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If you were only allowed to shop 38 websites for the rest of your life (or at least until next season) what would they be? This is not a hypothetical, friends. This is an actual, serious question we asked ourselves over here at Racked, and today we are sharing our answers with you.
And here they are: the 38 absolutely critical shopping sites that we would pick if we had to choose. Got opinions on our choices? Let us know in the comments.
1. Net-a-Porter. Whether or not you can afford any of the to-die-for designer duds on Net-a-Porter's pages, take note of this site, because it's constantly raising the bar and pushing the envelope for what e-commerce can, and should, be. Hundreds of designers, pages of exclusive editions, and a weekly magazine that gives your favorite glossy a decent run for its money explain why the site's paving the way for the future of online shopping.
2. Shopbop. The online powerhouse has a seemingly bottomless inventory of cute, covetable, on-trend staples. It's one of our first internet stops no matter what we're shopping for, and they've recently been upping the ante with high-profile collabs, like this spring's denim capsule's with MiH Jeans and TEXTILE Elizabeth and James.
3. Accessorize.The London-based site is true to it's name, carrying all manner of accessories—bags, purses, jewelry, belts, hats, scarves, flip flops, gloves, etc. We should probably mention that nearly every item on the site is priced below $50.
4. Opening Ceremony. Opening Ceremony has a reputation for catering to the bohemian bourgeois set, and the vibe in the stores can be intimidating if you're not, say, Agyness Deyn. But the collections are stunning (if pricey), and the the website embraces a tone that's more come-as-you-are than cooler-than-thou.
5. Warby Parker. It's rare that a niche concept has such broad reach, but every seems to want to get down with Warby Parker's chic frames for $95. Bonus: They donate one pair of glasses to someone in need for every purchase, which is pretty rad.
6. J. Crew. We love so much about J. Crew: the cool-girl-next-door basics, the moderate price points, the modern styling, the fun photography. It's a company that had its origins in catalog sales, so it makes sense that it's website shopping experience—everything from presentation to customer service—outdoes the in-store experience by a candy-colored mile.
7. The Corner. Elegant mini websites (or corners) for sought-after designers—Ann Demeulemeester, Philip Lim—make up this site. Customize your own corner by choosing your favorites, and then spend the rest of the afternoon shopping the collections.
8. Rent the Runway. An internet-only opportunity, Rent the Runway took a gamble that girls would rather borrow a knock-em-dead, remember-forever, wear-it-once designer party dress for a relatively affordable fee than cough up a month's rent to buy it. Judging from the site's success since its launch in 2009, they were right.
9. Sephora. The online beauty emporium doesn't have the makeovers we've all come to know and love in store, but when it comes to finding products, Sephora.com is way ahead. While the store is organized by brand—kind of a pain in the ass if you want to see all the coral lipsticks in one place, for example—the website lets you tailor your search. Plus, they still give you free samples with your order, so that's awesome.
10. Alexis Bittar. Jewelry is a hard thing to shop for online, but Alexis Bittar's site has excellent product photography and detailed descriptions that showcase the designer's wares in a user-friendly format. Bonus: There is a selection of his one-of-a-kind designs (samples from photo shoots and pieces from extinct collections) that you can't get anywhere else, plus a personal blog written by Alexis "Dance Fever" Bittar himself.
11. StyleMint. Of all the BeachMint properties, the Olsen twin–endorsed StyleMint is our favorite for its consistently wearable fashion T-shirt designs, with very budget-friendly prices.
12. Burberry. This British heritage brand is no stranger to reinvention. Though the company''s DNA is rooted in the humble trench coat, their high-fashion runway collections are consistent favorites, and they get extra credit for being one of the first brands to understand the street-driven spirit of today's shopping scene. The Sartorialist-shot Art of the Trench site (launched way back in 2009) pioneered the blogger-brand avalanche that has followed.
13. Ann Taylor. It's not the edgiest of brands, but not everyone wants to dress like Chloe Sevigny. Nor should they. Ann Taylor keeps it classy on the World Wide Web with killer ad campaigns, a wildly active Facebook page, and inventive online extras, like their Style for Students blog.
14. Gilt Groupe. The grandmother of flash-sale sites, Gilt invented the concept of flash shopping back in 2007 and basically changed the landscape of e-commerce...and lunch hour. Though they've taken flack for diluting their stock with B-level brands as they expand their ever-growing empire, Gilt still manages to have us riveted at our desks, fingers poised over mouse, at noon EST each day.
15. A.P.C. French brand A.P.C.'s heritage-minimalist aesthetic is having a moment, and their website is just as pared down as their clothing designs. The collections for both you and your boyfriend are easy to shop and browse—and the website is way more likely to have your size than the boutiques that typically stock this brand only two or three deep.
16. EBay fashion. We're willing to bet no one reading this post is a stranger to the high of a great eBay score, but in the past year the site has elevated auction shopping from a hunt-and-peck experience to a full-fledged marketplace, with curated selections, designer boutiques, and relevant style content. It's also our first stop for consignment of our own collections, when the need arises.
17. Asos. If you're on a shopping mission with only, say, $100 to spend, this should be one of your first stops. And in addition to affordable ready-to-wear from more than 800 brands, the site hosts an eBay-style marketplace where you can sell your own stuff and score some great vintage, to boot.
18. Target. Yes, their website has been known to crash. Yes, their mascot is a dog with a bull's eye on his face. But Target does the best collabs, bar none, and come February 5 when the Jason Wu collection drops, you're going to want to shop the site rather than head to a Target near you, now, aren't you? Also, they are supposedly making up for that Missoni snafu, anyway.
