What Is Shein? What to Buy at the TikTok Favorite Shein, From Shein Shorts to Shein Dresses

Have you been curious about that clothing brand that seems to be all over our Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter feeds? A portmanteau of the brand’s original name, SheInside, Shein (pronounced “she-in”) is an online merchant with the mission of providing a plethora of trendy clothing options for adults, teens, and children at a suspiciously affordable price (more on that later.) Not only can you purchase fashion, shoes, and accessories, but you can also find homegoods, beauty and personal care items, and even pet supplies.

Though it was founded in 2008, Shein has exploded on the scene as a global online retailer in recent years due to the high volume of clothing options that strike the perfect balance between inexpensive and stylish. While this sounds great in theory, there is a downside to Shein. As with nearly every other affordable clothing outlet, Shein operates under a fast fashion business model, a method that is known for its unethical and unsustainable practices that are responsible for 10% of carbon emissions worldwide and take advantage of garment workers who are subjected to poor working conditions. The catch-22 is, for the average consumer, practically every brand that is affordable or offers options in their size is fast fashion. Like many other clothing merchants, such as Forever 21, Boohoo, and Old Navy, Shein is ideal for shoppers who have a limited budget or fluctuate in clothing size. Not to mention, Shein’s wide range of plus-size options provide more opportunities to participate in fashion trends that are typically not as accessible for plus-size and curvy shoppers, a level of inclusivity that many of its competitors severely lack. 

So, what are some of Shein’s most popular items, and what should you consider when buying from them? Read on for our breakdown of some of your biggest Shein-related questions.

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Where can I buy from Shein?

Shein is a strictly online retailer, though it has launched pop-up stores in several major cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. No plans of permanent brick-and-mortar stores have been announced as of yet, but you can keep track of any future pop-up announcements here. Regardless of where you live, chances are pretty good you can shop on Shein’s website—according to its About page, the brand “ships to over 220 countries and regions worldwide. With websites supporting the United States, Spain, France, Russia, Germany, Italy, Australia and the Middle East, Shein ships from one of its many globally positioned warehouses.” You can also purchase their products from other online merchants, including Amazon and AliExpress. That being said, the Shein app was banned alongside other prominent Chinese apps in India in June 2020 due to privacy concerns resulting from rising tensions between the two countries.

Why is Shein trending?

What’s put Shein on the map in recent years is that the majority of their advertising isn’t through intentional, paid marketing campaigns—it’s through their Gen Z and younger millennial customers sharing their favorite looks and try-on hauls on their social media feeds, including TikTok. In its Spring 2021 “Taking Stock with Teens” report, investment banking firm Piper Sandler ranked the merchant as number 2 for e-commerce websites most favored by teens, with Amazon holding the number 1 spot. In August 2021, #RushTok, the viral TikTok community in which first-year college students documented their experiences as they attended various sorority recruitment events, caused Shein’s notoriety to further skyrocket. Users would post short videos of their #OOTDs (outfits of the day) for each day of rush as a loophole that wouldn’t defy the National Panhellenic Conference’s rules against discussing their sorority recruitment experiences on social media. As sorority sisters and recruits shared their outfits, Shein clothes and accessories made appearances alongside everything from Lululemon leggings to shoes from Nordstrom. Recruitment content aside, many users have capitalized on the popularity of Shein content within other communities on social media, with trending topics #SheinHaul and #SheinTryOnHaul garnering 3.3 billion and 90.5 million views, respectively, on TikTok alone. Amassing over 2 million followers on their TikTok account and more than 10 times as many on Instagram, Shein has cemented its presence as a social media fashion brand.

Related: Roll Tide Flooding Your Feeds? Here’s Why Alabama Rush Is Trending Hard on TikTok Right Now 

Is Shein’s quality good?

Everyone has heard the online shopping horror stories in which people make the unfortunate discovery that their purchase was actually for a doll or wound up looking nothing like the photo. Despite low prices and trendy merchandise, online brands’ manufacturing and sizing have a long-standing reputation for being inconsistent, and Shein is no different. Just like other big-name retailers, their clothes can be hit-or-miss in terms of quality—and if you don’t do your due diligence, it can be a big miss. However, you can increase your chances of finding a diamond (well, rhinestone) in the rough with a little research and a fair amount of patience. But, as your grandmother always said, you get what you pay for, so don’t expect to find any lifelong staple pieces. Shein offers good options if you’re looking for an alternative to an item that is more expensive (and therefore higher quality) and aren’t putting too much stock in it lasting forever. 

