Recently someone asked after a guide for the modern over-the-top sweet lolita, and I decided to give it a whirl. These are my checkpoints for creating today’s interpretation of over-the-top sweet lolita.
First, I want to say a little something about brands, namely the usual sibling rivalry of Baby the Stars Shine Bright and Angelic Pretty. When it comes to over-the-top (henceforth OTT), Angelic Pretty just does it better, in my opinion. They are in it to win it with lots of bows, oodles of lace, bright colors, and lots of crazy accessories like giant bonnets and deer-shaped bags. I am sure that with the right items and some know-how, Baby could create a fabulous OTT sweet coordinate. I also think that offbrands or Chinese replicas can create the same effect. There’s nothing in the ‘rule book’ that says you must forfeit your life and bank account to Angelic Pretty. Some of us just choose to do so.
The other thing I would like to add is that this is merely one interpretation of sweet lolita. Like a poem or painting, you can interpret the same ideas quite differently. Again, look at the differences in design between Baby and Angelic Pretty. It’s like the old joke about men finding an elephant in the dark – one gets the tail, the other the foot, the other the trunk, and one the ear. They all describe the same item differently, and think all the others are wrong, until the sun rises and they realize they’re all right – to some extent. So when it comes down to the debate of ‘your lolita is ruining my lolita’ or even ‘your sweet lolita is ruining my sweet lolita’ – consider the elephant in the dark. It will be interesting when the sun rises, don’t you think?
From the inside out: you will need to wear petticoats. Notice this is plural. It doesn’t matter if these are brand of offbrand (I own both and they are around the same poofing ability, save your money and buy a bunch!). One petticoat will die and flatten. A crowd of petticoats can die all they like, but the sheer volume of them should support the shape of the ultimate cupcake silhouette. Having worked and modeled for Baby the Stars Shine Bright in ridiculously OTT show pieces, this is how it’s done. I recommend at least two. Three is average, four is extra. If you look at the instruction from this GLB deco article (seen at top of this post), you can see that they recommend extra petticoats. Since you’ll be getting a couple, there’s nothing stopping your from deviating from the usual white – go for red, pink, purple, anything!
The other thing I really recommend is the legendary Turbo-Poof. It has never been defeated in battle, and in the words of Mr. Miyagi, ‘no can defense’. I have worn it under three or four layers of heavy garments, all day, on subways and long car rides, and it still have the amazing shape it was endowed with. Quite high praise for a $19 Hot Topic petticoat.
When it comes to your usual ‘basics’ like socks and blouses, the older sweet style recommended solid white, especially for beginners. After all, white goes with everything, right? But it’s not really the thing for OTT sweet lolita. It blends into the background too much. The idea with OTT is that it goes over-the-top – everything wants to be a statement piece, and has something to say – amounting to a chorus or a screaming match, depending on your opinion of OTT. Personally I like to think of it as a symphony. So instead of always going for the white blouse and white socks, think colors. Think patterns and details. A lilac blouse adds a lot of pop to a pink dress you’d otherwise just pair with white. Details like rhinestones or pearls sewed to the collar, or a lacy jabot, make the blouse stand out as well. If it was too plain, it would look out of place and unfinished – so for this look, every item has its time in the sun. The same goes for socks. I love patterned socks, especially from Angelic Pretty as the motifs are just adorable. A pair of socks with a spray of stars work much better than just a solid color with a trim of lace or a tiny school logo.
Accessories are what really make the difference between sweet and OTT sweet. They don’t have to be all the same brand, brand at all, or match the print or series you’re wearing. As shown in this photo, she’s wearing the Milky-chan bag with Royal Poodle – nobody’s going to shoot her because she’s carrying a different animal bag (right, guys?! I hope!) Another note is that you do not have to wear an entire series (bag, socks, hairbow, dress) to achieve the OTT look. In fact, I find it more interesting to avoid wearing all one series, but to each their own.
So, what kind of accessories are we talking and where to get them? Almost anywhere! Collecting is a huge part of this. You won’t have the perfect pool of accessories to pull off OTT sweet overnight. Look through Claire’s, tiny boutiques in the city (like my favorite Stone Flower), Betsey Johnson, Tarina Tarantino, Forever 21, etsy, and Singapore’s Fancy Pocket. Order from Chocomint and try not cringe when you drop over $100. I know that it’s tempting to go light and skimp on accessories but trust me, don’t go light in this area! And don’t just concentrate on one area, like hairbows. Rings, bracelets, clips, brooches, all of it. And don’t be afraid to DIY in the accessories arena. The famous carousel or carnival hats came about because girls wanted to fill a need that wasn’t being designed, so they did it themselves. Or use bows from other dresses, use pearl straps from other cutsews. Get creative about where your accessories come from and what goes where.
