How to Taobao your First Lolita Dresses
I spend too much time posting updates about taobao indies on my tumblr. Come waste time with me here: http://yetanotherjfashionblog.tumblr.com
1. This is guide is just what I know. I am no expert on Taobao, please correct me if necessary!
2. I am not affiliated with any taobao shops or shopping services. I just window shop on Taobao all day long, my friends don’t like me talking about clothes, so this is an outlet for me to ramble about clothing hahhaha
3. This guide will not cover wigs, general clothing, pastel kei/other aomoji kei, cosplay or DIY items. I am not prejudiced against them. But because I have little to no knowledge in these fields, I don’t want to give others the wrong information.
Table of Contents
Q. What is taobao?
A. It is like China's version of eBay/Amazon. People sign up for an account to set up a store and sell things. Most Taobao Lolita shops are small scale indie brands. The currency is in Renminbi or Chinese Yuan. Use any online currency converter.
Q. Why is everything in Japanese Yen?
It’s not. It’s in Chinese Renminbi aka Chinese Yuan. The currency of China.
Q. How do I navigate?
You can use http://translate.google.com/. A good dictionary for specific terms is http://www.nciku.com/. Google Chrome has a Google translator add-on. You can do a rough conversion of the prices with http://www.xe.com/ucc/ or http://www.google.com/finance/converter
Q. Is this really so cheap?
A. Yes but please consider the shipping, SS and paypal fees. More info: Price Breakdown
Q. How do I buy things?
A. Taobao does not accept Paypal or international credit cards. Most Taobao shop owners do not speak English. You need a shopping service to act as the middleman to purchase things for you. They charge a fee for helping you. See: Shopping Services Explained
Please do not confuse Japanese Shopping Services with Taobao Shopping Services.
Q. Can I not use a shopping service?
A. See: SS Alternatives
Q. Google translate is telling me, “aligator beauty sexy young woman free two...”
A. Google translate does not always pick up the slang and the whole grammar of Mandarin. Post your item link on any online community that talks about Taobao often (or send it to me :p) and somebody who speaks Mandarin can do a translation.
Q. I am just starting out Lolita fashion.
A. Welcome! You should look at HelloLace for some basic information about the fashion. When in doubt about whether your first lolita dress is suitable, you can post a link to the item on any lolita community and ask others for their opinion.
Q. Is there a list of all the lolita stores?
A. See: Helpful links and misc.
Q. Is it cheaper to buy from many different shops, or many items from a few shops?
A. Second option should be cheaper.
Q. I want to buy cute bras from Taobao but I can’t find my size.
Nissen Global has a nice range of frilly underthings, good price, variety of sizes, take paypal and ship worldwide. Sizes are listed in Japanese, you need to convert it. So please stop asking this question...
Q. I’m looking for salopettes.
There is no official term in Mandarin for “salopette.” In Mandarin, “salopette,” “jumperskirt” and “skirt with straps” is the same - 背带裙。
Q. How long will I wait until my goods arrive?
A. It depends on, firstly, how long the individual shops take to process your orders. Some items are readily in stock. Some are made-to-order. Some shops take months to produce made-to-order items. You need to search for reviews on specific shops. Next, the SS will mail your items from their warehouse to you. International Airmail usually takes 2 weeks or so. See more: International Shipping
Q. Google translate is calling every item a baby.
A. On Taobao, every item is called a “treasure/precious item.” In mandarin, the same term - Bao Bei 宝贝 - can also mean “baby.”
Q. I want to buy cosmetics and/or food.
A. I personally will not recommend it. My reason is that you are taking a gamble and I would feel it’s not worth the risk. If you were my friend IRL I’ll beg you to not do it because the risk is just not worth it. Please bear the following in mind...
1. China is really large. Government regulations are unable to reach every manufacturer/factory/business. There are many businesses that produce cosmetics or food, fully knowing that it will harm the human body, yet they still do it for profit. I am not being racist against my own people, this is the truth. Even though Chinese people want to use safe products, China is so big, safety regulations are hard to enforce.
2. If you follow any Mandarin/China news channel, they have many reports on food sources being contaminated/dangerous for consumption like everyday...whether it’s a roadside stall, a factory, or restaurant. I don’t read a lot of BBC/English news so I don’t know if the Western papers report these incidents often.
