We're All Cyber Settling When We Shop Now...But Here's Why It's a Good Thing

cyber settling theory

Sure, online shopping is a great way to avoid the ick of strangers while staying at home during these times. And plenty of Americans have made a habit of placing orders for a hoodie/face wash/a mini waffle iron “just to feel some excitement.” Hey, who doesn’t like opening up their front door to find a package just waiting to be opened?

However, the shift to virtual shopping has made the act of trying on clothes before you purchase them practically a relic of the prehistoric age. Dressing rooms? We have a faint recollection of those...but we’ve mostly blocked out the neon overhead lights of those mostly uncomfortable experiences from our memory. Which means we’re now all victims of “cyber settling.” 

What, exactly, is “cyber settling”? It’s when you order a piece of clothing online—let’s say a pair of straight leg jeans—and they fit just fine. They do pinch just a little at the waist...and the crotch does bunch in a weird way that you wouldn't really notice if you look from, the hem is about a quarter-inch too short. But, honestly, it’d be way too much of a hassle to print out a return label, haul yourself to UPS or the post office and send the jeans back. Because, in all honesty, those Levi’s do, in theory, fit and you’ll probably wear them a bunch. So, alas, you’ve settled for an item that isn’t quite right, but will just have to do.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m totally guilty of this habit; I live in a tiny New York apartment that definitely does not have room for a printer. So, unless the leggings I just ordered arrived with a gaping hole in the bum or the necklace I hunted down on Instagram shows up with missing gems, it’s pretty likely that once the package is in my hands, it’s mine forever. Over the past month alone, I’ve ended up keeping a pair of lounge trousers from Doverist that are cute but two inches too long (they’ll never get hemmed) and a workout leotard from Thinx that gapes in the back (but fits perfectly otherwise). So far, I’ve worn both pieces more than twice—and I’ve actually found that I’m less likely to stop in front of the mirror and criticize how they look on my body.

And here’s the thing: Beyond online purchases, we're all settling for slightly less than perfect these days. After the rollercoaster that was 2020, it feels as if we're all in agreement that good-enough is the new norm. Like how we've given up on the idea of booking a week at a four-star resort in the Caribbean for spring break and we'll happily settle for a trip to any old cabin in the woods, so long as it's not the home/apartment/condo we've been cooped up in since last March. Even the most type-A personalities among us have had to let go of their hangups because you can't have a perfectly clean home while working full-time and spotlighting as your child's tutor and attempting to whip up three homecooked meals a day—in the middle of a Pandemic!

And that makes me confident that the proliferation of “cyber settling” is a good thing. We’ve settled into the acceptance that if our body feels good in it, if we’ll actually wear it despite a few small flaws—and it doesn’t add a little extra inconvenience into our already difficult lives—there’s nothing wrong with a top that doesn’t fit you like you’re a model. 

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Fashion Editor

From 2019-2021 Dena Silver held the role of Fashion Editor covering product recommendations, trends, and what you should be shopping this season.