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In an earlier post, I wrote about how there comes a time in the life of every clothes-hoarding mom when you stumble upon SHEIN kids’ clothes.
I caved and placed an order of clothes from the fast fashion retailer. It required a lot of self-coaching to click “submit” on that order since I had serious doubts about the quality. SHEIN. That fast fashion brand? That’s Made in China?
The order actually turned out well. The shipping was on time. The quality matched my expectations. And really that’s the whole secret to placing a successful order at SHEIN is having reasonable expectations.
So here are a few quick QA’s that shoppers have about shopping at SHEIN, and tips to purchase a SHEIN order you’ll love.
Is SHEIN Legit and Other Common Q&A’s
Q: Is SHEIN a legit website? (Translation: Is SHEIN a scam?)
A: SHEIN is a legit retail website. Like Forever 21 or Charlotte Russe, SHEIN is a fast fashion retailer. You make returns and exchanges like with any other retailer, get free shipping with order minimums, leave reviews, and join their SHEIN bonus program. SHEIN is just another online retailer – they’re just cheaper.
SHEIN creates on-trend pieces at budget-friendly price points. Similar to Forever 21, SHEIN quality can vary wildly from thicker twill blazers that with geometric lined patterns to thin, crumply dresses made of see-through rayon. Unlike Forever 21, you won’t find SHEIN stores at shopping malls. SHEIN is an online-only retailer.
Q: Is SHEIN Made in China?
A: Yes, SHEIN is made in China. (Spoiler alert: almost all of your kids’ things are made there, too.)
SHEIN is also manufactured in a number of other overseas countries as well.
I used to think the “Made in China” label had some bearing on a product’s safety or quality. Thirty years ago (with fewer regulations and a more nascent manufacturing sector), that might have been a more relevant question. A number of reputable, luxury, and green, eco-friendly brands manufacture in China including Burberry, Jamie Kay, Madewell, Matilda Jane, KicKee Pants, Boden, Hanna Andersson, UGG, Ted Baker, Stella McCartney, Milkbarn, and Patagonia. China clothes the world, and it manufactures products of every level of quality. Almost every toy brand you can find at Target manufactures in China, and a number of high-end, green certified brands do too. If SHEIN’s made-in-China ties bug you, they shouldn’t. China already makes most of your kids’ stuff.
Q: Why is SHEIN So Cheap? What’s the Catch?
A: There are a number of reasons why SHEIN is so cheap or affordable to U.S. and Canadian consumers. SHEIN has much leaner overhead than other retailers like Old Navy, American Eagle, or Forever 21. No mall rent and no colorful TV spots with dancing models significantly lowers their operating costs.
Additionally, SHEIN has factories around the world to reduce manufacturing costs and optimize logistics for storing and shipping their inventory.
And of of course, SHEIN is cheap because they are a budget apparel line. They are targeting trendy yet budget conscious shoppers. They use more affordable materials (cotton, rayon, viscose, polyester) that are less likely to have extra flourishes and flounces that add to the cost. Skirts and dresses are often unlined. Many fabrics can be thin or sheer (which for my 3-year-old it doesn’t matter. But for my mom bod, it does.) On some rompers, I’ve noticed the buttons look quite cheap.
You’ll also find that the quality of SHEIN clothing can be inconsistent. Items are manufactured by different workers in different factories across different companies. I’ve also experienced inconsistencies when re-purchasing my favorite pair of Levi’s or when re-ordering more fabric with the same SKU. The inconsistencies can be more marked with SHEIN however.
10 Tips for Purchasing from SHEIN for Your Kids
I haven’t purchased from the retailer for myself (yet) so my experience is limited to purchasing children’s clothing from SHEIN.
No. 1 | Have Realistic Expectations.
You may love Alice + Ames or Childhoods Clothing or Mini Boden – me too! Those are great brands made from soft, thick, high-end fabrics. SHEIN is not a high-end brand.
Some items will be similar quality to Old Navy, Carter’s, or Cat & Jack. Others are going to be worse. A few might be surprisingly better.
SHEIN isn’t ripping you off so much is it’s giving you the quality you pay for and you may need to bring your expectations down to earth. You can purchase a number of knitwear, joggers, cotton dresses, hoodies, or other staples from SHEIN with decent quality that’s on par with Jumping Beans, OshKosh B’Gosh, or Cat & Jack.
No. 2 | Do Not Purchase High-End Formal Wear from SHEIN.
Just don’t. If you need a junior bridesmaid dress, or flower girl dress, please for the love of Coco Chanel just go to a bridal boutique and try things on.
Price tags that end in “.90” are not going to deliver Instagram #wedding quality. More formal pieces are made of thin polyester or rayon, and that shows. There are some SHEIN pieces that do look nicer with thicker fabrics that hold their shape, but these are priced accordingly. (I’ll also add that there are some thinner fabric dresses that still look very nice when you wear them with slips or underskirts, but there are too many question marks to attempt this for a formal event.)
No. 3 | Read Other Reviews Carefully.
I only purchase items that have at least a few dozen, thoughtful reviews. I don’t look for just 5-star reviews. I look for reviews that are thoughtful and well-written that speak to the item’s quality and durability and fit. Also, I look for the 4-star and 3-star reviews too. They of tell me much more about common flaws. I find 5-star reviews are often fluff (“I love it!”) and 1-star reviews are pissed-off people blowing steam. (“The package had a hole in it!” or “They sent me the wrong color!”) Because SHEIN ships internationally, you’ll find a number of reviews from outside of the U.S. I personally put more weight behind other U.S. reviews because I have a better idea of U.S. consumer expectations.
