Saturday, October 11, 2014

Finding Footwear in Foreign Lands - A Review of Ming's Dream Workshop

Since I haven't been sewing a lot lately, I haven't been talking much about a problem I've been dealing with lately, a lack of shoes. Now I will admit I have shoes, lots of shoes in fact. It's just the majority of the ones that I do have are much too modern to use with for the vintage dolls. And since I have more vintage dolls than any other kind, their shoe needs are kind of important. I did buy a couple pairs of shoes from someone at the September doll meeting, but 4 pairs of shoes (that I love and will end up using at some point) does not really address my problem that much.
And Mattel does not seem interested in my plight. They do sell accessory packs that include shoes, but they are the modern type of shoes that do me no good (but are tempting at 3 dollars). The last time they released a more traditional shoe pack was several years back for the Barbie Basics line. I hunted every Target for that pack only to find it at Walmart (I thought it was a Target exclusive). The shoes are for the Silkstone/Model Muse style feet so only a few of them fit the Vintage dolls, but I was still thrilled to get it. But since it's been several years since that release without any additional shoe sets put out it doesn't seem like it's something they plan on continuing. Which is a shame since it sold for 20 dollars and it's something I never saw on clearance. They could easily churn out a few more and they'd sell. I know I'd buy them!

Anyway, since Mattel didn't want my money I turned to another option, the internet. I had purchased doll shoes from Dollclothessuperstore.com several years back but wasn't interested in going there again. They have a limited stock, the seams weren't finished that nicely on several shoes, and their shipping prices are crazy. Also the one pair of Francie shoes I bought (which I loved) came with a mis-molded side that caused it to split the first time I put it on a doll. Instead I tried a new resource, Aliexpress.com. A website that allows you to buy direct from factories in China. I had never bought anything on that site before but I had known people who had.
Just a small warning for people curious about that website, be careful. It can be a real gamble when shopping there. I know that people who bought some "unofficial" Monster High dolls ended up with dolls with holes in their faces from poorly poured vinyl. Also, it's obvious some listings just stole the pictures of the items from the actual sources (in case you're looking for "unofficial" releases) so who knows what the actual product looks like. They do seem to have a decent return policy, but you might have to ship back to the company which will be expensive. So take caution in what you buy there, my feelings on this website is simple, don't spend any money you can't afford to lose in case you end up with a pile of junk.

*Also, they don't take Paypal for payment, but do take most other forms of payment.*

On that site I found a seller that was selling Barbie shoes. There are lots of sellers of doll shoes but most of them sell shoes in large lots where you cannot select the type of shoes you get. Most of these are in bright colored plastic and all modern shoes, which are no use to me. The seller was called Ming's Dream Workshop. They also sell doll clothing, some doll jewelry, and a few pieces of doll furniture (none of which I bought). They have a minimum order of 20 dollars to place an order, but they do offer free shipping. I did have to contact them a few times (one of the items I wanted to buy the site was messing up the shipping prices) and they contacted me quickly and their responses were professional and answered my questions.

I will admit that I wrestled for a couple weeks about placing an order on Aliexpress. That's a lot of money to me right now, and it was a lot of risk on such an unknown company. But I did need shoes, and they do have a return policy. Also, I decided it would be (somewhat) worth it to know what kind of quality they had so I could share it with my blog followers (and the rest of the internet). See what I do for you? And if the shoes were not to my liking but still acceptable shoes I could always donate them to the doll donation project or give them to my cousin's kids. I do have somewhat higher standards for dolls compared to a child (I hope).

However, there was a little misunderstanding. On their page it says you can get free shipping on orders of 20 dollars (which is all of them since they have a 20 dollar minimum) and it also says you can get 5 dollars off an order of 25 or more. I thought that both deals could be used at the same time since their main banner doesn't say otherwise. So I placed an order and contacted them about the 5 dollars not coming off my order of 25 or more. They emailed me back saying that the offer was for free shipping (a 5 dollar value) OR 5 dollars off an order of 25 of more (which isn't that the same deal?). It was after I heard back from them that their side banner had "or" written between the two offers. However their main banner did not.

After being told that, I decided I was going to scale back my order. I had spent 25.48 back when I thought that I was going to get an additional 5 dollars off, and since this was a totally untested source and I was worried about the quality I wanted to change my order and place a more cost conscientious one. However when I went back to the site a few days later, all the prices had gone up! Not by a huge amount, but I'd end up getting a lot less for the same price. Luckily the site keeps your orders as pending for a long time, so I ended up biting the bullet and spending the 25.48 to get the shoes at the original price.
Aliexpress does this thing where they hold your money as pending before releasing it to the seller. I think it's for 10 days. My money went through fine and I was told that the seller shipped my item. HOWEVER, this happened on the .... 18th of September (or so). The seller allegedly shipped right after they got my money. They gave me a tracking number, but it was wrong. The dates were from January and it went to France. I understand mix ups happen, but my tracking info was wrong. On the package a date of September 27th was stamped. Not sure what that corresponds to, but it was in the mail at least by the 27th. That's just what happened to me, I'd hope it was just a one time mix up.
It arrived yesterday (I actually had to sign for it). The shoes came in a simple gray plastic mailer envelope that had been folded over several times. I had to cut it open carefully to get the shoes out. The shoes were all together in a long plastic zip lock type bag that was wrapped securely in bubble wrap. I was very impressed with how well they packaged it for shipping, especially for free shipping. 

I got 38 pairs for my 25 dollars (before the price increase). However I only bought eight different styles of shoes (and several in different colors). I pulled out a variety of dolls to try the shoes onto to see who they fit. From my collection I grabbed a Silkstone, Charlotte (first wave Fashionista), Mary Clair (Pivotal knee Fashionista), Tuesday Taylor, Audrey Hepburn (Pivotal body), a belly button body (with rubber legs), a Liv doll, a standard Monster High doll (Gigi Grant), a vintage Barbie, and a 70's era doll with bend legs (similar to any older bend legs doll 60's-early 80's).

So let's talk about the shoes! I will say that going forward that all pictures shown have been taken from the seller. I do not own them, and will remove them if asked.


Up first we have some hard plastic heels. These shoes are an exact copy of the Disney store high heel shoe. They are in fact such a literal copy they have the Disney copyright markings molded on the bottom. I have one pair of actual Disney store shoes and these seem exactly the same, made out of the same material and everything. I bought these in four colors; brown, rose pink, light pink, and green. I got two pairs of each color. I can't remember if they have other colors, but if they do they were sold out. I don't think the Disney store sells dolls that use that color shoes so these are most likely made from the same molds instead of old stock from Disney. They fit Charlotte, the belly button body, and the 70's era doll. They would also fit the Disney store dolls I assume, I just don't have any of those dolls. These are a cute style heel, but they don't fit too many dolls (I was hoping they'd fit Silkstones). I'm not sure if I would bother buying these again. I like the style of them, but they are rather large and make the doll's feet look big. I guess I would pick up any other colors I didn't have if I was placing another order just for the variety, but wouldn't go out of my way to place an order just for them.












After that we have some flats. These are made of a rubber material and have a hard to describe molded in details. It's like ripples in the plastic, but it's intentional all the shoes have it. If I had to make a guess I'd assume these are copy of Tinkerbell's shoes, most likely also from the Disney store. (They are totally unmarked). I got them in green and rose pink. I know they also have them in blue, but were sold out when I made an order (Sadly, since I could actually use blue). They fit Mary Clair, Charlotte, Vintage (with bowing in the back), 70's era doll, Silkstone (with slight bowing at the front), Audrey Hepburn (with slight bowing at the front), and the belly button body. These are a cute costume type flat. I don't think I'll end up using the ones I have, but if I did place another order I'd buy other colors just to have them, but just one pair. Getting two would be kind of pointless. I was hoping these would be more like the Disney Store flat shoes they sell with their Classic Dolls. Those flats I love and wish I had some of. These shoes could work for ballet slippers with a little imagination.












