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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? We asked ourselves this question and came up with the list below.
A fair amount has changed since our winter 2012 edition of the Racked 38. We've cut 10 sites from the last list to make room for newcomers and the favorites you've requested to hear more about. La Garconne, Hermes, Toms, What Goes Around Comes Around, and SSense are gone, replaced by fashion-forward favorites Creatures of Comfort and Aloha Rag; online only essentials Nasty Gal and Piperlime; and basics-with-a-twist faves LNA and Madewell. Also, now that we've got our Racked Beauty 38 up and running, Sephora and Beauty Bar have been relocated, making room for Kate Spade and Steven Alan. And we're still holding a place for Uniqlo or H&M—though if rumors are to believed, we won't be waiting too much longer.
So, here they are, the 38 essential online shopping destinations. 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 exclusives and 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 its 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 everyone seems to want to get down with Warby Parker's chic $95 frames. Bonus: The eyewear company donates 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 its website shopping experience—everything from presentation to customer service—outdoes the in-store experience by a candy-colored mile.
7. Aloha Rag. When it comes to aspirational shopping-browsing-drooling, this is one of our favorite destinations. The first Aloha Rag boutique opened in 1991 on Oahu in Hawaii and since then, the brand has since grown into two additional flagships and an e-commerce site that focuses on the American, European, and Japanese avant garde designers. Cheap it is not, but there's plenty of inspiration to be found in the collections and on the blog, even if you're browsing rather than buying.
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. DVF. DVF makes the cut because, aside from being a go-to shopping destination for almost every woman we know, the site is great. Easy to navigate and shop, you can find Diane von Furstenberg's entire collection of apparel, shoes, and accessories in one place. Bonus: Diane publishes an infrequently updated but totally addictive online diary here, so you can also get your fill of jet-set inspiration and words of wisdom from the guru of femininity herself.
10. Kate Spade. Brand devotees and bargain hunters alike should have this one bookmarked. Kate Spade's peppy prep has been pushing the envelope recently, with collaborations with the likes of Garance Dore and of Malia Mills, and their website is the best place to get in on all the lifestyle action they've been pushing. It's also a great place to find deals on the brand's wares—the sales section is updated frequently, and the discounts can run deep.
11. StyleMint. Of all the BeachMint properties, the Olsen twin–endorsed StyleMint is our favorite for its consistently wearable fashion tees with very budget-friendly prices. And they've been increasing their offerings to go beyond basic tees—ready-to-wear items, cashmere options, and $30 sunglasses are all part of the StyleMint experience now.
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 lovefest 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. The grandmother of flash-sale sites, Gilt invented the concept of flash shopping back in 2007 and basically changed the landscape of e-commerce...not to mention 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. Now, the site is pushing to expand beyond flash sales with exclusive online shops—this spring's debut of Brian Atwood's first handbag collection, for example.
15. A.P.C. The French brand'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. There's no getting around the fact that shopping eBay is a bit of a shitshow—despite the site's attempts to elevate auction shopping from a hunt-and-peck experience to a full-fledged marketplace, with curated selections, designer boutiques, and style content. Still, it remains a no-brainer for designer scores and your own consignment needs.
17. Asos. If you're on a shopping mission with only, say, $100 to spend, this should be one of your first stops. 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. Over the past year, Target seems to have changed their strategy from frenzy-inducing blockbuster collaborations to some much less exciting shop-in-shop partnerships with local boutiques. We're waiting to see how that strategy plays out, but in the meantime, Target stays on the 38 out of respect for their collab history and for being one of the few places you can always find a cute gift or accessory for under $30.
19. LNA. Though this LA-based brand, founded by two Cali natives, has expanded beyond the basics that put them on the map, it remains one of our go-tos for tees, leggings, and other relaxed knits. Prices hover around $50 for basic tees, and head up to $175ish for bigger ticket items, like their eminently wearable maxi dresses.
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 say 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 and new ready-to-wear line all in one place.
23. Madewell. Cool and affordable are the two words we most often use to describe J.Crew's edgier cousin. The brand's creative director puts it like this: "I want to make sure we're giving [the customer] something beautiful, something with integrity, but I don't want her to take out a loan to get it." Sold.
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 access to the super affordable, fashion-forward pieces—without ever having to enter a 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 its struggles 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 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. The romantic, girly vibe of the stores translates perfectly to Anthro's shopping site. Extras like their charming Tumblr and a microsite dedicated to favorite artists invite you to put off whatever it is you're supposed to be doing at your computer in the first place and stay a while.
29. Ralph Lauren. Ralph Lauren's House of Prep set the brick-and-mortar shopping standard with their imposing Rhinelander Mansion boutique on Madison Avenue, which features five opulent floors and clerks who look like RL runway models. The brand's website recreates the experience on your desktop 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 find the cheaper version instead.
30. Nasty Gal. If you like your indie a little bit rock 'n' roll, this is the site for you. Started as an eBay shop featuring vintage and flea market finds in 2006, the brand has expanded to include its own line of trendy, affordable pieces that are both edgy and free-spirited. Prices for Nasty Gal brand skirts, tops, and dresses are mostly under $100, while vintage tends to be in the $100-$200 range.
31. Steven Alan. Starting out as a shop for other designers, Steven Alan took on his own line in 1999 and was pretty much an instant hit. His aesthetic—for both his own line and the other indie brands he carries—is casual but perfected, simple but elegant, and definitely comfortable. One of the reasons we keep restocking our closets with his boyfriend shirts and smart dresses is because they feel like they were made to be lived in.
32. Piperlime. Piperlime is the new Zappos. You can get everything there, from a black-tie gown to this season's printed shorts to any of about a million pairs of shoes. The website features frequent deals and, bonus: Since Piperlime is owned by Gap Inc., you can also shop Gap sites and affiliates like Old Navy and Banana Republic in one utterly convenient shopping cart.
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 can be steals (case in point: The "Big Ass Summer Sale" currently raging on the site). Also, they give free music downloads on Mondays, which is nice of them.
35. Creatures of Comfort. Another destination for inspiration, Creatures of Comfort's beloved LA boutique has expanded over the years to a NY outpost and an e-commerce site where you can find a cache of cutting-edge fashion from emerging designers, as well as the store's own line. Also: check out their awesome Tumblr.
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 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. The website is everything you love about the brick-and-mortar store (including the beauty counter).
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. According to the rumor mill, however, our wait will soon be over: Uniqlo is rumored to be launching their stateside webshop in October, and H&M has announced e-commerce for this fall, too. Cross your fingers, everyone.