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eShakti — great concept, struggling execution

February 13, 2014

Fat Fashion

We all know finding plus-sized clothing is a pain. The topic has been beaten to death, and then there’s the occasional A&F zombie attack. I’m not a fan of forcing people to take my money or demand they cater to me when they’ve made it clear they don’t want my business. I’d rather support their competition and take my money where it’s wanted.

One place that wants my business is eShakti, an e-tailer that sells clothing in sizes 0-36. Their premise is embracing technology to create customized garments at a price point similar to eShaktiboutique ready-to-wear. For an extra $7.50, you can have a garment tailored to your measurements with your choice of neckline, hem length, sleeve, etc. To get you hooked, customization is free for your first order.

The Good

  • Turnaround is really fast. This is relative because every garment, customized or not, is made when it’s ordered and then gets shipped from India. I bought a dress before going out of town, expecting that it wouldn’t arrive until I was back home. The shipment notification came a lot sooner than I expected, as did the delivery date.
  • They really want your business. If you don’t want to keep your garment, you can choose a refund for the amount you paid or a gift card for an additional 20%. Customization is non-refundable, but the gift card option covers the cost.
  • Some customizations, such as removing pockets, are free. If you think a dress is cute except for the hummingbirds embroidered on the skirt, they can be nixed at no charge.
  • Ready-made patterns tend to be for B/C cups. I’ve been at least a D since I was a teenager and have a big problem with button downs not buttoning down, empire waists cutting right across my bustline instead of underneath, and swimsuit tops not being much more than pasties. Having a pattern designed for my chest, bust, and underbust measurements makes for a better fit. Conversely, you can get rid of the gaping space in the chest area if you’re smaller than a B/C.
  • Hemlines are designed with your height in mind. A 5’10” person’s knee-length skirt is going to be longer than a 5’3″ person’s knee-length skirt. I like my stuff to the knee or just above and they’ve gotten that right each time. There are also options for mini, midi, and maxi hems.
  • It seems like cap sleeves are the new short sleeve. I despise cap sleeves because they make me feel like my top’s too small. I really like being able to add more sleeve to my garment.
  • There are a variety of fabrics. A lot of plus size vendors tend to stick to various flavors of polyester. I’ve bought garments in silk, cotton, and a wool blend from eShakti.
  • New designs seem to come in frequently.

The Bad

  • Every shipment I’ve received came via FedEx and my vacation hold resulted in an epic snafu. Not directly eShakti’s fault, but it still makes me angry. They also require a signature to release the package, so watch your tracker closely or plan on getting one of those missed delivery notices. At least you can sign that and they’ll leave the box when they come back.
  • Even with custom sizing, the sizing seems inconsistent. I bought three dresses using the same set of measurements. One fit perfectly, one was ridiculously loose in the midsection, and one was too tight in the bust. The next trio brought two good fits and a miss. My last dress was a good fit. You could say they’re improving, but a 57% success rate isn’t exactly impressive.
  • Returns seem like they take forever to process
  • I’m really bad at visualizing what a garment is going to look like with alterations. They have icons of each option in the customization section, but I would kill for a WYSIWYG interface to show me what that top looks like with flutter sleeves versus elbow sleeves, even if they are just pasted on (yay!)

The Mixed

  • While there are design teams in California, New York, and India, all manufacturing takes place in India. eShakti has a brief statement about their labor practices here.
  • They love prints. I’m more of a solid color person, but there are options if you’re not.
  • Signing up for their mailing list gets you discounts and informs you of sales, but they email so frequently that Outlook now defaults them to the junk mail folder.
  • Fabrics and silhouettes are reused often. eShakti isn’t the only retailer guilty of this and there are pluses and minuses. On one hand, you might love a vintage sheath dress but hate the fabric offerings. Wait a few months and you might get one you like. If you love that anchor print, you can get it in a skirt, a top, or a dress. On the other hand, they might make the same dress in a fabric you love a few months later, but just can’t justify getting a duplicate dress.

I really want to like this company because I think their concept is cool. Unfortunately, their execution still needs work and I hope they get there. In the time I’ve been using them, I’ve seen their turnaround time go down and their clothing selection go up. I do like that they’re now soliciting feedback on new items; I’d like it even more if I got some sort of reward for doing so. I’m not a fan of their pricing, but I feel that way about most plus size retailers. Take advantage of their spam list to get notified for their buy two, get one sales offer and other discounts, or just stalk the site because it seems like they’re always running at least one promo.

Gingeroid Sig

7 Comments leave one →
  1. purple peonies permalink
    February 13, 2014 1:38 pm

    thanks for this review! this is helpful… i’ve looked at this site a few times, but it’s also hard for me to visualize what something will look like on me or with alterations. (a wysiwyg tool would rock!) i also prefer solids to prints, so all the prints were kind of a turnoff. i’m also kind of a simple girl– i don’t like anything really flashy, fleshy, or intricate. i’ll have to keep checking in. maybe something will suit my fancy.

  2. gingeroid permalink
    February 13, 2014 8:50 pm

    I know what you mean. I went to the Kiyonna warehouse and felt like Ned Flanders in there. Cleavage? Tight? Polka dots? Too much! My preferred “prints” tend to be tone-on-tone or textural patterns like plaids and herringbones.

    You can search just for solid items if all the lip, giraffe, and cupcake prints get overwhelming.

  3. Anna permalink
    July 27, 2014 7:28 pm

    Finally an eShakti review that isn’t just all wonderful. I ordered a customized dress from eShakti and it is at least 2 sizes too tight. My thin daughter-in-law-to-be ordered a customized dress and cannot even get the side zipper up because it’s too tight. My dress is a total loss, but I’m going to see if I can add a little fabric and a back zipper to my future daughter-in- law’s dress. It’s disappointing to read glowing eShakti reviews when I know that I’m not the only one who has had a bad experience with them. eShakti appears to be a real hit-and-miss dressmaker.

    • gingeroid permalink
      July 28, 2014 7:48 am

      I’ve noticed the type of fabric used has the biggest impact on getting a good fit. I’ve had the best luck with jersey knits because it’s the most forgiving on the body. The side zipper is very obvious on chiffon garments because of the weight differential; the downside on everything being modular and CAD because a human element might have picked up on it. I just got a chambray skirt to my measurements that is too big in the waist. It’s only saving grace is the elastic in the waistband to keep it from falling off. Moral of the story: stick to the jersey knits or be prepared to return/exchange.

  4. Susan Galuski permalink
    September 4, 2014 12:31 pm

    I just received my first order of custom-fit dresses (4) from Eshakti, and I AM THRILLED! They came very quickly. Once they were shipped from India, they spent one day in Germany, one day in Ohio, and then arrived at my door in Maryland the following day. They were packed very well, folded with tissue paper and individually packaged in plastic sleeve bags. The dresses with buttons came with extra buttons. All the dresses were well made (even seaming, no fraying) of good materials. They had hidden side zippers, deep pockets and some had a elastic stretch in back panel for better fit. I had put extra measurements in the comment section (shoulder to natural waist and natural waist to center of knee) and they paid attention! Be sure to have someone else measure you, arms at side, and pay attention to how you stand, what undergarments you are wearing. Don’t try to suck in or pull tape tight, you want these to fit! The bad reviews I read seem to be from several years ago, and I think Eshakti has addressed all those concerns. I will be ordering again!

  5. March 23, 2015 10:53 pm

    Overall I love eShakti because they give me more options than anyone else in sizes I can actually use. While they aren’t dirt cheap they are pretty reasonable and they don’t “fat tax” you by charging more for larger sizes. The execution isn’t perfect though. For example, I think that many times as they scale patterns upward they don’t appropriately rethink details such as the placement of prints, buttons, or embroidery. You need human judgment for those things, there is no algorithm for those fine points so a computer doesn’t cut it. And it does take forever to process refunds (but they are gladly given).

    Over time I’ve learned which fabrics, designs, and silhouettes I’m likely to have issues with even with customization. I have good luck with full skirts and sheaths but for some reason their a-line silhouettes don’t work. Cotton poplins, cotton blends, and the synthetic pontes are stellar. The chiffons and crepes not so much. I don’t order collared shirt dresses because I know the neck opening will be huge. Apparently it isn’t common knowledge that women’s neck measurements don’t necessarily relate to overall body size. Even a very heavy woman is unlikely to have a 23″ neck.

    Caveats aside, I am one of their cheerleaders because with the overall “meh” state of what’s available in plus sizes they’ve proven to be an important option for me and they do seem to make an earnest effort to adapt to customer feedback. Skinny women who can shop anywhere they want have stopped me in the street to compliment me or ask where I bought my dress. How often does that happen with something you buy in the plus size section of your local department store?

  6. Justine permalink
    July 13, 2015 2:47 pm

    Size 36, here. I just started shopping with eShakti, and they’ve been amaaaazing. Every garment fits like a glove (thank you, custom sizing!). I’m super hippy with a much smaller top half. I stick to ordering designs that are free-flowing in the hips and fitted on top, and every time (five dresses total, now), I’ve felt like a princess wearing my clothes. I get compliments *all the time*. I can’t tell you how great it feels to feel good about what you’re wearing *and* get external validation.

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