In June 2021, Shein launched their premium collection, MOTF, which they describe as “elevated essentials made from higher quality materials and construction,” so shoppers can “enjoy premium clothes without paying a premium cost.” Though stock and color options are limited and the label’s price range is a tad higher than that of its flagship brand, with pieces starting at $10 and going all the way up to $65, this line is comparable to what you’d find from brands like ASOS, H&M, or Zara.

What are some tips for shopping on Shein?

Reviews are your friend. After checking the sizing chart for an item you’re considering, always check the reviews, especially if there are photos. In addition to sharing their overall thoughts on a purchase, customers can share their measurements and the fit quality, so you can get an idea of what something will look like when you wear it and be aware of factors like trueness to size and fabric content. Just be sure the reviews are legitimate, because, like any other online merchant, Shein is no stranger to fake reviews (unless you really think somebody’s thoughts on a maxi dress just happen to be exactly the same as the chorus of “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion). Look for ones that are packed with plenty of detail, and, again, a picture is absolutely worth a thousand words!

Lower those expectations. A $12 dress is never going to hold up as well as a $120 one, and you can’t really guarantee an item’s quality until you see it in person. These lowered expectations should also apply to delivery times, so don’t buy something you’re planning to wear for a special event this weekend, or even next weekend. Though Shein has factories all over the world, orders are usually shipped by China Post and fulfilled by USPS for standard shipping and FedEx for express shipping. Although standard shipping takes about 2-3 weeks and express takes about 1-2 weeks, that doesn’t include the order processing period—which Shein says can take anywhere from 1-3 days—or factor in other potential delays, such as issues with customs or weather conditions. Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised with an early delivery on your doorstep, but it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Keep an eye out for promo codes. Though Shein’s clothes are already heavily discounted, shoppers do have to pay for shipping on orders under $49, which is $3.99 for standard shipping and $12.90 for express shipping. Every so often, Shein does promotions for free shipping, and they also frequently offer markdowns that can mitigate shipping costs. For example, you can get discount codes for special events and holidays, registering for an account on their website, or making a purchase through their app. However, using these codes as an excuse to go on a Pretty Woman-level shopping spree can wind up being a big mistake, huge. Bulk purchases can sometimes be subject to additional customs fees that can range from 50-100% of the cost of the duty, which can really drive up your final total.

What is Shein’s return policy?

Given that Shein’s quality can be so erratic, it’s good to familiarize yourself with their return policy ahead of time so you don’t get hit with any surprises further down the road. If an item from your order isn’t what you were looking for or you decide you no longer want it, they offer free shipping on your return as long as it’s within 45 days of the purchase date. (Just note that any shipping or insurance fees you paid for your package are not refundable.) That being said, if you decide to return more items from the same order after your first return, you will be charged a $7.99 shipping fee, which will be deducted from your refund, or you can opt to pay to ship the return yourself, which may or may not be cheaper depending on your location and how much you want to return. Per Shein’s website, refunds typically take about a week to post to your account once they have received your return, but due to the pandemic, you may end up waiting an extra 3-5 days.

Regarding what you can and can’t return, Shein lists non-refundable items as “bodysuits, lingerie, jewelry, beauty products, underwear, event and party supplies, DIY supplies, pet supplies and accessories (except scarves, bags, and mermaid blankets).” Furthermore, you can’t return items if you’ve removed their original tags or hygiene stickers (including make-up) or if they’ve been washed, worn, or damaged. If your order arrives damaged or defective, you can contact Shein’s customer service to rectify the situation, but you need to do so within 24 hours of receiving your order, so it’s best to check the contents of your package as soon as you get it. Many shoppers have ended up being allowed to keep damaged items while also being refunded their money, but this isn’t a guarantee.

Bottom line: Don’t buy extra items you don’t want or need just to meet the shipping minimum, and don’t hold out hope that you’ll be getting your money back fast if you need it for something else.

Related: Best Bodysuits

Best Shein Shirts

SHEIN Schiffy Drawstring Crop Top

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “Love this top! Great quality material and feels much more expensive than it was. I do think the neckline would look so much better though if it were wider and the front does seem too close together on either side. It [doesn’t] bother me too much though. Also would recommend sizing up, especially if you have big boobs (which I definitely don’t!) as it was a bit tight on the chest. Would recommend nonetheless.”

Get it from Shein for $12 (available in sizes XS-XL) or $14 (available in sizes 1XL-3XL).

