Sunday, 19 January 2014

☆ Lolita Tips Part II: Anatomy of an Outfit ☆

  Time for Part II, and this one was requested and planned! I don't want to spend too much time introducing this, as it might get a bit long anyway, so I'll just say that this post isn't designed to be tossed in with all the other "How to Wear Lolita" posts on the internet; I want to give you some practical advice that I wish someone had given me before I started. So, let's start!

The Basics

There are a few things you need to have decided before you consider your first outfit. These are:

  • Your preferred sub style
  • Your preferred colour schemes
  This post is going to be as non-specific as possible, so we'll be assuming that you already know what colours and sub-styles suit you best and we'll start from the bottom layer, working our way up. For now, there won't be any shopping links or Where to Buys, as I might make another entry covering this; there are so many places, it'd be too much to include here!

Quick style examples; sweet, gothic and classic.

1. Underwear

  What?! Lolita underwear?! I didn't know I had to have that! Don't worry, you don't! All I want to say for this section is, don't wear anything uncomfortable. You're going to be wearing a lot of layers; that cheap lace thong probably isn't a great idea, unless you want to go to the bathroom every hour to de-robe and scratch your butt! Notice I'm not covering bloomers here. Those aren't an underwear replacement; you'll still need something on under them for comfort's sake.

2. Legwear

  Socks or tights? Well, that depends on a lot of things. Personally, I prefer tights, as they won't slip down and also because I have fat legs and lolita socks tend to be quite narrow; their designs will distort on thicker legs, and their elastic will create a bulge in your leg. Traditionally, tights are for tall people and socks are for small, as you won't show the dreaded knee; but it doesn't really matter which one you pick. I think socks look nice on taller legs, and if you can see a bit of their skin, so be it! If you do go with socks, I recommend you get hold of some sock glue to keep you from pulling them up all the time. Unless you go with the neglected ankle sock, which can be worn easily by anyone at all!

Possible fall-y down but cute with added lace vs complete coverage.

3. Bloomers

  I don't wear them, I prefer shorts as I find them less bulky! Shorts are more streamlined; bloomers are more decorative, and you can buy short ones or long ones specifically designed for displaying their lace below your hemline.
  Bloomers are a nice, traditional piece of clothing that will prevent you from flashing people when you bend over (your skirt may not be too short, but remember, it will move in a kind of bell shape - your petti prevents it from moving the same way a normal skirt would, and the stiff, poof'd hem will show off your pants if you're not careful!). They're a necessity at, ahem, less reputable conventions where people might think it's funny to try to take panty shots up your dress. This happened to a girl I know, and the girl responsible ran off to a hooting group of boys who she'd done the deed for, all proud of herself, only to find she had a photo of a lensful of cotton. Foiled. In short, it doesn't matter whether you wear them or not so long as your butt is safe from prying eyes.

The simplest kind tend to have ribbon and lace -
but you can get them as simple or as OTT as you like!

4. Petticoat

  Oh gods, here we go. The P Word. Never fear, it's a simple one really! There are two main types of petticoat; the Cupcake, and the Bell. The Cupcake is traditionally meant for sweet lolita dresses, and the Bell is an A-line shape (literally shaped like the letter A, with a more triangular shape than the softer Cupcake, which is more like a C turned onto its right side) is for classic and gothic. 
  If you can, it's a good idea to try on one of each kind and see which feels better for you. It's been my experience that the bigger you are, the less comfortable cupcakes are because of the concentration of fabric at your waist and the stronger elastic they tend to have, but your experience might be different.
  With petticoats, never cut corners. You may think "no one will see it, I'll pick up a cheap one from Bodyline" but you'll realise your mistake afterwards - Bodyline petticoats will die a death after one wear and you won't be able to fluff them up again as they're made from cheap, stiff tulle. I spent £13 on one of theirs and it's basically a flat, itchy tulle skirt that you can see through. Later on, I spent £17 on a Chess Story one and it's so fluffy it actually hit me in the face when I opened the bag. I can't control the thing. Money well spent.

