While writing my cosplay shopping guide, one website was always in the back of my head: Taobao. I keep hearing all my cosplay friends and influencers talk about how amazing this website is… costumes; cheap, high quality cosplays from this big Chinese supersite.
However, I was always turned off by the fact:
- It was only in Chinese (not in English)
- Taobao cannot ship directly to you if you don’t live in China
- Overall being more of a hassle to use than a regular site (which is true, and will explain in a bit)
So I never bothered to use it. But I didn’t want to leave any gaps in my cosplay shopping guide, so I decided to take the plunge and try out Taobao!
This post is showing you my experience using Taobao and a guide for those who are looking to use it as well.
So let’s get started!
What is Taobao?
If you don’t know, Taobao is an online shopping store. Think of eBay shopping but on steroids. You can get cosplays here for insanely cheap! For example, a Kakashi cosplay that would normally cost you around $100 USD can go for less than $20 USD on Taobao! You’ll save even more if you buy everything together with your cosplay group, as you can have it all in one shipping!
Do I need to know Chinese in order to buy Taobao cosplay?
Nope! Even though Taobao is completely in Chinese, there are tools to help you navigate the site and buy costumes without needing to know the language.
Google Translate is definitely your friend when it comes to browsing Taobao. Not only that, you have “agents” such as Superbuy that are completely in English and help you complete the entire transaction in English (more about agents later in this post).
So no, you don’t need to know any Chinese to use Taobao!
How to use Taobao to buy cosplay and Save Money: Step-by-step guide
Alright, so here’s how to use Taobao. Follow this in order and you will have no problem getting your costume from the site.
- i) The tools you need to use Taobao in English
- ii) Finding the cosplay product on Taobao
- iii) Buying the cosplay using an agent
- iv) Configuring your shipping options
- v) Receiving your item and checking if the order is good
- i) The tools you need to use Taobao in English
i) The tools you need to use Taobao in English
Here’s what you need:
Google Chrome browser: To make things a LOT easier, I highly recommend using Google Chrome when shopping on Taobao. The browser can automatically translate the ENTIRE website of Taobao for you, making your cosplay life a lot easier. You can always do it manually with a different browser or even on your phone. But to make your life easier, just use Google Chrome. NOTE: Sometimes Google Chrome doesn’t always translate everything. So if that happens, have a backup translator website open in case that happens.
Currency converter: Keep in mind that Taobao uses RNB Chinese currency, so have a currency converter on hand with you. The one on Google works very well. Also, note that currency rates are always fluctuating, so don’t be surprised if the final price ends up being a few bucks cheaper or more expensive. Currency conversion is never 100% accurate, at least in my experience.
Agent website to purchase the cosplay product: I’ll talk more about this in section iii. But since we live in the Western world, Taobao cannot ship to us directly (with very few exceptions not related to cosplay). Therefore, we need to use an agent website to handle all that shipping stuff.
I highly recommend using Superbuy agent website as their rates are reasonable but more importantly, they make Taobao insanely easy to use!
ii) Finding Taobao cosplay
You might think that searching for a cosplay on Taobao is like searching on a regular English cosplay website. Well…yes and no.
Back in the day, you had to actually know the Kanji of the character you want to cosplay. Because English ain’t quite the same as Chinese. My cosplay friends tell it was complicated back then.
But when I used Taobao, it worked very well for the most part. If you have Google Chrome translate on, typing it in English will work. For example, when I typed in “Deku cosplay,” I actually got results of sellers offering cosplays of Midoriya! However, if you don’t get the results you’re looking for, then use Google Translate to find the Chinese wording of the character’s costume.
Gold crown = Reputation score of the seller. Like regular cosplay shopping websites, it helps to look at reviews of the seller and product. On Taobao, you can do this by looking at the number of “jewels” or “crowns” on the right side. The more jewels/crowns they have, the better their reputation is! This wonderful page will give you a very detailed description of Taobao’s seller reputation system.
Use the currency converter to check the price of a costume in your country. If you see a costume you like, you can check the price by converting the RMB Chinese price to whatever your own currency is. Since I live in Canada, I use CAD. For example, when I converted the currency of Eraser Head cosplay from MHA, it ended up only being $20 on Taobao. Amazing price!
Does Taobao ship the cosplay directly to my address if I don’t live in China/Asia?
When it comes to general Taobao shopping (i.e. not just cosplay), Taobao does ship directly to you for SOME items.
However, there are also certain items they won’t ship to you. And unfortunately, cosplay is one of those item categories, so you’ll need an agent. Also, prohibited items such as liquids over certain size and real firearms won’t be allowed. Basically, if you can’t bring it on an airplane, you probably can’t ship to your home using Taobao.
Once you picked a costume you want to buy, it’s time to find an agent.
iii) Buying the cosplay using an agent
What the heck is an agent?