There’s this Taiwanese news channel that spends at least two hours in the evening reporting tainted food sources =p
3. If anything bad happens to you after using/eating make up/food from some random shop on Taobao, you have nobody to lodge a complaint against and nobody to help you.
- You tell the SS what you want to buy
- The SS tells you the cost of it
- After you pay the SS, they make the purchase and collate your purchases together.
- The SS will calculate the international shipping fee. After you pay, they send you your items.
- You receive your goods. Depending on where you live and the shipping type, you may be hit by customs.
Q. Which is the best SS?
A. There is no such thing as a "best" SS. Each has their pros and cons. Please consider these before choosing one. ! Important ! There are many SS’s out there. They all boast of different qualities and flaws. Please do your own research before using any SS.
Q. I want to compare different services.
Somebody else is doing this: Taobao Shopping Services Guide
Pros: Very good service. They are Lolitas so they understand your concerns well. Have excellent command in English. Are willing to take custom orders and other quirky requests like PMing the shop directly about an item, changing the lace, colour of the ribbon, changing the fabric...etc.
Cons: Higher fees. Usually they don’t photograph your items upon arrival at warehouse.
Other notes: Taobao is not their full time job.
*Ever since she gave birth to a child, dollypoodle has been lacking in communication and many of her customers are still trying to get hold of her.
Qutieland is an official middleman.
Pros: Ease of ordering
Cons: Inconsistent in quality of service and communication, very expensive fees
Clobba is an official middleman.
Pros: Exclusive reservations for Secret Shop batches and Lace Story bags.
Cons: expensive fees
Each company is different so do your research before choosing one.
Pros: Cheapest fees, most of them will take photos of your items once they receive it in their warehouse
Cons: A lot of SS’s out there, and you may not know which one to try at first. Sometimes, they will reject troublesome orders like items that are bespoke.
Other notes: Some of them have good English and some don’t, it depends from SS to SS. Some can be very rude but some can be very helpful.
These are shopping services that some people had hiccups with. Unless I flat-out call them a scam, I only discourage people from using them because they seem to have rather negative motives, or their business practises are undesirable.
1. Loli-loli Paradise. She has no flat rate service fee and she charges whatever she likes. She likes to hide the origin of the items she offers on her SS page, and when you ask her, she won’t tell you where it’s from.
2. BuyChina. They market themselves as an “official English version of Taobao” when they are not. They are just an SS with very high fees in exchange for a sophisticated web interface. They were also spamming certain web communities with their advertisements milanoo-style. Recently, they tried to cheat people into thinking that they owe BuyChina payments by creating emails that falsely claim “Thank you, your order has been placed.” These people have never placed orders with them. Beware!
3. Storenvy resellers. Storenvy resellers usually boast of good communication and service, at the cost of a high markup. They are, after all, re-sellers who profit from buying an item and selling it at a large profit.
价格 Jia Ge
Item Cost. The raw cost of just the item alone.
快递 Kuai Di (KD)
Domestic shipping. Some SS’s may ask you to change the location of kuaidi to a specific city. Unless your item is really heavy/bulky (e.g. shoes), you pay only pay KD once per store per order.
Number of pieces of this item sold in the past 30 days
尺码 Chi Ma
Sizes in stock
Colours in stock
Here, you will find the ID of the seller.
Customer Reviews (No. of reviews); here, customers will write feedback on the items they received.
Transaction Log (No. of transactions)
Credit Card Fees
Usually around 3.5%
0-20%, depending on SS. Certain shopping services charge SS fees on top of KD and shipping, please check before using
Your SS will keep your purchases in their warehouses. Once you are done shopping, they will mail you your items.
Q. What are customs fees?
A. Depending on where you live and the monetary value of your order, you may or may not need to pay custom fees. Countries try to protect domestic trade by imposing a tax on foreign imports. Search "(Your country name) customs/import duty" or call/visit your local postal service to inquire about it.
In order to save on customs or skip it altogether, some people will request SS's to mark down the value of the package. Technically it is illegal, and it leads to complications, so not every SS allows it. Marking down a lower value also means that if your package is lost or damaged, you can only claim the declared value of the package back.
Common Shipping Types
Slowest, can take up to months to arrive. Usually no protection for the buyer at all.
