LONG ASS POST ALERT, grab a snack or some tea.
*this post is dedicated to clothing; I will be sharing a post dedicated to hair extensions if people express some interest in the comments.*
Hello fashionable humans!!! I am wishing you a great Monday from London!
I have not visited the city just yet (I mean I just landed yesterday) but I will be popping the travel section’s cherry 🍒soon, with pictures from the city and vague touristy thoughts!
With the holidays around the corner, every blogger worth their salt is about to start sharing cool gift buying guides and shit. Not me; gift giving is hard and I struggle to give meaningful gifts to anyone, even (and especially) to my closest friends and family. So no. Actually, let’s all go look at other people’s gift guides- recommendations are welcome in the comments!
That said, if there is one thing I know how to do, it is to stretch the shit out of my dollars. I have to make my bucks go a LONG way because I stay shopping.Mr. Dafrastar has me on a budget, but that just made me very creative in looking for cheaper ways to buy what I want. That means that Bloomingdales and Neimans aren’t an option for my wallet, so I have to satisfy my “look fabulous” cravings on the low. Enter Amazon, AliExpress, Zara, Boohoo, NastyGal, Poshmark and all of those (albeit small) money leeches.
Anywho, my top 3 money pits *ahem* I mean SAVERS are Amazon, Poshmark and AliExpress. For this post, I will be focusing on the first and last one, as my shopping strategy for them is identical (save a couple of details). Poshmark is hit or miss, and I will be dedicating a whole post to Posh finds someday. Actually, how about a series with bi-monthly finds from Amazon, Ali or Posh??? Hmmm 🤔 I like that (I clearly have a lot of conversations with myself.)
So where were we? Yes- buying clothing on Amazon and AliExpress. Here are the steps I personally follow below. Those have allowed me to be fairly successful in buying from those websites, in nailing my sizing down and generally ending up with good quality garments – at a reasonable cost. (It is worth noting that I am focusing on Asian Amazon vendors in this post; buying from US vendors is much more straightforward.) Oh- also, actually, in a roundabout way, I may help with your holiday shopping, because I may help you save money on gifts. Ta-da!!!!!
Find this dress here
1st step: Let go of misconceptions: everything from China isn’t cheap, quality or price wise.
Buying from China has a pretty shitty connotation; it is usually associated with very poor clothing quality and overall pretty comical letdowns. Honestly though, it’s for a good reason: for a good laugh, just Google prom dress horror stories, preferably with juxtapositions of listing images vs. actual products. Some of those are COLD (and, you know, therefore hilarious.)
If you need more proof that buying from China can be risky business, Patricia Bright actually filmed a series of videos ordering from popular (mostly Asian ) websites. Some of the things she received will make you gasp- and then dissolve in fits of giggles. She is so funny about it, you can’t help but laugh/snort your way through her unpacking.
THAT SAID,☝🏿 she did score a few amazing items, which shows that everything is not all bad (she even wore a dress to a red carpet event). I personally scored some of my most prized sartorial possessions from AliExpress and Amazon, so I would say that the key here is research, which we will cover below. There are also some extremely high-quality items on Ali that cost a NICE chunk of change, but you have to look for them.
2- Unless you want to take risks, do NOT order any items with no/very few orders/reviews.
Unless you have ordered from a seller before and are comfortable with their quality, it is a gamble to order an item nobody ordered before, or an item without clear reviews.
After entering my description in the search bar in AliExpress, I usually sort by the number of orders and then look at the most ordered items in descending order.
These items are more likely to have plenty of reviews, and taking the time to comb through, say, the 20 most recent ones, allows me to know what to expect. By the way, reviews can be faked, so I make sure to only pay attention to the ones that are longer than 5 words, and more substantial than “OMG fantastic seller!” 🙄 Also, make sure 5 star reviews are not just complimenting the fast shipping- some people do that, which for the life of me I can’t understand.
On Amazon, the “top” positive and negative review feature helps a lot but it is only a pointer (see below; get to it by clicking the “see all x (number) customer reviews” link). Just like on Ali, reviews can be faked, so make sure to read more than just one positive/ critical one. I personally also make sure to seek out longer reviews, because they likely have juicy details I may be interested in. Also, with some vendors, quality changes over time, so a 5 star item last year could be a 3 today. Make sure to have a decent spread of time in the reviews you are looking at and look more at recent ones.
