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How To Start a Clothing Store Online: A 6-Step Guide [2024]

Caitlin Greyling Caitlin GreylingWeb Hosting Expert June 21, 2024
June 21, 2024
Just like any iconic retail space (think Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and Harrod’s), you’ll want your digital storefront to be as welcoming and enticing as possible. Luckily, building a stunning clothing store online is now more affordable and accessible than ever – even with a small budget and zero coding or website design skills.

To start off on the right foot, you should choose the best web hosting paired with an easy-to-use (and flexible) website building platform. Ideally, you want these to have the right balance of affordability, value, usability, and a wealth of features, like aesthetically pleasing website templates and the ability to add functionality to your site.

I’ve tested many website builders and hosting plans over the years and found Hostinger to be the most cost-effective and value-packed option. Because of this, I chose Hostinger to demonstrate how to create a clothing website for you, but the process should be more or less the same across web hosts. So, let’s get started!

Step 1: Define Your Clothing Niche and Brand and Devise a Business Plan

You can either sell existing brands or your own clothing line (more on that later).

Depending on your store’s direction, it’s time to settle on your niche and branding:
  • Who is your customer? Men, women, kids, pets, or a mix of these?
  • What’s your focus? High fashion, affordable buys, party outfits, everyday wear, office attire, jeans, shoes, handbags, accessories, or something else entirely?
  • What is your company ethos? Are you minority-owned or support social causes? Or do you have another core value or mission that makes the world better or more equitable?
  • What’s your unique selling point (USP)? This can be eco-friendly practices, plus-size clothing, custom tailoring, a repair program – think about what makes you different.
  • What’s your business name and its trademark look? What will be your brand colors and logo?
UNIQLO charity t-shirt design landing page
UNIQLO partners with artists to create unique charity graphic tees, with profits going to selected organizations
Ultimately, you’ll want to create a business plan that outlines key points, such as your market and competitor analysis and business objectives. This should also include your financials, business structure, and the steps you’ll take to launch and grow your brand.

Purchase a Matching Domain Name

A domain name is your business’s online address, so you should buy one that matches your business name. If your domain name is already taken, your business name is likely taken too – and it’s also likely that the other company is officially registered under this name.

Most countries and states won’t allow you to register a name that’s too similar or identical to an existing company. You also don’t want to copy a brand or confuse customers when they attempt to search for your store online.

If the company with the same name is outside your operating country or region or isn’t in the apparel industry, you can register for the same name with a different domain extension. For example, if “xyz.com” isn’t available, “xyz.store” might be. You can also add terms like “apparel,” “tees,” or “accessories” to the end of your URL (“xyztees.com”) to further differentiate it.

You can purchase a domain name from a domain registrar like Namecheap or Domain.com. However, many hosts offer a free domain name as part of their packages. Even if you decide to change hosts, you’ll still retain rights to the domain. Just note that you probably can’t get a refund for the domain after it’s registered.

Step 2: Register an LLC and Apply for Licenses and Permits

Though it’s not mandatory in many countries, you also have the option of officially registering your company. This can provide various benefits – for example, registering as a limited liability company (LLC) in the US removes your personal liability for business debts, lawsuits, and many other costs and legalities.

The good news is that it isn’t difficult or costly to register your company as an LLC or business structure. You can do this yourself through online state or government portals. Just note that as a registered entity, you’ll need to submit annual returns, pay taxes, and adhere to any other laws and fees stipulated by the government. You may also need to apply for specific licenses and permits to operate legally as a clothing company.

Luckily, LLC formation services offer registration for free and can assist you with all aspects of business registration, including researching licenses and permits. To find out about the top options, take a look at our list of the best LLC formation services in 2024.

