You have discovered the wonderful world of frills and you feel confident enough, that you would wear it! Where to begin?
This article will not be discussing places where to shop for or how to make lolita clothing as there are so many wonderful blog posts* and videos that help you do that already, but more of what exactly to get and what style or colors you should go for, keeping in mind, that not everyone has all the available funds to get what they would like.
Please note, that these are just suggestions, not “rules” by any means. These would have helped me, when I started out and being in the fashion for years, I feel like I can share a decent amount of experience to help others.
♥ What is my style? ♥
This is usually the question we can’t find the “right” answer for years, even, when being in the fashion. Of course, there are the top three main sub-styles – classic, sweet and gothic, but there is also so many branch-lines and crossover styles under the lolita umbrella with new ones coming in with every fashion trend. How to decide? My personal experience has shown, that there are two ways how you can try and hit the right style – right away (at least within the main sub-styles): stick to your roots or go with what “speaks” to you.
I have learned this particular “way” the “hard way”. Having started with classic, or rather with what I thought “daily classic” was (now I would rather put it under otome), was quite a new path for myself. With my goth/punk “roots”, one would say gothic or punk lolita would be the way I would go, but I had envisioned my lolita life as a classic maiden. To tell a long story short – it was quite quick, that I realized, that the light colors and browns weren’t “my thing” and through some questionable stylings I landed back “home” – to gothic. This is where I felt most comfortable, most “me”. I still had the classic cravings (florals, my love), but over the years I realized, that choosing classic styles in dark colors works well to satiate those.
Ask yourself the question – what is usually the style you go for? Is it darker, spookier? More mature and ladylike? Or is it overly cute and sweet? Maybe it’s a mix? Try to look for that core aesthetic you love. Maybe try to browse pinterest/instagram or other image-heavy places to pull together a “mood board”. Don’t think about the “why”, when making it – just add whatever speaks to you. What is the overall feel that it ends up being? Is it more sweet? Maybe classic sweet? This nicely segways into the second “way”:
What speaks to you?
This works better if you have been a lurker and have familiarized yourself with lolita fashion quite well – you can tell styles apart easily and name the bigger brands under each substyle. Ideally you have already started putting together your “dreamlist”. This is perfect – you essentially just need to take a good, hard look at your collected images and see what the overwhelming style choice is. If you have not looked to specific pieces or made a list – don’t fret! You can still start doing that.
Another (more social) way is to see what lolita (and non-lolita) accounts you follow. Do you happen to prefer the kawaii lifestyle ones? The moody “everyday is halloween”? Maybe both? Gothic x sweet crossover has always been controversial, but it can be done, so don’t be afraid to try!
♥ Rainbow of options ♥
So you have pinpointed your lolita aesthetic. Congratulations! You are one step closer! You have even decided what first dress you should get, but… what colorway should I get? This often proves to be a problem even for more seasoned lolitas, so don’t worry. This was my problem for years until I made a few “in house” rules for myself, that I’d like to share – maybe they help you, too!
Are you going to go out like THAT?
We well know the struggle of alternative clothing vs “regular people”, so consider the “level” of lolita you are going for. Ironically, the less you plan to wear it, the more likely you are to get ott items. So – ask yourself if you’re planning to wear it on a daily basis? Just every other day? Just occasionally – on special events? Depending on the level you would like to go – how likely are you actually capable to do so? Consider if you have a uniformed job 5 days out of 7 and you know you like to go hiking with your family on Saturdays – can you even manage wear it “daily”. Or if you go to school/university – could you wear that AP Antoinette Princess dress without feeling uncomfortable? And if you’re a “sweatpants and t-shirt” kind of person – are you comfortable with just switching your style all together? Maybe it’s better to ease yourself into the style?
A few tips, depending on how deep you’re willing/can delve into lolita:
♥ I want to/can wear it daily!
I would suggest looking to simpler (note, that I didn’t say “simple”) and more versatile pieces (think otome) – comfortable jsks, that can be dressed up or down, cutsews/t-shirts rather than blouses, versatile prints rather than a set theme (unless you plan to buy just all the dog prints/motives you can find), consider the convenience of OPs on “lazy coord” days. Consider retro as a style inspiration. Berets and smaller bows rather than elaborate headpieces. Oldschool headresses are great. Of course couple OTT items as you WILL be wearing lolita to events, too. You should aim for about 6-10 main pieces. Just enough to not get boring and have a new piece to wear every day of the week, but not too much, that you get overwhelmed.
♥ I want to wear it on weekends/occasionally!
This is a middle ground, where you can decide if you’re willing to go all out every time you wear it or keep it versatile and simple. I would say have a mix of “throw on” dresses, when you want to look cute, but can’t commit to sitting down and deciding what/how to coord, some dresses that can be dressed up or down. And one or two “special” pieces for those special events. I would say 3-6 main pieces would be optimal, so choose your pieces carefully.
♥ I will probably wear it on events only.
I would say this is your “wild card” to get the most elaborate pieces and take your time building up special coords, that would probably not work for even not-so casual looks. Considering you would get less, but more dressy pieces – you would have to worry less about the coherence of your wardrobe. It’s good to keep it in mind, in case you decide to expand or have limited funds, but overall it’s less important. Depending on how often you get the chance to wear lolita at all – I wouldn’t go over 4 main pieces all together. I know it might seem little, but consider that you’ll also need accessories and possibly “base pieces” like blouses.
