With that out of the way, I'm going to start off my review in the style of an Icelandic saga, because that's this whole thing goddamn felt like.
Akichan Frillsdottir was the name of a maiden, as mighty of breadth as she was low of elevation. There in the lands of Klassikröri did she dwell, between the shores of Mjárimjágðælene and the high crests of Þáttvillnevrfitturáss. Low and high did she search for garments the likes of that which would make the Æsir themselves weep: one-pieces of astounding loveliness dyed in the blood her enemies. She also found common dyes of Bordeaux were acceptable. Many garments did she find, although none cut for one so mighty. The land of Klassikröri is one rich with fair robes, even in many shades of burgundy, but one weak in the mystic arts of shirring.
Despairing of ever finding such a robe, she raised her fist to the sky and cursed the Brands. One day as she was sailing the rough waves of llyfjöurnl, she heard tales of a land to the East that made garments of all sizes and colours and copyrights. Some of these fabled garments possessed even the forbidden shirring.
Girding herself with courage and paypal, she ventured into the fields of Taobao. This is her tale.
Considering that I am a Classic Loli and a fatty-chan (this is a terrible combination, let me tell you, don't do it), it's generally pretty hard for me to find stuff and I usually end up just going to my local seamstress who is wonderful. Local seamstress, though, is kinda slow, so considering I am fairly new to the whole style, I decided to try out some Taobao to pad my wardrobe a bit.
After browsing reviews and websites and price comparisons, I decided on HMHM because they'd gotten decent reviews and didn't charge extra for custom plus-sizing (Oh Anna House.). I went through their direct livejournal service instead of a shopping service hoping to save some time and money (HAHA). I've used Taobaospree before and they were wonderful. If I ever buy something from Taobao again, I'll probably use them again.
Anyway, I wanted a long OP (OTT Classic?) in wine red, something in the style of Mary Magdalene. I fired up photoshop and chimera'd me up this:
I emailed them and received pretty quick replies. Yes, they could make it, they could custom size it, make it long, blah blah no problem. I send them VERY detailed and specific measurements and instructions because I have learned if I don't, I usually end up with something...uh...oddly sized. I wanted it with more room in the bust than in the back to accommodate the ladies, and a specific sleeve length, a specific upper-bust measurement, and so on and so forth. I asked for a lace up back with shirring. They said that was fine. There was a bit of back and forth about body size versus clothing size, and I ended up sending them my body measurements. Yeah. Don't do this.
On September 28th, I sent them the $142 total for dress and shipping and told it would be 20-25 days in the making. 20-25 days came and went and I didn't hear anything. I waited a month before emailing them to make sure everything was alright. I got one back later that day saying yes, everything was fine, and please wait "for extra days." Ooookay.
Nearly another month passed with no word, and I was getting pretty antsy. However, on November 23th, they sent me an email saying my order had shipped, here's the tracking number! A day later they emailed me again saying EMS was being too slow, they had switched couriers to TNT and gave me a new tracking number.
On November 29th, I received my package.
I opened it. Inside I could see lovely wine red cotton fabric, but oddly enough, there was also a petticoat and a cream coloured skirt inside.
You know where this is going. In my joyous haze of finally getting the thing, I did not. I thought they were being nice about taking twice the quoted amount of time to get it to me without warning and had sent me free stuff! Yay!
It actually turned out that they had sent me another girl's order. I emailed them to let them know this, and they told me it was a mistake and someone else had my stuff (o rly?). They asked me to wait while they sorted it out and emailed her.
A few days later they asked me to send it back to them but at their US address and then they would wait until they received both packages, and then ship them out to the correct owners. I agreed to that. After that, though, they asked me instead just to get in contact with her and we would mail each other's stuff directly. They meant to give me her address, except, hilariously, they gave me my own damn address to send it to. I think at that point I was beginning to see how this mix up happened.
I prayed the girl was also in the United States while I awaited their next. Nope. She was in Canada.
Please excuse my French.
Well, okay, it could've been overseas, so that wasn't so bad, and HMHM offered to pay the shipping fees (thank god) for us to send them. I paid $42 for express shipping as asked and was compensated the same day via Paypal. She sent mine Expedited (Canada Post lies.) Parcel USA, and apparently it took them a bit longer to compensate her for the money.
