes to online shopping nowadays that there is no reason to settle for a website that charges a ton of money for shipping, seems a bit shady or has a bad return policy. If you find a piece that you like on a particular website, google search the exact item name of that product. That way, you can find out if it is being sold on any other websites for cheaper or with a better return policy. This has happened to me a few times, and I've actually saved money doing this as well. Another good reason to shop around between websites is that you get a chance to view the item photographed in a variety of different settings/lightings. This is helpful because often an item ends up being a different color than what was portrayed in the picture, and you can view it on different models as well which will give you a better idea of the true fit. A great website for this specific purpose is shopstyle.com - they will actually find all the different websites a product is offered on and will list the item pictures with prices as well (in a well-layed out, comprehensive arrangement). They are also helpful because they will provide a variety of products if you only have an idea of what you're looking for, for example "purple miniskirt" - and will scour the internet's most popular sites for a list of items that match that description. Lastly, it is often convenient to order things from websites that have stores in your area, that way you can return it in person without having to deal with shipping.
Here is a list of a few of my favorite go-to shopping websites.
Zappos.com - Amazing customer service which includes free shipping both ways and a very flexible return policy, and a large selection of items as well.
Forever 21.com - I can return anything that doesn't work out to their store and receive store credit, as I know I will be purchasing from them again, so for me it is basically the same as cash. Also, there are items on the website that are not available in-store.
Shopbop.com - They have an amazing (probably the largest I've seen) selection of fine couture as well as young independent designers, and their shipping policy has improved as of late and is now free within the United States. Also, they do not charge tax.
Revolveclothing.com & Tobi.com - Two more similar-to-shopbop-type websites with large selections of items that you can't find in person. (Mens clothing as well)
Drugstore.com - Lots of hard to find cosmetics (such as my worth-its-weight-in-gold Stila Hair Refresher), and they offer free shipping as well.
Overstock.com - I highly recommended searching for ANY home product you are looking for before going to Bed Bath and Beyond or any other home store, as they have a great selection of reduced priced items, and their shipping is fast and only costs $2.95.
Net-a-porter.com - Phenomenal selection of clothing, bags and accessories.
Asos.com - Great selection of reasonably priced well-designed clothing and accessories that you won't find in the US. They are based out of the UK, so their packages can take a bit longer to get to you, but that is made up for in their stellar stock and selection. (Mens clothing as well)
All the big store name websites - Nordstrom, Neimans, Saks, Barneys
Happy hunting! And also, one last tip for those who online shop frequently: you might want to think about getting a mailbox at a ups store type of place. Packages often come when I'm not home, or can be left at my doorstep even if I haven't signed for them, so this can be very useful if you are an avid online shopper. Mailboxes usually cost about $200 a year.