TL;DR: Shein has a lot of trendy clothing available for super low prices, but there are significant drawbacks. The clothing quality is inconsistent but generally low, and the ethical and environmental concerns are so severe that they over-shadow any positive aspects.
You’ve probably heard of Shein, the China-based fast fashion company. For me, the name ‘Shein’ triggers a complex emotional cocktail of hunger and guilt.
My relationship with fast fashion is long-standing and fraught.
As a teenager, I coveted the Forever 21 gift card I received each year for Christmas. When the first H&M opened in downtown San Francisco, excitement rippled through the girls in my 9th grade class, sweeping me up in its fervor.
But, as the years passed, I began to understand the environmental and ethical consequences of fast fashion and made an effort to–at least–curb my consumption of it.
Shein arrived on the scene around that same time, their ads popping up temptingly on my social media. I visited the Shein website; the clothes were extremely trendy, the selection was vast, and the prices were impossibly low.
For years, I resisted. But now, I’m taking the plunge.
I tested out a haul of Shein clothes to write a detailed, honest Shein review that unpacks the company, its products’ quality, and what it means to purchase them.
In this blog post, I’ll answer the question: is Shein legit?
What is Shein?
Shein is a fast-fashion clothing company that caters to young women.
Shein’s site offers a seemingly endless array of trendy clothing and accessories (and even home goods!) for which you’ll pay shockingly affordable prices. Some prices are so low it can feel practically like free clothing.
Shein products ship directly from China and are available online only.
A Quick Look at Shein as a Company
I set out to write a funny Shein review, but the facts are pretty sobering.
Shein operates out of Guangzhou, Guandong, China. The company launched in 2008 under the name ‘ZZKKO.’ Its founder, Chris Xu (Xu Yangtien), is a Chinese entrepreneur and SEO expert.
That’s no surprise since digital marketing and an expert command over algorithms fed Shein’s meteoric rise. By 2021, Shein had become the most popular shopping app in the US, worth as much as $100 billion.
Shein sells its products at dizzyingly low prices, but you’ll pay for those low prices in other ways.
All fast fashion is inherently wasteful (it takes second place behind oil and gas as the most polluting industry), and you can’t expect top quality at these prices.
But the company’s dark side extends far beyond the low-quality goods.
Rumors swirl about Shein, ranging from blatant intellectual property theft to child labor, forced slave labor of Uyghur Muslims, and toxic chemicals (like lead) in the fabrics.
In 2022, a viral video claimed to have found a message on a Shein tag reading “need your help.” Shein airily denied claims that this was a desperate cry for help from a factory worker, calling it a care instruction about using fabric softener.
Many of these chilling rumors haven’t been proven true, but they also haven’t been proven false.
Shein insists they support fair wages and labor practices and are committed to a zero-waste goal, but they remain cagey when releasing actual proof.
A 2022 undercover investigation by the UK’s Channel 4 revealed workers in one Shein factory worked seven days a week, sometimes 18 hours straight, to earn a salary of just over $550 a month.
In June 2023, Shein flew a group of young Western influencers to China for a factory tour. All the influencers’ cheerful TikTok videos described happy workers who love Shein and “weren’t even sweating.”
This ham-fisted attempt to repair Shein’s image only fanned the flames of public opinion.
Sorry to bum you out, but I promised an honest review, and that’s the reality of Shein as a fast fashion company.
That said, they certainly aren’t the only bad company in the vast fast fashion landscape, but it’s hard to deny that they embody and exemplify a deeply problematic industry.
Shein Review: My Experience With Shein
In a tone-switch so swift it’ll give you whiplash, it’s time to answer the big question of this blog post: is Shein good quality?
I needed to order a range of garments to get a sense of their offerings, and the online shopping experience left me jittery and nauseous, exhilarated and exhausted.
It was like eating a whole pillowcase of Halloween candy instead of dinner or drinking cold brew on an empty stomach.
The selection was vast, neverending. The Shein website grew to know me as I browsed, and the longer I spent shopping online, the bigger the bounty grew.
Each time I was sure I’d made my choices, a newer, cuter, more perfect-for-me option appeared at the bottom of the page, pulling me down deeper like quicksand, each one cheaper than the last.
As I always do when I buy clothes online, I studied the sizing guide carefully, keeping in mind that Chinese sizes run small.
Nearly all the clothes on the Shein website bear hundreds of positive reviews.
Were they honest reviews from verified buyers?
