“Your outfit is beautiful, where’d you get it?” Questions like this one are my favorite kind of fashion compliment to receive. More often than not, however, I’m met with a gasp or surprised look after I reply with the honest answer: “Thanks, I bought this dress online at SheIn.com!”
But what’s surprising here isn’t that my peers have never heard of SheIn or websites like it. To the contrary, young women who use social media are all too familiar with e-commerce clothing companies based overseas in Asia — daily, their Facebook feeds and timelines are saturated with targeted ads that sound simply too good to be true. I felt the same way before becoming a regular shopper at SheIn and Romwe, which regularly offers $9.99 dresses, 60 percent off your first order, and free, “expedited” shipping, among other perks — how, I wondered, could these deals possibly be real? Especially when the SheIn and Romwe site models seem taken straight out of a Wes Anderson film — too whimsical, symmetrical, and well-posed to be real.
Regardless, in 2014, I decided to see for myself whether buying something like the “Blue Lapel Short Sleeve Floral Pleated Dress” (read: a blue, Peter Pan collared fit n flare; $15.50) or the “Multi Sleeveless Floral Bodycon” (a tight white dress with a colorful, O’Keefe-like design; $11.90) would be a waste of my money. Here is what I ordered, as pictured on the SheIn site, then called SheInside:
And here’s what they look like on me, plus accessories:
Please, try to imagine my shock when I tried them on for the first time (and the next ten times after that). The dresses were exactly what I was promised aesthetically — and, somehow, for a considerable fraction of what’s charged by other Internet fashion outposts like ASOS or Modcloth. And the low-priced, high-quality wasn’t unique to SheIn either. Over time my orders from Romwe checked all the other boxes too: the clothes survived the wash, the dryer, and stain removal; they endured multiple wears, the summer sun and the elements; they lasted through long days at school, through even longer nights of club meetings and choir rehearsals.
Thoroughly convinced, I started regularly ordering from both e-commerce sites. And for the past two years, I’ve consistently been satisfied with my orders.
The scam? The catch? I don’t think there is one. Estimated delivery times — often longer than a week and a half, but typically fewer than three — always match what you’re told by the site. And the sizing? Slightly on the smaller side, yes. But now that Asian e-commerce sites are selling and advertising primarily for customers in the United States rather than domestic ones, their sizing seems to be approaching that of American department stores or H&M (case and point: the site models, and wealth of authentic reviews as well as sizing measurements that go along with each item). Review manipulation isn’t an issue either.
In other words, what seems too good to be true actually is true — I try not to question it.
That said, sites like SheIn and Romwe aren’t as much of a well-kept secret as they used to be, especially among fashion-bloggers. Huge Internet presences regularly post OOTDs adorned in affordable frocks, shoes and accessories from these suppliers, both as endorsements and self-purchased pieces of their wardrobes.
This resulting increase in online visibility has definitely helped these brands, but at the same time, an inflationary trend (like the one that can be observed in online-exclusive Forever21 collections and collabs) is becoming palpable. Whereas I used to be able to scroll endlessly through SheIn and encounter nothing over $29.90, it isn’t uncommon now to see an item here and there with a pricetag around $50.
These price rockets are far from being a site-wide phenomenon, though. Nonetheless, I wonder if we’re currently kneedeep in an e-commerce Golden Age — one that will be over before most cautious, fashion-conscious buyers realize it.