Bags are the same. Go for replicas if you’re okay with thatwhen it comes to crazy bags, like candy-shaped ones. (Word of warning: own at least one real, non-replica brand bag if you’re the type to attend formal or official lolita events. You just can’t go see Misako Aoki or a brand designer while carrying a Chinese rip-off.) If you prefer not to buy replicas, get the real thing or if you still want to be able to use this bag elsewhere, go a touch more conventional. Bebe is selling beautifully large, quilted heart-shaped bags right now that would be perfect for OTT sweet or a casual outfit. Another great place to check for OTT-worthy sweet bags that also go conventional is this gyaru Rakuten site.
photo of the quilted heart purse from Bebe’s Soho shop in New York City.
And don’t forget to accessorize your bags! Use pearl necklaces, cellphone straps, keychains… I have a brown and swarovski-crystalled bear cellphone strap dangling off my Candee’s bag, which really peps it up.
Hair in OTT sweet lolita is BIG. I mean it now. Big. For most girls, this means wigs. One wig will suffice, but it’s much better to invest in clip-in ponytail extensions that match, added wefts, or even sewing two wigs together to make one very full wig. Unnatural colors are perfectly acceptable, such as aqua, lavender, white, and pink being the most common. (Note that if you want pink hair for only OTT sweet, it’s not worth the extra effort and upkeep. I have pink hair and still wear a pink wig for my sweeter outfits!) Natural colors used are most often shades of blonde or auburn, but any color you like is fine. It’s also useful to be able to swap out wigs to match your outfits. If you don’t like wigs, you may use your own hair, but that’s not as easy. You will need to tease, spray, mousse, curl, straighten, and hot roll your hair. Invest in heat protectant spray and deep condition once a week. A lot of street snaps show OTT sweet lolitas with absolutely fried hair. Don’t let this happen to you! You can avoid some damage by using rats. They’re similar to the Bumpits, but are usually made out of fake hair. I’m going to be trying to make my own pink rat for my hair, and if it works out I will make a tutorial that should save you some time, heartache and frustration when it comes to achieving huge natural hair.
Now that we’re talking hair, let’s talk hair accessories. You have huge hair primarily for the same reason the Rococo ladies did – so that they could stick more stuff in it. The basic formula for decorating your huge hair is to start with a centerpiece, such a bow, bonnet, beret, or more rarely, the traditional headdress. Then start adding medium-sized items around it. This can be candy-shaped brooches, rose hair clips, or if you want to go more towards the deco spectrum, tiny stuffed animals. Bonnets have the very elegant option of going floral and tucking roses under the brim. Then use smaller accessories like clips or decorated bobbypins to finish off. As shown above, the model is rather a radiated cluster affect, with larger things supporting the bow and smaller ones spread out further from the epicenter. It should always be graduated out, not just a clump of stuff stuck in one spot on the head. It’s a little like a floral arrangment.
Makeup is also very important to this look. This has the most done makeup of any lolita style, sometimes stopping just short of turning into gyaru makeup. You will need to understand using eyeliner, using white liner on your water line (or as close to it as possible), false eyelashes (upper and lower), how to apply dolly-style blush, and extras such as eye-accenting gems. Lipgloss is usually glittery and sheer, in a pastel color.
Lashes give that added pump that OTT sweet requires. Usually only one set is worn on the top, but you can be daring and add two if you’re feeling brave. Or use one set of natural lashes and one set ‘decorated’ – such as these lashes, which come with star twinkles on them. Rhinestones are also popular choices. Remember to trim them if they’re too long – they’ll stay on easier and be more comfortable.
This is my basic method of applying Angelic Pretty model-type blush. To apply the ‘dolly-style’ blush, you’ll need a blush palette of three tones. Mine is just basic Covergirl. The pearly pink color hilights the brow bone and softens the edge between blush and natural skin. I swipe a crescent on temple around the outer edges of the eye, then use the middle rose-tone blush to build up a glowy base a little high on the apple of the cheek. The super-dark blush is lightly patted into the center, without too much of a sweeping motion. It should be very pronounced and not overly natural – it’s supposed to look like a toy’s, maybe taking it’s inspiration from the very round blush on harlequin and columbine dancers’ cheeks.
The last thing I’ll mention in the makeup category is circle lenses. They are not for everyone, and please check with your eye doctor before buying anything that is going to sit on your very sensitive corneas. If you are cleared to wear them and buy reputable ones though, they can be just what the makeup needs to be finished.
And that’s it! The difference between sweet and OTT sweet is mostly in hair, makeup and accessories, not the clothes – which is why we don’t usually differentiate the substyle any further (and if anyone asks about bittersweet over-the-top sweet lolita, I’ll scream – because that’s a sub-sub-sub category and that is verging on ridiculous!)
So do you feel prepared to take on this style? I consider it to be the most challenging and involved. But if you use this guide, you’ll at least have a map. Enjoy getting dolled!