These Are the Best Places to Buy Dresses Online for Any Occasion

Nordstrom is the store of choice for 2022.

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Best Places to Buy Dresses Online
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Buying dresses online can be a nerve-wracking endeavor, especially when you're typically scrolling for a dress with a particular event in mind.

Luckily, it's never been easier to get lots of options to your door super quickly. InStyle spoke with NYC stylist Calvy Click, who has worked with dozens of celebs and brands, to find out what retailers she turns to when she has a last-minute event. The wide range of price points, designers, and sizes made Nordstrom the top choice for this year.

In addition to some larger online purveyors, Click rattled off some brands that will have you absolutely swooning at their options. Don't worry, we also got her tips for ordering the correct size, washing delicate pieces and even a couple of tips for choosing styles.

Whether you're wanting to hop on a trend—like slip dresses or cottagecore—or are shopping for a specific event, these are the best places to buy dresses online.

Top Picks

Best Overall: Nordstrom

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What We Love: The wide range of sizes, prices, and designers.

What We Don't Love: The best shipping options are limited to people who have a store nearby.

At this point, Nordstrom is almost infamous for their relaxed return policy, which is great news for those of us that drag their feet when it comes to this chore. There's no time limit, however if it's been a while they might choose to issue a refund in the form of a gift card. That said, in addition to mail-in and in-store returns, they now offer curbside returns if you set them up in advance. As for shipping, Click loves Nordstrom because they offer rush options and even allow you to reserve things in-store the day of, if there's a location close to you.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the selection. Nordstrom carries a huge range of brands online, including other well-known vendors like ASOS and Lulu's. Their price ranges set them apart from other high-end retailers, as they allow you to sort dresses into categories of $50 and under, all the way up to $7,000. They also offer a wide-range of sizes, and even maternity dresses. They offer on-site alterations and basic options (like hemming or strap adjustments) are even free for Nordy Club members.

Shipping Policy: Free USPS, rush available | Return Policy: Anytime | Sizes Offered: XXS-4X in Women's

Best Value: Amazon

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What We Love: We love the low prices and fast shipping.

What We Don't Love: The quality and sizing can be untrustworthy.

Look, everyone knows that Amazon is pretty much the best when it comes to getting things fast and for a low price. One of our favorite aspects when it comes to dresses in particular is the fact that they offer great keyword searches so it's easier to find exactly what you're looking for, such as prairie dresses. You can pile on as many keywords as you want and most likely you'll still get 100+ different options to choose from.

Then, there's the pricing. You can always search based on specific price ranges, but it's overall very easy to find an option under $50. It's worth mentioning that thanks to their new Luxury Stores, you can also get high-end designers like Rodarte and Elie Saab, however most of these are not available on Prime shipping. Amazon does seem to find the lowest prices available, though – even with luxury designers.

Shipping Policy: Free one or two-day through Amazon Prime | Return Policy: 30 days for a full refund | Sizes Offered: All of them (yes, all)

Best for Nights Out: Revolve

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What We Love: We love the range of glittery, glitzy options that range from night-out-in-Vegas to daytime-appropriate.

What We Don't Love: There's only one page of options if you select XXL sizes.

Revolve is one of those sites that you can seriously scroll for hours. They carry so many brands, many of which I've even discovered on the site (oh, hello, Faithfull the Brand and Loveshack Fancy). The best part though, and the part that makes them a go-to for those on the hunt for the best night-out dress, is that they've broken down their dress selection into so many fun categories. From bohemian to embellished and sequined, they have it all. Looking for one-shoulder options? Check. Something super sexy, like a bustier? They've got an entire section.

Of course, you can also sort by price range, length, occasion and so much more. While they have lots of price ranges that you can select, the bulk of the dresses hover between $150 and $500, which may be out of budget for many buyers. That said, they do offer lots of sales.

Shipping Policy: Free two day shipping | Return Policy: 60 days for a full refund, 90 days for exchanges | Sizes Offered: XXS-XXL

Best for Cocktail Attire: Bloomingdale's

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What We Love: They have a great range of styles and brands available.

What We Don't Love: Many of the brands are cost or size-prohibitive.

Bloomingdale's has a massive selection of cocktail dresses – we're talkin' 14 pages of looks. You can choose from styles, lengths, colors and sizes. The best part is that they have options to accommodate lots of different formal or informal cocktail-clad events. For summer, the styles offer up more sleeveless and cut-out options, while the winter dresses consist of thicker fabrics with embellishments. Make sure you sign up as a loyalist online so that you get free shipping no matter what.

Finally, Bloomingdales carries a huge range of brands. Trendy, timeless pieces from brands like Milly, to more whimsical flowing looks from BA&SH, there are lots of design esthetics to choose from.

Shipping Policy: Free for purchases $150 and up, and for site loyalists | Return Policy: 90 days for a full refund | Sizes Offered: XXS-XXL

Best Plus Size: Eloquii

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What We Love: The fabrics are high-quality and they offer a range of designs for different occasions.

What We Don't Love: They charge for refunds and shipping.

Eloquii really specializes in plus-size clothes that fit super well. The fabrics are thick and high-quality and they offer a range of styles and lengths. The best part is that they really do make trendy options in larger sizes, and they take things like adjustable straps and waists into consideration.

