HOW TO USE www.taobao.com BECAUSE I HAVE ANSWERED THIS SO MANY TIMES IT'S NOT FUNNY.
Q. I don't speak Chinese, how do I find what I'm looking for?
This is probably the most frequent question I see in regards to Taobao. This question has a three part answer, really.
Part One: Browser.
For people that ask me personally, I tend to recommend using Google Chrome as your browser (at least for Taobao) purely because it has an auto-translate feature. It does translate into some horrendous Engrish, but it does clarify some things a little. If you don't have it and are too lazy to Google it, here is the download link: www.google.com/chrome/?brand=C….
Part Two: Searching.
If you're looking for something specific, but can't find it, then it's best to conduct your own search. Google translate simple terms such as "red" or "dress"
Another way is to copy and paste the title of a similar item into the search bar.
Part Three: Collaborating!
There are sites all over the internet that have useful links to stores and what not! I have one here: mileyx.deviantart.com/journal/… (which I am in the process of updating)
Another useful list is HelloLace's taobao guide: hellolace.net/shopping/taobao-… Which is really useful for Lolis, though there's some stores and information useful to cosplayers, too, so I suggest checking it out!
And I really recommend visiting /cgl/ every once in a little while for Taobao/tutorial threads!
These google docs have a heap of great stores in them, with feedback from people who have bought items:
Ignore the porn, and this is a great Taobao thread, with some native Chinese speakers posting some search terms and a lot of great stores.
If you're still not happy, you can always google "cosplay taobao" or "lolita taobao" or whatever you what to buy on there and find some stores/reviews for yourself
Q. ARE THOSE THE REAL PRICES!?
I see this on /cgl/ quite often. Yes, they are the real prices, though not many stores ship to foreign countries...
Q. How do I get the items I want if I'm not from China?
...and here's the catch. To get stuff from Taobao, you need to use an agent. Basically, there are companies set up to buy your items for you and ship them over. You have to pay an agent's fee (usually around the 10% mark), though most offer discounted EMS shipping.
There is no 'best' agent. I have heard about, and experienced good and bad things from a number of sites.
Some agents include:
Though, as before, nothing stops you from searching for your own agent~
Shipping really depends on the agent and how heavy the items you ordered are. i.e. an order of wigs will cost less to ship than an order of shoes. Most sites have some sort of shipping estimation formula that you can use to calculate an approximate shipping cost
Another thing to remember is that stores charge you extra for buying from more than one store. It's not a ridiculous amount, though it can build up. Best thing to do is to buy from one store at a time. Though I've done group orders in the past, I don't really suggest doing them unless everyone's good at replying to messages, getting money to people in time etc. it can get a little unorganised otherwise.
Q. Is there anything else I need to know?
Read the fine print. With agents, in the bad Engrish on the site, anything. They can do things to trick you such as; buying deco-den stuff, the price might be for one or two items, not for an entire bag. Clip wigs may only be priced for the base wig and you have to pay extra for the clips. Bigger shoe sizes might need to pay more. Fabric prices may be per cm/inches instead of meters/yards. Sizing is mostly listed in the description below the picture etc.
Don't get carried away, the more you buy the more shipping will cost! ( but it'll still be cheaper than say, eBay or normal stores)
And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask! I'll hopefully update my list over the June/July break, so keep an eye out!
Stay fabulous, everyone <3