Tips for buying eBay wedding dresses or accessories made in China

Guest post by misstorrie

how to order wedding items from China

Having now bought not one, but TWO of my important wedding outfit pieces from China (specifically for my wedding day, not to mention a raft of other things), I have learned much about dealing specifically with Chinese eBay listings.

Buying a wedding dress or accessories from China on eBay has several advantages… primarily, eBay sellers based in China are really cheap and generally of acceptable quality (but take hallmarks with a pinch of salt). If you like your items to be to be quality-assured and guaranteed to arrive within 7-10 working days, don't buy from China-based vendors. If you like to depend on places you buy things from, don't buy from China-based vendors. But if you like to take a small risk on the off-chance of BIG savings, I can heartily recommend trying Chinese eBay-ers.

Things you need to know about buying an eBay wedding dresses or accessories

1. They are a LOT cheaper than American/British listings
Initially I was suspicious. Our culture tells us that things are priced at specific points for a reason. I think you should make up your own mind about that. Personally I have found it a great way to save money shopping.

2. The quality is generally either the same, better, or poorer than US/UK items
Remember when you gave your Barbie dolls a haircut, and suddenly realized they had “made in China” stamped on the back of their neck? Well, a lot of the time you are buying the same goods but directly from the wholesaler or manufacturer, so you are effectively cutting out the middle man. This means that sometimes you get the exact same product for less. Sometimes, it means the product is better, because the American/British shops wouldn't be able to make the same profit margin on a slightly higher cost unit. Sometimes, it means the product is worse, because your American/British middleman orders samples before deciding which items are worth selling on.

3. Sometimes things just don't turn up at all
Other times, they take over a month to arrive. Other other times, they amaze you by turning up in a week. This entirely depends on the seller and their choice of postal carrier. When it's free postage, you can't really complain though. Often it's free postage on odd-sized items (I got free postage on SHOES last month); I haven't worked out how they afford this unless China Post has a special deal to improve foreign trade or something. Often they tick the “gift” column on customs decs. Sometimes they say “commercial sample” in which case you may or may not get hit by customs charges. To avoid customs charges on personal purchases, make sure you put multiple purchases through separately and ask for separate shipping (it will save you £££s and is completely legal in the UK if you're not a business).

4. There is absolutely NO POINT in returning items
I have seen (I'm a feedback reader) many accounts of people trying to return broken/damaged items to China and return postage costs more than the original item. Save yourself the effort, and make a decision to write off the amount you're spending on your item, then if it arrives then great, if it doesn't… buy a proper item from an actual shop.

5. You can find items that you just can't get anywhere else
I have an amazing Gothic Lolita dress that is made by a Chinese designer, it cost £30 plus about £11 postage. You can't get them anywhere else.

6. Jewelry will not have the proper hallmarks and you have no way of verifying what you're getting until it arrives, and you get it tested

I love the cheap and unique costume jewelry (often called “gold filled“) but wouldn't buy anything over £10 (unless it was really pretty), as anyone can buy an etching machine and stamp metal with “750” (18k) “585” (14k) or “375” (9k). Again I guess it's about letting go of the expectations we attach to value and putting a price on the appearance of an item.

Now onto the actual mechanics to make your transactions as smooth as possible

1. Check feedback
If it's less than 98%, they probably don't ship every item purchased. I don't personally deal with any sellers with less than 98% positive feedback. I also try and find item-specific feedback — who has bought the same item as me? Did it arrive? Were they happy with it? If so, I can offset this against negative feedback if it's not for my item (if that makes sense).

2. Be PATIENT
Many Chinese sellers have loads of negatives that say things like “I waited two weeks and it didn't arrive.” No shizzle, Sherlock. It takes time for overland post to get to you. Overland post means it has to go in a vehicle, until it reaches any sea, then it has to go on a boat. Then it goes in another vehicle. This takes anything from 15 to 30 days.