That’s tough to say, although many Shein reviews included mirror selfies, giving them a feeling of verity.
That said, Shein has been proven to have posted thousands of fake reviews to boost sales.
In addition to clothes, I tried adding eyeliner to my order but was told that the item couldn’t ship to the US. Considering that Shein clothes are known to have high levels of toxins, I suspect that the eyeliner contained ingredients that aren’t FDA-approved, but I don’t know for sure.
My order arrived in under a week in two different shipments. Each garment came in its own plastic Shein bag. The mountain of packaging grew as I unpacked my spoils.
With all the moral concerns I’ve laid out, I wanted to hate everything.
It pains me to say this, but I must admit, many of the products I bought were super cute, fit well, and the clothing quality seemed decent — at least at first. So let’s go through them:
Tartan Tie Print Dress
This dress is adorable. It fits well. The bra cups are a little small, but, to be fair, I am a G cup. More importantly, the fit still looks okay in the chest. The length is perfect, and the quality is not bad.
In other words, it’s undoubtedly a synthetic mesh fabric over stretchy polyester, but it feels nice to the touch, doesn’t pill in the wash, and doesn’t feel like I’m wearing a plastic bag.
Like most of the garments, it had a chemical smell when it arrived, so I washed everything before wearing it.
Kawai Floral Print Dress
This dress fits perfectly, but the fabric feels low-quality, and the print is chintzy. The cut is very cute, although I feel like a strawberry shortcake.
It also arrived with some black-ish scuffs on it and a chemical smell. Both were easy to eliminate in one wash.
Floral Print Grommet Lace Up
A surprisingly decent corset top.
It fits well, feels sturdy, and looks pretty good, if I say so myself.
The boning is a little weak, and after a few wears, it’s prone to flipping up at the bottom, which isn’t ideal. But overall. It’s surprisingly good for the price.
Qutie Appliques Detail Cami Knit Top
This top is super cute, but the fit is a little lacking. The straps are somewhat long, but the shirt is pretty cropped, so I find myself tugging at it a lot and having to choose between exposing too much skin in the chest or stomach.
I’ve been trying to find a good way to layer it, but I’ve been having trouble finding a shirt that looks good with it.
It’s an acrylic wool, so it’s gotten a bit stiff and fuzzy after a few washes, but it hasn’t degraded too severely, and the appliques have stayed on, at least.
Turnover on Shein is so quick that this top is no longer available on the site.
High Waist Satin Skirt
This skirt fits well, and I love the color.
It’s not real silk, but it initially didn’t feel too cheap or fake. After a few washes, the texture of the fabric starts to pull in some places, revealing its true polyester nature.
Every liquid spill dries like a stain with defined edges, but they come out in the wash. As a result, however, there have been several times when I put this skirt on and then had to change it an hour or two later because I splashed something on it.
This skirt also works better in the summer with bare legs. When I wear it with tights, it clings to the static.
Mod Split Hem Floral Jaquard Skirt
I like the print of this skirt, and the fabric is pretty good. It’s relatively tight around the hips, even though I went for size L and consulted the size guide.
I had to extend the slits by splitting the seams above them to allow enough room for my hips and prevent it from riding up when I walked.
That said, I really like the fabric, and this alteration will allow me to continue wearing it comfortably.
High Waist Gingham Print Wide Leg Pants
I was initially super into these pants. The fit is flattering, loose, and comfortable, and they have a unique style. The thin fabric is suitable for hot weather, so when I first got them in the height of summer, I was wearing them a lot.
There are two problems, however. First, they’re a little see-through, which made me paranoid, and I stopped wearing them as much.
Secondly, I’ve noticed the fabric pulling apart at the seams and pill in the inner thighs.
These are not tight pants; my thighs are not straining to get out of them or putting a lot of stress on the seams. It’s just a low-grade fabric.
Mushroom Plant Print Mesh Skirt
This skirt would have rocked my entire world when I was 11, which warms my heart. The printed mesh takes me back to my Y2K youth.
It’s slightly longer than I’d like because I’m extremely short. The under-skirt is also a little shorter than I’d like.
Overall, however, I’m pretty happy with this one.
EZwear Patch Detail Top-Stitching Slant Pocket Overall Romper
These overalls are a perfect fit. The denim is a little thin, but it should be alright. A patch detail on the front chest pocket says, “The Time for Change,” which is a bit cryptic.
The buckles like to come undone, especially when I stand up after sitting. Also, after just a few months, the fabric is pilling a lot in the inner thighs, meaning it’s not particularly good quality.
Despite these flaws, I like these overalls and will keep wearing them.
Cute Cartoon Bear Charm Necklace
This necklace looks almost exactly like the pictures, so no complaints there. It’s solid plastic charms on a chain — in other words, it’s a cheap product by definition. The caliber is what I’d expect.
I haven’t worn it much. Once it arrived, I wasn’t sure it was my style. But that doesn’t have to do with the product’s worth.
EZwear Drop Shoulder Zip-Up Jacket
First of all, I love lavender and can’t stop buying it. Second, I like that this jacket is so fuzzy, cozy, and cropped. I can get the soft fuzziness without going full blob.
I’d have expected the fuzziness to quickly matt like a well-loved teddy bear. But so far, it’s still quite soft.
EZwear High Waist Mom Fit Jeans
These Shein jeans are a little tight. I can wear them, and I think they look cute, but they wouldn’t be the best choice for Thanksgiving.
I compared my waist measurement to the size guide and then rounded it up so they should have fit loosely. That isn’t the case.
Apart from the waist, they fit pretty well, and the length is perfect. As they stretch out throughout the day, they get increasingly more comfortable, and the fit is excellent in the butt area. So I’m reasonably happy with these jeans.
Solid Drawstring Side Halter One Piece Swimsuit
So many Shein bikini options exist, but I opted for a one-piece swimsuit.
The top is surprisingly supportive and actually fits my chest (shock). I like that you can tighten the side to make it high-cut.
The only issue is that there feels like there’s some extra fabric around the middle — I suspect this would be a better fit for someone with a longer torso.
Women Letter Graphic Lace-Up Sneaker
I’m unsure why these are called “Letter Graphic” sneakers since they have no letters or graphics.
These are the third pair of platform sneakers I’ve bought, and they’re by far the best.
My first two attempts were also cheap, from marginally more ethical companies (as far as a fast fashion company can be). Both of those shoes started to fall apart shockingly quickly.
These Shein shoes have held up for almost three months of constant wear, and I haven’t noticed any breakage yet.
They’re also the thickest platform I’ve found, which I love. So I’m pretty pleased with these.
Ribbed Knit Wide Waistband Sport Set
My main complaint is that the bra straps are far too long to provide any lift. However, a quick alteration will fix this.
I wouldn’t wear these bike shorts on their own, but they’re perfectly useful as an undergarment. I feel pretty neutral about them.
Bamboo Cup Storage Rack
This little piece of organizational decor was easy to assemble and worked well. This mug rack is straightforward, and I can’t find fault.
Lots of cute designs
I can’t deny that the Shein website is brimming with trendy, cute clothing, bathing suits, accessories, and decor options.
It’s possible to find almost any current trend, and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on many of the clothing I’ve purchased from Shein’s site.
Another undeniable truth: Shein clothes are incredibly cheap. If you want fashionable new clothes and don’t have much to spend, there’ll be plenty of things you can afford if you shop Shein.
Considering that the products come from China, Shein shipping is surprisingly fast. Everything I ordered from Shein arrived within a week. In the past, when I’ve ordered things from overseas, they’ve taken as long as a month to come.
You’ll find it at Shein if you’re looking for cheap, swift gratification.
Some items are surprisingly decent
I honestly expected horrible clothing quality from everything I ordered from Shein.
While some items met those expectations, some Shein clothes were surprisingly passable.
The facts about Shein’s factory conditions are murky, so we don’t definitively know how bad they are.
But we know they aren’t good.
We know that their workers don’t receive fair wages, and the production processes are shady in many ways.
There are concerns that arise across the fast fashion industry, and you could argue that Shein isn’t the only bad actor. But it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the fact that they’re particularly suspect.
Again, this issue goes beyond Shein and applies to fast fashion as a whole, but this industry is a disaster for the environment.
The climate crisis is an existential crisis for humanity; I can’t overstate its importance. It’s easy to go numb because the onus isn’t — and can’t be — on the shoulders of individual consumers.
But it doesn’t feel great to be part of the problem.
Condition and sizing are hit-or-miss
Shein quality is unsurprisingly inconsistent, and some of it is as crappy as you would expect. While sometimes you’ll luck out and get something decent, it’s a roll of the dice to shop Shein.
