Don’t Let Amazon’s Cheap Fashion Fool You
I have spent an ungodly amount of time the past two days on Amazon, curating this cursed blog of bad Prime Day deals. A lot of these terrible deals are on extremely ugly pieces of clothing that the seller likely just needed to get rid of. I screen-capped and dropped several of these examples into our Gizmodo Slack, where I learned that I work with real people who buy their clothes off Amazon.
My initial reaction was utter shock. I’m not trying to sound elitist—it’s just that Amazon clothing is not what I associate with quality. I associate it with ill-fitting clothes that are also an eyesore, and will probably disintegrate after one or two washes. To be clear, I’m not talking about the recognizable brands that happen to have Amazon shops. I’m talking about the weird ones you’ve never heard of before with suspiciously cheap clothes. Buying from dubious sellers on Amazon just seemed like a bridge too far—surely, surely, it was a minefield of poorly made fakes that are also unforgivably hideous, right?
I set out to prove a point with this blog: Don’t buy your clothes on Amazon. But then something strange happened. If you stare at hundreds, perhaps thousands of listings, for clothes on Amazon, they all start to blend together. You start to lose your sense of what is or isn’t hideous, as well as what’s a scam, and what’s a legitimate deal. Maybe that typography apron with the horrible joke is actually OK. Is this cowboy jacket actually ugly, or am I just being judgmental? Maybe a gigantic camo Blanket Hoodie Sweatshirt that costs $40 isn’t bad at all. I thought I’d gotten my wedding dress cheap at $200, but maybe I should have gotten one of those sub-$100 wedding dresses on Amazon. Who am I, really, to judge if these elf boots are cute or something no one should ever be caught dead in, much less for $53.74?
As it turns out, earlier this year, Amazon actually overtook Walmart as the biggest clothing retailer in the U.S.—especially among millennials. I suppose that makes sense. As shitty of a company Amazon is, my colleagues swear that it’s extremely convenient to buy basics off Amazon whilst shopping for other random stuff. My coworker Catie Keck recommends Amazon as a great place for $15 leggings and leisurewear. Fellow reporter Shoshana Wodinsky swore up and down by knockoff Lululemon sports bras, going so far as to say Amazon is the best place to buy sports bras. On TikTok, there’s a whole subcategory of influencers who tell you the products you absolutely need to buy on Amazon and quality dupes for expensive brands. I consider myself a savvy shopper, so this triggered an existential crisis. I was ready to throw in the towel and admit that I was wrong.
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And then I ran straight into COOFANDY’s store and saw a horrible American flag cowboy shirt (seen at the top of this blog) that was likely rejected from Hot Topic. It retails for 35 whole dollars. I saw another shirt that looked like someone decided Mike Tyson’s tattoo was a rad design for $30. Gizmodo phone guru Sam Rutherford’s reaction: “Oh good, just the shirt I need to cosplay Wakka from FF10.” This was not a compliment. Then there was a third button-down that looked like this seller murdered C-3PO, skinned him, and decided to make a shirt out of him. These are objectively terrible shirts that I don’t think anyone would wear outside of a costume, but COOFANDY’s storefront actually looks decent—dare I say, stylish.
See, what these brands do is they lure you in with clothes that look completely normal—perhaps even good. They sucker you in because they know you think Amazon is where you’ll find a deal and throw up overly long descriptions that act as a smokescreen. If you peep reviews, a common thing is issues with sizing. Things rarely fit as advertised. This is the peril with buying clothes online, but a deeper dive into reviews turns up countless stories of uncooperative third-party sellers who make it difficult to return or exchange items. Sometimes the issue is quality, with stories of zippers just breaking straight out of the box, or fabric materials not matching up to photos. While some fashion bloggers have cautiously recommended Amazon as a decent place to get clothes, a lot of it depends on extra research. Did you price check? You might assume Amazon has the cheapest price on name brands, but Kiplinger found that you’ll often pay 20% more than at other, perhaps less convenient retailers. And after browsing enough listings on Amazon to make my eyes melt out of their sockets, I compared your average blouse, dress, and shirt to similar items from H&M, Uniqlo, and Nordstrom Rack. More often than not, you aren’t getting a capital D Deal, and clothing-specific retailers are always having sales offering extra coupons for an additional 10, 15, 20, and 30% off. Take this pair of Levi’s Wedgie Fit jeans: On Amazon, they’re currently $83.30. On the Levi’s site, all the Wedgie Fit jeans I found were either on sale or 30% off. This particular pair was $68.98.
While writing this, I also happened to remember that I did, in fact, buy clothing off Amazon once. It was a pair of knee-high socks for a Halloween costume. I wore them exactly once—for the costume—and then they disintegrated, unraveling after the first wash. That was fine for a costume, but in the end, I wasted $15 on a pair of socks I wore once. I could have gotten the exact same pair at Party City for…$6.
At the end of the day, will I order the $10 leggings Catie recommended? Yes. If they’re terrible, I will absolutely roast her until the end of time. An excessive number of hours looking into Amazon’s fashion offerings have led me to conclude that it’s probably not the worst for basic t-shirts, leggings, and athletic wear. I could probably get away with novelty clothes for gag gifts too. But is it automatically the best deal you can get? Nope, not even on Prime Day.