Taiwan Boutique Shopping Guide

One of the best aspects of living in Asia is, without a single doubt in my foreign mind, the ability to have a shopping spree nearly monthly without going broke. Dresses and shorts and shoes, oh my!

Ximending Boutique - Nice DesignThe amount of cute and affordable clothing pieces and accessories that can be found in Asia is astonishing. The entire country is like one giant Top Shop (unless you head straight to the malls for the designers when you visit Taiwan, in which case, you’re on your own).

While shopping anywhere in Taiwan is relatively affordable, you will find differences when you shy away from the night market stalls and head over to the trendy streets of downtown Taipei to peruse the stylish boutiques.

Usually run by thin, gorgeous, and impossibly chic young women, the boutiques of Taipei are not to be missed when you’re aching for a little retail therapy. Although the selections are usually great, buyers beware: there are Taiwanese boutique shopping rules to be learned.

1. Check the seams, patterns, buttons, and tags

Some boutiques will buy their items wholesale from the same vendors that night markets get their clothing and accessories from, so be careful you aren’t paying double for a cute dress that you can buy loads cheaper at a night market.

Buying “off the rack” is pretty rare in these boutiques. Once you make your selection, a salesclerk will bring you a new item from a shelf or closet. Check this item to be sure it’s the same and that it’s in new condition.

2. You’ll pay premium for Korean brands

A dress you would’ve paid $10.00 USD for in Korea will cost you $30.00 USD in a Taipei boutique. It doesn’t matter that it’s a plain cotton dress.

Korea is known as a trendy country in Asia, so Korean brands are marked up. (Shopper’s tip: the quality is typically the same as the Taiwanese clothing, so I’d try to find an equivalent rather than paying a premium for a tag no one will see.)

3. Watch out for knockoffs

Be careful that the item or brand you’re purchasing isn’t a knock off or “brand inspired.” (Unless, of course, you don’t mind buying fakes.) I can’t tell you how many people walk around with Playboy bunny shoes.

Last I checked Playboy doesn’t make shoes or t-shirts. There’s even a shop called PINK in my neighborhood that is one gigantic rip off of Victoria’s Secret. It’s bizarre, but true.

4. Check the markets and night stalls

If you see a dress or pattern being repeated in many of the shops you’re browsing, chances are it’s definitely at the night market. Perhaps you should put your boutique purchase on hold until you can scour the night market.

Personally, I’d rather pay a little extra to shop in empty and air-conditioned boutiques, but the choice is yours.

5. Don’t try to haggle

This is not the place to practice your negotiating skills. Unless you’re a miracle maker, boutiques have set prices with actual price tags on items. Please don’t embarrass the expat community by being that foreigner who walked into a shop and tried to haggle.

6. Pricing depends on your location

Where you shop will determine the price point of items. In a very trendy area with lots of young people (or youths! as Schmidt would say), boutique items will be marked up.

There are some areas where the boutiques sell handmade items that are gorgeous and definitely worth the cringe-worthy price tags. Just be aware that if the street is popular, boutiques have to pay rent somehow so don’t complain.

7. Shop hop

More than once I’ve found the exact same dress in different boutiques on the same street. All the prices were – not surprisingly – different. I’m embarrassed to admit that I accidentally paid the highest price tag. That sad memory still haunts me. I could’ve bought 2 dresses for the price I paid.

8. Yes, the clothing is still mainly “free size”

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and find a boutique that has actual sizes. Don’t hold your breath, though. Free size still reigns supreme, even in the land of beautiful, air-conditioned, high priced Taiwanese boutiques.

If you’ve ever had a shopping spree in Taiwan, tell us about your experience! Share your answers in a comment below.

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