The same goes for fit and sizing. Some Shein tops and Shein dresses fit great, while other Shein clothes don’t match the sizing chart, or they fit strangely on the body. You just never know!
It’s common for cheap products that use artificial materials to have a strong odor of chemicals when they first emerge from packaging.
While laundering usually removes it, the smell casts doubts on how safe these fabrics are for your body.
Shein Sizing Tips & Fit
When online shopping, your best and only chance at getting clothes that fit is to take measurements and consult the sizing chart on the website.
Even then, as I experienced, things can go wrong. I tend to shop for stuff in larger sizes rather than smaller ones and alter them to fit better if they are the wrong size.
Some basic sewing skills will take you far in life and come in handy when ordering online.
How is the Quality of Shein’s Clothing?
With thousands of available products that undoubtedly come from different factories, the quality is not the same across the board.
That can range from ill-fitting, off-gassing, dollar-store polyester to super flattering, soft synthetic fabrics indistinguishable from higher-level brands.
How to Have the Best Experience Shopping on Shein
Here are my tips for shopping on Shein:
- Be familiar with fabrics: Sometimes, you can guess how forgiving or how cheap a material will be if you’re familiar with it. For example, mesh tends to be a safe bet. Denim can be tough fit-wise, etc.
- Be willing to make edits: If you order something from Shein that doesn’t fit perfectly or has an issue, don’t throw it away! Figure out how to alter the garment so that you’ll be able to use it. Ordering something cheap but unwearable wastes your money.
- Know your measurements: Keep a tape measure on hand and consult the chart.
- Don’t let fads seduce you: Fast fashion is all about quick turnover. Don’t be a sucker for a trend that will look played out in a few months. If you suddenly see everyone wearing a particular print or style, it’ll likely burn out quickly. Take a moment and ask yourself if you genuinely like it.
- Don’t go overboard: Shein is like junk food. If you choose to indulge, do it in moderation.
Best Things to Buy From Shein
The reality of shopping at Shein is that they make cheap, trendy clothing. You’ll be happiest shopping for products that aren’t attempting to look high-end.
The satin skirt, for example, is trying to mimic a higher-end design, and it falls short because its polyester-based material will never look like a luxe fabric.
Some of my favorite Shein garments are the ones with a mesh overlay (the tartan dress and the mushroom skirt). That’s partially because that mesh fabric looks good even when cheap and isn’t prone to deteriorating in the laundry.
I’m also quite fond of the sneakers. I would have bought cheap sneakers either way since they seem to wear down regardless of whether or not they’re expensive. The Shein version is holding up surprisingly well.
Ultimately, it can be challenging to predict the quality of each Shein product. So know that you’re rolling the dice when you purchase something from there.
Shein Return & Exchange Policy
Standard shipping costs are a flat rate of $3.99, while express shipping is $12.90. You get free standard shipping on orders over $29 and free express on orders of $129.
In most cases, neither shipping method should take more than ten days to arrive.
Shein offers free returns on most items within 35 days of your purchase date (you can review the entire return process guidelines here). You can print your shipping label from the website.
Free returns are only available on your first round of exchanges. If you’ve already returned something once, you’ll have to pay $7.99. They’ll subtract that cost from your refund, and you’ll still use the free return label.
Shein Discounts & Coupons
Discounts are an essential part of the Shein business model. The prices are always extremely low, and many items will go on sale for a limited time on a rolling basis.
Shein Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales offer huge discounts.
The red sale price and the countdown clock beside it are all strategies Shein uses to drive sales.
Additionally, you can find a Shein coupon code on sites all over the internet, like Retail Me Not and even Groupon.
Other Shein Products
As far as clothing goes, you can shop on the website for Shein dresses, Shein fitness wear, Shein jackets, Shein jumpsuits, Shein shorts, Shein shirts, Shein kids clothes, Shein lingerie, and Shein men’s clothing.
Soon, there’ll be absolutely nothing that Shein doesn’t sell!
Where to Buy Shein Clothes
If you shop for clothes from affiliated brands like Romwe or Emery Rose, there’s a good chance you might receive items in Shein packaging with Shein labels.
FAQs About Shein Clothing
Why is Shein so cheap?
There isn’t a reassuring answer to this question. Shein clothes are cheap because they use cheap materials and underpaid, overworked employees.
They manufacture out of China-based wholesale warehouses, keeping their costs low.
What is Shein ordering and shipping like?
Shipping is inexpensive and relatively fast. It’s also not difficult to earn free shipping since the minimum order is just $29.
