Chinese e-commerce platforms are selling affordable "quiet luxury" outfits that cost as low as $20.
I bought a black vest and skort combo on Taobao to try and pull off the "old-money" look on the cheap.
The clothes look nice when viewed from afar, but quality and craftsmanship are lacking when examined up close.
From Sofia Richie to Gwyneth Paltrow, celebrities have been all over the quiet luxury trend this year.
And it's not just Hollywood — even the rich Chinese are eschewing flashy logos in favor of something more minimalist.
To help out those who want to achieve the "old-money aesthetic" without splashing thousands of dollars on an outfit, influencers on Chinese social media platforms have created tutorials and where-to-buy guides for affordable "quiet luxury" clothes.
According to these influencers, almost everyone can look the part without breaking their budget, thanks to China's e-commerce platforms.
To see if these clothes live up to their hype, I ordered a pseudo-quiet luxury outfit on the Chinese shopping site Taobao and put it to the test.
I paid 149 Chinese yuan, or $20, for two pieces.
After shipping and taxes, the total came up to 170 Chinese yuan.
A quick search of the term "laoqianfeng," or "old money aesthetic," on Taobao resulted in hundreds of listings for both menswear and womenswear. After scrolling through pages of outfits for about half an hour, I decided on this black vest and skirt combo.
The way it was styled reminded me of what one of the social media influencers on Xiaohongshu — an Instagram-like platform in China — would wear.
According to the listing, the store has sold over 100 sets of the outfit, although there were only 24 reviews.
The reviews — which were written in Chinese — were quite favorable, with many buyers saying that the clothes looked nice in real life.
"The material is good, this is a very satisfying purchase. The store's customer service answered all my questions, and they were very professional," one review, which was written in February, read.
There is no star rating system for the listing, although the store has a 4.7 out of 5 rating in terms of whether the actual items match the description of the products.
The package took about eight days to arrive in Singapore, where I live.
This was not my first time shopping on Taobao; I've bought clothes and other miscellaneous items on the platform multiple times before.
Based on my own experience, the time it took for this package to arrive was fairly reasonable.
The clothes were packed in a simple plastic wrapper, which was then mailed in a generic polymailer bag.
Taobao also ships to the US, and there are how-to guides in English to help walk you through the process of creating an account and making a purchase. However, almost everything on the platform is written in Chinese.
It wasn't what I expected when I took it out of the package.
I took the vest out of the plastic wrapper and immediately noticed that the fringe trimmings were longer — and messier — than I had wanted.
On the bright side, the material felt nice and sturdy, and the clothes didn't have a weird smell. It also had — wait for it — functional pockets!
Seeing the vest up close reminded me of an ultra-budget version of those fancy Chanel tweed suits that cost thousands of dollars.
The buttons on the vest came in a pale gold shade and looked nice, although they felt plasticky.
The gold buttons had a fancy crest-like design on them. But since the buttons were sewn haphazardly in different directions, the crests weren't facing upright.
It's a small detail, but it's definitely not something that you would find on a true quiet luxury fashion item.
The fringe trimmings were over an inch long.
I felt like they would look better if they had been half the length. I was expecting something a little more subtle. It didn't help that they were also a bit unruly from the clothes being folded up in the package.
Seeing the fringe trimmings up close, they look like they'd fit better on the ends of a draped curtain from the Victorian times. There was just too much going on.
The skirt turned out to be a skort.
When I unpacked the box, I realized I'd ordered a skort. It came with attached safety shorts on the inside.
The silhouette of the skort had a simple, almost A-line design that was very elegant. I could see myself wearing this with other tops that I own, like a turtleneck sweater.
The idea of not having to wear an additional pair of safety shorts underneath it was a plus.
Like the vest top, the skort also came with matching fringe trim that was longer than I'd like.
Instead of having buttons like the vest, the skort came with a concealed zip.
For some reason, I couldn't get the zip to close fully, even when I wasn't wearing it.
I noticed that the concealed zipper was sewn in a way that's wavy, when it's supposed to lie flat and straight.
Zippers can be a dead giveaway regarding the quality of the craftsmanship.
As I was examining the skort, I saw loose threads sticking out near the top of the zipper. It's a pet peeve of mine when items come with loose threads, but I supposed it's something to expect when shopping fast fashion.
I soaked the clothes in laundry detergent and water before trying them on.
I'm particular about having new clothes washed before they touch my skin.
Rinsing them beforehand also gets rid of any excess dye in the clothes, which means they're less likely to stain other items or bags.
In my case, I wanted to replicate the outfit in the listing with a white shirt underneath, so it was important to make sure there was no dye transfer.
From afar, the outfit looked pretty good. It was understated but fancy, and I could understand how it might get passed off as a "quiet luxury" outfit, despite not actually being from a luxury label.
But up close, the quality and craftsmanship of the clothes left much to be desired.
While the clothes might look like quiet luxury at a distance, you could immediately tell something was off when you looked at the details.
Although the vest and the skort were comfortable to wear, they definitely didn't feel luxurious.
This is evident in the type of materials used to create the buttons and the zip, which didn't have the same weight and feel that you would expect in a truly luxurious outfit.
The unruly fringe trimming also threw me off, even though that could be fixed with scissors and an iron.
I reached out to the store for comments on the quality of the outfit, but have yet to hear back.
My mom saw me trying the outfit on, and the first thing she said was that it didn't really look like my usual style — which consisted of a crop top and wide-legged pants.
I haven't worn the outfit out; honestly, I don't know if I will.
Despite all the grievances I have, the clothes are actually within my expectations for something that costs $20.
I will still shop on Taobao, as I've always done, but I'll probably stick to buying regular clothes like T-shirts and jeans instead of trying to replicate a luxurious aesthetic.
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