Some time ago I went through a phase during which I became extremely curious about Asian e-commerce sites, and will indiscriminately order with every retailer that I come across. Since then I’ve become wary of ordering from Asian e-tailers because of their cumbersome return process and often unreliable stock photos (though the simpler truth is that my curiosity was satisfied).

(For anyone curious, the conclusion I drew from my experience was that many fly-by-night Asian e-tailers are just TaoBao aggregators with few distinguishing marks among them. As there are innumerable vendors producing the same designs and often using the same photos, it’s almost impossible to know what kind of quality to expect, though the default is “unwearable.” Price is an occasionally useful, if not consistent, indicator of quality. Treat placing an order as though you just burned money to ashes.)

(The above observation applies only to some Asian e-tailers; there are plenty of reputable Asian brands that operate wholesale and retail outlets, like Dahong—formerly Zipia—and CherryKoko, both of which I frequent.)

Romwe Open-Shoulder Ruffled Lemon Print Dress | c/o Ann Taylor Rattan Straw Bag (past season) | Steve Madden Stecy Sandal (reviewed here; buy here, here, here, and here)

So it’s been several years since I’ve even contemplated ordering from a retailer like Romwe. I would only do it if someone I trust offers an unbiased positive review of a specific item. Last month I stumbled upon this Open-Shoulder Ruffled Lemon Print Dress, which copies a Dolce & Gabbana print (not exactly a legal gray area, but that’s a discussion for another time). I was so consumed by its potential that I ordered it immediately (it helps that it’s only $12.99 + $3.99 for shipping).

Many sites like Romwe are currently under investigation by the FTC for questionable business practices, though they have made improvements (my order took only 7 business days to arrive by FedEx SmartPost and I was able to track the package once it was stateside) to add transparency to the process.

Luckily, the dress arrived as pictured and the quality was adequate. I could not have asked for a better outcome.