The Cyber Changing Room: A First-Timer’s Guide to Online Lingerie Purchases

by Avigayil

If you have never bought lingerie online before, it is understandable that you might be a bit worried. What if the item doesn’t fit? What if you do not like the colour? What if the item comes damaged? I know all of these questions by rote as I have often asked them myself!

This guide is designed to help first-time buyers assess the garments the receive and decide on an appropriate course of action: to keep or to return. I walk you through the process of returning lingerie purchased online and clarify who pays for what costs. If you are new to the world of online lingerie shopping, then this guide is for you!

Be sure to check the fit thoroughly before you remove the tags (or hygiene patches), as you can't return lingerie once they're gone

Be sure to check the fit thoroughly before you remove the tags (or hygiene patches), as you can’t return lingerie once they’re gone

Stage 1 – Assessment

Always check the labels first to ensure you actually received what you ordered. Check for both sizes (L, XL, 34D 32C, etc.) and styles (balconette, plunge, thong, bikini, etc.). While trying on lingerie may be an easy way to determine if they sent you the wrong size, it can result in damaging the garment. Therefore, you want to check these details before anything else.

Next, you should check the lingerie for damage before you try it on. Make sure to check delicate fabrics for pulls or holes and inspect the seams as well. It is imperative you check for damage before you try the lingerie on as, if damaged, the damage can be exasperated through wear.

If you have received the right style/size and there is no damage, then try on the lingerie! Do not remove tags at this stage. When trying on a bra or lingerie item with lots of straps, loosen all straps before putting on and then tighten once wearing. When trying on knickers, wear them over a pair of your own. The same rule applies to bodysuits, teddies and anything with a crotch.

These steps are similar to trying on lingerie in a physical changing room: in both instances, you handle the garment with care and make sure that you have been given a good-condition item in the size you asked for.

The last part of stage one is to make a decision: are you going to keep the piece or are you going to return/exchange it? For lingerie you plan to keep: move to Stage 2. For lingerie you plan to send back: move to Stage 3.


Keeping your purchase? Wash it before the first wear to remove excess dye

Stage 2 – Keeping

You have decided to keep your amazing new piece of lingerie! At this point you can remove hang tags. Never pull these out to avoid damage, most will have a clasp that can be opened. If they do not, then use scissors.

Hand wash your new lingerie before wearing it. Most lingerie has come straight from manufacturing so it will still have residual chemicals, excess dye, starch and more still clinging to the fabric. As your skin is an organ, it absorbs what it comes in contact with so those chemicals will end up in your blood stream. Who needs that?

Make sure to hand wash all delicate lingerie – try to avoid machine washing. Use cold water as it will help ‘set’ the dye. Dye bleed (when the water turns the colour of your garment) increases with hot water. Cold water also substantially reduces/prevents shrinkage.

Either hang your lingerie up (hang bras by the gore) or lay flat to dry. Do not stick your new lingerie in the dryer for a myriad of reasons including shrinkage and elastic damage. After your new piece has finished drying, enjoy wearing! Always make sure to read care instructions before washing: if an item is dry clean only then the steps above certainly do not apply (I am thinking of corsets here).

Remember to repack your purchase well - you're responsible for it until it arrives back to the brand, so you don't want it to get damaged in transit!

Remember to repack your purchase well – you’re responsible for it until it arrives back to the brand, so you don’t want it to get damaged in transit!

Stage 3 – Returning | Exchanging | Selling

What to do if you do not want to keep the item you have just purchased? First you must establish fault: who is responsible for you not keeping the item?

If the item received is a) not the item you ordered or b) comes damaged, then this is an ‘at fault’ situation (i.e. the shop did something wrong). A ‘no fault’ situation is when you received, undamaged, what you ordered and are returning due to reasons such as style, fit, design, appearance, etc.

Returns & Exchanges – No Fault

  1. First, ensure that the item you ordered qualifies for a return; in a no-fault situation, final sale (no-returns) policies apply.
  2. Request a return authorisation number if required. Print off and/or fill out the appropriate return forms. On this form you will indicate whether you want to return for a refund or exchange for a different size. Make sure you stick this form inside your package when making your return.
  3. Ensure the lingerie is still clean: that means there are no deodorant stains or pet hairs!
  4. Repackage the lingerie in its original packaging: stuff the bra cups, seal in bags, etc. Make sure to include all accessories (like garter straps or bra cup inserts) with the item you are returning. If you tore the original package in your excitement, then make sure you repackage your return in packing material of equal or greater quality to the packaging you received.
  5. Address the envelope to the appropriate address: most businesses have a specific address for returns. If the address does not mention returns, then write ‘return’ on the envelope so that customs does not charge the receiver duty.
  6. Send your package as soon as possible: there is a limited window of time where returns and exchanges are accepted.
  7. Take pictures of the package with full labels ready for shipping – take these pictures at the post office. This is imperative proof of shipping! It is especially important if you are returning without tracking and is a nice extra bit of insurance if the package does have tracking.

As this is a no fault situation, you will pay the cost of return postage unless the brand offers free returns. However, the company you purchased from will generally cover the cost of shipping out a replacement if you requested one.

Returns & Exchanges – At Fault

In an ‘at fault’ situation, final sale policies do not apply.

Email the company as soon as you establish a problem with your order. Include your order number, what you ordered, and what you actually received or what the damage is. Even if you are upset, be polite.

Always include photographic proof when informing a company that they made a mistake. It is also a good idea to include your original invoice or a packing slip in the email so that it is simple for the company to compare what you received against what you ordered.

Follow steps 3 through 7 from the ‘no fault’ situation above as these steps are the same no matter the reason for return.

As this is an ‘at fault’ situation, the company will cover the cost of return postage.

If you want to resell your purchase, keep the tags on and any original packaging like hangers or boxes - it'll be worth more!

If you want to resell your purchase, keep the tags on and any original packaging like hangers or boxes – it’ll be worth more!


If the garments were final sale and you simply don’t like them, you will probably want to resell or give the garment away.

Always keep tags on the lingerie and keep the original packaging. Clothing that is brand new with tags (BNWT) has a higher resale value. Original packaging can increase that value as it is proof of authenticity, and people love accessories!

Of course, we always hope that the items we buy will fall into Stage 2: stuff we love and plan to keep forever. Unfortunately, buying online skips the ‘try on’ stage so risk is high. It is always worth checking out a company’s return and exchange policy even in a ‘no fault’ situation; the cost of a garment you will not wear and might have difficulty reselling is generally more than the cost of paying return shipping.

If you have any questions about dealing with returns and exchanges when buying lingerie online, leave them in the comments below!


The product recommendations directly above are affiliate links

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