If you haunt enough lolita websites, you’ll eventually run into the ‘wardrobe post’. You know the one – a big page dedicated to every single item in one lolita’s collection. The wardrobe with more brand than we thought has ever been designed, somehow all piled onto one girl’s bed. “What is their secret?” we moan to ourselves as we scroll endlessly down the page. A trust fund? Selling her organs on the black market (and if you are, hey, call me!)?
Okay, so perhaps this person or that just happens to be a person of means. But what to do if you’re trying to pinch pennies? Wipe the drool off your chin as your scroll through brand shops and sadly close the computer? Nope! Trust me, you too can have your dream lolita wardrobe.
I’m on a fixed budget myself. But I also pride myself on a closet full of brand. What’s the secret to success? How can you finally pick up every dress and accessory you’ve dreamed of for your lolita collection?
Below are ten tips to create your dream lolita wardrobe!
Oh no, they’re all going to pay retail prices!
1. Never pay retail.
This is an old trick a lot of mothers and other frugal shoppers swear by. They refuse to buy any item until the price has dropped. In lolita, there aren’t many sales to wait for. Even lucky packs can turn into a bloodbath if you’re struggling to snap up a good deal. So how can you get away with not paying retail if nothing ever goes on sale?
Think of brand clothing like any other big-ticket item. Unless it’s rare or highly sought after, like Sugary Carnival, all brand depreciates with time. Like cars or televisions, as soon as they’re in your drive way or living room, they’ve lost value as ‘used’ clothes. You can do the ‘turn-around’ method and sell your brand after perhaps one or two uses for mostly the same price, but hang onto a print longer than 6 months and I think you’ll definitely have to drop the price to move it. So let’s say your favorite brand releases a print you like it. The last thing you should do is rush over to the site or shopping service and drop $400. The best thing you can do is wait. Patience is key. After a bit, you’ll see that coveted dress – popping up on secondhand websites or communities or auctions at a fraction of the price.
Example: I’ve always wanted an Angelic Pretty coat. Instead of buying ones off the website, I just bought last year’s coat secondhand in great condition – for about $400 less than it would have retailed for.
2. Cut down on your shipping costs… buy ‘local’.
If I’m shopping secondhand, I try to buy as close to home as possible. For me, this means that I try to buy from other American girls selling their items secondhand. If a girl in Europe has an item I really like, sure, I’ll jump – but I know that will mean extra shipping costs and a higher price with the current weakness of the dollar. I also never use shopping services if I can help it. I’ve heard some girls say they get great deals on auctions, but I’ve done the math and a good deal can rack up cost on shipping and services (so make sure you do your homework!). If you can find it closer to home, do.
3. Don’t buy into the It Print mentality.
This is especially rough if you haunt brand communities or have a lot of brandie friends (yeah, I’m using that word like foodie. I like it much better than brandwhore!). The newest print samples go up, everybody’s wallets are dropping like panties… it’s a rush. Who got it? Who didn’t? Someone got five! Do yourself a favor and opt out. I keep up on brand news but if something came out at 5 o’clock in the morning and everyone’s freaking out… I’m snuggled up in bed. It’s easy to get caught up and find that you’re in trouble with the bank, and now the It Print is just another dress. Remember, it’s not the print or popularity of a dress that makes your coordinate memorable. It’s what you do with it.
4. What you should never buy used…
Bloomers are not worth buying brand period, let alone used ones. Bloomers, to me, are underwear. I’ve worn Bodyline ones, but I’ve also sewn my own or worn fairy-kei style shorts for shorter sweet style skirts. Brand bloomers are beautiful, but anything that close to my bum should not be expensive – especially if you still wear lolita when your period comes to call.
Brand socks can be ornate and beautiful with designs, but buying matching tights is more cost-effective and can be matched in more ways. I just got pink lace tights at Macy’s for $2 on sale – and mint lace tights at Forever21 for only $6. If you really do love brand socks, skip the ones that match print-to-print and get a few standbys: one in stripes, one in sweets motif, one in dots, one in hearts, for example. That way you can never go wrong!
I used to add blouses to this list, as they so often seem to have those unsightly coffee-colored stains around the neck and arms, but if the item is clearly shown not to have these marks I don’t see why you shouldn’t purchase them. Socks are in the same category, as long as you don’t buy obviously browned or blackened socks at the toe… that just grosses me out.
5. What it’s not worth to buy brand…
Petticoats are not worth buying brand. They’re really cute, yes, but your petticoats are the ‘workhorses’ of your closet. If your petticoat is out, you’re out. Brand ones may look beautiful, but brand models are wearing three or four of these petticoats to get the look you see in advertisements or street snaps – I watched them layer it up for Baby’s fashion shows, and I wear three myself. Each petticoat, brand, costs about $100 – 120! Do yourself a favor and buy a big, fluffy offbrand petticoat.