Moderate, usually 2-4 weeks for most countries. Depending on the shipping company, there may be an option for tracking and insurance.
Fastest, usually arrives in less than a week. Private courier (e.g. not China Post EMS/USPS EMS) delivery is more likely to be hit by customs.
A general guideline is that the longer your package remains in the hands of the postmen, the more likely you may risk something happening to it. You pay for what you get, so don’t cheap out on shipping unless you understand the risks.
Q. Will people look down on me for wearing Taobao, even if I didn’t buy a replica?
A. No. The only sensitive issue is wearing illegal replicas. Lolitas don’t look down on you for wearing something not “branded.” It’s only a problem if you wear taobao lolita and you look bad in it.
If you meet people who dislike you for wearing dresses from Taobao then they aren’t worth befriending anyway.
Q. What's that shop to buy petticoats from again?
A. Classical Puppets is /that/ shop.
Q. How do I choose a petticoat?
A. You choose a petticoat based on the shape of the skirt/dress you own, or you are going to buy.
Dresses with an A-line shape have a silhouette that resemble the capital letter A.
A-line shape is most common with classic lolita, although there are exceptions. Here are some examples of a-line dresses worn:
These photos were saved in my computer over the years. If you want your pics removed, let me know =)
Dresses with a “bell” or “cupcake” shape have a more...roundish silhouette, like in the pictures. Most sweet lolita dresses use a bell-shaped petticoat but there are always exceptions.
These photos were saved in my computer over the years. If you want your pics removed, let me know =)
Q. Custom Sizing?
A. Since Taobao shops are mostly indie brands, a lot of them accept custom sizing. Most of the time there will be a custom sizing fee. Some items may or may not be available in custom sizing. The best way to find out is usually to ask your SS to message the seller. Certain shops, like R Series, allow custom sizing for specific items only. If an item does not have a sizing chart included, it is usually because all items are made to order.
Q. Are all the lolita shops in the excel sheet good to buy from?
A. Not necessarily. Some have been added to the list because they look like they’re worth a try, but nobody has reported buying from them yet. If you are new to Taobao, here are a few shops with good reputation for producing lovely designs:
Dear Celine http://shop10274962.taobao.com/
Miss Point http://miss-point.taobao.com/
R Series http://shop33039330.taobao.com/
Rose Melody http://shop34577141.taobao.com/
St. TearS http://shop36231442.taobao.com/
Surface Spell (gothic) http://shop35467425.taobao.com/
Surface Spell (classic) http://shop41178.taobao.com/
Krad Lanrete http://krad666.taobao.com (their clothes are nice, but popular pieces sell out so fast it’s not even funny)
Lolita Kingdom http://shop58746168.taobao.com/
Dark Whisper http://darkwhisper.taobao.com/
Fox Cherry http://foxcherry333.taobao.com/ *please note that Fox Cherry has poor communication and are difficult to get hold of. Other than that, their items are really lovely!
Rococo Soul http://shop34186203.taobao.com/
Even these shops make mistakes occasionally, they’re not perfect (and neither are brand :p) but if you are just getting your feet wet, try one of these stores. I’ve also omitted stores that aren’t very active and go on hiatus very often.
Q. How do I know if I chose something ita? I don’t want to look bad!
A. If you’re not confident in your taste in lolita fashion yet, you can post a link to the item you are considering to buy to EGL or any lolita community. The more experienced lolitas will give you the advice you seek. There is no better way to ascertain whether the item you chose is good for lolita, because there is no die-hard definite set of rules that dictate what makes a dress good enough for lolita.
Q. Wa-loli, qi-loli, mori-loli, pirate-loli, punk-loli sound so cool, but everyone says that it’s ita.
A. These style are not ita by default. They can look really great when co-ordinated well. However, it is not recommended for a newbie to try these out (to save yourself from embarrassment too). You’re more likely to end up looking bad, and regretting it in the future.
Q. The seller listed the measurements in a photo!
A. Sometimes sellers don’t phrase the measurement terms the same way, but here’s some vocab to help you along.
Suitable for (...)
Refer to (...)
Please send me more terms you encounter that your translator doesn’t pick up, I will add them here.