3- Pictures in reviews: Use them. Steer clear of items that do not have image reviews.
I use images for different purposes on AliExpress and Amazon: on Ali, they serve as a quality check on the garment, and on Amazon they help more with the fit. Make sure to look for plenty of people with the item on in different situations (just trying on, at a party, after a day of wearing) and pay extra attention to those reviews; people often say how they felt in it, whether they received compliments on their outfit, whether things fell apart, etc. Pictures will also show defects in the clothing, so make sure to browse through them.
4- Even if you do nothing else, please do this: Know your measurements.
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Asian sizes are tricky; an average size M in US sizing could be a fucking size 2-3X in Asian sizing. To make that even worse, it seems that many vendors use their own sizing systems. 🙄
However, they usually offer a measurement scale as well (often in centimeters) which will let you know which size fits what measurements, and that scale is generally quite accurate. It is usually hidden somewhere in the item description on AliExpress; on Amazon, it is sometimes in the pictures, or in the item description as well. I also THINK that if the seller(s) get(s) enough flack because people keep ordering the wrong size (especially on Amazon), they sometimes even switch to US sizing, so make sure you know which size is being referenced in the listing.
The way I personally get around all this nonsense is that I know my measurements by heart. I retake them once a month (for other reasons than shopping, lol), so they are pretty accurate at all times. The most important measurement for tops is obviously “chest”; for dresses, I usually focus on “hips” (mine are round, so they are the body part I have to accommodate for) and factor in any stretch to know whether I can size down to match my chest. “Waist” and “Hips” are obviously very important for skirts and pants, etc.
Rant Tangent– DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED ON PEOPLE WHO USE THEIR WEIGHT IN THEIR REVIEWS. WHY???? Like- “I am 150 lbs, I got this dress in Medium and fits like a dream!” Wait- HOW DOES THAT HELP ME, OR ANYONE??? There are many photos floating around the web showing women with the same weight and wildly varying sizes. See below- I have receipts!
I personally weigh more than most people my size (I am 176 lbs as of right now, I think), but I am a sz 8 with a 29” waist. So thanks, Jane Doe, for telling me how amazing this dress is on your 150 lbs frame, but I literally have no idea how knowing your weight helps my shopping experience or even gives me any good frame of reference. Heck- even assuming we are the same waist size, I could be a bit hippier than you, or a bit bustier. So please please please, if there is anything you get from this post, it should be to use your measurements in reviews, or at least your usual clothing size; not your weight, ma’am. *end rant*
Hint: for the pic above, they all weigh 154 lbs. Told ya!
5- Do not be afraid to contact the seller or ask questions to the community if you’re still confused.
On AliExpress, it is very easy to contact sellers via the listing to ask questions. I often ask for pictures of the item by itself (not on a model), ask any sizing questions I need to, and even ask whether they have sales coming up. They are pretty good at replying within a couple of days- usually less than a day even.
On Amazon, I first browse existing questions to find any answers I may be looking for, in case I couldn’t make a decision based on reviews only. If my question was not asked (for example, whether some pants would be long enough for my 36″ inseam), I just ask it to the community.
Sellers are usually keen on answering questions because that creates a knowledge base, which in turn saves them from answering the same question ever again. The community is also pretty fast; people love talking about shit they bought, myself included! I would say I get answers to around 75% of the questions I ask on Amazon, and I always answer questions on items I bought if I can.
This dress is available here. Listing changed for some reason, it had a lot more reviews and pictures.
6- BONUS: if you can, contact previous buyers to ask how the item is holding up.
It is not a common occurrence, but on either Ali or Amazon, every once in a while, a reviewer may leave their Instagram account in their review or have a watermark on their photo. I contacted a couple of people via DM on Instagram, and they were usually very open to sharing their experiences. I actually do that A LOT on Etsy (it’s easy to contact other members) and for purchases from Instagram stores.
FINALLY, DASSIT! If you read so far, you are a trooper and a champ and you deserve to score the very best deals on AliExpress and Amazon for the rest of your life.
Please let me know any questions you may have – as evidenced by what must be the 2,000 words above, I can talk about shopping on Ali and Amazon all day!
Thank you so much and see you on Friday!