From there we have some Cinderella heels. They are made from clear plastic with silver glitter imbedded in them, These look so much like Mattel shoes I'll bet they are knock offs from a Mattel Cinderella doll. These shoes are actually really nicely molded. They have the heart in front like the slippers have in the movie. They also have some swirly decoration at the sides that I'm not sure if are movie accurate, but aren't super distracting. These are the larger type shoes that comes with the newer dolls, but they are smaller than the glass slippers that were sold in that Mattel Disney doll shoe pack from several years ago (It's not the same mold or a recast since those shoes also had a triangle shaped decoration instead of a heart in front. Why Mattel, why???) . I bought two pairs of these. They fit Charlotte, Mary Clair, 70's era dolls, and the belly button body. They are thin and not that flexible so it only fit dolls with thinner feet. These are cute, in hindsight I'm glad I bought these, but if I place another order I won't buy any more. I really don't need more Cinderella shoes, especially when they only fit such a limited number of dolls. (And only have one Cinderella dress to use them with).

After that we have a pair of purple heels. These are simple pumps, but boy do they have a weird shape. I've never seen a pair of shoes like this before, they're just not pretty. They are marked on the bottom with a cursive B (I assume for Barbie), but I've never seen a barbie shoe like them. They kind of have a scalloped edge to them, kind of like vintage Jem shoes, just Jem's shoes are prettier. These just look so clunky and awkward. They're really thin, so they only fit Charlotte, Mary Clair, 70's era doll, and the belly button body. However all the doll's feet bow the sides out. I do not like these shoes at all, they're just poorly designed. I'm glad I bought just one pair to test how they looked (they sell it in several other colors). However I would never buy this style of shoe again, I just don't like it and the fit is not very nice. Also, the toes have an unnatural arch that doesn't allow the shoes to stand on their own. They always fall over, I can't them posed like in the seller's picture.

After that we have a pair of red open toe shoes. These are a bit of a disappointment. In the pictures they look like the open toe sandals that are for the Silkstones and Model Muse feet. However, these are tiny. They look nearly identical the shoe for the Silkstone shoes, just in a smaller scale. I would bet these were reverse engineered from the original shoes to make the mold. These specific shoes have holes in the bottom like they should belong to the number one Barbie dolls. They are left and right specific, which brings me to my only problem with my order. I bought two pairs and end up with three left shoes and one right shoe. It's not a horrible problem, with the shoe on the doll you can't tell too much that the shoe is on the wrong foot, but it should be noted. These shoes fit Mary Clair (arch of the shoe does not follow her foot exactly) and the belly button body the best. It also fits Charlotte (not very well), the 70's era doll (does not fill out the toe section perfectly), and vintage (they stretch out the band that goes over the toes and I'd be worried about them splitting it over time). Actually if you look at the pictures it looks like the left and right shoe are reversed in them. I personally wouldn't buy these shoes again. They fit so few dolls I own that they're really not that practical. Also since I did get a mismatched pair I'd be hesitant to order any more shoes that are right and left specific like that. But when I placed my order they were only 40 cents, so it's not like they were super expensive.

After that we have a pair of shoes made from the same mold as the last pair. Almost the same mold, these are just missing the holes in the bottom. They are made out of a clear plastic instead of red. I only bought one pair of these and got a correct left and right shoe. They fit the same types of dolls as the red ones. These are cute, but I'm not sure if I would bother buying them again. They fit so few dolls they're not that great of an asset. It's a shame because if they fit vintage they might be a pretty good asset. They're slightly more stretchy than the vintage open toe shoes so they're less likely to split. But it is what it is.

The next item is a little different, it's not a Barbie shoe. Ming's Dream House has a small assortment of shoes that they claim fit Monster High or Liv Dolls. The majority of them were sold out but I purchased the least offensive one they still had so I could see how they fit (and who they fit). It's a heeled shoe, made from a purple plastic with very little give. It has a strap at the ankle and a molded plastic flower at the toe. I tried them on Tuesday Taylor but they were not anywhere close to fitting. I was hopeful she might be able to wear them, she's so hard to find shoes for. I also tried them on Monster High and Liv. They were never going to fit on Monster High, their feet are too long for the shoe and the strap was too small for them, it did fit Liv perfectly. So perfectly that I bet they are copies of a Liv shoe. I'm glad I bought this one pair, but I don't think I'll ever order it again. Not sure when I'll even use this pair, I don't have that many Liv dolls. So be careful when purchasing Monster High shoes, just because they say they fit does it mean it will. I should mention that on the back between the sole and the heel one of these shoes has a tiny bit of plastic that's slightly sharp to the touch. It won't cut you or anything, but for a parent getting these shoes for their kid they should check them first. I'll use a nail file to smooth mine down, it's a simple fix. 