Some terms we’ll be looking at:
Item is ready for collection. Please pay the remainder. (the cost of item minus the deposit)
Only limited pieces available
Only limited pieces available
No limit to the no. of pieces available
Readily in stock, no pre-order required
to ship things out (to ship out manufactured items to buyers)
“morning” or “early”
night or “late”
first few days of a month
middle of month
end of the month
end of the month
refers to a period of ten days
When the item is put up for reservation, a listing will appear. Here is an example: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=39250290366&
A reservation page usually has “ding jin” or “yu yue” in the title. It will state the deposit amount required for you to participate in the reservation.
When the reserved pieces are ready for collection, another listing will appear. Here is an example: http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?&id=39834540276
A post-reservation page usually has “wei kuan” in the title. If you did not participate in the reservation, nothing will happen if you purchase the wei kuan listing. The seller will reject your money and refund it to your SS. Also, your SS is expected to collect your purchase by a certain deadline. Otherwise, the seller assumes you backed out and your reserved pieces will be sold as “xian huo.”
Remember!! China’s time zone is GMT+8:00.
How to tell the date in Chinese
The number (that is this year)
(indicates that the number before it is the year)
The number that is the month
Month, or “Moon”
The number that is the date
Date, or “Day”
The above literally translates to “2013th Year 10th Month 15th Day”
Which is 15th October 2013 in the Gregorian calendar.
Try and apply the clues above to find out what this sentence is saying!
You don’t understand chinese. “尾款” means “please pay the remainder”. There is a date given in the sentence. It says “13th year, 10th month, 15th day.” You can deduce, “please pay the remainder” on “2013 October 15th.”
This is what google translate will give you:
Balance due will be out in about 13 years on October 15
This is how I will translate the full sentence:
Items will be ready for collection around 15 October 2013.
- If the item has the word “复刻” in it, it is a replica.
- If the item has any of these words in the title, it may be a replica. However, it may also mean the item is largely inspired by a brand item.
META, BABY, VM, MM*, AP, AATP, MMM, MOITIE, VW, ETC, JM, IW
*MM can also refer to “lady” and may not always mean “Mary Magdalene.”
If the item name has any other brand name in it, you should search for that brand’s stock photos to see if it is a replica.
- If the stock photo is stolen, it definitely a replica.
- When in doubt, you can post a link to the item somewhere and ask others.
Q. Taobao is confusing. It’s complicated and I don’t want to deal with it. Where else can I start my lolita wardrobe on a low budget?
A. You can try these.
Bodyline accepts Paypal directly. They have certain items that are very lovely! However, not all their measurements are listed accurately and a lot of their designs are not suitable for lolita, or just look very bad.
Proceed with bodyline’s modeling contest with a LOT of caution though...
Fan+Friend accepts Paypal directly. Most of their items are non-print replicas, although they have their own designs too.
Retroscope Fashions is not a reseller of F+F. Retroscope outsourced the manufacturing of their original designs to a company in China, and said company decided to sell their designs for cheaper.
Closet Child is a Japanese consignment store that sells second-hand clothing. They have an online storefront, there is no need for a shopping service.
You can also find a list of indie brands here:
Some shops on taobao accept paypal/international CC and ship overseas without the middleman.
http://amastacia.taobao.com/ Paypal OK but overseas shipping may not be avail, email to ask
On storenvy and certain facebook storefronts, you will find taobao indie resellers. They don’t charge you a “service fee” or “commission.” They will set a price that they want to sell an item at, and if you find it reasonable you can purchase it. Usually it’s very, very expensive so I don’t recommend it, but if you find the mark up reasonable for the convenience please go ahead.
Some re-sellers are actual SS’s that set up shop on English websites.
Links that every lolita should know:
(the handbook has not been updated for a few years now, actually many things have changed, but the fundamentals remain largely similar)
Blog with good lolita info.
She often runs surveys researching on the status and development of lolita fashion
Blog with good info.
Please just browse the threads and read to learn about the fashion. Due to anonymity people speak their minds in a blunt manner, and for the same reason they say stupid things they don’t mean. So just “lurk” and read the lolita threads to learn. If you are new, don’t start posting so quickly. Reading is important!
Taobao list of shops with notes on store updates.
This is just a list of shops. Not all the items sold in all of these shops are perfect examples of cheap, high-quality items. If you are new to Lolita, read What a Lolita Should Know first.
Other sheets compiled by others:
Taobao dictionary by Petrovna
Taobao shopping services sheet: