This is the frustrating Taobao tale of my favourite maxi dress.

winter dresses outfit

Everybody has that one item in their closet they can't bear to get rid of. Mine will forever be this Taobao maxi dress.

Yes, it's a great maxi dress. Yes, it's adorable and saccharinely millennial and covered in house plants. It's probably one of the best things in my fashion repertoire, but it's also my worst online shopping experience. 

SO WHAT HAPPENED, you may ask. Basically, I tried to order a dress through Taobao using just Google Translate and it went terribly wrong. I've kept this dress for over four years now, basically out of spite because it was such a hassle to sort out.

For the uninitiated, Taobao is the equivalent of Chinese eBay and is packed with everything from knockoff Givenchy trainers to rainbow dog afros to amazing furniture to cute as hell maxi dresses. Boutiques and individual sellers flock to it to tout their wares and it's a beautiful glorious hole to fall into, with the small catch that everything's in Chinese - which doesn't help if you peaked in 2008 with a Mandarin GCSE.

My old colleagues at Sassy Hong Kong put together a super helpful guide to Taobao for English speakers, but I am incapable of following instructions correctly. A few years ago, I found this dress online and decided to buy it. I started off okay: I set up an account on Taobao, I popped the dress in my cart, I clicked pay. 

For some reason, Google Translate started crapping out on me while I filled out my order details and began selectively translating stuff. Thanks to my rudimentary language skills, I managed to fill out my name, address and card details but after I clicked next, it took me to a page that REFUSED to be translated. I winged it hard, which is something you shouldn't do when money's involved.

winter dresses outfit

Weeks later, I didn't know what the hell had happened to my dress. My card had been charged but it still hadn't arrived, even though some crappy £1 plastic tattoo chokers from another retailer came within a day. (I thought they were necklaces - they were actually bracelets. Again, thanks Taobao.) 

After having had enough, I showed my Chinese order details to a friend who could actually read them and it turns out I'd accidentally sent the maxi dress to a random warehouse in Shenzhen. AS YOU DO.

I had the option of hopping the border, finding my way to this mystical warehouse and trying to claim my order in terrible Mandarin, or I could pay a little extra and get it shipped to my home in Hong Kong directly. Obviously, I chose the second option because even though the first would have been a better story, I wasn't about to pay £30 for a day Visa into Shenzhen (double what the dress was worth).

The dress came literally the next day. 

Spring Coat Dressing

Fast forward to today, I still wear this dress constantly - I literally wore it two days ago. In autumn, I wear it layered over a sparkly silver turtleneck in autumn, with sandals in the summer and under a hulking great puffer coat in the winter.

Now that the weather is marginally getting warmer in London as spring breaks, I decided to style it here with my trusty new banana yellow Topshop coat courtesy of Mama Hills. Bright crayon colours are bang on trend this Spring/Summer thankfully (more blessings upon your runways Marni, Marc Jacobs and MSGM) and this coat is definitely going to be my go-to piece till that sweet British summer raises its head. 

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outfit details.

Seamed Boucle Coat, £75, Topshop

Houseplant Patterned Maxi Dress, £15, Taobao (TAOBAOOOO YOU DEMON)


Heeled Boots, gifted

Faux Suede Hat, H&M

Hot Damn Dog Pin, $10, Sugar Bunch


I jazzed up the coat a little bit with this little enamel pin from Sugar Bunch Creative, an adorable independent designer based out in LA. It was one of my favourite accessories, but I promptly lost it after this photoshoot and then almost sobbed when I saw it was completely sold out.

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Luckily, the creator Jess Kovic messaged to let me know that they're probably going to do another run of these so I've turned on every notification known to man waiting for them to drop. Bless. This. Pin.

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shop the look

(or at least, similar pieces.)

*These links are affiliate links, which means I get a tiny cut if you buy something through the retailer. A girl's gotta eat.

Thanks to Kaye Ford (Fordtography) for these gorgeous shots!