The Novice's Guide
Advice and Tips for Beginners
As a newcomer to Lolita fashion, it can be hard to know where to start, and what to look for. If you have read the outfit analysis, you will already have a good idea of what a Lolita outfit consists of. But as Lolita fashion may be quite expensive to buy, it might be hard to know which piece to buy first. This guide will give tips how to avoid the Cosplay Lolita look, a short section on which style might suit you, which item could become your first and washing advice.
My First Lolita Item
As mentioned, Lolita can be a very expensive fashion choice. Depending on whether you prefer brand clothing, or not, the first garments you buy can be important. A simple brand blouse usually cost around ￥15.000 ($175/€135), a dress around ￥26.000 ($304/€234) and a pair of socks ￥3.000 ($35/€27). Brands that carry Classic Lolita are almost always more expensive, a dress can cost up to ￥29.000 ($339/€261). In other words, buying a complete outfit can be very expensive.
Non-brand clothing is of course a lot cheaper, but will not have the same quality as brand (in most cases). A popular non-brand choice is Bodyline (note: not for petite girls). Bodyline has a large amount of yearly sales (cheap being cheaper) and have some decent quality garments. You can get a blouse for around $30/€22 and a dress for around $40/€30. Taobao stores such as Dear Celine and HMHM are also very popular (although you will need a shopping service to purchase items). Another possibility is to sew your own clothes, with the help of patterns (can be found in the Gothic & Lolita Bible, a Lolita magazine).
For your convenience, a list of Lolita stores can be found here.
So what should your first garment be? If you are unsure whether you will like the fashion or not, buying a full outfit from a non-brand might be one option. As mentioned, the quality will likely be sub-par of brand, and you might risk looking like you are cosplaying the fashion. If you are going for brand, you might want to start with the most basic, and often forgotten pannier/petticoat. Without the bell-shaped skirt, skirts and dresses will lack the important silhouette. A good second purchase is a skirt (you may already have some loliable blouses?) or an OP (all you need is a pair of socks/tights).
Which Style Should I Choose?
Lolita has a large number of styles to choose from. Ama, Classic, Punk, Gothic, Ero, Hime, Pirate, Alice, Kuro/Shiro/Aka/Pink/Sax, Sailor, Guro, Wa, Casual and not to mention - trend-based styles such as Fairy Lolita, Mori Lolita, Natural Lolita etc. Many instantly know which style is their favorite, while others prefer to experiment to find out what suits them the most. The sweeter styles tend to appeal to younger Lolitas, and Classic and Gothic may feel more natural for older Lolitas. Depending on how much attention you prefer from the public, you may want to consider your style choice carefully. Ama/Kote Lolita and odder styles like Guro, Wa, Sailor or Alice definitely creates the most commotion, while Casual, Gothic and Punk melts into the crowd easier.
While not Lolita, Ōji and Japanese Gothic fashions are also options. If you feel that you like the frills, but maybe not the entire package, incorporating Lolita with your mainstream clothing is another option (although Lolita blouse x jeans can no longer be called Lolita).
Is This Lolita?
Lolita fashion has very specific guidelines it abides to, including fabric and lace quality, allowed skirt length, minimum skin exposure and special garment design. Some argue that this gives the fashion less room for creative interpretation, but this is usually not the case. However, it's often hard for newcomers to separate the good qualities of an item from the bad, so here are some hints in list form:
The Design and Colors
- No cleavage.
- Skirts are usually around knee-length (Ero/Punk/Casual an exception).
- Skirts should be able to accomodate a petticoat for an A-line or cupcake silhouette.
- Garments have moderate amounts of lace.
- No maid elements, unless done tastefully (like Angelic Pretty's Fruit Parlor series).
- No clashing or neon colors (unless you're doing Cyber Lolita).
- Old-school designs are beautiful, unless they look like this.
- Fabric should be thick (unless it's from Spring/Summer season).
- While a subtle sheen is fine, stay away from cheap satin/silk.
- Common fabrics in Lolita are broadcloth, chiffon, georgette, satin, corduroy, twill and tulle. These are usually made out of 100% cotton or polyester.
- Low-quality lace is very apparent on contrasting colors, such as black x white.
- Lace can come in varied quality. Raschel lace is not bad by default.
- High-quality lace is soft, thick, lacks shine and doesn't fray.
- Low-quality lace can be scratchy, plastic, shiny, thin and fray easily.
- Common lace types used by brands are cotton, torchon, raschel, cluny, venise, chemical, eyelet and tulle lace.
Makeup & Wigs
- Gothic does not equal Mana's whiteface/blue lipstick combination.
- Neutral makeup is a thing of the past, but should still be kept somewhat sane.
- Aim for high-quality wigs. It should not look like you're wearing a cap made out of plastic strands.
- Think twice before deciding on a color for your wig. Neon green for Gothic Lolita is probably not the best choice, and don't forget to take your skintone into consideration as well.
Lolita clothing (especially brand) needs to be handled with special care. The majority of prints can only be drycleaned, while more plain pieces can be handwashed or washed in the machine in cold water on a gentle cycle. You should avoid tossing your clothes into the dryer if it has cotton lace, as it will shrink into a fuzzy mess, but it can also shrink the garment as well.
Most people avoid washing their Lolita clothing repeatedly, as other garments than blouses rarely come in contact with their skin. Hanging out your clothing to air outside is a good way to get a fresh, clean smell.
Here is a small list of things to do/avoid and general advice:
- Air dry your clothing, and do not toss them into the dryer (ruins cotton lace).
- Dryclean clothing with prints, as they may not be colorfast and run in water (avoid rain).
- To check if an item is colorfast, wet a tiny area and rub it to see if the color bled after drying.
- You can usually handwash/machine wash plain pieces in cold water on a gentle cycle.
- Do not dryclean garments with attached pearls or rhinestones.
- Dryclean velvet dresses, and do not put it in the washing machine. You can spot clean with slightly warm water and a washcloth.
- Always wash black clothing in cold water, to prevent the color from fading.
- Never bleach your clothing, as their life will be shortened.
- Remove ribbon brooches, pearls, chains, cameos or anything else attached to the garment before washing, to prevent them from breaking.