19. La Garconne. A mix of established (Jil Sander, Mulberry) and emerging (Isabel Marant, Margaret Howell) designers make up the cast of this gimmick-free site. Simple design, straightforward photography, and an awesome blog—with a tone that's as down-to-earth as humanely possible when you're charging $480 for a sweatshirt—complete the package.
20. Forever 21. This mall staple does a brisk business with tweens, but every now and then even those of us well beyond our teenage years have a need for a super-affordable, super-trendy wardrobe addition. Here's a case where you'd much rather search from your desk top than brave the mall to get it.
21. Moda Operandi. If you are the kind of shopper that sees an ikat print blouse on the runway and says to yourself, "I simply must have that!" then this is the site for you. The schtick is simple: pre-order designer collections shortly after they've debuted on the catwalk and receive your package when the stock arrives a few months later.
22. J Brand. A denim staple since forever, J Brand is stocked in fashion-forward department stores and boutiques everywhere. The brand's website goes a step further by letting you browse the entire breadth of the collection, plus peruse the brand's collaboration capsules, all in one place.
23. Hermes. If you happen to live in a city with an Hermes boutique, you'll note that its patrons are more, shall we say, uptown, than downtown. But the brand's website is surprisingly fun and youthful?we might even call it whimsical. Kooky illustrations and a playful tone make this site a pleasure to shop?or, if you don't have $400 to spend on a single scarf, browse.
24. Zara. Euro import Zara has been a brick-and-mortar favorite since the first store opened its doors—even though a trip there means searching through sale piles and chasing after beleaguered clerks to find your size. When the brand launched its US website in September 2011, girls all over the country breathed a collective sigh of relief at the thought of getting the super affordable, fashion-forward pieces?without ever having to enter the store again.
25. Barneys. There's only one Barneys New York, and like the original on Madison Avenue, Barneys.com is the gold standard when it comes to luxury department store shopping. Unapologetically high-end, it's got an Old World, old school commitment to fashion and quality, and though the website has had it's struggle with technical difficulties, the selection is incomparable.
26. Topshop. The high-street favorite had lines that suffocated SoHo when it opened its first US flagship in 2009. Luckily, the stateside launch also included e-commerce, making it a favorite for head-to-toe shopping, no matter where you're located. Without the lines.
27. Of A Kind. Emerging designers get their due here, where a limited-edition piece, designed exclusively for the site, is featured each week. Editions can be as small as five pieces, so visiting early and often is recommended.
28. Anthropologie. Though the product is all (oddly) shot on dress forms, the romantic, girly vibe of the stores somehow translates perfectly on the shopping site, with extras like their charming Tumblr and a microsite dedicated to favorite artists, that beg you to put off whatever it is you're supposed to be doing at your computer in the first place.
29. Ralph Lauren. Ralph Lauren's House of Prep set the shopping standard with their imposing Rhinelander Mansion boutique on Madison Avenue, which features five opulent floors and sales associates who might as well be runway models. The brand's website recreates the experience in 2D with gorgeous imagery, extensive style features, and an online-only lifestyle quarterly named, what else, Ralph Lauren magazine. It's also a great place to shop all the company's brands in one place, so if you can't swing that RL Collection suede-fringe bag, you can snag the cheaper version instead.
30. What Goes Around Comes Around. Originally a vintage gem in SoHo, WCACG is your best best for scoring vintage Chanel from your couch.
31. Beauty Bar. A sleek, intuitive design plus an entire section for natural products (and a men's section) make this our other online beauty stop. And like Sephora, they give you free samples with your order, so you only get more addicted.
32. SSENSE. An online-only boutique that focuses on a handful of standout contemporary brands, SSENSE pays as much attention to bags and accessories (there are plenty of PS1s to go around on this site) as it does apparel.
33. MyHabit. The second flash-sale site to make our list, MyHabit gets points for their 360 videos of each item. And though they don't do cash-back returns, either, since they are owned by Amazon their refunds come in the form of an eminently spendable Amazon gift card.
34. Urban Outfitters. If you are over the age of 18 or so, not everything at Urban is going to appeal to you. But there are some gems in there, and the sales are actually steals (case in point, the $19.99 blanket coat we found for the holidays). Also, they give free music downloads from their website on Mondays, which is nice of them.
35. TOMS. TOMS are everywhere these days, from college campuses to trendy downtown cafes. You can't beat these slip-ons for comfort, and the one-to-one social justice model (pioneered by this company) doesn't hurt their popularity. There are about a million colors to chose from and plenty of web exclusives worth browsing, if you want to stand out from the rest of the do-gooders in your town.
36. Tory Burch. You have to admit that Tory Burch really gets the internet. Her fingerprints are all over the website, from her personal blog (everything from what she's reading and watching to where she's vacationing with her impossibly good-looking sons) to her personal favorites from the collection.
37. Bloomingdale's. Accessible and friendly, more pulled together than Macy's but not as upscale as Barneys, Bloomies is the "just right" moment in department stores. It's everything you love about the brick-and-mortar store (including the beauty counter), wherever you happen to be.
38. Reserved. If you are wondering why neither H&M nor Uniqlo made our list, it's because while these are two of our favorite brands, neither have e-commerce in the US. So we are tempting the fashion gods and reserving a space here for whichever one of them gets online first. Hear us, guys? Let's make it happen in 2012.