The one bright spot of this was how wonderfully sweet and awesome the other girl that got my stuff was. I don't know if you'll read this, Miss C., but you rock.
On December 2nd, we sent out each other's parcels and were told that it was going to be about five days before we got them. I followed Canada Post's insanely slow tracking as my package sat in the same post office after having been accepted for over 24 hours.
Hers arrived on December 8th, more or less as expected.
At that point, mine had still not left Canada. I ended up waiting two weeks; On December 16th, I finally received my OP.
Unfortunately, no, it doesn't end here.
I took it out of the box. The colour was lovely. The fabric was nice. It was long and the skirt ruffle and runching...thing...was exactly how I wanted it. The back laced up, but there was no shirring as I had asked. That, however, turned out really not to be a problem. Let me show you why.
^pulled relatively to fit
EGL, I was swimming in the thing. It has a hidden zipper on the side, but I can slip it on easily without unzipping it AND with it laced as tightly as it will go and still have room to spare. Instead of an empire waist, it was a normal waisted thing with the detachable bow sitting at my waist...which...is kind of odd-looking. The back and front had the same amount of room in them, also against what I had asked for.
I put it on and Entry of the Gladiators begins to play.
...and plays... You can also see how much it GAPES in the back. Please excuse my bedhair...
...and my boobs. Sorry. This is why I'm always specific about the upper bust measurement, so this doesn't happen. Tent flaps!
Fortunately, I had an appointment with my seamstress later that day to fit a blouse, so I took the thing to her and showed it to her, hoping she could take it in.
Oh she can. Unfortunately, with how big it is, and how it's made and stuff, she'd have to take the whole bodice apart and cut and reconstruct it. She quoted me $50 for the alterations and told me to take pictures of it first and email HMHM and see what they'd do to compensate me. We checked the measurements of the garment and recorded them.
So I emailed them.
I told them the dress was pretty but too big and listed the problems (the waist alone was THIRTEEN CENTIMETERS more than I asked for). I told them I had pictures if they'd like proof, and that my seamstress said the alterations would be $50. I liked the dress, it's just...it needs taken in a lot.
This is the email I got:
"The size you sent to me at first is your body size, not dress size.
Acturally we need to enlarge with your body size for clothes.
I made this dress in your body size.
It's according to your body size to make sure how big should be enlarged for the dress.
In the normal size ( bust 90cm- waist 80cm-) We will enlarge about 5~7cm ( it's according to the clothes which is coat or shirt.)
I am afraid you have got a bigger size. So I think the size in dress is OK."
Wait, no. I don't think just words can really sum up that email and my immediate reaction. Let me try again.
So I emailed back saying, yes, I understand the concept of wearing ease, but really, the waist, THIRTEEN CENTIMETERS TOO BIG, and the upper bust and back and so on. I sent pictures. Seven days later, I finally get an email back.
"The looking on photo is not good acturally.
I think you have sent me the size is not ture.
Because the size I made with your body size and clothes size is right. It's normal to make bigger in the data i sent to you."
I explained again that I understand about wearing ease, but I checked the measurements I gave them against the measurements of the dress. Not only was it too big, the back and bust were the same size. I explained that I liked the dress and that after all that I'd gone through to get it, I really didn't want to have to send it back for a refund. I asked if they'd compensate me 50%-60% of the alteration fee ($25-$30).
FINALLY, they accepted that they'd made it too big. They could compensate me only $20, though.
At this point I was just done. I took the $20 and thanked them and vowed to myself never to buy from them again. My seamstress is on vacation until next week, so I haven't even gotten the alterations started, but after all this?
When I put the finished, fitting dress on? This is what I kind of hope it will be like:
Bottom line? HMHM is decently priced as far as Lolita goes, the sewing is well-done, the fabric is nice, they do pretty work, and do (eventually) fix their mistakes or comp you for them. It's just...you know, the sizing and the mixing up? I doubt I would ever order from them again. It's just not worth the potential hassle to me.
Thank you for reading, and may your frills be epic.
Edit: Considering that the idea was tossed around in some comments, I figured, oh, why not? So I did a quick 'n dirty sketch of a Labyrinth JSK.