Ever since it sprung on the western scene I’ve often heard that Taobao is the place to find brand-quality dresses for a just a fraction of the brand-name pricetag. I think this is a little white lie that has gotten out of hand. Some of my favorite shoes and blouses are from Taobao stores sure, but I can’t think of a single main item I’ve purchased that has lived up to the hype. Some of this is my fault – everyone wants to get a good deal and feel like they’ve made wise purchases. But time and time again I see a delightful print that looks amazing on the model, only to receive (and later sell) an item that has a poorly drafted bodice or is made from sub-par materials.
This isn’t to say that it is impossible, or even difficult, to use Taobao items to create a lovely coordinate. In my community alone I’ve seen dozens of beautiful coordinates featuring Taobao brand dresses. But there is definitely some truth to the saying “you get what you pay for,” so I thought I’d spend some time talking a bit about my latest Taobao purchase before I literally deconstruct it.
So, the first thing I need to mention is that I ordered this item myself without using a shopping service, and everything went quite smoothly. The dress cost 478 Yuan, and price was split into several payments over a few months. This made it quite easy to stick to a budget, as I never had to come up with more than 50 USD at a time. I had no problems with the pre-order payment, the final deposit payment, or shipping. As has always been my experience with them, Dear Celine was very professional and everything arrived packaged and labelled neatly with a few extra buttons and a folder as a gift.
I ordered the XL size OP with the matching headbow. I’ve had a lot of luck ordering lovely blouses from Dear Celine in the past, so while I prefer to request custom sizing, the measurements listed looked like they’d fit fine. Boy was I wrong.
The listed measurements for the XL OP are as follows:
shoulder width: 36cm
waist circumference: 86cm
waist section: 38cm
skirt length: 98cm
Now, it is entirely possible that I’ve gained some weight, and my arms are definitely chubby enough to cause me problems with OPs. That is why I’ve had so many altered in the past. But this time my arms weren’t the problem, it was the waist! I don’t know if it is the fact that the dress has an invisible zipper, that it sits higher on me than it does on the mannequin, or that the lining bunches weirdly at the skirt, but no matter what I did I couldn’t get the dress to zip, despite the fact that I can actually close it around my bust, and wiggle my ham arms into the sleeves. So, a note for next time : stick with the custom measurement requests. It’s worth the time and extra cost.
The print itself is quite pretty and vivid, and I feel like that the colors are accurate to the stock photos. That said, I don’t really care much for the fabric itself. Despite the soft texture it feels a bit cheap and wrinkles easily. The lining is also a poor choice for someone who lives in warm weather – it is soft yet thick and oddly sticky feeling – sort of like a very thin fleece or flannel. While I don’t like the feeling of any synthetic lining directly on my skin, this feels hot before you even get a chance to wear it.
Overall, the drafted pattern flows well and the construction is nice, but there are quite a few marks from pattern drafting pencils along the collar. I also wish that the space where the buttons close the cuff was covered with a matching hem tape or something, so altering the sleeves would be simpler.
Why would I want to alter the sleeves you ask? Well, I’ll be honest, the lack of attention to detail here really bothers me. The cuff isn’t a nice contrasting color, the buttons are quite drab, and there is no lace or ruffle detailing at the hem. Overall, it’s a bit dull don’t you think?
And this is similar for the skirt as well – no lace, no ruffle – it just ends. These are things that I might not mind in a cheaper dress, but as far as Taobao brands go, Dear Celine is on the pricier side. And, in comparison to their blouses, which are significantly cheaper and practically dripping in lace, these missing details coupled with the bad fabric choice are quite disappointing.
All of these other flaws I feel like I could work around or forgive, but this headbow is kind of what set me over the edge. Not only are the proportions bizarre – too long and skinny for my tastes – but the bow itself is uneven and is covered in a tacky gold trim that doesn’t come close to matching the lace on the collar. And, to make matters worse, the way it is sewn to the headband makes it stick up on your head like a propeller! Ridiculous! The only thing that I like about it is that at least the headband is encased in a matching fabric, but I have absolutely no intention of keeping this badly proportioned little monster the way it is.
I’m sure that there will be those that disagree with me, and had the dress at least fit I might have felt more positively towards it. But my predicament lies in the fact that this dress will likely cost me more to alter than it did to purchase. That’s a hard pill to swallow – particularly when after all the alterations are done this will still feel like a fifty dollar dress, despite costing (at that point) well over a hundred.
For awhile I debated dieting to fit or selling – both of which seems like more trouble than it would be worth. Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of using it to practice my own alterations – I’ve still got a couple of seam-ripped dresses that need to be altered, and if I practice on this one, it takes the pressure off, you know?
Worst comes to worse I’m out a cheap dress, but if everything turns out alright? I’m sure I can get a few cute coordinates out of this guy, don’t you think?
Overall, I’d rate this on a C+, and it would have been a solid B if it fit.
Have you had any disappointing Taobao purchases, or have you been lucky and only received winners? What are your favorite Taobao brands? Let me know what you think in the comments!