Remember, of course, that all Shein products ship from China. Don’t expect it to arrive the next day.
Are Shein reviews fake?
Not all the reviews you see on Shein are genuine. The company has used fake reviews to “encourage” people to shop.
You’ll also notice hardly any negative reviews on their official site. Considering how shotty the quality of their clothes is, I have to assume there’s some manipulation going on. Are you surprised at this point?
Can you trust Shein? Is Shein a scam? Is Shein legit?
Shein isn’t a fake site where you shop for clothes and never see or hear from them again. If you shop on Shein, the things you purchase will arrive on your doorstep eventually.
But no, I wouldn’t say you can trust Shein by any stretch of the imagination.
You can’t trust them to tell the truth about their manufacturing processes, you can’t trust the size guides, and you can’t guarantee that anything you buy will be of excellent quality.
Where is Shein located? Is Shein a Chinese company?
Shein is a Chinese company, and their global headquarters are in Singapore. They have US headquarters in Los Angeles, but there’s no telephone number to contact customer service.
Is Shein bigger than Zara?
Yes, Shein is massive. The company’s net worth totals more than Zara and H&M combined.
What’s the difference between Shein and Romwe?
Romwe is an offshoot of Shein, but they’re part of the same company. Romwe’s selection skews slightly on the cheaper end.
Why is Shein popular?
Shein is intoxicatingly tempting, like fast food. It’s cheap and deliciously cute. But just like McDonald’s, there’s a dark side to shopping at Shein.
Why do people not like Shein? Does Shein use child labor? Is Shein ethical?
Shein complaints are numerous. While there’s no hard evidence that Shein uses child labor, they certainly aren’t ethical.
Rumors about forced labor continue to swirl as the company remains suspiciously vague.
Shein also copies designs by smaller designers you’d have to pay more for, and their environmental impact is gut-wrenching.
Who shops at Shein?
Most of the customers shopping at Shein are young, Gen Z women.
How is Shein pronounced?
“Shein” is pronounced: SHEE-in.
Does Shein sell second-hand clothes?
No. Shein does claim to source recycled fabric for some of their clothing, but everything on their site is new.
Is Shein good for curvy people?
Shein sizing is hit-or-miss across the board and tends to run small. On the bright side, Shein Curve is the Shein plus-size clothes line devoted to bigger sizes.
I am curvy but still fall within standard sizes. My Shein outfits fit reasonably well overall, although I had the most size issues in the chest area.
Conclusion: So, is Shein Clothing Worth it?
Is Shein legit? The short answer is no. The long answer is also no, but it’s a little more complex.
The vast and far-reaching problems with the company are enough to eclipse the relevance of the clothes’ quality.
A quick overview of what we know for sure: they don’t pay fair wages in exchange for grueling hours, and they rip off designs from smaller, more ethical companies.
The unrelenting volume of their inventory and sugar-rush business model perpetuates the fast fashion industry’s wastefulness and takes it to the extreme.
Rumors of forced labor and harmful chemicals are neither proven nor disproven, making me uneasy.
Aside from that, inconsistent sizing and quality mean that while you may pay hardly anything for your Shein haul, you might not get much use out of it either. The cost-effectiveness of shopping there drops off steeply over time.
In the spirit of writing an honest review, I must admit that at least a few items I got from Shein are cute and wearable. But I don’t plan to continue shopping there.
I will do my best to mend these garments as they wear out and repurpose them once they’ve reached the limits of their lifespans.
But I’ll try not to shop at Shein in the future. I’d rather sleep easy at night.
My Favorite Alternative to Shein
I wouldn’t end this blog post without offering some alternatives.
It’s tough to find new, guilt-free clothing on a tight budget.
When I comb through alternatives-to-Shein clothing reviews on other sites, the most inexpensive brand recommendations will still have you pay upwards of $100 for a single item.
If you’re looking to pay similarly low prices to Shein, your only real option is thrifting.
Luckily, numerous online consignment stores offer the same convenience and affordability as Shein. And — even better — thrifting is recycling, leaving you with a clean conscience.
I understand how tempting Shein can be, but I encourage you to try these other options before spending money at Shein.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elina Ansary is a writer, visual artist, and avid traveler. She grew up in San Francisco, CA, and spent her childhood camping up and down Northern California. These days, she visits artist residencies around the world and has lived in Amsterdam, Australia, and now Brooklyn, NY.
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