Step 3: Source Supplies, Samples, and Clothing Pieces

Nordstrom department store online store landing page category and IG look sections
Nordstrom stocks premium clothing brands online and features customers’ IG snaps
You don’t need to be a tailor to start a clothing store. Several ways to create and source clothing for your online store include:
  • White-label clothing. Many factories sell unbranded clothing that you can label with your own branding and packaging. Just be sure to get samples as quality varies – you’ll likely have to place a bulk order, so you don’t want to get stuck with clothing you don’t want to sell.
  • Outsourced designs. You can also hire a clothing factory or manufacturer to produce clothing based on your own designs. In this case, you can decide on the pattern, fabric, finishes, and quality, which will also determine the cost.
  • Resell existing brands. Many designers are happy to collaborate with clothing boutiques and stores. However, they’ll decide on the wholesale and retail prices. They’ll also take credit for the design and have their logo displayed on the clothes.
  • Produce your own pieces. If you’re a designer, dressmaker, milliner, shoemaker, leather crafter, or creator of any kind, you can sell your own pieces. To scale your business, you can train additional clothiers or outsource your designs.
  • Dropship clothing. The factory not only produces the clothing but also fulfills shipping. When a customer places an order on your site, the factory will make and mail the order on your behalf. The downside is that you may earn less on sales.
You’ll need to shop around to ensure you get the best deal and quality. It’s also critical to account for shipping – unexpected or high shipping fees can send your customers to competitors so consider “free” shipping that’s generally factored into the item’s price and partner with a courier to save on local shipping. After that, you can decide on your retail clothing prices, calculate your profit margins, and draft a cost analysis.

This information is vital for your business plan, especially if you want to get funding or a loan.

Step 4: Choose a Reliable Web Hosting Service

Before signing up for a hosting plan, you should keep in mind that e-commerce websites are generally more resource-intensive than standard business sites.

So, not just any old hosting plan will do. Look for e-commerce hosting for the best results. The features that differentiate e-commerce hosting from standard hosting are:
  • Higher server resources. Consider plans with lots of storage (those product listings and high-quality images take up a lot of space!) and dedicated RAM and CPU resources.
  • E-commerce features and optimizations. Look for features like e-commerce support (such as WooCommerce plans) and marketing, advertising, and search engine optimization (SEO) tools. You’ll also want performance optimizations like high PHP worker quotas to serve dynamic content like product sorting and shopping carts and caching and a content delivery network (CDN) for faster loading speeds.
  • No-code e-commerce website builder. This is often a drag-and-drop builder with online sales features, ready-made store templates, and AI-powered tools.
  • Product and inventory management tools. Keep track of your sales and receive alerts when you need to stock up.
  • Secure payment integration. Let your customer pay how they’d like by offering payment types such as credit cards, bank transfers, and digital wallets.
  • Scalability. A host should have a wide range of plans and hosting types (shared, cloud, VPS, dedicated) to suit various needs. This ensures that as your online clothing store grows, you can upgrade your resources without changing hosts.
  • Performance. Your site should load fast to ensure the best shopping experience and sales. Look for loading times of 2 seconds or less (ideally 0.5–1 second).

Hostinger for E-Commerce

Hostinger dashboard AI website builder and content creator tools section
With Hostinger’s AI content creator and website builder, you can create a site in minutes
Our team has tested hundreds of hosting services and Hostinger emerged as one of the most reliable, low-cost e-commerce hosting solutions.

Hostinger’s shared hosting is e-commerce-friendly, as it supports WordPress and WooCommerce and includes at least 100 GB storage space. Should you need more power, Hostinger also offers e-commerce cloud hosting with dedicated RAM and CPU resources. In our performance tests, Hostinger achieved impressive loading speeds of 0.8 seconds.

Other hosting providers also have generous resource allocations and advantageous features, such as global servers and dedicated customer support. Find the right host by checking our list of the best web hosting services in 2024.

Step 5: Set Up Your Online Clothing Store

If you want to sell clothes online, you have several choices as far as your online presence goes, including:
  • Sell in a marketplace without setting up a website. You can easily set up shop on marketplaces like Amazon or Etsy, but you’ll likely need to pay listing fees and commissions on sales. Plus, you won’t be able to brand your storefront or customize your site’s design.
  • Use a paid e-commerce platform. Platforms like Shopify allow you to set up your own online clothing store. While these tools are the most user-friendly, fees are usually higher and you won’t be able to migrate your site elsewhere.
  • Use WordPress.org with WooCommerce for free. Turn your WordPress site into an online store by installing WooCommerce or another e-commerce plugin. All you need to buy is hosting and a domain. You can even find special hosting plans optimized for WordPress and WooCommerce.
For this guide, I’ll be demonstrating how to set up an online clothing store using WordPress and WooCommerce on Hostinger’s shared hosting plan.