An agent is pretty much necessary in order to buy cosplays from Taobao (unless you live in or around China).
There are quite a few agents to choose from. Some include:
- Taobao Spree
Again, I used Superbuy because it was the easiest agent to work with. But I’m sure the other agents are just as decent. They all have varying rates for shipping and tax. So if you want to penny pinch, you can do some research and see which agent works best for you.
Here’s a comprehensive guide from a different site if you want to compare all the big Taobao agents and decide which one is best for you.
Using the agent to buy the cosplay you want
Getting the costume you want to ship to your place is real easy! All you have to do is literally copy and paste the URL of the product you want from Taobao, into the agent’s website. Once you do so, you can purchase the costume from the agent’s website. They will buy the costume for you and ship it to their warehouse.
I recommend using PayPal as you can always ask for a refund or dispute in case something goes wrong with your order.
Now we get into the next part…shipping into your country.
iv) Configure shipping options
Okay, this is where Taobao cosplay shopping starts to get a bit tricky. Once you order the Taobao cosplay and send the payment, the agent will go ahead and order the costume for you within a few days.
Now, instead of shipping the cosplay item straight to your address, what happens is that the agent will pick it up and leave it in one of their warehouses. In the warehouse, they do a thorough inspection of the product (in this case the cosplay). Here’s what they do:
- Take photos of the costume to make sure it’s the right size
- Ensuring the costume is exactly what you ordered
- Weighing the costume and letting you know how much the shipping will cost. Before the pandemic, Superbuy would let you know how much the shipping is. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t know until they receive the product. But don’t worry, you can choose a refund/exchange before this happens so you don’t receive sticker shock.
Unfortunately for me, the buying and storing process didn’t work so well when I purchased the Eraser Head cosplay. It took almost 2 weeks for the costume to arrive at the agent’s warehouse. And when it arrived, my agent informed me that the costume was the wrong size! I was sooo disappointed. But I guess that’s the experience you get shopping with Taobao. It’s truly hit-or-miss.
v) Verifying your order to ship and receiving your item
So if you had a better experience than I did, and you received your cosplay with the right weight and size, as well as the shipping costs aren’t crazy high (they usually are not), then you need to confirm with the agent that you’re okay with proceeding with the order.
Much like with regular cosplay shopping, you don’t want to wait too long to verify your order or to cancel it. With Superbuy, you only have 5 days to take action once the cosplay item is in the warehouse. If you don’t do anything, either the agent will cancel your order. Or you’ll end up paying extra to store the cosplay in their warehouse. So be sure to check every day if your order arrived.
And that is pretty much it. Since it’s coming from China, it may take a while for the cosplay to arrive, especially with the pandemic slowing down shipping dramatically. But be patient and it will come! And be happy that you saved tons of money on a costume!
In short, here are the steps to order from Taobao:
- You don’t need to know Chinese to use Taobao; Google Translate and Taobao agents make it easy to use in ENGLISH.
- Have the following tools with you when shopping on Taobao: Google Chrome Translate (or any online translator), currency converter, Taobao agent website to copy-paste the product link.
- Most cosplays on Taobao can be found using English name, but use a translator if you’re not able to find it.
- Find the best quality cosplays by looking at the seller’s crown and jewel rating. The more the better.
- Once you found the cosplay you want, paste the URL into the Taobao agent website to purchase it.
- Wait a few days/weeks until the cosplay arrives at the agent’s warehouse, and decide if you want to continue the order based on the costume quality, size, and/or shipping costs.
- Once you verified the order (or cancelled it), wait even more for the cosplay to come to your shipping address.
- Voila! Enjoy the cosplay and how much money you saved using Taobao!
Is Taobao worth it?
If you couldn’t tell from this post, Taobao has its ups and downs. The prices on the website are insanely cheap, making it a very economical way to obtain new cosplays at a much lower cost than regular cosplay shopping stores. And it’s not hard to use (at least compared to back then); you have Taobao agent sites that make the whole process incredibly easy.
However, Taobao is definitely more of a hassle than your typical store, especially when it comes to shipping. Based on my experience, sometimes the order can be the wrong size or even the wrong product. And you won’t know how much the agent fees and shipping costs will be, unless you go through a pretty complicated process of knowing how much the costume will weigh.
So if you’re looking for your typical click-order-done process, then Taobao is NOT for you.
But if saving money is your priority and you’re tight on cash, then Taobao is literally an amazing website for broke cosplayers (which is probably a lot of us)!
TLDR: If you don’t mind the hassle and want to save as much money as you can, then Taobao is great. If you just want to buy a costume without worrying about anything, then just buy from a regular site.
And there you have it; a Taobao cosplay guide based on Senpai’s experience. Hopefully you found this post useful. If you want even more help and ideas with cosplay, check out these guides:
And of course, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below!
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!