Wednesday, June 25, 2014

eShakti Dress Review

A couple of months ago I was contacted by eShakti and asked if I would like to review one of their products.  And I have to admit that the idea of someone making a dress just for me was rather exciting, even if I was quite skeptical about the quality of the garment that would arrive at my door.  So I decided that I would take the opportunity to honestly review the product as someone obsessed with seam finishing and quality craftsmanship, and extremely wary of the mall and ready-to-wear garments.

There are many, many cute styles on the website, so it is certainly worth taking a gander, if only for inspiration on fabric pairings or neckline options.  The choice for a review was limited (which is to be expected) and it was challenging to find something I thought I would be happy with, and something that I could not easily make for myself.

My first choice was a red cotton poplin frock with a bird motif in blue.  The color pairing was not my favorite, and since the company prides itself on its customization, I sent an email asking if it would be possible to swap fabric colors for another cotton poplin (even though this was not an option given on the website) – I knew it was unlikely, but it never hurts to ask.  The more I looked at the dress, the more it seemed that the motifs I originally assumed were appliqués were embroidered directly on the dress.  How wonderful would it be if you could also customize those color choices?!  So I also asked about that.  Instead of an answer to either question, I was sent an email asking me to choose another dress since that particular fabric selection was limited.  Well, that was fine, but I was actually not interested in the given fabric, and what about my actual questions?!

In the end, I decided on a knit dress.  My choice has already disappeared from the site, although the same silhouette is still available.

I ordered a size up to avoid looking like a stuffed sausage – which is just my personal issue with knits and the idea of negative ease.

There are numerous sleeve/length options for certain styles.  I wanted to make some sort of alteration to see what the company would do with that information, so I opted for a three-quarter sleeve, a knee length skirt, and removed the pockets.

The skirt is really short, even though height information is entered before purchase – not sure what happened there?!  If it was a suitable knee length for someone who is 5’6” tall, I would get a lot more wear out of this garment, but it would need 3 or perhaps 4 more inches added to accomplish this.  To be fair, I did not mention the fact that I am long-waisted, and the dress is a good 2 inches too short in that area (when I alter patterns, I only have to add ¾ - 1” to the torso length).  And while I think the dress is quite small for the size, the customized sleeves are ridiculously big.

Then there was the issue with DHL delivery.  About ten days after I received an email that the dress had been shipped, I checked in with eShakti regarding my order since I had not heard anything and did not have the dress in hand.  I had supposedly “refused delivery.”  The DHL drivers evidently do not know how to read an obvious sign on a keypad entry system, and therefore could not get into my secured apartment building.  After multiple explanations about this with telephone operators at DHL (they finally called me after, I assume, eShakti called them), I gave up and had the package redirected to my office.  So eShakti completed the custom order in nine days which was a quick turnaround, but then DHL needed eighteen days to deliver.  I have never had a problem with UPS or FedEx delivering to my building, so I am hoping that I never have to deal with DHL again. 

And while this is certainly not the fault of eShakti, delivery was not a pleasant experience.  If you are ordering frocks for a special occasion with a specific date, I would make sure to allow plenty of time!

But back to the dress . . .

It was shown with a belt and the description said it was included, but that portion of the garment never arrived.  My disappointment with that was that I missed out on the opportunity to see how much ease they think is necessary for the given waist measurement.  Since most of the dresses produced by eShakti use elastic at the back waistband, this measurement can be easily fudged on the dress itself.  It is a very clever use of elastic, and much more flattering than using it all the way around the waistline, in my opinion.

The dress also has a side zipper which is certainly not necessary in a dress like this.  With the elastic waistband at the back, and the knit fabric, it easily slips over the head.  And to be honest, the zipper insertion was less than lovely.  They really should  have left it out completely.

As a nice touch, lingerie guards are included (although this particular neckline is not very wide and does not require the feature, it is nice to know they made the effort, just the same).

The care label says machine wash.  However, the embroidery was showing signs of wear as soon as I took the dress out of the package, so I think machine washing this dress would make it look ratty.  There are already fuzzy bits in places which does not bode well for an adventure in a washing machine.  Also, because of the dark navy color, a press cloth would have been advisable during construction.  There are a few spots along the princess bust seams that look a bit shiny. 

But that is my hyper-sensitivity to garment construction rearing its ugly head – the dress is certainly acceptable by most ready-to-wear standards.

Overall, I find the customization rather limited for a company that pushes that angle.  There are cute cotton poplin prints and solids that are only available for one or two dresses or skirts.  I would love to see all woven fabric options listed for each woven dress design, and all of the current knit fabric options available for every dress drafted for knits.  Perhaps this would create an inventory nightmare, but I see many styles I like in a fabric that I would not choose.  Making the majority of my wardrobe these days means I have complete control over these issues, so if I am going to purchase a “customizable” dress, I want more options!

While I appreciate the idea of this company, in practice, it is not different enough from ready-to-wear to get me to put aside my sewing needles and fabric.  But for those who are looking for a cute dress with a few more options than the local mall, eShakti is definitely a viable option.

Just to be clear, I was actually much less disappointed that I was expecting to be.  The cotton knit fabric is quite nice, and the overall dress is cute.  And I certainly appreciate the opportunity to try something new!