3. Raise a case within the 45 days via buyer protection if your item doesn't arrive
You should be patient, but don't be a doormat. Waiting 30 days is reasonable, waiting 35 days is saintly patience, but waiting 45 days means you no longer have any rights to a refund via eBay. This is very important because as long as you raise your case in time eBay will always reverse the transaction, if your item didn't arrive, so you have only lost a bit of time and no money on your failed transaction.

4. Don't raise a case with a faulty item
This is an eBay requirement on faulty goods — they have to be sent with a tracking number. Unless you happen to be going to China any time soon and can send your item by registered post, just save your time and just write off the original cash to experience.

5. Be aware of sizing conventions
Chinese sizings often run small (especially compared to UK shoes) but sellers very often post measurements in centimetres for you to check against something in your home that fits you. Also they jump from US to UK dress sizes so I always scour the listing very carefully to check which they're using, after that time I bought something listed as an 8 and it was really a UK 12 because it was a US 8. That went to a charity shop; lesson learnt. On the other hand, if they're a Chinese designer/manufacturer and are making things for you themselves (rather than a wholesaler), they will sometimes do made-to-order custom stuff.

To conclude, buying from China CAN save you loads of money. (My wedding veil cost £2.60 with free shipping. The cheapest one in a UK department store was £40 with £3.99 shipping and wasn't very nice. There were loads of veil options for under £5 from China.) But you need to be un-fussed about quality or perfect fit, and take steps to protect your purchases… but, above all, be a reasonable human being using common sense and you will generally be fine.

Has anyone else tried shopping for eBay wedding dresses? What shps did you use? What was your experience?

Comments on Tips for buying eBay wedding dresses or accessories made in China

  1. I ordered a shrug from China. Custom measurements. It fits FABULOUS! Too bad it was a cheaply made lace that looked nothing like the image. I got what I paid for. It was $20 and free shipping. Unfortunately the lace was sooo different I can’t wear it with my dress but again I wasn’t expecting much. This post was pretty spot on.

  2. All good advice!
    Another tip: contact the seller and ask for a photo of the actual item they will be selling you. Often sellers will steal a promotional photo from a designers’ website and then knock it off with different materials. Getting a photo of the item itself helps a little with quality control. Ordering a custom made dress? Ask to see detailwd photos of previous work they have done as well as of the actual fabric they will be using. This also gives you a pretty good idea of what customer service will be like.

    • Ethically, it’s the bait and switch that bothers me most. I wish every bride understood that those images are stolen and not representative of actual materials or fit for your garment.

      I started my business by trying out Chinese factories. The quality was embarrassing.

      This is always a weird topic for me, because I’m a thrifty consumer, but also an artist-entrepreneur with huge personal investment at stake, taking pride in making an American product, employing Americans, and then I sell at mid-range and luxury price points. It took 7 years, but I figured out that was what was best for everyone involved.

      I had a customer ask the other day about ethically-sourced silk, so I asked my fabric rep. His answer was basically that Chinese manufacturing (less so with Korea, some of Central America, and Europe) is ethically abysmal. I’m considering only offering my luxury product in poly because I’m not sure I like supporting the silk trade.

      It’s quite the rabbit hole.

    • One of my biggest frustrations with ordering items online is that it can be advertised as handmade and maybe even shipped form the US and yet in actuality, it is just a cheap mass-produced product from China. Etsy used to be a place where you could get actual handcrafted items. Yet now, every wedding-related item I search for on Etsy, hoping for something unique and handmade to “support artists” comes up with the same manufacture promotional pictures and investigating a little shows that while a shop may be in the US, the shipping is from China. >:-(

      • I agree about the shameful presence of resellers, but there is still legitimate hand made bridal on Etsy! I have a bridal accessory line, and while my supplies (when not using repurposed fabrics) often come from chain shops (and therefore China) my work is done in Olympia, WA. I’m not alone, there are still many devoted independent artists on Etsy.

  3. I’ve bought some shoes, jewelry, & tons of beads & craft supplies from Chinese vendors on eBay. No problems other than the slow shipping. All these tips are spot-on — check the seller’s feedback carefully & double, triple check the size chart & measurements. Also, compare listings — the same item is often sold by several different vendors in China, so compare their prices, shipping fee (is it free?), & feedback ratings.

    I’ve found the best quality in beads & craft supplies, jewelry is usually junky “fashion jewelry” like stuff you’d find at teeny-bopper mall stores, & the shoes vary wildly in quality from cheap to decent designer knock-offs. But the prices are uniformly low, better than brick-&-mortar store sales & the selection is far better than dollar stores. I tend to get stuff to use for single-use costumes, & I can easily see buying craft goods for DIY wedding decor & props too. Just make sure to plan ahead w/those long shipping times.

  4. I had my wedding dress purchased off of http://dhgate.com

    People said I was crazy. But the seller took my measurements and made it to fit me perfect! (Which is a big deal as i’m a 36AA. They even gave me padding at the bust becuase of this, which was a total surprise!!!) It converts to a thigh-high reception dress that is too adorable! The detailing is gorgeous, and there isn’t one single solitary flaw. Best 180 spend in the history of dress shopping EVER!

    I know that there are risks with going this route, but you guys! 1,000$ for a dress made in China anyways? Psh! Better believe the bridesmaids dresses are getting bought on dhgate too! Lol!

    • I’ve been looking on the site! Who exactly was the seller? Maybe I’ll be pleased with the products too!

    • Hi. I am wanting to buy wedding gowns from china and sell this side (South Africa) May i know who you bought from so that I could order a sample from them. Im looking for good suppliers. Thank you so much

      • “Misdress” on etsy seems really good and reasonable.she is based in China but has “real pictures” and keeps in contact answers all your questions and takes custom orders too.if you get your measurements taken by a pro and send it in I think it works out well. i havent ordered yet but she has over a 1000 great reviews.overall seems good quality and well made.Good luck

    • Hi Alexandria,
      I just saw your post – I hope you have a lovely day, or have HAD a lovely day 🙂

      I am getting married in 6 months. I had only just happened on DHGATE 10 mins before and to be honest it all seems too good to be true. But you seem to wholeheartedly recommend them? Do you have any more tips that might be useful in dealing with them?

  5. I’ve gotten a number of clothes from Thailand through eBay over the years, though a number of those sellers have moved from eBay to places like Artfire/Zibbet/Etsy since I bought from them, and had really nice results. Yes, the shipping takes ages, and you have to check measurements carefully, but there as many small dressmaking operations as big factories, so you can get really unique clothes for ridiculously low prices.

  6. I have sort of what you might call a buying-things-from-China-on-ebay problem. A couple of other things to note:

    1. Owing to the tricky sizing, if anything on you is above-average-sized for an American, be prepared to have some trouble finding your size. (I don’t even bother looking for shoes.)
    2. Keep in mind that you’re frequently buying a designer knockoff, and the person who designed the thing is not getting a cent from the purchase. I personally think this is kind of a moral gray area sometimes, since what’s on the runway eventually does trickle down to retail shops, but if the dress I wanted to have recreated by Chinese tailors came out of a smaller, boutique design house, I’d absolutely think twice.

  7. I ordered all three of my bridesmaids’ dresses on ebay from a chinese seller. I ordered 6 months in advance, in case it took too long to ship or they needed alterations. It was one of the seamstresses that carefully detailed all the info she needed to make your CUSTOM dress. I paid around $40 each for custom made dresses with my girls’ exact measurements. They arrived within three weeks, which was what ebay estimated. The only weird thing was that each dress was packed in a medium bubble mailer, so all three had to be steamed. Not a big deal compared to not paying for shipping and each fit perfectly! If you give yourself enough time and read the listing clearly, I highly recommend buying off ebay.

  8. I know these purchases happen because of timeline and budget…..but a more thoughtful, nearly as budget friendly decision can and should be made! Find a seamstress in your town and offer some of the payment in trade instead! The working conditions and social conditions in China are awful. We can help our consumer driven society and the plight of our fellow world citizens by buying here in the US. Just a thought.

    • As a seamstress… Find us in town and offer us MONEY! 🙂 Most of us are independent business people and don’t have time to work in trade, but we love creating custom items and working in budgets.

      • A local seamstress who is reasonable has been very hard to find. I am planning to meet with one in Philadelphia later this month but since I live in NC it is not the ideal situation but she is a friend of friend and made a beautiful wedding dress for my sweetie’s cousin.

        I am however still seeking someone local at least for bridesmaid dresses. I can get tp PA often if needed but my girls can’t.

  9. I have very mixed feelings about this subject – the quality of many items coming out of china are quite poor and this relates to the cost of creating your item. They still endorse sweat shops in china hence the vastly lower prices, they also do not abide by any copyright laws so the think nothing of using both photo’s and copying everything from clothing to sculptures. Now I understand everyone is after a good deal but do remember that certainly in the UK we cannot compete with the cost of producing many items that China are able to, the fact that they do not have to pay taxes whilst selling their items to the UK ensures that jobs in many areas of manufacturing remain vulnerable. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has taken many hours, days, weeks or months and lovingly created something that to them is special or a company producing a new product – only to find that it appears on the market made in China for a cut price that you just cannot compete with – would you still feel as smug! I am not saying you should not purchase products from China but if you know they are copies then take a moment to feel who is really being screwed – one day it may be something you have created.

    • I do see where you’re coming from but when you have a tight budget to work with you really do what you need to do. I dont think a bride shouldnt be able to have a dress she loves just because she doesnt have much money, you know? There’s definitely two sides to the issue.

    • I can say this is a two sided issue… some people can easily afford a $1,000 dress, others can not. Also, In my situation, i want a dress with dark purple mixed in and I’ve been to 3 wedding shops but nobody has bridal dresses with any real color.. I found this gorgeous dress n eBay I absolutely love for $130, There is one store that custom makes dresses locally and said they can copy the dress but I have yet to discuss the price. I’ll go by this week and talk to the owner to see what we can do.

      • do you remember the seller? I had some gowns purchased for my wedding from a seller that had over 150 raving feedback. Now suddenly in the past week they have gotten 11 negatives and now they are no longer answering my emails so I have a feeling they are defaulting 🙁 and I will have to find an alternative

  10. I got my wedding dress from JJSHouse.com. I initially went dress shopping at a bridal shop to know what looked good on me and the style, then went looking online. I liked dresses in the mainstream shops, but didn’t LOVE them like I should have. I found a dress that took all of the aspects about the dresses I liked and turned them into something I loved. Atleast by the pictures. I decided to take a chance and order it. My dress arrived and it is PERFECT. I am SO glad that I spent the extra 20 bucks on getting it made to my measurements. I don’t have to pay for allterations, and the dress cost, with shipping, $250. I am one of those brides who couldn’t imagine spending $500 or more on a dress I was only going to wear once. My dress is beautiful, high quality, and looks amazing. If anyone wants pictures of the dress, I can give them. The dress was exactly what was pictured, and I will be singing their praises to any and all future brides. It also arrived within 2 1/2 weeks of ordering it.

    • Akycat85,

      thanks for the information I would love to see how your dress looks if you are willing to share pictures. I am considering having bridesmaids dresses purchase there and just want to see the quality of the work.

    • My bridesmaids are still looking for their dresses. I hadn’t even considered ordering from China, just scared. Could you share pics of your dress and the website?

      I sure would appreciate it.

      Thanks-
      Leslie

    • Please send your pics. I’d love to feel more comfortable ordering from there.

    • I would love to see the pictures of you and your dress. I am thinking of ordering one for my daughter but I was worried about the quality of the dress and material. please send pictures to my email address if you could thank you so much

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