Pro tip: The WordPress installation process should be similar for most other hosts as many now offer 1-click WordPress installations. However, if you opt for unmanaged cloud, VPS, or dedicated hosting, you may need to install WordPress manually.

Install WordPress

In Hostinger’s proprietary control panel home page, hPanel, you can choose between two website builders: Hostinger’s AI-powered website builder or WordPress.

Hostinger Websites dashboard view
Hostinger’s AI-powered Website Builder is not WordPress-based, but it’s still free to use
When you select WordPress, you’ll need to create a separate WordPress account. WordPress is a separate platform from Hostinger, which requires its own login credentials. Luckily, Hostinger saves these details in your hPanel so you can automatically log into WordPress from here.

Next, you can choose from a few website categories to ensure you’ll only see the most relevant site templates in the setup process. Your options are Online store, Blog, Online business card, Portfolio, Affiliate marketing website, and Other. I recommend selecting Online store but you can also select Other to browse more templates.

The rest of the process involves choosing a theme or template, adding plugins (including WooCommerce), and linking a domain name. Hostinger will also ask for your business’ details so its AI can customize your site content. As this is only relevant if you choose Hostinger’s AI Website Builder, I suggest you skip it for WordPress. Once you’re done with this entire process, WordPress will take a few minutes to install.

With Hostinger, the LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress plugin, SSLs, and backup options are automatically set up for you. However, if you’re with another host, you may need to set up these critical security and performance settings yourself.

Choose a WordPress Builder and Theme

Hostinger Online store templates
Hostinger offers a selection of modern templates that you can use for free
During the WordPress setup process, you can choose to build your site with a template or WordPress theme. A site template has all the elements in place – you only need to edit fonts, text, colors, and images. In contrast, a theme is more general. You have access to theme files and elements, but you need to arrange them yourself. Most themes have their own built-in builder, but you may have to upgrade to a paid subscription to unlock some features.

However, you can always use the WordPress block editor to edit any template or theme for free. I chose a nice skincare store template built on the Astra theme from Hostinger’s Online store template selection. Next up, I selected the WooCommerce plugin from the plugin installation choices. You can also install WooCommerce via the Plugins section located on the left-side menu of the WordPress admin dashboard.

Pro tip: WooCommerce is compatible with all WordPress themes. You can change your template or theme in WordPress or when configuring WooCommerce. However, you cannot edit third-party site templates in the WooCommerce store editor. I’d advise you to remove any installed templates before creating a new design using WooCommerce to avoid errors.
WordPress WooCommerce setup page
WooCommerce guides you through the setup of your e-commerce site
If you installed WooCommerce during the Hostinger WordPress setup process, you’ll have to configure it immediately after logging into WordPress. You’ll also have to provide details about your business, including your site name, industry, and location. Once you’ve completed these steps, you can start editing your store.

Consider These Useful (Free) Plugins

Before working on your website design, you can add other essential plugins, including security, e-commerce, marketing, website management, and analytics apps and tools.

WordPress Plugins menu screen
You can search and add free and paid plugins
You just need to go to Plugins > Add New Plugin in the WordPress side menu. Then, use the search bar to narrow down your search. You can also browse popular, featured, and recommended plugins. Some plugins feature both free and paid tiers. If this is the case, you’ll need to pay or sign up for a subscription to unlock all or some of the features advertised.

A few of my favorite free WordPress plugins for online clothing stores include:
  • Yoast SEO. Improve your website content to rank better on Google and other search engines. Yoast can help with metadata, content structure, and internal linking best practices. AI-generated content isn’t often SEO-optimized, so this plugin is useful for fixing any issues.
  • WPForms. Add interactive forms, polls, surveys, newsletter sign-ups, and more to your online store. This can help streamline your customer service, cultivate a mailing list, and improve interactions with customers.
  • Wordfence Security. Protect your site from hackers and malware with security features like firewall, malware scanner, two-factor authentication, and more. However, do note that many hosts (Hostinger included) will include all these security features in their plans for free.
  • CookieYes. Stay compliant with cookie and privacy laws in many countries when collecting data and analytics on your site visitors. You can use this plugin to create custom cookie compliance banners, good for up to 25,000 visits monthly on the free plan tier.
WooCommerce also has a range of e-commerce plugins and extensions available to improve your store (though most are paid add-ons). You can add a few during the WooCommerce installation process, including WooPayments, WooCommerce Shipping, WooCommerce Tax, Jetpack AI Assistant, Google Listings & Ads, and TikTok for Business. You can find more on the WordPress Plugins page and in your WooCommerce account.

Pro tip: If you install the Jetpack AI Assistant tool, you need to sign in to or create a WordPress.com account. These details aren’t the same as the WordPress.org login details I set up earlier.

Set Up and Customize the Most Relevant Site Pages

Your online clothing store should, at the very least, feature an attention-grabbing landing page. Some stores choose a one-page website design that fits everything on the home page, including products, about us, and contact info sections. However, you can separate these as needed. If you’re using a template, pages are automatically propagated in WordPress for you according to the design.

Since I already installed a pre-made website template, WooCommerce will assume I’ve “customized” my store. However, the template isn’t personalized. This is where things get tricky as the WooCommerce store editor doesn’t support third-party templates like the stylish Hostinger skincare store template I chose.

WordPress Pages menu
You can edit individual pages using the WordPress block editor
If you want to keep an existing template design like this, you can navigate straight to the WordPress block editor to customize it. Navigate to Pages > All Pages, then click Edit under the relevant page.

WooCommerce store editor menu
You can edit your essential site settings in the WooCommerce editor
If you prefer to work on a new template with the store editor, you can click on Customize your store under the WooCommerce menu. The WooCommerce store editor only allows you to change your logo, website color palette, fonts, header, footer, and home page layout.

There are pre-set color palettes that generally work well together, but you can also choose your own using RGB, HSl, and HEX values if you want to tailor this to your brand aesthetic. Otherwise, there were only 3 to 4 variations for the header, footer, and home page, so choosing wasn’t difficult. Next, I saved my design choices by clicking Done and navigated to the WordPress block editor.

Editing text and images using the WordPress block editor
The WordPress block editor allows you to edit site blocks without coding
I used the WordPress block editor to update images and text to reflect my clothing brand. I’d recommend always selecting a website template based on its layout rather than the content, like images and text, as these are easier to change.

Add Product Listings to Your Site

WooCommerce add product listing feature in WordPress
Step 2 on the WooCommerce store setup checklist is adding your products
To add products to your store, just navigate to WooCommerce > Products > Add New.

The process for adding products is fairly simple:
  1. Enter your product info, including name, description, price, and sale price.
  2. In the right-hand menu, add your product image(s).
  3. Use an SEO plugin (like AIOSEO or Yoast) to optimize page content and metadata.
  4. Click Save Draft if you still want to work on the listing before publishing it or Publish to make your product listing live.

Test, Revise, and Publish Your Clothing Store

Now that your design is complete, the last step is to test your site. If your customers experience glitches and issues on their first visit, chances are that they won’t return.

Important things to test include:
  • Responsiveness. WordPress lets you toggle between screen sizes when editing and previewing your site so you can see how your site looks across devices. Make sure elements are clickable and text is legible on mobile devices.
  • Links. To ensure all links are working, view your website while logged out of WordPress and test all interactive elements.
  • Product information. It’s easy to confuse prices, product names, and images, but doing so can cost you. Your product descriptions are legally binding. If you confuse prices or names, you’ll still need to fulfill orders as described.
  • Site performance. You can monitor your website’s uptime with UptimeRobot. Also, be sure to test loading speeds and global performance using a reliable speed testing tool. If not installed, ask your host to help you add optimization tools such as caching and CDN.
Example of a website being previewed on WordPress
WordPress’ View Page option allows you to test your site before publishing
If you’re using a theme or template, your website should function properly as they’re designed to be responsive and fully operational. Issues may arise from changing your template, theme, or website builder and deleting or creating new pages.

Step 6: Market Your Online Clothing Store

Here are a few ways to promote your clothing store and brand – online and offline:
  • Organic SEO. Create a user-friendly, safe e-commerce website with quality content, relevant keywords, and fast loading speeds to improve visibility on search engine results pages.
  • Set up a newsletter. Use email marketing services to connect with existing and potential customers. Most services have a WordPress plugin that makes it simple to embed sign-up forms on your website.
  • Create social media pages. Make your clothing brand visible on TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Social media management tools can help you post brand-consistent content regularly on all platforms.
  • Set up online ads. You can pay major search engines to display your clothing store’s ads on relevant search results. On social media, targeted ads can reach users based on their demographic data or interests.
  • Attend clothing trade fairs, expos, markets, and pop-up events. This will spread the word about your brand and help you build your own professional network in the industry.
  • Hire a marketing and advertising expert. You can hire full-time talent or freelancer services to develop an effective marketing plan for your clothing business.
While some of these suggestions may be costly, I’d advise against skipping this step. If no one knows you exist, you can’t make any sales. You can start by focusing on low-cost methods, such as SEO, social media, and email marketing, before exploring other strategies. Remember that promoting your site is a long-term investment that requires careful planning.

An Easier Alternative to Get a Clothing Store Online

You can also build your online clothing store with an e-commerce platform – and one of the best options is Shopify. It offers an online store builder, hosting, and e-commerce tools under one plan. Plus, Shopify offers a 3-day trial with no credit card required.

Shopify website builder tool
Shopify’s e-commerce store builder is very user-friendly
While it’s a bit costlier than hosting a free WordPress site on a budget hosting plan, Shopify includes its builder and tools in your subscription. These tools include advanced payment features, global market integration, shipping, analytics, and more – plugins you often have to pay for with WordPress.

Here are a few notable free Shopify tools ideal for an online clothing store:
  • Size Charts & Size Guide – ESC. You can specify clothing sizes and measurements in your store to reassure customers and reduce refunds and returns.
  • Easyship. Get access to low pre-negotiated shipping rates for destinations around the globe and shipping and order management tools like label printing.
  • Printful. A print-on-demand dropshipping app that handles the production and fulfillment of your custom-printed clothing orders, allowing you to focus on marketing and growth.
Since everything is rolled into one service, setting up shop is much faster. All you need to do is sign up for a Shopify plan and start building your online clothing store.

Shopify free clothing store e-commerce site templates
Shopify has some stunning free responsive clothing store templates
The best Shopify feature is definitely its e-commerce store builder. It’s much more user-friendly than the WordPress block editor and it has all settings and optimizations in one place. Furthermore, Shopify offers a wide selection of both free and paid attractive website templates, including 6 free designs specifically for clothing stores.

If you’re interested in other platforms like Shopify, our list of the best website builders of 2024 have some other great options.

Starting a Clothing Store Online Is Hard Work but It’s Easier Than You Think

Setting up an online store is relatively easy and low-cost, thanks to the abundance of online resources, including affordable hosting and e-commerce tools and no-code website builders. That leaves you more time and resources to focus on creating and sourcing items for your shop.

Hopefully, this post has made your path to launching an online clothing store a little clearer. The most important step now is to get started!


What’s the best e-commerce platform for beginners to sell clothing online?

Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, and Squarespace are among the most popular e-commerce platforms. Shopify offers advanced online store building tools and hosting, while Wix and Squarespace now integrate e-commerce with their website building and hosting services. WooCommerce, a free WordPress plugin, allows flexible online store customization.

How can I determine the right niche for my online clothing store?

Finding a niche that matches your passion can be more enjoyable, but consider doing market research to see if it has growth potential. Check if there’s a demand for specific styles, trends, or clothing types you’d like to offer. You can also tap into underserved markets, identify their preferences, analyze trends and competition, and evaluate whether the niche is profitable.

What are some key features I should look for in a host for an online clothing store?

To handle product images, descriptions, and traffic while avoiding downtime, look for a web host with high and scalable server resources (storage, RAM, and CPU), e-commerce tools, secure payment integration, and fast loading speeds. Also, consider choosing secure web hosting services with advanced security measures to protect your customers’ data.

Can I create a clothing e-commerce website with no previous design experience?

Yes, you can. These days, you can easily build a website using a no-code website builder. Plus, AI tools are now making the process faster and easier than ever. Just remember to opt for a website builder with e-commerce features like product listings, inventory management, and payment integration with major platforms.

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