Isn’t that grand. The worry I had all along of course had to become a reality. When I ordered the bridesmaid dresses from Taobao, I knew it was a risky business as a) online purchase of clothing items is generally problematic in terms of fitting, b) Chinese dresses and dress sizes are absolutely unrealistic, e.g. a woman wearing an S in Europe will have to buy an L in the Middle Kingdom, and finally c) Chinese dresses are cut in a very different way than Western ones.
It looked so promising in theory.
We had already agreed to chose a dress that had a wide skirt to increase the chances of them actually fitting but what I did not consider is instead of ordering a dress with a zipper, I should have purchased one that is tied at the back, offering a lot more flexibility in terms of the wearer’s figure. My ambition was my downfall.
Here is the thing though, I am not that naive to just play it by ear. I got my friends’ exact measurements and provided them to the vendor and asked them for their “expert” opinion on which dresses to buy. They advised an L for my two slighter friends and I decided to purchase an XL for the third bridesmaid because she is rather tall. I also slipped into an L dress when it arrived to make sure I could fit; while it felt rather tight, and on my own I was unable to zip it up, I did feel it would be ok, since I am much boxier than my bridesmaids. An oversight on my part, I must admit, I should have chosen less attractive friends, such as blobfish.
Now after my DHL shipping disaster, the dresses finally arrived in Austria only for us to discover that the XL just about fit the slightest of the three girls while the other two had trouble breathing in it. Now, fainting bridesmaids is not something I want to be the cause of, so we had to find another solution. As XL was the largest size available in the shop, there was no chance of getting a larger dress size in this case.
If you think this was the end of the bad news, you are far from correct. I contacted the vendor, who already knew the whole situation, and told them I wanted to return the dresses in August when the girls brought them back to China. Of course, and I guess to no one’s surprise, the greedy sod refused to take those dresses back pointing to their one week return policy and throwing the incredibly “valid” argument in my face that “our other customers never had problems”. Yeah sure, and I believe that. But then I was probably incredibly naive to expect actual good customer service from a Taobao store. That is like wondering why McDonalds doesn’t set the table with silk napkins and silver crockery.
Luckily, we were able to return the dresses for the Chinese bridesmaids, which, again to no one’s surprise, did not fit either. Oh, if I were a fortune teller, the money I’d make.
So, with 1000RMB down the drain, what were the other options? Mr Li suggested that the girls buy matching dresses in Europe and bring two dresses for the Chinese bridesmaids; however while 100 RMB can get you a very decent dress over in China, you will be hard-pressed finding anything except a paper bag for that price in Europe. Fairly certain that my bridesmaids would not enjoy the idea of wearing paper bags as dresses, I decided that I did not want to risk this either. After all, it would be an even bigger waste of money to pay 50 plus Euro per dress just to find that they do not fit the Chinese bridesmaids (in this case probably being too saggy). I never quite fully realised the extent to which European and Asian bodies differ, not until this day anyway. I just always thought that I am a fat little piggy.
In the end, I managed to come up with a solution to salvage at least part of the traveling Taobao dresses and not running the risk of another round of spectacular money wasting. Two of the bridesmaids who can fit in the current dresses will wear those, while two of my Austrian beauties will purchase their own dresses and finally, my second Chinese bridesmaid, who had trouble fitting into the terrible traitor of a Taobao dress will get a similar dress from me, which I know will fit her.
Well, if anything this has been a huge lesson to not underestimate the differences between Chinese and Western body shapes, the depravity of Taobao stores and the headache of online shopping. That said, my recent experience of a ghost store means I am still going back to Taobao to look at wedding shoes. I am such a glutton for punishment.