6 Online Shopping Tips to Help You Get the Right Colour


Inside Out Style Reader Question

Online shopping tips, please!  How to get a good enough match with the colour in the palette from Imogen as each of the colours in the swatch has their own names; can I use it for online shopping? 

This is a tricky one – sadly there is not a fabulous answer that I can give you but here are a few tips.

Online Shopping Tips - Getting the Colour Right

6 Online Shopping Tips For Getting the Right Colour

If you have a colour palette from a personal colour analysis, it’s great to be able to match what you buy to it so that you create a versatile mix-and-match wardrobe giving you lots of outfit options (this is one of the many benefits of working with a colour palette of your ideal colours).  When online shopping, it’s hard to know if the colour you see on your screen is accurate.

1. Get to Know the Brand

If you are lucky enough that you can visit a brand in their bricks and mortar store and so get to see the clothing in real life as well as online – compare the colours – they may habitually pump up the colours (or even dull them down).  Once you know what they do, you then have a better idea of what the colours will be like.

I know that I’ve often looked online at stores before heading into them to shop with a client, and have discovered that in some online stores the colours look much brighter (or warmer or cooler) than they do in person.  It’s good to know this!

2. Compare the Swatch as a Whole

I always recommend using the swatch as a whole when comparing the colours (don’t just look for that exact colour) – whether it’s on screen or in real life.  The lighting in the room where you are looking at the screen also needs to be bright as otherwise, you can’t compare the colours accurately.

3. Expect to Make Returns

Screen colours vary – the better the screen the more accurate the colours,  but photos can be so easily manipulated that even with a great screen the colours may not be the same as in real life.

So expect to make returns on your online shopping, don’t feel like it’s a failure on your part at all if the colours aren’t what you expected.  If you expect to return (just as you don’t expect to buy everything you take into a change room at a bricks and mortar store) you won’t be as disappointed as you might otherwise feel.

4. Colour Naming is Arbitrary

The names of colours on colour swatches have nothing to do with the names of colours that clothing manufacturers use – and in fact, they also vary widely from one brand to the next.  Don’t think there is something in the name that should tell you if it really is right for your palette or not.

5. Read the Reviews

Many online shopping sites now include a review section – if it’s there and there are reviews do read the comments as they will also give you an idea of if the garment is sized “true to size”, smaller or larger, and often if the colour is how it appears on screen or different.

6. Do Some Online Research

Ok, so one of my lovely 7 Steps to Style members asked in our member forum about this dress from Boden.  I looked at it and noticed that even in their online store it appeared to be two different colours.  How to figure it out?  How to figure out what colour a garment is when online shopping - this is the Boden Calissa dress

Find the name of the garment (usually the garment description on the online retailer’s site) and use that as a Google Image Search – and in fact you can even save a pic from the website and do a search on the image (drag and drop it into the Google search bar) to see if you can find it again.  See what other images of it come up – and then you can often tell which colour is the most accurate.

Do an Instagram search – use a hashtag (you may need to try a few, but frequently people tag the designer and mention the name of the item in their description.  I found the Boden dress this way and suddenly, the answer was revealed and the colour became more obvious.

What did I find when I did this with the Boden Calissa Dress?



How to figure out what colour a garment is when online shopping - this is the Boden Calissa dress
I found this dress on Vanessa from Style and Shenanigans and you can see – it’s the brighter Zesty colours, not the more muted Spicy colours.


That my friends is about all I can offer you in way of advice for picking the colour during your online shopping trips!

More Tips for Successful Online Shopping

Tips for a More Successful Online Shopping Experience

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I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • Great article Imogen. I really liked the tip about looking for other pictures on Instagram. I never would have thought of doing that.

  • This is really helpful and very pertinent to me. I just returned two garments this morning: both because the colors were wrong among other things. A red sweater that turned out to be orange-red instead of blue-red, and a burgundy camisole which was way too dark and muted for me. I have learned that the lights in the Nordstrom photo studio are particularly blue. Whenever I buy a red item from Nordies it turns out to be a warm tomato red. Since color is a really big deal to me, I make a lot of returns. Thanks for sharing the tip about googling the image search or Instagram search. Brilliant! 🙂

  • Also, I find reading reviews can be helpful. Many times reviewers will mention that an item is different in color than it appears online.

  • I’ve actually gotten really good at this over the years and there’s one tip I’d like to add to the ones already suggested: have comparison photos of your fan(s) as well. I always have photos of my fan as well as my actual, physical fan in my lap when I shop online.

    Sometimes a muted colour scheme can seem ”bright” in a pic, but it’s still good to know what that looks like, b/c the overall intensity level will still be mostly correct, and a comparison can every so often tell me that a garment I’m looking at is or isn’t fitting in with the intensity of my palette. So don’t look for exact matches for a specific nuance of colour – that basically NEVER works – look at the intensity (the whole of the palette, as Imogen puts it). I know that there are people who think that they can get away with not buying their colour fan this way.. but I couldn’t manage that – and I don’t just buy clothes this way, I buy lipsticks, eye shadows and hand crafted jewellery – none of which are returnable – this way too. And succeed. Buying the fan is the only way to get familiar enough with it to get results. I just love being able to go on Etsy and find something unique! It used to be a struggle and I wouldn’t have even tried a year or two ago, but now I’ve practised enough from buying shoes and clothes (returning everything and anything that isn’t working for whatever reason) that the risk seems fair.

    In some ways there are no guarantees and mistakes happen, but on the whole I find mistakes are exceptions to the rule now – and there are so many cool things to be found online that I can pick the best of the best and feel amazing even on a tiny budget like mine! I’m so intruiged by your colour system, Imogen.. I’ve promised myself that when I can afford it, I’ll find a way to get whatever fan is correct for me in your system ? I’m using a fan from a 12 season system and it’s been quite the process to weed out what colours aren’t really my best – even though they ”agree” with my general skin tone. Or maybe that’s my ENTPness speaking ?

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