If you would like to get your own eShakti dress, feel free to use coupon code "lamades" to get 10% OFF when you shop at eShakti – valid through July 2, 2014.

Please note:
Code has to be entered in the ‘promotional code’ box.   It is not case-sensitive.  
Code can be used any number of times until the validity period. 
It can be clubbed with any other promotional offer, gift coupon or gift card in the same order unless explicitly specified otherwise in the offer conditions.
This discount code is not applicable on clearance / sale, gift cards & overstock categories.
Not applicable on previous purchases.

Dress:  eShakti
Shoes:  Halogen

[Disclosure:  This dress was sent to me for review by eShakti, but the opinions expressed here are my own.]


  1. I read every word of this review post with great interest, as I too have worked with eShatki (multiple times) over the years and have had a very mixed bag array of experiences, including both with fit and DHL alike, two points that you found yourself affected by as well. I think that their site and semi-customizable service is good in theory, but that it needs a lot of fine tuning, better customer service, the use of a different courier or postal service, and for their offerings to remain on their site considerably longer (ohhh, and no side zippers on their dresses - few people the world over like them, especially on garments that have a tendency, as these do, to run on the ultra small side!!!).

    ♥ Jessica

  2. Your keypad entry system is way too complicated for DHL guys to comprehend. I received a package a few days ago from them. The package first sat in the last sorting station(or whatever) for five(!!) days so the overall delivery took 10 days(so it managed to get here with 5 days and just got stalled for another 5 days) and then our simple wooden fence with standard handle was too "hich tech" for them, so I had to go outside, open the fence for them and then discovered three hours later that they can't even close the simple gate after them. Ugh. DHL...

    I'm very sceptical about customized patterns. There are so many things that can and will go wrong. A lot of times people don't take their own measurements correctly and everyone has a slightly different body. And to get the pattern right with one go based on the measurements someone sent is near impossible. Even professional seamstresses and tailors who draft an individual pattern to each customer, have to make changes in fittings to get the fit right.

    But the dress does look cute on you. Though the embroidery looks like the quality is quite poor.

  3. I've dealt with eShakti several times, too, with a similar experience. DHL has to be one of the worst shipping services ever, not to mention one of the most expensive. While I agree that the concept of customization is sound, I also agree that a lot of fine tuning and more options are needed. I also found eShakti a little pricey - a non-customized, unlined, cotton poplin dress can run for $60 and up! I also found that their sizing is off on fitted garments.

  4. I've ordered several dresses from eShakti in the past, although nothing in about a year, and overall I've been satisfied with the product, if not with the DHL shipping. I've used the custom sizing option, rather than ordering their standard sizing. My only gripe with their custom sizing is that they don't include a neck point/shoulder point to bust point or waist measurement along with their other measurements. As I'm quite short through the torso--from neck to hip--that means I can only order styles from them with shoulder straps, instead of anything more complicated like a sleeve. Otherwise, the dresses are about 4 inches too long from shoulder to bust. But aside from that issue, for a RTW product, and with the customization options for style and size, I've found the dresses to be quite nice. The fit for me has been spot-on, except for that shoulder length issue. I've got 4 dresses from eShakti that I wear regularly. 2 are in their cotton sateen, one is in a pretty cotton jacquard, and another is in cotton poplin. I do have one fancier brocade dress, which I really like, but because of the construction at the shoulder/bust, I haven't yet fixed that shoulder length problem. I'm curious about their new knit options, but probably won't order anything. Again, this in comparison to other RTW options. Plus, once you order something they keep sending you coupons.

  5. Thank you for the frank review of this we say 'e-tailer'? I would assume they precut for sizes, not keep the fabric in stock for all styles.

    Custom work should cost more, frankly. and while I can make a straight cotton dress for less than $60, I'm not charging myself labor to support myself with that dress. If I am, it's sure as hell going to fit you and be fabulous inside as well as out. But it won't be $60.

    You do get what you pay for. If you want something less expensive, lower your expectations. You can have it cheap fast or good: pick two. You won't get the other choice as well.

  6. Normally I dislike reading product reviews on blogs, but this one was very interesting. I appreciate your honesty!

  7. Thank you for posting an honest review, Laura Mae. I keep seeing ads for the company online. I'd been wondering about it for a while.

  8. I bought my first eShakti dress quite recently - a woven fit and flare dress with embroidery on it. I went for the full sizing customization (sending in my actual measurements), and I was thrilled with how well it fit, even with my short waist, sway back, and oversized rack. :) I'm completely happy with the dress, in fact. The shipping was another story, but now I've learned my lesson and will ship things to work instead.

    Sadly, they've just stopped shipping to Canada, and I even have a gift certificate waiting to be used.

  9. I had to look up this review again today as I forgot who the retailer was. My friend was asking me about making some custom clothing, an idea I'm never too keen on (sorry, I'm selfish!). And then it hit me - this is at very least a great resource for sewists to deflect these kind of requests: "I can't make it/am too expensive/don't want to, but if you're really interested in this then here is a retailer who sells it." It's too bad they ship so slowly, but for someone who is used to average quality RTW, then the end product would probably be fine and hopefully fit better than store-bought.