Shoes are also not worth the brand tag. Some girls swear by brand shoes, and I admit they do come out with some unique designs. But what they don’t tell you is that Chinese sellers of shoes (not all are replicas if you’re not for replicas!) are made in the same factories with the same materials as brand shoes. Only rarely are you paying for real leather either – it’s the usual synthetic stuff that doesn’t take much of a beating. I wear my shoes to death, so I don’t want them to be $250 Angelic Pretty masterpieces… I can’t imagine wearing those through New York City winter slush and oil slicks.
Offbrand or non-lolita shoes can also add interest and definition to a coordinate – consider combing your local shoe stores or searching online for other Japanese and Korean shoe sellers.
6. If you really gotta have it now…
If you love collecting prints or fall for a print hard, you can skip the OP or JSK and get the skirt or salopette instead for a significant price drop. Even brand new, I got my Angelic Pretty Sweet Cream House salopette for $265 instead of the $320 onepiece or jumperskirt in the same print.
A lot of girls are intimidated by how to wear skirts – it opens up a whole can of worms about blouses, parkas, and cardigans. But you can dress a skirt up or down for the occasion with the right blouse and accessories. An OP or JSK does not need much introduction or supporting characters. A skirt’s best ally is a distinctive blouse or sweater. Brands tend to produce the same blouses and sweaters with only varying details, so you can buy these secondhand and they won’t look out of date.
7. How to look like you dropped a ton of yen… but didn’t.
A lot of girls on a budget prefer to save their money for the big It Print dress, and then add on off-brand accessories. After all, the dress is the star of the show, right? Not exactly. Everything brands make, from the opulent dresses and coats right down to their rings and berets, is typically of beautiful quality.
My friend recently arrived at the airport decked out in what appeared to be layers and layers of the best brand – purse, muffler, coat, socks, shoes, bow. But on further inspection, she revealed her coat to be an offbrand original and to have only cost $42! Her would-be big ticket item would ordinarily cost around $500, but using a simple pink coat as a base dressed up with easily recognizable quality accessories was cheaper with greater impact.
Simple offbrand or secondhand dresses in classic styles such as polka dots, houndstooth, plaids, or just beautiful ruffles and pintucks can look like you spent a fortune if ornamented with a pricey parasol or to-die-for boots. You can also dress up a dress from a few years ago with this season’s accessories from a popular print, especially as motifs tend to repeat from year to year. Your old Starry Night Theatre dress, for example, could be dressed up with accessories from this year’s Dreamy Sky series; and of course you can mix and match sweets themes across the board.
8. Be cheap.
This may seem counter-intuitive at first, but it really makes perfect sense. The best way to afford lolita in a limited income is to be cheap on everything else, or as much as possible. I may wear $300 dresses, but I try to eat at the student center or cantine whenever possible. Any time you’re about to spend money on an unplanned purchase, think about how you’d much rather prefer that money go to a new dress or bonnet. Seeing the world in “lolita dollars” is something common in the community! A typical lolita conversation: “I had to make a $400 car repair!” “Oh no, that sucks – you could’ve gotten Twinkle Mermaid for that!” The true lolita knows money is brand. （○゜ε＾○）♥
9. Don’t impulse buy.
Reigning in the impulse buying will definitely pay off to your lolita wardrobe in the long run. There’s a few impulse buying traps you should try to avoid. First, it is crazy hard to resist buying big-ticket items at brick-and-mortar lolita stores. We’re so used to online sales that seeing the details and quality in person makes us want to snap it up. I’ve been after the same brand purse for months at Tokyo Rebel, but I keep walking out without it through sheer force of will – nobody is going to be happy if I charge $200. This is especially dangerous hanging out with your friends – they encourage you, it’s true, we all do it. If you’re absolutely aching, you can get yourself something small to ward off the desire to buy a new dress – like a ring perhaps. But try to resist!
I also won’t buy anything that I am not positive I can wear with my wardrobe already. If your entire wardrobe is pink and you want to impulse buy a bright orange dress… it’s not a good investment. Make sure you can make at least ONE outfit with items you already own. Needing an extra accessory or two is fine, but needing a whole new coordinate for one pair of shoes is going to cost you!
Impulse shopping online is another easy trap, as there’s a feeling of urgency with online sales. I try to think about it for at least 24 hours. If it’s gone, then it wasn’t meant to be. Still there and you love it? Buy away.
The other last impulse buying pitfall is just lollygagging out with your friends. Especially at places like, say, Hello Kitty or makeup stores. Resist the cute! Whenever I want to impulse buy, I think how that’s just x amount of dollars subtracted from the brand dress or coat or purse I want. That puts the brakes on fast!
10. Buy for keeps.
The best way to have your dream wardrobe – and not to lose a ton of money in the process – is to buy for keeps. Buying your favorite pieces and hanging onto them and getting a lot of use from them will always be more ‘profitable’ – because whenever you resell an item, you will lose at least some money. And of course the more money you save, the more you can put towards those items you love.
Okay, cards on the table – what are your favorite secrets to stretching a dollar to having that dream wardrobe you’ve always wanted? Do you cycle through your wardrobe or hang onto pieces until you can will them to your grandchildren? Are you thrifty or splurging?