(NEWS CENTER Maine) -- These days, you can get almost anything online, but that could seem risky when you're looking to make an important purchase like a prom dress or wedding gown. If you're thinking about skipping the checkout line and ordering your dress straight to your door, there are some tips that can help you be successful.
First, vet your sites. TEGNA's Fashion and lifestyle contributor Daria Mukhina says an easy giveaway is the models' pictures.
“If it looks like they're taking selfies in a mirror or taking their own picture, that's your first giveaway that it's probably not a legit site,” Mukhina says.
When shopping for a prom dress, TEGNA Consumer expert and “Deal Boss” Matt Granite says don't rely heavily on product reviews.
“No teenage girl in her right mind is going to take the time to post a review online,” says Granite. “If you see these reviews from various so-called teenagers, they've been composed by a company or retailer itself.”
That's not usually the case for bridal and formal dresses, though. Granite says women ages 25 to 55 are 80 percent more likely to write a review than men.
While reviews of the online retailer itself can give you insight into its reputation, don't shy away if it isn't accredited by the Better Business Bureau since those reviews cost money many shops don't want to pay.
If you find a dress you love in the store, check the price online before you buy. According to Granite, shoppers generally pay 10 percent less online.
“A retailer may not stock something that's three or four years old in store,” Granite says. “But online, they'll sell you something that's five, eight years old. If the dress has gone back into style, you could save 40 to 80 percent!”
Don't be afraid to think outside the box either. Searching phrases like "cocktail dress" over "prom dress" or "formal dress" over "wedding dress" can open up options that are what you want, but for much less. However, any new design on the market that's marked down online to a price that seems too good to be true is a red flag.
When choosing what is likely to be one of the most important dresses you'll ever wear, Granite says go with a retailer you already trust.
“That's not the time to be experimental,” Granite says. “For one of the most important occasions of your entire life, this is really a time to go with the tried, tested, and true retailers.”
Mukhina and Granite also say check the site's return and exchange policies before making an order to see how much it would cost you. If you order a prom dress, time it so that it arrives at least three weeks before prom. If it's a wedding dress, it should arrive at least two months before the wedding so there's time to make alterations.