All in the Details

Should You Give Clothes As A Gift?

by Camryn Rabideau


The holidays are nearly here, and as you begin your shopping, you may be wondering if it’s acceptable to give clothes as a gift. Clothing is personal, and between getting the right size and choosing something your recipient will love, there’s a lot of room for awkwardness as your recipient opens the box. On the other hand, sometimes you find a clothing item that you just know is perfect for someone. Aside from always including a gift receipt, what are some rules to live by when buying clothing as a gift?

How Well Do You Know Them and Their Style?

"Woman wearing jacket"

When deciding whether to give clothes as a gift, ask yourself how well you know the recipient—and how well you know their style and taste.

You could probably buy the perfect sweater (or other garment) for your parents, siblings, or best friend. After all, you’ve known them for many years and may have gone shopping with them, so you likely have a good understanding of what they like and wear on a regular basis.

On the other hand, you’re probably not as familiar with the style of new friends, distant relatives, or coworkers. Because you’re not as comfortable with their tastes, you may unintentionally end up purchasing something that’s more in line with your own style—and the gift might not be as meaningful.

Are You Confident About Their Size?

Even if you can find clothing you’re sure your recipient will love, the issue of sizing complicates the matter even further. If you choose the wrong size, your gift may be disappointing or even a little offensive. The recipient will also have to go out of their way to return or exchange the gift, so you’ll also be unintentionally creating more work for them.

Even if you do know your recipient’s size, there’s still no guarantee that clothing will fit properly. Women’s sizes can dramatically vary between brands. “What’s happened over time is that [brands] have evolved their sizing to represent who they believe their core customer is,” Jessica Murphy, co-founder of True Fit, told TODAY. “If you have a brand catering to a 60-year-old customer, their size medium is going to be representative of their demographic. If you contrast that with a brand serving a tween or teenage customer, their size medium is going to look very different.”

This is why you might be a size 6 at one store but a size 8 at another. It’s also why it can be extremely hard to buy clothing for other people.

The Bottom Line: Save Clothing Gifts for Select People

Considering how big the margin for error is here, it’s really no surprise that clothing and accessories were the most commonly returned gifts from the 2017 holiday season. In fact, clothing makes up 75 percent of all returns, according to Red Stag Fulfillment.

For these reasons, clothing isn’t the best gift to give most people during the holidays. There are just too many variables. If you do want to gift clothing, it should be to the people you’re closest to because you know the most about them and can make a better-informed purchase.

Alternative Gifts for Stylish Friends

Woman clutching pearls

Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of fashionable gifts you can give to the most stylish people in your life. Consider one of the following alternatives:

  • One-size-fits-all accessories like jewelry, a scarf, or a hat
  • A subscription to their favorite fashion magazine
  • An invitation to a shopping spree, where you can treat them to something they pick out
  • A coffee table book by a fashion icon
  • gift card to their favorite store

Any one of these presents will allow you to indulge your receiver’s love of fashion. Because they’re not wearable, they come with lower stakes than clothes as a gift but they’re still personal enough to put a smile on the face of your lucky recipient.

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