No. 4| Buy Higher-Priced Items.
I think SHEIN’s cheapness can be a big lure. But if you’re worried about quality, I would avoid buying the lowest price items in each category.
When I shopped for dresses for my daughter, I sorted them by price high to low. Even the highest price dresses ($18-$20 or more) were still a good deal. Get a feel for the price range. If dresses range in price from $4 to $20, then the average price is about $12. I’ll try to shop for dresses that about $13 or more.
No. 5 | Inspect Photos Carefully.
Look at all the product photos, including the close-ups. If the stitches are extra large or the buttons look cheap, it will show.
For items without close-up photos, be leery. If the product has lots of good reviews and the fabric composition looks ok, I think it’s safe to purchase the product. (As long as it’s not final sale so that you have the 45-day return window to send it back.)
No. 6 | Buy Cotton or Knit Fabrics.
This is my particular prejudice because I hate ironing. I won’t even iron my own clothes, and have no interest in ironing clothes for my 11-month old son and 3-year-old daughter. Thus on SHEIN, I’ve bought lots of knit and cotton fabrics.
I’m not against synthetic materials, but there is so much quality variance that I don’t want to risk it. I have 100% polyester pants from Ted Baker that feel like silky butter, and 100% polyester pants from Old Navy that are thin, scratchy, and have permanent wrinkle lines. Since SHEIN is a budget retailer, I’m not expecting silky buttery synthetics. And of course, polyester has a significant, negative impact on the environment. Especially if you’re churning through a lot of it for fast fashion.
No. 7 | Buy Items that Can Be Worn at Least 15 Times.
In recent years, I feel like there has been a rise in anti-fast fashion. Which I do support. But I don’t necessarily feel that “sustainability” clothing lines and brands are the answer. I’m cynical of terms like eco-friendly, self-care, self-love, and sustainable (marketing terms all tied to billion dollar industries.) A $110 home massage kit ethically made of all-natural soy isn’t an act of self-care because you deserve it. It’s an indulgence – no judgment attached.
And buying “green” clothing isn’t necessarily more sustainable than not buying SHEIN. What is “green” and sustainable is wearing the clothes you buy. Caring for them so your clothes have a long-life, including treating stains, minimizing dryer usage, patching holes, and mending loose seams.
I can’t remember where I found this, but I have read that if you wear any garment at least 15 times then you’ve broke-even or offset its cost to the environment. This is in terms of the energy needed to power the plant where the garment was made, the water to grow and harvest the cotton, and the C20 emissions to ship the item to you or the store.
If you’re worried about the SHEIN environmental impact, buy their higher quality (more expensive) pieces that can be worn at least 15 times. (And wear your wedding gown another 14 times while you’re at it – ha!)
No. 8 | Buy Washer and Dryer Friendly Items.
I don’t use the dryer a lot, but items that are built to withstand the dryer are built to last. They are going to be higher quality than items marked machine wash gentle cycle cold water and hang dry.
No. 9 | Read the SHEIN Return Policy Carefully.
Some items are excluded or may be marked final sale. Most of the time, you have 45 days and refunds are processed within 7 days of getting your package. Just make sure to check out the SHEIN return and refunds policy.
No. 10 | Don’t Be a Becky or a Karen.
If a child’s garment’s subpar quality has ever literally ruined Christmas, or even just the Christmas photo, SHEIN isn’t for you.
If you only buy children’s clothing that you can later re-sell on a BST group, SHEIN isn’t for you.
But if you occasionally buy kids’ clothes with no re-sell value (or with no intention off flipping them), SHEIN does have some nice things that are reasonably well made. I’d recommend buying several pieces to give you a full, broad sense of the brand’s quality. Buying just one item, like the cheapest dress you can find, isn’t exactly giving the brand a fair shake. Be selective about the items you do pick out, looking for garments that can really last, and have your kids try them on.
So that’s my final wrap! I’m not an influencer of an affiliate or the like. Just a mom who likes cute kids’ clothes, and thinking about how sustainability, “Made in China”, social justice, ethics, and fashion all intersect. Honest verdict: I think SHEIN has some OK quality stuff. I have a broad appreciation for everything from Hugo Loves Tiki and Chloé to Goumi and Gray Label to Rivet Apparel Co. I’m not a mega fan of SHEIN. Just want you to know that it is a legit brand, and if you shop SHEIN in a reasonable way with reasonable expectations, you can find some cute kids’ clothes there for cheap.
Related: How do you afford all those cute kids clothes? Check out these 11 mom-friendly side hustles. See how this Minnesota mom makes an extra $9,400 a year from her phone.
Other Reads You’ll Love
- See how this Minnesota mom scores load of free designer clothes for her kids. You won’t want to miss these 10 hacks to get free kids’ clothes. (Spoiler: I am That Mom.)
- 15 Adorable Gender Neutral Baby Brands (Don’t blame if it leaves you wanting another baby.)
- 30+ Super Rad Boy Clothes Brands to Know. From Cottagecore to Super Dope, these styles are killing it.