Here’s my Holiday vow: Think before I hit the buy button. Do research on every company from whom I buy clothes online. With Cyber Monday here (really, it’s been going on since Thanksgiving) I’m making a bigger effort to understand where things come from, and how my purchase power impacts the lives of people in the global South. I hope you’ll join me in doing the same—and include your favorite companies to patronize as well as those to avoid, in the comments below.
There’s more than altruism at play. I’m tired of being tricked into buying seemingly fabulous garments that arrive horribly made from terrible fabrics in unwearable condition. If the Shanghai-based rip-off artists put half as much time into the clothes they make as they do the seductive ads, they might have a legitimate reason to be in business.
Here’s two companies to steer clear of: Rotita and Melodress.
Jumpsuits from hell, brought to you by Rotita.
I’ve been Jonesing for a good jumpsuit (or two) for three years. Fashionistas embraced them in the ’70s, again in the early ’80s, and they were coming on strong about three years ago. By the time jumpsuits arrived in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula last year (mostly cheaply made, strapless and saggy-crotched knockoffs at Wally World), I knew they were on the way out.
I found two jumpsuits that spoke to me via Google images. They were cheap. That should have been my first warning. They took more than a month to arrive. Now I know that’s a dead giveaway.
The three-quarter sleeve navy blue jumpsuit with a demure neckline and pocket detailing that I thought would be so perfect for work unzipped once, when I took it out of its plastic bag, and refused to zip again. Even if I could have re-zipped it, there’s no way to extricate yourself from this jumpsuit by yourself, so if you need to pee, you’d have to bring a dresser with you to assist getting in and out of it. A sad half-stitched tail of cloth served as a belt. The starchy, weirdly shiny material, although not the quality of linen, shared linen’s propensity to wrinkle in unflattering places (crotch and elbows). The size small was very oddly proportioned—twig armholes, big shoulders, OK in the waist, bulgy in the bodice, as if for a ’50s style Barbie or modern-day augmented breasts on a woman who doesn’t have any biceps. So basically, if you’re putting this on a mannequin, you’re good to go.
The pink jumpsuit was not pink. It was peach-colored. Since I like coral shades, that wasn’t a deal breaker. But the slits up the inside of the legs, like dyslexic chaps laying bare the flabbiest part of anyone’s legs, were absurd. The one-shoulder design that looked so fetching in the photos left the entire chest area exposed—a nursing jumpsuit, if you will. Again there was a sad scrap of a partially stitched belt, and shoddily finished seams. And this size small was HUGE. I could step in and out of it without unfastening anything.
My quest for a cute jumpsuit illuminates a problem far more important: export zones and human abuse. Export zones are more than a place where taxes and tariffs take a holiday. They’re essentially non-countries with no regulations, answerable to no one for what they pay and how they treat the people who work for them.
When I complained, and backed it up with photos, Rotita first offered me a discount on future merchandise. As if. Then they said I could just keep it and enjoy the fashion. Finally, they said I’d have to send it back if I wanted a refund. That’s why I have a credit card company that negotiates disputes. The credit card company removed the charge.
I figured I’d learned my lesson. Don’t let cheap deals fool you. If it sounds too good to be true it is. Do your research on Facebook ads or anything that pops up in your browser before you buy. Google the company, for example “Rotita reviews” will bring up the stories of plenty of other people who were ripped off like me.
Then, I got bamboozled again.
It’s actually the third time I’ve been ripped off by an overseas fashion purchase. I like to think I have a pretty good BS detector. Ha! The first time, I’d ordered a chakra bracelet from a Facebook ad. It never showed up. When I inquired, the “company” sent me to a “tracking” site that didn’t do anything. The second time was the hideous jumpsuits. The third just happened in October 2018—Shanghai China’d again, this time for a grotesque, bare-in-spots piece of poorly sewn and hideously tailored fabric that I can only describe as the kind of non-fireproof pile fabric toddler’s blanket sleepers were made out of in the 1960s, with stained trim and a flimsy zipper that was supposed to be this patchwork coat:
The company is Melodress; you’ll see the coat and other products described in glowing terms with hearty and authentic-looking customer recommendations on many sites, including the Melodress Facebook Page. The coat is on many other sites with other names. Don’t be fooled. It’s a piece of shit. It’s safe to assume everything else the company makes is, too.
As was the case with the jumpsuits from hell, my first hint that I’d bought a substandard item was the inordinate amount of time it took to arrive. No two-day shipping from the largest fashion export zones in the world. After more than a month the hideous garment appeared. I already knew I’d been taken again. The “Zen Desk” helper I’d emailed twice while waiting for the “coat” to arrive requested photos, then offered me a $5 refund, then advised that if I wanted a full refund I needed to send the garment back. Which is not happening, since I paid $41 for this unwearable piece of fuzzy junk with the pockets placed on the back of the rib cage—and it’s about $114 to ship it back.
Why in Tim Gunn’s name did I think I could get an adorable fashionable scarlet patchwork coat for $40?
Being honest, being ethical, accepting my role in this …
The greater issue is one that I resolve to continue working on: buying fair trade products from companies who pay their workers properly. Some simple research beyond the glamor shot in my Instagram feed would easily have led me to the origins of Rotita and Melodress and complaints about the company. What haunts me isn’t that I lost out on a great coat or cute jumpsuits; it’s that in my ignorance I have contributed to the proliferation of export zones, those lawless places in the world where the companies and people who make goods are not subject to the laws of any country but work in a regulation-less No Humans Land where long hours, low pay and regimentation make for a miserable livelihood.
I don’t apologize for loving fashion. It’s accessible art. Every day we can choose to adorn ourselves in pleasing fabrics, colors, textures and silhouettes. I adore seeing the way those around me express themselves, from the drape of a luxurious scarf to detailed seaming and elbow patches on a meticulously tailored sweatshirt.
Because I live in a place where Goodwill and Keweenaw Consignment offer the only chances to find unique, well-made fashion in my size, I’ll continue to order online. But I won’t be using Facebook or Instagram ads, or Google images to make my selections. And I’ll continue to use a credit card that gives me some recourse if I’m not satisfied with what I purchased.
Happy shopping y’all!
Bonus Content: A prom dress nightmare with a happy ending.
And, more crappy clothes sold on Facebook.