While they have a lot of neutral options for dresses, they also offer tons of bold patterns and colors. Finally, they sell accessories, like necklaces and bangles, in sizes that are accommodating and styles that are absolutely perfect.

Shipping Policy: Free for purchases $125 and up | Return Policy: 30 days for a full refund, minus a non-refundable $5 charge | Sizes Offered: 14-28

Best for Work: M.M.LaFleur

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M.M. LaFleur

What We Love: We love the well-made look and timeless qualities of each piece.

What We Don't Love: They charge for refunds and shipping.

Known for their well-made staples, M.M.LaFleur is a great option for those in search of office dresses that can be dressed way up or way down. In addition to looking completely timeless, many of the items list the body types that work best in certain dresses. These options range from "tall-friendly," to "bust-friendly."

Many of these silhouettes are flattering for lots of body types, and prioritize A-line cuts that are fitted but not revealing. Since these are office-forward, it's worth mentioning that the dresses come in lots of neutral and dark hues that will look just as great at after work drinks.

Shipping Policy: Free standard shipping, rush shipping available | Return Policy: 21 days for a full refund | Sizes Offered: 0-18

Best Maternity: Asos Maternity

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What We Love: The prices and the range of styles.

What We Don't Love: The quality can be lacking and the sizing can be unreliable.

Finding great maternity dresses can be a chore, especially when you don't want to pay designer prices. ASOS maternity offers a huge range of dresses – from cozy t-shirt options to gala-ready gowns. They also have a good selection of office-ready maternity dresses.

The prices rarely go above $170, and things tend to go on sale quickly. Since there's such a huge range, you'll definitely want to tailor your search based on the occasion, but it's also a fun site to peruse.

Shipping Policy: Free for purchases $50 and up; rush options available | Return Policy: 28 days for a full refund | Sizes Offered: 0-16

Best Designer: Matches Fashion

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What We Love: The wide range of brands makes it easy to discover new things.

What We Don't Love: The prices are also designer.

Matches carries more than 650 designers, and you can buy all of them online. In addition to super-luxe brands like Gucci and Prada, they carry smaller designers whose items might be new to you.

The site also breaks down their offerings into lots of categories so that it's easy to shop within your price range, style and brand preferences. In addition to browsing by sizes ranging from XXS-4XL, there are fun categories like embellished, sun, and off-the-shoulder options to choose from.

Shipping Policy: UPS, rush available | Return Policy: 28 days within purchase | Sizes Offered: XXS-4XL

Best for Vacation: shopbop

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What We Love: They have a huge range of designers and price ranges.

What We Don't Love: The majority of the brands are on the more expensive side.

A quick scroll of shopbop's "Beach Ready" section (which is 12 100-product pages, by the way), will have you ready for sand between your toes. The selection is absolutely huge and some brands go up to a 3XL.

The best part about beach-ready dresses is that they come in such stunning, light-hued fabrics. From lightweight linens to embellished crochet, there's something for every vacation style.

Shipping Policy: Free with rush options available | Return Policy: 30 days within purchase; 15 days for free shipping | Sizes Offered: XXS-3XL

Best in Sustainability: TheRealReal

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What We Love: You can get designer clothes in great condition without purchasing something new.

What We Don't Love: Since the inventory is based on what users are selling at that moment, you can't guarantee that sizes and styles will be available.

TheRealReal is a vintage-lover's dream come true, and to be honest, it's great if you're looking for designer finds from more recent releases as well. While they have a website, the app is more user-friendly, and it allows you to search for dress options based on designers, prices, colors and patterns, and condition.

There's also an editor's picks section that makes it much easier to find the more coveted brands and unique pieces that are at the tops of everyone's lists. You can sort by size, occasion, and price – and while the prices are still high by most standards, they are a fraction of the original price tags.

Shipping Policy: Free standard shipping with express shipping available | Return Policy: Must be requested within 14 days of purchase | Sizes Offered: Dependent

What to Keep in Mind

Shipping Policy

This is an especially important aspect to consider if you're working under a strict deadline. Most places offer rush or express options if you're willing to pay the price, however if you have a few days, many of the above options offer free standard shipping with the guarantee of a 5-day arrival time.

Return Policy

It was shocking how much this varied for different stores. I found that the larger stores are much more likely to take returns or offer up store credit if you miss the return deadline. Smaller brands were more likely to charge for the return label itself. Of course, if you're in a pinch, this may not even be a huge consideration.

Your Questions, Answered

How can you find the right size dress online?

You know the phrase "measure twice, cut once"? That certainly applies here. Click recommends that people keep a measuring tape close by. More importantly she advises people to "be wary of standardized sizing charts that span a lot of brands." If you're shopping at a retailer that carries lots of different brands, Click says it's best to head over to the actual designer's site to make sure the measurements are exact. Finally, make sure you're reading the reviews to see if the item runs true-to-size.

Which fabrics are easiest to machine wash?

While Click admits to hand-washing everything thanks to her NYC washing machine, which she says "likes to devour anything less precious than a beach towel," there are some fabrics to look out for if you want something washing machine-friendly. Namely, cotton and polyester blends, but if you want the items to maintain their shape, make sure you're skipping the dryer. If you have something linen, it's probably best to hand wash and dry, or opt for spot-cleaning when possible. For silks – dry clean, baby!

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