When I first started lolita in 2003, I bought a lot of cheap-ish pieces from Fan+Friend and now-defunct eBay stores. The quality varied, but back then there was absolutely no comparison between brand and non-brand products.
After a long hiatus from the fashion, I returned and noticed that the “offbrand” lolita companies were now very popular among the community. As I began rebuilding my wardrobe, I still stuck primarily to brand products or offbrand otome clothing from Axes Femme, Emily Temple Cute, etc. However, items from the “offbrand” companies, including many Taobao shops, would often catch my eye.
I did a lot of research, read reviews from various sources, and asked questions. Finally, I decided to submit my first, tentative order for Taobao products. Because I was so unfamiliar with the quality, I decided it would be safer to stick with lolita basics on my first attempt.
Shopping Service Review: TaobaoSpree
There’s no shortage of Taobao shopping services on the Internet. However, much of the lolita community has become seemingly focused around two companies: TaobaoSpree and TaobaoNow. Because I could find no real difference between the two in terms of customer satisfaction, I flipped a coin and went with TaoBaoSpree for my first order.
Ordering Process: When you visit the TBS website, there are different pages with info (including video tutorials) on ways to submit your order. I chose to download the Excel order form and e-mail it. This is pretty straight-forward and intuitive for people who are tech-savvy. (Score 4/5)
General Customer Service: After TBS receives your order, you will be assigned a TBS agent. My agent’s name was Candy. In general, she was very polite, friendly, and helpful. I never felt shy about asking questions! One of my items was taking longer than expected to complete, and she was very diligent about contacting the seller and providing status updates. (Score: 5/5)
Communication: I would always receive a response within a few hours of sending an e-mail to Candy (assuming the e-mail was received during business hours). My TBS agent always kept me in the loop in terms of when items were ready. There was a bit of a language barrier, so I had to word things in simple sentences. However, Candy was always careful to confirm a request if she was confused about my instructions. (Score: 5/5)
Payment Process: TBS requests that you submit two payments:
- Payment #1 for your items, fees, etc
- Payment #2 for shipping fees
One of the items I ordered was a reserve item. For reserve items, TBS requires that you pay the entire cost of the item upfront (you’re not allowed to break up the cost of the item into a reserve payment and final payment). The agent was very clear when explaining the payment system. (Score: 5/5)
Packing/Shipping: No complaints! As soon as the package went out, I was contacted by my TBS agent with a tracking number. I chose EMS shipping and my package arrived in 1 week. The package showed no signs of damage during transit (see photos below. (Score: 5/5)
Overall: The customer service at TBS is definitely very personal—this approach is nice if you’re OCD and want to be in frequent contact with your SS agent about the status of your order, especially for reserve items. If you have any choice, I’d definitely recommend that you request Candy! In the future, I think I’ll bypass the general e-mail form and just ask her for the things I want.
Product Review: an*tai*na Bow Clips
First, I’ll start with something simple: some shoe bow clips from an*tai*na. These were around $2.50 USD per pair. The material is very shiny (see photos) and the clips are quite strong. Even though the clips are intended for shoes, they’re nice enough that I might use them for other decorative purposes! (Score: 5/5)
Product Review: HMHM Ivan Country Blouse
Next, let’s look at the Ivan Country Blouse that I ordered from HMHM. Here are my impressions of this blouse.
Stock Photo Accuracy: Most Taobao stores have a disclaimer that your final product may not match the stock photos on the website. This was the case in terms of my blouse, primarily the non-matching buttons. I found this especially annoying because I preferred the buttons in the stock image. (Score: 3/5)
Fabric: The fabric is a sturdy, weighty cotton. Overall, I like the feel and appearance of the fabric. (Score: 5/5)
Buttons/Lace/Accents: The lace is pretty “meh”—there’s nothing particularly special about it, though I can tell it’s the kind of lace that will probably wrinkle easily when washed. I really dislike the buttons a lot. They feel very cheap and thin, like you could snap one in half with your fingers. (Score: 2/5)
Fit: This is probably a first-time buyer’s error, but I completely misjudged the size of the blouse. I chose the size that most closely matched my real measurements, but the blouse was way too small/tight. I would advise buying a size higher than what you think you’ll need. (Score: 2/5)
Overall Quality: This is definitely not even in the ballpark of a brand blouse, though there’s a mismatch in terms of quality in different areas. While the fabric is lovely, the buttons/lace are obviously quite cheap and there’s a lot of bizarre stitches in the underpart of the blouse. Some of the sewing issues are things you wouldn’t find in even a Target or Forever 21 blouse. You’d be better off with an offbrand blouse from your local department store. (OVERALL SCORE: 2/5)
Product Review: St Tear’s Cantabile A-Type Blouse
I had the highest hopes for the St. Tears Cantabile A-Type Blouse. However, while the blouse looked gorgeous in stock photos, my overall impressions of the final product were mixed.
Stock Photo Accuracy: The in-person product was pretty much an exact match of the stock photos. I couldn’t find any discernible differences. (Score: 5/5)
Fabric: The blouse was made of a nice cotton. It feels and looks very similar to brand blouses in my closet. (Score: 5/5)
Buttons/Lace/Accents: The lace features are the best thing about this blouse. There are at least 4 different types of lace on this blouse, and they are all lovely and of great quality. I don’t care as much for the buttons. While they look nice enough at a distance, they still have that cheap, light-weight plastic feeling that makes me think they’d crumble easily if you stepped on one. (Score: 4/5)
Fit: Again, I think this is a first-time buyer’s error, but the blouse I received was way smaller than I thought it would be. It would be better to order a size higher than you think you need. (Score: 2/5)
Overall Quality: This particular blouse is of equal (or better) quality compared to many of my brand blouses. All of the lace details are so lovely—I just wish the shirt fit. There were still some manufacturing issues, including loose threads and pencil marks, but I guess this might be expected when you request a made-to-order item..? The other issue I had with this company is that it did not operate on schedule. The item was due to ship at the end of September, but St Tears didn’t complete the blouse until October 26. (OVERALL SCORE: 4/5)
Product Review: Classical Puppets A-Line Organdy Petticoat
Lastly, I decided to add another Classical Puppets petticoat to my collection—I already owned bell-shaped one, so this time I opted for their A-Line Organdy Petticoat. This particular petticoat came recommended as one that could be used for standard A-line needs. On first sight, I found it to be pretty disappointing compared to other pettis in my closet. First, it had only one layer of material, so it felt extremely thin (see photo above). It also isn’t made from organza—it’s made from another material that Classical Puppets calls “organdy,” which has a very plastic-y feel.
However, when worn, it provides about the same volume as my Malco Modes 580 lace petticoat (see comparison below—I apologize for the lack of a complete coord, I just wanted to throw together something quickly for this example). I’ll likely use it for layering with other petticoats or in the summer when I don’t feel inclined to wear a lot of layers. (Score: 3/5)
Closing Thoughts: I think that it was worth investigating Taobao. As others have already said, the quality of items varies a lot between stores. The two blouses I received were quite different in terms of their quality, though both had elements that made them seem unfinished. After this first experience, I think I’m ready to try a skirt or JSK, though I’ll likely play it safe and stick to the better-reviewed shops.
If you enjoyed this review, you can find other reviews of lolita products and services on my blog.