Maybe you've noticed them on your Facebook page — companies with names like DressLily, SheIn, Modlily or Nasty Dress. They advertise fast fashion for super cheap — dresses for $15 and tee shirts for $9 — pulling images from EVERYWHERE and offering thousands of styles.
These brands have come under fire recently for misrepresenting what they're selling online, using stolen or doctored photos from designer brands, and generally failing to provide customers with what's been promised in the pictures.
It's clear that buying this stuff is a gamble, but what do you really get? I decided to find out.
There are literally hundreds of these brands, though many of them are actually owned by the same company in China. For the purposes of testing the quality of these brands, I decided to order from four of the companies: Zaful, Shein, Choies, and ModLily.
I tracked how long each garment took to get to me (some took a verrrrrry long time), and assessed the look and feel of each piece.
I also rated each garment on from a scale of 🙌 (for being totally not at all like the picture on the site) to 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌 (for being exactly as it appeared on the site).
SO LET'S LOOK AT SOME CLOTHES!
1. White Collar Asymmetric Hem Side Split Shirt Dress, $24.90 from Choies
Delivery time: 42 days
This appeared to be pretty much exactly what it was on the site.
Including the strange and unnecessary fake back pockets. I realize that to the average person this looks like a strange doctor's uniform or something, but this is actually totally my weird lazy goth style. This was one of the few pieces of clothing that didn't feel as though it'd been manufactured out of floating garbage. Would wear again.
Accuracy: 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌
I almost couldn't get this tiny shirt over my head.
3. Ruffle Sleeve Printed Prom Dress, $62.99 from Zaful
NOTE: The picture on the right is from the Gucci Pre-Fall 2015 collection.
Delivery time: 15 days.
Where this dress gets it right: The print. Where this dress gets it wrong: Everything else.
So these sites love to steal pictures directly from high end fashion designers. You'd have to be crazy to think you'd be getting a $20,000 Gucci gown for $62, and this dress is not ~actually~ a terrible version of that, for the money. The weird thing? It includes a zipper at the boobs so you can decide how much cleavage to foist upon the world. Other than that, not a bad option for the money.
Accuracy: 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌 for the print. 🙌 because this is DEFINITELY not a Gucci dress even though that's the picture that was used to sell the product.
4. Solid Color Front High Slit Turtle Neck Sweater, $22.22 from Zaful
You might have noticed that it's a little, uh, lopsided.
5. White Lace Mock Neck Blouse, $20.99 from SheIn
Note: SheIn seems to have taken photos of this shirt directly from the blog Happily Grey.
Delivery time: 9 days.
So large and in charge.
So this was definitely a knock off of a shirt by the brand Self Portrait. The Self Portrait version of the shirt retails for $253. I was concerned that the version I bought would be too small, so I sized up and got it in a medium, but the medium was obviously way too big. Other than that, this shirt was pretty much what it seemed like it'd be.
Accuracy 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌
6. High Low Stand Neck Long Sleeve Jumper, $16.99 from Zaful
This sweater was also more or less what it appeared to be. BUT!
Is it a great sweater? No. Does it look pretty much like the one pictured on the website? Well, yes.
One thing you can't account for, though, is the texture of knits. This sweater was made out of acrylics, not cotton or wool, so the fabric didn't feel great on. And it had a vaguely chemical smell, which, cool.
Accuracy: 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌 🙌
7. Black Strap Criss Cross Back Sequined Maix Dress, $41.79 from Shein
The dress is also sold on a site called She-fashions with the same misspelling — M-A-I-X — in the title.
This Tibi knockoff had actual sequins on it.
Fun fact: It is super hard to look really cool and chill while walking and ~ modeling. ~
If you look at the Tibi dress, you can see it has a skirt with a sheer overlay. This dress definitely doesn't have that, and in fact seems to just be polyester with sequins glued on.
Accuracy: 🙌 🙌
8. White Spliced Geometric Batwing Sleeve Shirt, $12.99 from Choies
This shirt managed to not fit in so many ways.
The collar on the shirt appears to be at least twice as wide as the one on the shirt in the pic.
It also came with a special water stain on it.
9. Black Backless Nine-Minute Sleeve Dress, $11.49 from Zaful
So this is ACTUALLY a photo of a $2,095 Calvin Klein dress that Zaful sneakily cropped.
This looked and felt like poop on. It did not hang properly, and while in the picture it appears that it's made out of something like a heavy, quality, cotton, in reality it seemed like it was constructed from used paper bags.
10. Black High Neck Loose Top With Wide Leg Pant, $35.50 from Shein.
Delivery time: 9 days
CHECK OUT THAT FLATTERING WAIST BAND.
You know why people never talk about how great polyester sweatpants are? Because they are not great. IN FACT THEY ARE THE ENEMY OF YOUR BODY. These sweatpants are made out of sadness. Also, they look super chunky and unflattering, and oh God, just don't do this.
11. Plunging Neck Sleeveless Slit Design Maxi Dress, $25.46 from ModLily.
MMKAY, now let's talk about this dress. THIS DRESSS! THIS DRESSSSSSSS!!!!
It's pretty obviously poorly made.
Look at that seaming.
AND IT IS DEFINITELY NOT A COTTON BLEND.
Based on my experience with these brands, there's absolutely no guarantee that you'll get anything REMOTELY similar to what's promised in the picture.
Do you like polyester? Because 99 percent of these clothes are made out polyester. It's a cheap, pliable fabric, so that makes a lot of sense.
Some things to consider before you buy from one of these sites:
* Of the 13 items I purchased over four websites, I would say that only about half of them in any way resembled the product that was being sold on the site. And of those, only one — the "White Collar Asymmetric Hem Side Split Shirt Dress," both looked and ~felt~ like something I'd want to wear on my body. Polyester is not a fabric you want near to your skin, fam.
* You may be waiting a long-ass time for stuff to get to you. One of the brands I ordered from took 42 days to fulfill my order.
* Know that returning products once you've purchased them can be a costly and time-intensive affair. Many of these brands make it difficult-to-impossible to complain about purchases and make returns.
• Go into buying from these sites with your eyes open. If you choose to buy from them, pay attention to the photography. Most of these sites will indiscriminately rip off images from other sites, designers, and even Instagrammers and bloggers without a second thought, so be prepared to get a garment that is wildly different from the one in the pictures.
That said, if you really love a high-end designer garment that you know you'll never be able to afford, you could always take your chance with one of these brands. It's all about the risk you're willing to take. Is the $20, $30, or $50 you spend on a knock-off of a $5,000 Gucci gown worth it? Even if it doesn't actually look much like the dress you're trying to buy? Only you can decide.
The moral of the story: If it looks too good to be true — and too cheap — it probably is.