After that we have a pair of boots. These were from the Barbie section. I wasn't in love with the boot options they had, but I wanted to get some type of boot to see how the quality is. They're pretty decent quality, however I'd hope so since they were the most expensive at 1.60 just for them. They're made out of a white rubber with molded in details. These are the only shoes I bought with any painted details. The painting is mostly okay, there's a few red bars that are a little poorly painted on one of them. However these boots are HUGE, especially in the feet. I'm thinking these are copies of Bratz shoes, they look like Bratz shoes in their styling. However they have opened feet so most Barbie dolls can wear them. They also have a slit in back to make it easy for them to go on and off. They fit Mary Clair, Charlotte, Silkstones (but their calves are so big they gape open in the back), Audrey Hepburn, and Vintage. I tried it on Tuesday Taylor but her knee were clicking as I tried to put it on and it was giving me resistance so I gave up. I bet it would fit the 70's era doll as well, but I didn't want to stress the knee joint trying it on. It does not fit Monster High or Liv. I would buy another pair of boots from this seller based on the quality, but wouldn't buy these boots again. I don't care for over sized shoes like that. However, these would work well for people who liked the Myscene shoes. 

Our final item is the reason that I was so tempted to make this entire purchase in the first place. It's a pair of classic white pumps. Made from a slightly flexible plastic these shoes are AMAZING. They look almost exactly like vintage Barbie closed toe heels (well close enough for me). I love, love, love them. They're just really nice and they're so simple they'll go with everything. They fit Charlotte, the belly button body (little loose), Mary Clair (little loose), 70's era doll, Silkstone (bowing at the front), Audrey Hepburn (Bowing at the front), and Vintage (like a dream). I simply love these shoes. I actually bought 18 pairs, and would totally buy them again. I'd most likely buy a bunch of them at the same time again. My favorite thing from the lot. I will point out that technically these have a set right and left and I ended up with one pair of double lefts but I honestly cannot tell which is right and left by looking at them so it will be fine.  

And so, those are my new shoes. Am I happy with them? Yes, for the most part. I like most of what I bought and am impressed with the quality of them. However, I did pay more for the experience of being able to select my own. Those lots where you get random shoes are cheaper, but the cost savings really isn't worth it when you don't like most of the shoes you get (or any of them). I would go back to Ming's Dream Workshop to buy more shoes if I needed to. I'm not in love with the price increase of them (those white shoes went up 20 cents each, and would have cost me 3.40 cents more if I had replaced my order), but that's what the market dictates. I'm just lucky that I placed an order right before the increase. Now that I'm thinking about it, those white shoes would be the only items that I would reorder from what I purchased. I might order some of the other shoes I bought in other colors, but there would be no other repeats. But that's just for my needs. I don't have that many dolls with the thinner feet. For someone who collected newer dolls a lot of what I bought would be perfect for them. I'm mostly glad with what I purchased (a couple of them would have been knocked off my buy list had I seen them in person), but now I know. I just hope my reviews and comments could be of any help.

So while I had a good experience with Ming's Dream Workshop, I personally wouldn't feel comfortable giving them a carte blanche seal of approval. Just because my experiences were (mostly) good doesn't mean it's all going to be like that. There's still plenty of shoes on that site I didn't buy and each production batch is different. So please, be careful when placing an order. 

2 comments:

  1. Hey Aubrey, sorry about the interview, but other opportunities will come though, keep searching! Thanks for this post, shoes are so important to complete a look, of course it's always a bit of a gamble who they will fit if you buy on line :-). The last pair is fabulous, but I like the others too! The pumps look very much like the vintage CT's, I certainly would consider them to replace real vintage shoes, they look almost the same.

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  2. Hello Aubrey,
    I'm thrilled you got such great shoes...it's just a shame you have to go through so much hassle to get them.
    Big hug,
    Giac

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