Cupcake vs. Bell, both Classical Puppets - a popular choice of shop for petticoats!

  When starting out, you may find that petticoats feel silly. You might think "this is too big" when it's average in reality! I used to use a Hell Bunny skirt as a petti when I was but a noob and I thought even that was big, but when you compare your photographs to others', you'll notice it looks like you aren't even wearing one! After a while, you may still find you dislike big poofy pettis. That's cool too - you know enough now to make an informed decision on whether you want to wear a big one or not. I have a Boux Avenue underskirt I wear when I can't be bothered with a full petti - it's barely fluffy at all, but very soft, short and comfortable. It's good for wearing under lolita brand mini skirts and shorter dresses such as Angelic Pretty's Chess Chocolate low waist. In short, don't neglect this invisible piece of structural necessity!

5. Top

  Blouse? Cutsew? Nothing? Oh, the choices! To be honest with you, this is something you won't need much direction on. You know whether you prefer the formal, traditional appearance of a blouse or the simple, casual cutsew. Just be aware that not every t-shirt is a cutsew - a common complaint among lolitas is that people like to wear any old t-shirt and say it's a cutsew when it isn't. The line is a blurry one, but to simplify, if you bought it from a lolita themed store, or it was made for a lolita or j-fashion purpose, you should be fine. If you live in Australia, you might prefer not to wear a top under your JSK at all, and I wouldn't blame you. God be with you, brave souls. A nice alternative for the under-JSK-item is a shrug, bolero or cardigan that can be slipped on and off as necessary. 
  Apart from that, all I can add is that you should be aware of colours when buying your tops; for example, Angelic Pretty uses a uniform shade of pink that will match BtSSB pink as well, but Bodyline's pink is often almost a salmon shade and will clash with certain colours schemes. Additionally, be aware of decoration on your blouses; too much will bulk up a JSK, and overly lacy blouses and cutsews can look a bit ita if not co-ord'd carefully.

Formal vs Casual: Mary Magdalene blouse and Angelic Pretty cutsew.

6. Dress, Skirt or Jumperskirt?

  How I feel about this issue is:
  • OPs/One Pieces/Dresses are for full-on, all out lolita looks.
  • JSKs are versatile and can be dressed up or down.
  • Same goes for skirts, only they naturally have a more casual look than a JSK.
  This is down to your preference.When buying a print, choosing your cut is important and all depends on how you want to wear it. Want to own Day Dream Carnival but not feeling brave enough for an elaborate dress yet? Grab the skirt instead, and try wearing it as a non-lolita piece without a petticoat while you adjust to the eye catching print and the attention it might bring.
  Something to consider when buying main pieces is their tailoring. Are you a marshmallow girl? Shirring will be more comfortable on you. Are you Zipper-model tiny? Shirring will bulk you up and might feel awkward, so go with a zip fastener. When looking to buy, check out:
  • The position of the waist; high waists are no good for bigger chests, as they create "boob loaf" (literally makes your chest look like a loaf, squeezing you into a monoboob) and give you a strange shape; low waists are flattering. The opposite is true for very small frames, as an especially low waist can elongate your torso and make you look a bit long! 
  • Beware the Dream Sky cut. That "babydoll", flared dress style doesn't suit everyone and whether it does or not seems to be a total lottery, independent of size or shape of the wearer. I like it (Misty Sky also has that cut), but many others hate it.
  • Halter necks won't work so well with broad shoulders; I know this from experience. Most lolita dresses have simple necklines in terms of cut, so there shouldn't be much concern here.
  • Colour; choose a colour that works with your current wardrobe. Do you own a lot of black casual clothes? Go with a black lolita dress for that first purchase; you know you aren't leaving your comfort zone by too much and you're more likely to love it when it arrives.
  Once you've made these decisions, you can use a site like HelloLace to look for examples of what you want your first dress to be like - though don't get hung up on getting that exact dress, as all lolita pieces are limited runs and will be harder to get hold of the older they are! So if you think "my favourite brand is Moitie, high waists look best on me and I want to get a black OP", you can go to HelloLace, narrow your search fields down to Moitie/One Piece and be presented with all the OPs made by Moitie - then you can look into the dresses they have made. Off the top of my head, I want to say Silent Moon matches those wants. See if you can find your dream dress!