Eyelet Lace Up Knot Tube Crop Top

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars

Highlight: “Very cute! True to size and it’s entirely adjustable with the lace up back. The ribbon tying it together [is really] long, so I may cut it, but that’s the only issue. Normally I don’t buy anything white from Shein because I’m worried it will be see-through, but this has padding and is not see-through at all. My friend also bought it in pink and we both are satisfied with the top.”

Get it from Shein for $18 (available in sizes XS-L and 9 colors).

Shein BASICS Solid Form-Fitted Bodysuit

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “The perfect piece to put under a top for more coverage or [under] a cardigan. I would suggest sizing up like I did. (They have a thong like bottom in case you were wondering.)”

Get it from Shein for $7 (available in sizes XS-4XL and 12 colors).

Shein Solid One-Shoulder Crop Top

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “This is a cute and simple top! It wasn’t see through or anything. It’s a spandex material. I do wish I went down a size to hold my boobs up, but then I was nervous that the sleeve would be too tight. I plan to tighten and sew the side to hold my boobs.”

Get it from Shein for $4 (available in sizes XS-XL and 5 colors).

Ditsy Floral Ruched Bust Cami Top

Number of reviews: 7k+

Rating: 4.8 stars

Highlight: “Very comfortable, the material is pretty stretchy and it gives off a corset top effect. I got a large and [it] fits perfectly, not [too] big and not [too] loose.”

Get it from Shein for $8 (available in sizes XS-L and 7 colors).

Best Shein Jackets

Shein Floral Print Zipper Up Bomber Jacket

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 4.9 stars 

Highlight: “This is soooo pretty. The cut of it is very flattering, I feel like it actually makes me look slim… Only downside is no [actual] pockets. Fits great. The material is a little staticky, but no big deal.”

Get it from Shein for $15 (available in sizes XS-XL and 3 colors).

Solid Lapel Collar Single Button Blazer

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “On the thin side, but very comfortable for the office during the spring/summer. Not see through either, but wrinkles easily. Will need to iron out often. The color isn’t as light in person but still looks okay.”

Get it from Shein for $17 (available in sizes S-XL and 7 colors).

Zip Up PU Leather Moto Jacket

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “Average quality. I normally wear a medium, but I took the advice of others and sized up to a large, which worked because it fits perfectly! No smell like noted in other reviews.”

Get it from Shein for $35 (available in sizes S-XXL and 3 colors).

Shein Buffalo Plaid Plush Open-Front Teddy Coat

Number of reviews: 6k+

Rating: 4.9 stars 

Highlight: “Definitely runs a bit big. But I love that it feels like I’m wearing a huge blanket. So soft and fuzzy! You could wear this as a coat or a cardigan on a cold day.”

Get it from Shein for $25 (available in sizes XS-XL).

Houndstooth Lapel Longline Coat

Number of reviews: 3k+

Rating: 4.7 stars 

Highlight: “Nice coat! Can definitely dress up a plain outfit. Based on the reviews, I sized down to a L and it fits fine, but there’s something weird going on in the shoulder/collar area. I think an XL would’ve swallowed me though. It is lined but if you live somewhere where it gets really cold I highly doubt this will keep you warm without layering it.”

Get it from Shein for $35 (available in sizes S-L).

Best Shein Pants, Skirts, and Shorts

SBetro Slit Hem PU Leather Skinny Pants

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “Order a size up. The waist runs smaller than normal larges like on Fashion Nova. But good quality for the price, they look just like the photo. I’m 5’5 and sometimes pants cut short, but I could wear heels with these and they’re still fine.”

Get it from Shein for $20 (available in sizes S-XL and 5 colors).

Tartan Mini Pleated Skirt

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “This is so cute!! I honestly couldn’t be happier with this skirt, the pattern is really cute! It’s thin, but not papery. I will say that it is a bit big on my waist and so [it] wants to ride up, but that’s normal because my waist is quite small compared to [my] hips… It’s not too short either!”

Get it from Shein for $12 (available in sizes XS-L and 4 colors) or for $14 (available in sizes 0XL-5XL and 3 colors).

Wide Waistband Solid Biker Shorts

Number of reviews: 10k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “Super [comfortable]. For workouts or to wear under long skirts if your thighs rub against each other. A bit see-through though.”

Get it from Shein for $7 (available in sizes XS-L and 4 colors).

Plus Dalmatian Print Chiffon Flared Skirt


Number of reviews: 4k+

Rating: 5 stars 

Highlight: “I love this skirt. Is easy to pair [with] the simple t-shirt or simple tank top and cardigan and call it a day. Material is lightweight and it’s almost ankle-length on me. I am 5 foot 4, so I am a bit short. If you were taller this might hit you below the knee or mid calf.”

Get it from Shein for $16 (available in sizes 0XL-5XL).

Shein BASICS Plus High Waist Ripped Roll Hem Denim Shorts

Number of reviews: 4k+

Rating: 4.8 stars 

Highlight: “[I’m] really happy I decided to buy!!! They [fit] and feel great and love that they stretch. I am normally a size 18 in Women’s. I ordered a [4XL] and [I’m] happy I did. Also I love that they’re not super short. I have a hard time finding shorts that are not super short. I definitely recommend.

Get them from Shein for $14 (available in sizes 0XL-4XL and 4 colors).

Best Shein Dresses

Ditsy Floral Puff Sleeve Belted Dress

Number of reviews: 7k+

Rating: 4.9 stars 

Highlight: “I’m obsessed. The shoulder puffs are a bit awkward straight out of the packaging, but still super cute! The fabric is a bit thin, but with some spandex or something underneath there shouldn’t be a problem! It fits great! A little short if you’re going for something more modest, but it’s a cute [little] summer dress… I typically wear like a 36D bra and have kinda a big butt and it’s very flattering!”

Get it from Shein for $16 (available in sizes XS-L and 4 colors) or for $12 (available in sizes 0XL-4XL).

Backless Halter Neck Bodycon Dress

Number of reviews: 5k+

Rating: 4.8 stars 

Highlight: “[The] top is super cute. The only thing to be aware of is you definitely need some nipple covers because the dress has a little bit of side boob and moves so easily, and the dress is completely backless, but it looks high quality and nobody could tell that it was cheap and it’s super cute!”

Get it from Shein for $9 (available in sizes S-L and 3 colors) or $5 (available in sizes 0XL-4XL and 2 colors).

Button Front Houndstooth Bodycon Dress

Number of reviews: 4k+

Rating: 4.7 stars 

Highlight: “Fabric is really stretchy, but fits well and makes my body shape look amazing. Buttons also sit slack on the dress (which I anticipated), but it’s nothing a needle and thread can’t fix. Way too short to wear to work, but I’d definitely wear it out for drinks. The square neckline is also really flattering.”

Get it from Shein for $17 (available in sizes XS-L).

Shein Plus Tie Shoulder Shirred Back Ditsy Floral Cami Dress

Number of reviews: 2k+

Rating: 4.8 stars 

Highlight: “I LOVE LOVE LOVE this dress! It is a little short, probably the shortest I’m willing to go, but not too short that I’m not willing to wear it in public. I’m 5’4 for reference, so if you’re taller than me, be aware of that! I love that the straps are ties so you can adjust them however you like.”

Get it from Shein for $10 (available in sizes 0XL-4XL).

Paisley Print Bishop Sleeve Belted Dress

Number of reviews: 2k+

Rating: 4.7 stars 

Highlight: “I bought it on a whim looking for something to wear to my grandparents’ 75th wedding anniversary party that is outside the end of August! And I’m so glad I did! The material is super [lightweight] and cool, yet the dress looks so classy! I’m so happy I bought it!!! Definitely one of my favorite purchases!”

Get it from Shein for $20 (available in sizes S-L and 5 colors) or $19 (available in sizes 0XL-4XL and 3 colors).

Can you buy wedding dresses on Shein?

Shein doesn’t have dresses that are specifically marketed as wedding gowns, but many shoppers have turned to their formalwear section for wedding and vow renewal apparel. They also offer plenty of options for bridal party members and wedding attendees. As with any garment you may buy online for a major event, you’ll probably need to do some tailoring to get the perfect fit, but given that the average cost of a wedding dress (including alterations) in the U.S. is $1,653 according to Brides, those who are on a stricter budget have turned to Shein and similar merchants for low-cost options that can still make them feel special on their big day.

Randy Bregoli may not approve, but here are some of the most popular wedding dresses shoppers have said “yes” to:

Shein Wedding Dresses

Shein Lace Overlay Backless Pleated Maxi Dress

Number of reviews: 7k+

Rating: 4.9 stars

Highlight: “This dress was my wedding dress! The material is absolutely amazing! Super fresh but heavy at the same time giving the dress the perfect shape, details are beautiful and you can adjust the top depending on your breast size.

Get it from Shein for $24 (available in sizes XS-L).

EVER-PRETTY Ruffle Off Shoulder Split Prom Dress

Number of reviews: 4k+

Rating: 4.9 stars

Highlight: “I loved this dress! I wore it for my after wedding pictures… I had to [use] the steamer to get rid of some wrinkles (I thought the regular iron would’ve burn it) but it looked so gorgeous afterwards. The material is great and is very comfortable. Oh! And I used nude underwear because [it] is a little bit see-through in light.”

Get it from Shein for $41 (available in sizes S-L).

EVER-PRETTY Godet Fishtail Hem Sequin Mesh Prom Dress

Number of reviews: 3k+

Rating: 4.8 stars

Highlight: “Amazing. Kind of thin, but with some shape wear it was perfect. Bought for pictures on the beach for our anniversary… I got a 4xl, I typically wear an 18 in jeans, 2xl in tops, 44DDD bra, and it fit [perfectly].”

Get it from Shein for $44 (available in sizes S-XL) or $49 (available in sizes 0XL-5XL).

Shein Lace Top Split Side Pleated Prom Dress

Number of reviews: 3k+

Rating: 4.9 stars

Highlight: “I bought this for my wedding. I wanted something elegant yet casual and comfortable, I’m 51 and it’s a second wedding for both of us. I’m 5’3 and 120 lbs my bust is a 34C, I got a size medium. In the photo I’m wearing 2½  inch heels and it still drags a bit on ground, wish it was a tad shorter. It fit perfectly around my waist and bust. I’m wearing a sticky bra so no straps show through the lace. The only complaint I have is that it comes extremely wrinkled. With all the pleats It’s impossible to try and iron on a board. I hung it up off the ground on a hanger and used a steamer while I tugged on the bottom of the pleats to make it tight while I steamed one little section at a time. It was time consuming but turned out great. You could not wear this as it comes out of the package, it would look awful. Other [than] that, the quality is excellent for the price! I can’t wait to wear it!”

Get it from Shein for $29 (available in sizes XS-L).

EVER-PRETTY Sequin Bodice Ribbon Waist Mesh Prom Dress

Number of reviews: 2k+

Rating: 4.9 stars

Highlight: “Bought this dress as my wedding dress. I was hesitant due to previously buying a different dress from Shein and being disappointed. This dress however is spot on! It’s beautiful, not heavy and it was perfect for me. Only thing I would have liked to do would have been cut it a bit shorter as I did trip over it a few times.”

Get it from Shein for $45 (available in sizes S-XL) or $49 (available in sizes 0XL-5XL).

What about fast fashion?

Fast fashion is the replication and mass production of high fashion trends at a low quality and cost. (Think the cerulean sweater anecdote from The Devil Wears Prada.) Odds are, the output of most, if not all, of your favorite clothing brands is fast fashion. Some identifying factors are the availability of a large quantity of styles, the use of low-caliber fabrics, the quick turnaround period between when a trend becomes popular and the time in which it takes the merchant to capitalize on that popularity, and, of course, the discounted price. However, those low-price tags don’t just come from nowhere. Fast fashion retailers use exploitative tactics such as utilizing environmentally harmful materials and manufacturing practices, implementing unsafe and unfair regulations for garment factory workers, who are, more often than not, overworked and underpaid, and ripping off smaller, independent designers. Shein has been met with its fair share of controversy on these subjects, particularly concerning the latter. Social media campaigns pop up seemingly every day in which creators, many of whom are BIPOC, reveal their designs were stolen and demand the company discontinue selling their product. Shein hasn’t made much public commentary about the accusations that have been made against them, though at one point they admitted to taking another artist’s work without permission. Nevertheless, the company makes no attempts to hide what they are, outwardly describing themselves as “an international B2C (business-to-consumer) fast-fashion e-commerce company” on their website.

Fast fashion is a complicated issue, but the onus to bring it to an end is not just on us as consumers, but also on the companies themselves needing to make necessary changes and the influencers who spend hundreds of dollars on clothes for try-on hauls, which are then discarded once they’re out of style, if not sooner. The average consumer (like the #RushTok college students, for example), who buy fast fashion pieces because they’re all they can afford or because they’re the only option available are not necessarily the root of the problem. Moreover, they’re also more likely to take better care of their clothes because they value them and do not have the financial means to continuously go out and buy new pieces. Shopping at Shein is no more or less ethical than shopping at any other fast fashion brand, such as Gap, UNIQLO, or Free People. If you want to shop sustainably and you can afford to do so, then Shein isn’t the retailer for you, but choosing the most accessible option for your needs does not make you the singular cause of fast fashion’s preeminence. At the end of the day, we should all use our best judgment and make it a priority to consume less. If you want to learn more about fast fashion and its effects on the global climate, economy, and civil liberties, you can check out director Andrew Morgan’s 2015 documentary The True Cost.

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