HOUSTON - You've probably seen the ads in your Facebook feed for cute outfits at a cheap price.
We decided to test them out.
With less than $175, we went on a shopping spree at dresslily.com, sammydress.com and aliexpress.com. I got help from a young, hip KHOU producer, Erin Garza. We browsed through pages and pages of offers and found most items were under $22.
"There's a lot of sheer going on," Erin noticed.
She ended up with four items: a work dress, a party dress, a prom dress and a bikini from DressLily.
I placed orders from AliExpress and Sammydress. I got a prom dress, a work dress, pants, top, skirt and blazer.
All told, we purchased 10 items.
Weeks later, we started receiving packages from China. I kept them all together until they day we shot the story. When we started unwrapping our goodies, I noticed that two of my items from AliExpress never arrived.
We get permission to use the fitting room at the Carrie Ann Boutique in Uptown Park.
The blazer and top fit as they should and were decent quality for the price.
However, the $11 skirt from Sammydress was a really stiff fabric and didn't fit well at all.
"Well I'm just gonna say it," Erin said, staring at my green floral skirt. "It's not very flattering."
I felt like I was wrapped in a balloon.
Then, I tried on what was advertised as a prom dress. The $20 "gown" was made of a thin workout-type material and hugged much more than it should.
"It's, like, three different sizes all in one dress," Erin concluded.
Now it was Erin's turn in the fitting room. She was a really good sport, but nothing fit properly, even though she ordered everything according to the size chart.
Erin struggled to wiggle into her prom dress. It was our most expensive item at $21. When she walked out, I was joined at the fitting room door by Carrie Ann stylist Feyi Omodele.
We both gasped.
"Oh my God, it looks so cheap," Feyi said.
Erin couldn't zip the dress up more than halfway! Strings were hanging off the gown, and the sequins didn't look at all like the picture.
"I didn't go to my original prom, and it looks like I'm not going to another prom," Erin said.
Erin wouldn't even come out in the bikini. She said it didn't fit and left it at that.
The last item she tried was the $16 party dress. I heard her struggling behind the door again.
"Too big? Too small?" I asked.
"Oh, way too small, like it won't even go over my thighs," Erin said. "What is this?"
I walked into the fitting room and couldn't believe it. It was tiny with two layers that covered nothing.
"This looks like lingerie," I exclaimed. "I don't even know which way it goes."
We managed to get the necessary parts covered, and Erin walked out.
"I'm down to party, but geez, what is this?" she said.
Meanwhile, Feyi was just shaking her head.
"She's spilling out, she said. "It's just altogether bad."
Erin kept nothing. I have the top and blazer in my closet.
There's no shortage of bad reviews about some of the clothing websites. There are also thousands of complaints to the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission from disappointed women who feel they wasted their money.
I filed an online dispute with AliExpress about the two items that never arrived.
We also learned that two of the sites we used -- Dresslily and Sammydress -- have the same owners.
The company emailed us a statement:
“We strive to provide affordable fashion that meets the needs and expectations of our customers. We are reviewing how we can best serve all of our markets, including our customers in the U.S., and are enhancing our quality assurance processes and customer service procedures accordingly.”
"AliExpress is a global retail platform that connects buyers and sellers. We take our consumers’ complaints and concerns very seriously. We encourage our users to visit the AliExpress Customer Service page for any issues or concerns - http://www.aliexpress.com/help/newContactUs.htm. From there, they can choose a question and then select the option to ‘Start Chatting’ or ‘Email Us’. The chatting service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the email option answers specific questions."