Sugary Carnival in all three cuts - which do you prefer?

7. Outerwear

  A lolita coat is going to be important if you live somewhere where you might ever need a coat. You can also buy capelets, jackets and other outerwear pieces. There's no real advice I can give you here besides remember your colours and make sure it can comfortably contain your poof! I'm terrible, I still don't own a lolita coat. I just freeze. Oh, how we suffer in the name of frills.

Always leave poofspace!

8. Shoes

  The main thing to remember when it comes to shoes is not style. It is not colour. It is not brand or cost. It is comfort. When attending a meet, you will be on your feet all day. Buying cheap, uncomfortable but pretty shoes is a false economy and you'll suffer for it later. I have weird feet and I have to wear a ton of gel insoles for anything to be comfy; I decided to be a hardass and forgo the gel insoles at a meet a while back (and what I mean by that is, I left them at home by mistake). All I can say is I'm dreadfully sorry to the other attendees; I didn't actually realise my ankles were smeared with visible blood until I got home. Don't worry, it wasn't as bad as it looked; but it looked pretty damn bad and you don't deserve that.

  The picture above, made by carouselofcrowns, shows different types of lolita shoes. These are by no means the only possibilities, but they are the most popular choices. As you can see, there are shoes, boots, heels, flats, formal, sweet, simple, elaborate; there should be a type of shoe that's ideal for you. Baby, the Stars Shine Bright make a very popular flat shoe with a gentle platform/wedge that are quite easy to walk in; and the scary-looking rocking horse shoes you might have seen around are actually a lot more comfy than they look due to their foam soles. For a first timer, I'd recommend tea party shoes with added insoles; those are the flat ones you can see in the bottom left hand corner. They come in many colours and styles, can be matched with any outfit, and are the easiest to walk in.

9. Accessories

  Coco Chanel says that when accessorising, you should always take off the last item you put on. That's good advice for daily wear, but not so much for lolita! When buying your accessories, don't limit yourself to ring-necklace-bracelet. There are also a million things you can get to put on your head - hats, bows, food, books, animals (not real) - that can make an outfit stand out a huge amount. Here's a headpiece that's relatively simple, made by WonderBox on facebook:

  It's actually made up of three star clips attached to a simple headbow. See how easy it can be to make your outfit look unique using small items like this? Pins, badges, brooches, escharpes, crowns; the only limit is your imagination. Sweet, classic, gothic - all of them can be OTT, so wear as few or as many accessories as you like. It's more about thinking outside the box than piling on a lot of the same item, though; so if you do want to go all out, do some research and find some eye catching, unusual pieces rather than putting on ten necklaces!

10. Wigs

  Not everyone likes wigs; I do, because I can put on a hairstyle and not worry about it going limp. If you are going to buy yourself a wig, consider your colouring; would you dye your real hair that colour? If yes, go for it. If no, why not? If it wouldn't suit you, the wig won't suit you either. Stick close to your real hair colour at first, then try out new shades - that will be the easiest way to make sure you don't waste any money on something you won't wear! A tip: Don't use cosplay wigs as lolita ones, and stay far, far away from Hatsune Miku ones. These are not lolita. You won't see a lolita in a Japanese street snap wearing a Miku wig. That's not me being judge-y and elitist; you wouldn't put a pink and purple wig on and call yourself goth, and this is much the same thing. Keep your cosplay wigs for cosplay.
  Also - I'm going to step out off my soapbox here to whisper this to you: Don't buy GLW. At least not when you're only starting out; leave it until you can recognise the good stuff they have among the bad. Gothic Lolita Wigs are famous for making the Rhapsody wig (that big, fluffy, long, deliberately frizzy one you've probably seen) and because of that, people think they're the best source for them. They aren't. They aren't even the original designers of it; they get them from chinese factories (same as ebay and taobao) and mark them up for a profit. To be fair, all stores mark up items for a profit, but I would personally say GLW's markup isn't worth it. I know a lot of beginner lolitas are short on money, so save your £40 and buy a £13 one off ebay - they're the same quality. I bought a GLW twin tail wig and it lasted one wear before it was tangled and ruined. I'd never pay that amount to them again. On the flip side, my favourite wig is actually from Bodyline and cost £12 - they used to make awful wigs, but it seems their quality has been on the rise in the past few years. Mine often gets mistaken for my real hair, and no one can believe it's BL. For even better, but more pricey wigs, go to Lockshop. Their designs are original and their quality is very good. I have two of theirs now and not even the super long one is showing signs of wear yet!

Natural, unnatural, wavy, straight... Wigs can give you one less thing to worry about, but can also feel too artificial for some people.

11. Makeup

Not really part of an outfit as such - but I thought I'd add a mini-mention! Makeup in lolita is down to preference, but it's worth mentioning that many gothic lolitas will go with dark, dramatic eyes and bold coloured lips, whilst sweet will go for pink and pastels and will often stick gems around their eyes in a decora-inspired way. Classic can be toned down and quite plain, or mature and ladylike. I'd advise against going completely free of the stuff unless you have an allergy of some kind - just because the OTT look of a lolita outfit, especially if you wear a wig that makes you look like you just stepped out of a salon, can make you look washed out and sickly if you're not wearing any at all. But again, this is one of those take or leave pieces of advice - if you're against makeup, I wouldn't tell you to wear it or leave!

One of many Japanese makeup tutorials - check out jmagazinescans and zasshiko
for more!

  This is a lot to take in all at once, and it might leave you wondering if lolita is really difficult after all! As a solution, I made a quick question sheet for you to fill in.

  Download the full size version here to complete:

  Once you've done that, you should have a simple list of preferences that you can then use along with the information here to decide on your first complete outfit.

  So, now you've got your clothes sorted, you're ready to attend that meet you've been eyeing on facebook! Next up: Part III: Lolita Behaviour 101.

Vivi xoxo

☆ Lolita Tips Part I: Prologue ☆

  I asked on my tumblr blog if anyone would be interested in my advice for new lolitas, and I had a lot of positive responses. The parts I said I'd do were on outfit building (i.e. a bit more than just "wear something pink and a petti, DON'T FORGET THE PETTI, the end") and one on meet etiquette. This will only be a "mini part" and you should think of it as advice, not as rules; you can take it or leave it, or you can take parts and leave others.

  I'm tossing this one into the mix as well because I think what you do before you get into lolita is equally as important as what you do after; the impression you give to your comm and how well you get on with other lolitas will rely massively on the preparation you've done beforehand, and it's a huge source of concern for new lolitas. That doesn't mean you have to do homework before every meet you go to! It just means that there are some simple things you can do before joining the scene that will help you avoid common pitfalls. I apologise if any of it sounds patronising; some people will come to lolita knowing more than others! Much of this post will fall under etiquette, so be sure to read Part III if this part interests you.


  I can't emphasise this enough. Nothing will put people off you faster than you not knowing what it is you're actually trying to join; it'd be like waltzing into Games Workshop mid-game and yelling "WOW GUYS, WHAT ARE THE LITTLE MEN FOR, THOSE ARE GREAT!". It will put you off as well if you're the type to feel silly when corrected. I met a girl once who I was happily chatting away to and I mentioned that I had seen some complaints about that year's Meta lucky pack. She said, "What's Meta?" and I corrected myself (it was a bit thoughtless of me to shorten it like that when I knew she was new) and told her, "Sorry, I meant Metamorphose!". She eyed me warily and repeated "What's that?". I had to explain to her that Metamorphose is one of the main lolita brands. I did it kindly, as she was obviously a bit put out, but she gave me the filthiest look I've ever received from another lolita and started banging on about how Bodyline is superior. In my opinion, this reaction was caused more by embarrassment than an actual anti-brand mission she was on.
  Things you should research beforehand are:

  • Brands (especially the ones you like best! It'll really help you when you come to build your wardrobe.)
  • Sub styles (ditto above!)
  • Lolita outfit rules (this will be the best thing you can do, and we'll cover it better in Part II)
  • A little background on the style
  Places you can do this:
  EGL is the main one. I'd really recommend you go to their memories and read any entry that interests you. Read as much as you can! I think doing this was really the key for me; you can start off with a much higher than average pool of lolita knowledge.
 There are tons of blogs you can go to as well as street snap sites such as TokyoFashion; these will be good for reading others' outlooks, as an addition to the pre-existing rules of the lolita aesthetic; you should never take a blogger's opinion as hard fact - not even mine! - as it may steer you wrong.

2. Stay Away From Drama Sites.

  This one is going to get heavy, and I apologise in advance.
  Not going to lie, one of the first sites I started browsing was Lolita Secrets (back in the days before it became Behind the Bows). Whilst it did help me decide what was a good and what was a bad idea within the fashion, it also tinted my outlook of its participants with suspicion. That, twinned with the fact I was on medication for severe depression at the time, made me act like the biggest asslamp in the world towards a couple of people. At least one of them didn't deserve it; she wasn't actually doing anything to put me down, but having spent so long soaking in this strange sense of "all lolitas are secretly out to get each other" from sites like LS, I thought she was. I did apologise to her, and she said she's fine about it, but I doubt it; I wouldn't blame her if she still wanted to mince me.
  Having said that; everyone's number one fear when it comes to the internet is cgl on 4chan, and it shouldn't be. Bullying and drama threads have been banned and are actively deleted when they occur; not that they occur often at all anymore, since the ban has attracted more calm, less bitchy users. You can now go there for genuine advice, but be warned; it's anonymous, and that means people will give you honest criticism with no sugar coating.
  The sites to avoid the most are dedicated gossip sites that allow you to make an account; these ones tend to attract not solely, but a significant amount of people who want to be recognised for the things they say, and what kind of person wants to be recognised for their membership on a gossip or hate site? Hmm. 
  If you want to engage in online lolita chats, facebook comms, tumblr and EGL are your best friends. Lacebook is also slowly gaining in members, but you'll need an invite code to join and you're unlikely to get one until you've been participating a while, as someone will need to refer you. Outside of that, try to stick to sites where the risk of people having an ulterior motive for befriending you is low. Pre-ban, 4chan used to have a lot of people who gave themselves names (there's no need to draw attention to yourself on a site made for anonymous posting if no one has any reason to refer to you specifically) and created a clique-y, negative, high school atmosphere and this is still a thing on other sites. Just be aware of who you're talking to and what kind of person they are - as much as you can without being able to meet/see them. There are asses in every hobby.

3. Plan ahead!

  This is a fun one - plan the type of wardrobe you eventually want to own, now! Save pictures, get a sketchbook, make a tumblr, pinterest, anything. You'll soak up information on brands and other details as you go along and build up preferences as well. So when you come to buy your first dress, you might well have a colour combo in mind already - I love pink and mint, I don't think you see that enough. So for example, I might buy a pink or mint dress ready for the accessories to go with it, rather than buying anything I liked the look of.
  I found lolita when I was 13/14 and studying textiles, so my first loli sketchbook was done by the end of Year 9. I really think it helped!

4. Manage Your Expectations.

  This will be covered properly in Part III but for now, all I'll say is this; be aware that other people aren't you. Lolitas aren't clones, no matter how many pictures you've seen with "AP CLONES" typed on them in Impact. Don't go in like a bull at a gate expecting everyone to share your fandom/interests/mannerisms/sense of humour. We're thousands and thousands of people, and whilst you will definitely find some who get you, not all of them will. 

5. Remember: It's supposed to be fun!

  The best piece of advice I can give you is to treat lolita like as you would any other hobby; know your stuff but don't take it too seriously! As long as you've got your bases covered, no one can criticise you.

  Next up: The Anatomy of an Outfit. With about 80% less implication that a petticoat makes anything lolita and, hopefully, a hell of a lot more practical advice.

Vivi xoxo