For years I was struggling to keep a versatile and coherent wardrobe. With my very limited funds, it was even more of a struggle – I essentially had to get what I could. When I changed my classic wardrobe to gothic – it was such a relief. The black-heavy style helped me to open my eyes to how people could easily have a very versatile wardrobe with very few pieces – limited colors. And I know what you’re thinking – “it’s easy for you to say – gothic is black only anyway”. Not entirely true. While it is “black heavy” with the amount of printed items and wide range of deep jewel tones it’s still possible to feel a little overwhelmed with the options. And I could say the same for sweet – it’s pink-heavy and classic – it’s cream-heavy.
But that’s besides the point. Having a set amount of colors that you focus on makes it so much more easier to decide. For me it’s (in priority) – black (of course) and burgundy/red, with secondary options gray and blue.
As you can see I have first priority and second priority colors – let me explain why. First priority is what my base colorways are, if the item doesn’t come in these I will most likely not get it. I have added the secondary colors options about a year after I decided to have a set color scheme. I felt I had established a good base and saw, that I could easily expand to these colors and still keep everything versatile as I could still mix and match items. As for why exactly these colors – I had printed items, that had a lot of gray in them; and with my blue hair – I felt I could easily mix the blacks with blues and navy colors or even experiment with mixing the reds with blues. This also allowed me to get items, that fit within my style and checked all the boxes for me, aside from the base colors.
I know there is another problem – even if you stick to one style, there are so many variations now! Even the big brands don’t have solely one aesthetic. I am very guilty about this myself – I like ethereal, “moody”, classic-like gothic, but then again I like very graphic and quirky, almost retro style, too. There is a way how to balance that. You might have to do some compromises on a few things, but it’s doable!
Here (picture above) I pulled together a sweet base wardrobe of two imaginary girls. One (of the left) get everything that “speaks” to her, disregarding what she already has. And the other (on the right) – getting seemingly non-matching items she likes, that work with her set colors. As you can see, it would be very hard for the girl on the left to match more than a few looks. Having OPs helps, but you still have to have the shoes and matching accessories for each OP, if they differ in colors. For the girl on the right you can see almost 3-4 sweet “styles”, but the colors make the wardrobe very easy to be mixed and matched between each piece! I hope that this helps to get my point across better than my writing.
A trick I use now to make sure everything matches – I have my wardrobe compiled in a folder and whenever I consider getting something – I take a picture of the item and scroll through my virtual wardrobe to bee how many pieces can I match up with this item. If I can match with most (not even all) – I will get it. It’s a wonderful method that makes sure you don’t get those cute mermaid-themed lavender pumps, when you have a very casual mint-based wardrobe.
Face vs clothes.
Another thing, that I feel a lot of people overlook is color tones vs skin-tones. And to stop anyone from thinking I’m talking racist – I mean cold vs warm undertones that every skin color has. I might be getting too much into it, but bare with my professional cretinism or just skip over, if you feel this is useless to you.
I will tell you a little secret, why I never wear sweet – it’s the pastels. I was lucky enough, that I have a neutral undertone to my skin (meaning that I can wear warm or cold tones with no clashing with my face), but sadly the pastiness of my complexion makes me look very sick in pastely tones. Thankfully I preffer deep jewel tones anyway, but what if your complexion clashes with your preferred colors and tones?
I will spill the hard truth here – if you will not feel beautiful and/or comfortable in something you will not be wearing a lot of it. So if you love a color, but you feel like it doesn’t look good on you or maybe looks “off”, I have a few suggestions for you. The best way would be to take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with color theory basics. This, of course is most likely not the way people will go about this, so second best option is to have a professional (stylist, make up artist or a friend with a good eye and color understanding) to determine what undertone you have. You can, of course, also run a quick test yourself via internet through articles like this. Once you have – it’s fairly easy to find what colors work for you best and decide on your wardrobe color scheme.
Essentially once you know your skin undertone, you know that perhaps with your warm undertone you should choose mint colorway instead of the sax. Or the dusty rose pink or peachy pink rather than the “cold” pastel pink. I hope it makes sense.
♥ So let recap ♥
♥ choose your style/substyle/mixed style early (consider if you love a particular theme in lolita, too! Can you imagine a full collection of doughnut pieces only? ♥)
♥ consider the “level” of depth you can get with wearing lolita. (how often you would like and how often you actually can)
♥ choose a colors scheme for your wardrobe (start with 2-3 complimentary primary options, expand, when you feel like you can)
♥ Make sure your pieces match BEFORE you get them (virtual wardrobe is a great way to keep track and will help you with January’s wardrobe posts, too!)
♥ Consider colors vs your undertone.
♥ don’t be shy to ask! (whether your trying to buy or sell on LaceMarket. Or if you’re unsure if it’s ok if your bag is a darker pink than your dress (it totally is! Down with matching shades!) – don’t be afraid to ask! If you’re unsure whom to ask, there is a facebook group for just that – Big sisters of lolita!)
♥ document everything! (you might not think that your first coord is anything worth sharing (and you don’t have to share!), but do photograph it and all of the rest of them. It’s so wonderful, when after some years you look back to where you started and you look at how far you’ve gone. Or just have photos of “that weird week long lolita phase”, that you can share later :D)
I hope this helps you to make the first steps to creating the perfect wardrobe and if you have any ideas or tips how else people can hone in on making the right choices early or maybe you have a story of your own – do share it in the comments! ♥
* Some suggested posts on where to buy lolita: