I have a confession to make. I used to have a mild addiction to shopping, specifically the online variety.

For many, online shopping can be a scary, somewhat sweat-inducing journey into the realms of the unknown - "Will it fit me?", "What if it doesn't look good?", "Can I get a refund?", "I don't want to betray my local retailer".

All of these are valid questions and, hopefully, I can help answer them by giving you some tips for effective online shopping, as well as outlining things to avoid. After a while it will become second nature, but for those of you who are just starting out, read on.

PROS OF ONLINE SHOPPING
VARIETY

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There is more to choose from and often you can buy a season ahead from the UK and the US, meaning you can be ahead of the trends in New Zealand.

COST

If you buy at the right time (change of season) you can get some great bargains as all of the last season stuff is on sale. It also means that when your favourite store is having a sale you can get a bargain without having to brave manic crowds.

CONVENIENCE

Online shopping can be quick and efficient if you follow the steps below. Many of us are time-poor and struggle to find the time to wander around shops, meaning online shopping can be handy.

Most of all, don't forget that shopping should be fun. Start small - buy things in cuts and fabrics that you already own/know will suit you. Once you get more confident with your purchasing, you can branch out into different styles and shapes.

CONS OF ONLINE SHOPPING
HARM TO LOCAL RETAILERS

Most retailers will have an online store, meaning you can still have the convenience of shopping online, while staying loyal to their business. In fact, sometimes stock that is unavailable in-store can be bought online. I have even had some retail assistants suggesting I buy online because they ran out of my size in a certain item. Sure enough, I went online and there it was. However, if you would like to buy from overseas retailers, moderation is key. Try to only buy things online that you feel you really can't get from local retailers.

ITEMS NOT FITTING

Yes, it's true that we are never going to be able to virtually replace the act of trying clothes on (though technology will surely try), but if you follow the steps above, you have a much better chance of items fitting.

ITEMS NOT LOOKING GOOD

Sometimes things fit fine, but they just don't look good. If this is the case, return it. Better to have your money back or have some store credit sitting there than have something in your wardrobe you will never wear!

AND FINALLY ...

When we were completing research for Gorgeous Me, we found the key issue with online shopping for many women was the inability to try things on. Well, at least this way you can:

-Try the item on in the comfort and privacy of your own home.

-Invite family/friends to have a look. Stores will allow a grace period from when you receive the item until you have to return it (usually around 10-15 days), meaning you have a few days before returning it.

-Try the item on with things you already have to ensure you will get maximum wear.

For free DIY personal styling and makeover advice contact Lisa Lyford, the founder of Gorgeous Me. www.gorgeousme.co
Send your questions for Lisa to regionalfeatures@nzme.co.nz