The Six Best Places for Expats to Shop for Clothes in China

No matter what you know or don’t know about China, one thing we can all agree on is that the Chinese are rather small.  The Northern Chinese may not be as small as the Southern Chinese, but they all are still smaller on average than most Westerners. Therefore, shopping for clothes can be quite challenging. However, expats have a few choices to accommodate those extra inches.

1.       Online Shopping– Getting clothes online from some of your favorite stores may be the smartest way to go especially if you wear a lot of business attire. Instead of going to local shopping areas on a wild goose chase for your size, simply place your order online with stores who ship internationally. There may be a small customs fee, but it would be worth it in time saved and overall convenience.

China Shop 2
Taobao is the non-auction version of Ebay in China.


2.       Taobao – Taobao is similar to Ebay in terms of variety and different stores and sellers offering every kind of product imaginable. The two main differences are that it is strictly Chinese and it is not an auction site. So it comes as no surprise that you can find a plethora of fashionable clothing items and shoes for all tastes, sizes and budgets. However, just like with Ebay, read the seller’s reviews very carefully through a translation app or with the help of someone who reads Chinese.

3.       Malls with Western Stores– Although the prices will be a bit more than local clothing stores, sometimes the best way to get the clothing items you need is by patronizing familiar chains. The sizes tend to run smaller here in China, but stores like H&M, Forever 21 and The Gap have styles that are familiar and universal and you have a far better chance of finding your size than at a local store.

China Shop

4.       Local Stores– If you are smaller in size, you will have no problems whatsoever shopping at the local stores, markets and street vendors in China. You can get everything and I mean absolutely everything. Lingerie, work boots and even business suits can all be purchased at extremely reasonable prices if you are the right size. I have on occasion been able to find pieces to accommodate my voluptuousness, but they are very, very rare.

5.       Custom – The great thing about living in Asia is that tailors are plentiful, highly skilled and very affordable. With the cost of fabric being relatively inexpensive, often times purchasing good quality suits and outerwear is less expensive than purchasing them in the store. Moreover, your items are made to fit YOUR body.

6.       Wechat– This Chinese social media phenomenon is the holy grail here in China. You can do anything from take language lessons to ordering taxis or food and even pay bills via Wechat. So it’s not surprising that you can also order clothes marketed specifically for foreigners and even sometimes those of us with a little extra junk in our trunks. Just add the contact card of a trusted and well-known vendor, send them a message when they post something that tickles your fancy and pay via Wechat wallet. And voila! In about 2 to 3 days you’ll have your merchandise. Easy Peezy!

2 thoughts on “The Six Best Places for Expats to Shop for Clothes in China”

  1. This is a great blog! I’ve bought from taobao (always needed a Chinese friend to help me translate) and have been blown away by their efficiency – same day delivery on occasion. Think that as customers it’s very important to check the supply chain when buying, especially in China. ‘The True Cost’ is worth a watch if you’ve got the time.


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