I love scrolling through Instagram looking at clothes that I can’t afford. But every once in a while, you see something that feels like a must-have. A few months ago, that thing was a silk leopard print skirt by Realisation Par.

It was perfect for summer, perfect for winter, I could dress it up, or dress it down, and it goes with everything. I needed it, but it was out of my price range with shipping and customs fees.

When I found out that a local clothing brand was doing a version of the skirt, I immediately ordered it. 

READ MORE: The street style at Afropunk was so unique it almost didn't belong on Instagram 

I had followed their feed for a long time. The photos are beautiful and they seemed legitimate with their 16K followers.

I knew that since it was a dupe, and much cheaper, it wouldn’t be the same but I expected something close given that they were using the Realisation Par photos as their ‘inspiration’ on the site and on Instagram.

I ordered a large, because there was no way to be sure about sizing on their site, and patiently waited two weeks for it to arrive.

When I opened the package, I literally cackled at the skirt I held in my hands. The fabric was cheap polyester, the print and colour were completely different and - the worst part - it wasn’t even big enough to fit past my knees. I had to laugh or else I’d sob.

Really bad fabric.
The tiny waist.

I’ve read the articles and seen the posts about online shopping horror stories from other big online stores. But I was confused that a small local business was getting away with this.

In an email requesting a refund, I told them that I felt it was misleading that they used none of their own photographs to sell the clothes, wrong to give people such poor quality clothing, and that they were cruelly giving local businesses using Instagram as a platform to promote sales, a bad reputation. They gave me a refund and sent a courier to fetch the skirt but mostly ignored my comments.

READ MORE: Kelela's wardrobe and music might not (yet) be familiar to you - a meet and greet is way overdue

When I posted the story on Instagram in detail with photos of the skirt, I was blocked by the brand on Instagram. My friends who tried to contact them about it were also blocked.

But, the response I got from friends was overwhelming and made me even angrier. In total, I got word of over 10 women who had had similar or worse experiences from the same brand - one paid for something and didn’t receive anything in return. (not to be dramatic, but this is called fraud).

I know that there is always a risk when online shopping. Photographs aren’t true to real life, and sizing is hard to predict. But these things are easy to get around with accurate product descriptions and photos of real people wearing the clothes.

If there’s regulation and set of rules about what we expect from physical stores, shouldn’t that apply to online stores too? At the moment the Instagram for Business verification rule book says: "Right now, only some public figures, celebrities and brands have verified badges. It's not currently possible to request a verified badge."

I love that Instagram has given so many small local brands the opportunity to run businesses, but I’m wary of trusting any of them now.

The offending brand has also said that they are ‘making’ a new version of the skirt in ‘extended sizes’ which they’ve offered to send to me because the large is too small.

But I have higher hopes of time travelling to the actual 80s to find myself a leopard print skirt there!

For now, I’m sticking to using Instagram as a way to browse beautiful clothes, and maybe when there’s a verification system for small businesses, I’ll try to buy again.

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.