Three years ago, an obscure New York City–based startup stunned the tech world when it received a billion-dollar valuation from Wall Street. Gilt Groupe, conceived by two Harvard grads, wasn’t an app featuring cartoon birds, or a social media platform—it was just a website that sold high-end clothes at a discount. That moment, now largely forgotten, marked a profound shift in how Americans purchase their clothes. As of last year’s holiday season, almost 30% of Americans’ total online spending went toward clothing—tripling the amount spent on phones and gadgets. We’d all seen it coming, but suddenly the mall was out of fashion.
The good news is that guys couldn’t care less about the mall. The bad news is that Gilt’s success spawned countless competitors, turning the online fashion marketplace into an unwieldy muddle of “deal” sites, frenzied sales sessions, and “membership” portals (to say nothing of the daily onslaught of newsletters and promotions from traditional retailers). So you’re not alone if you want to buy your clothes on the Web but haven’t a clue where to begin.
To help you curate your closet without leaving the comforts of your desk—or getting screwed—here’s everything you need to know.