How to Have Your Dream Lolita Wardrobe

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.

 

image by Violet Lunchell 

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.

 

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 instead for a significant price drop. 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 your 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.

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.

40 Responses to “How to Have Your Dream Lolita Wardrobe”

  • This really rang true for me- especially #9. I’ve bought enough used and new brand that I have the prices down pat at this point, and every time I’m about to impulse by, I put that purchase in terms of a brand purchase. $15 could get me some new socks or a plain bow. $25 is 1/5th of the cost of most skirts. And $50? That’s a fifth of a dress! Putting things in terms of lolita purchases really helps me see how quick those little expenses- or my savings- can add up.

    • Great comment! Yes, anything more than $20 of impulse buy definitely starts my brand-calculator going. Whenever someone says, ‘Oh, it costs x!’ my brain immediately tallies how much brand that is XD Example: Your phone plan costs three brand dresses a month?! ;D

  • Anonymous:

    #10 is pretty much what I’ve been doing for the past year~ concentrating on the prints and pieces I’ve always loved since I started lolita, over the newest and hottest thing. My lavender AP set for example– when I first saw it in TR I was gushing over it but without a job and no real income it was really hard. Later on ended up seeing the same set 1/3rd-1/4th of the cost on auctions. (I always tend to horde items when buying from overseas so the shipping and everything would be more worth it.) Even my impulse buys tend to be on the safe side when I do end up winning them, like my new AP coat that I got for like 7k yen * w*

    I don’t really mind buying used blouses half the time, at least off auctions anyways. With the items I get, when there’s “a stain here” “a stain there” it’s always something barely noticeable that I can simply wash out. I always pat myself on the back whenever I manage to catch a 10-20 dollar cutsew or blouse because of something that’s barely visible. And then with shoes it has to be something I’d desperately want to buy it brand, otherwise it’s taobao. Luckily/unfortunately BABY’s the only brand that actually fits 9.5-10… -sometimes-.. e_e

    • Yes, I have some pieces that I know I’ve wanted since I began. My favorite year was 2009 for lolita, they came out with some beautiful things! People complain nothing new is coming out they like, but I am still buying from 2008, 2009, 2010! And I love your lavender AP dress – and which coat did you buy? I just got one too! AP’s lavender solid Vanilla neko-chan!

      I think auctions and second sites are fine for ‘stainables’, only girls on the community sales sometimes try to sell grossly stained item… yick!

      • Anonymous:

        Seriously. And there’s this vintagey BABY dress I’ve fallen in love with.. I’ve never seen it before, so I don’t even know what year it’s from but hnghhh D: So Victorian. I’m just waiting for my next paycheck to come along..

        The AP coat I got is more or less one of their more normal cute ones, to me it reminds me of both AP and BABY because of the lace they use and stuff. This one~ http://www.mbok.jp/item/item_335431863.html I also made some other really good purchases. I have pictures but I’m waiting to be unbanned from Poupee before I put my shopping hauls up on my blog e___e but it’s so cute and I’m glad I can fit in it

  • Fran:

    That’s the best article I’ve ever read! Thank you, thank you, thank you! =]

  • What an excellent post, these are all really useful points! I liked it so much I actually retweeted you so my followers can see :3 I’m trying to get into the whole twitter thing, but it’s slow going so far! XD

  • M.Z.:

    This is a fantabulous post, especially for a new lolita (such as myself) who doesn’t know exactly where to start! A lot of these can be used in day to day life, too (especially #9. Heaven knows I’ve himmed and hawed over impulse buys and thought, “But that could be this much of a car payment! My #1 rule when shopping: Leave it in the store and walk around, even leave for a day. If I still think about it and it’s still there when I go back, it was meant to be)

  • Catherine:

    I really liked this post! I’ve been in similar situations lately. This really helped. I just have a question on how to start one when you hardly have any pieces. I could buy myself into a frenzy with all the clothes I’d like to buy but not to sure if I should. I don’t know if the colour suits or if the style fits to me.
    Any tips on that? How can I know which colour(S) will suit me best when ordering your first lolita pieces?

    • Hmm! Good question on colors and styles. I recently decided that because of my skin and hair, red and I are not friends and I should resist the red. I think unfortunately the only way to know for sure is trial and error. If you can, try on a piece you like or something similar from a friend before purchasing your own. Colorwise, you can try the color on at a store without the exact item perhaps?

  • I loved this post! I am studying in France, and I am buying from the local area for lolita things! I found things on sale in BtSSB and AP Paris. But by local sales the best thing is to meet in person!  Shipping is awful! I will go spend the day in Paris and meet someone to buy something! And to save money, I walk (when safe) everywhere in the city. I don’t use the bus! Also, buying in cash helps! When you use you card, money disappears. 
    But thank you for this post! I am working hard for a nice wardrobe, but it takes time. <3 <3

    • That’s a great point about France – when they had their summer ‘soldes’ I bought my BABY lavender dress discounted! – so you can perhaps get lucky on local sales. For readers visiting France, the last week or so of June, the entire country has a NATIONAL SALE, including Baby and Angelic Pretty (or at least this was true when I visited in 2008.)

      • There is also “soldes” in January too! I’ve got to hold may self back during the next month! It is horrible!  And I hope to be here for the summer sales too! :3
        I thought of something else that I say to myself all the time. “If I can make it, I don’t buy it.” I am crafty, and I knit. So, I keep away from things I can make myself! One day I went to Baby in Paris just to look at the sweaters’ lace. I know, I can make something just like it, so I kept my purse closed! But I mean, head bows, clips, and jewelry are simple to make! A lot of jewelry from Chocomint looks easy to copy too! Plus, it is more fun to make it your self!  By the way, I took a little class at Baby Paris! I learned how to make a deco ring! I loved it! I hope to make it ANOTHER hobby! ha! I wrote about it here: http://sunnydoodle.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/%E2%98%86atelier-creation-de-bagues%E2%98%86-my-first-lolita-meetup/I don’t mean to spam you!

  • Such great tips! I really love the word “brandie” instead of “brandwhore”! I am guilty of all of the above at one time or another and have certainly paid for it in more ways than one. T_T It’s always good to be reminded of these things.

  • This post made me feel so much better. As you know, I have just recently gotten heavily into the Loli style and I pretty much own a lot of accessories and such but no actual clothing lol I also refuse to drop my life savings into a dress. Though my issue is trying to find a store that will have Loli outfits, even knockoffs. But we will see how that goes xD So thank you for the very helpful guide. It will definitely help me shop when I do find the right stores. =)

    ~ Kieli ~

  • I cracked up while reading the whole article, especially at the picture caption (“Oh no, they’re all going to pay retail prices!”) and the “be cheap” point. Hilarious moments aside, most if not all of these points can also extend to other brand clothes (I’m looking at you JD) and doesn’t have to be strictly on lolita. Overall, lovely post. :)  

  • Hi, it’s great that you liked my photo enough so as to use it in your post but at least keep the watermark please. 
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/violetlunchell/5722731518/
    Thanks! :)

  • OMG, I’m in that “they’re all going to buy retail” picture and so are some of my friends :)

  • Candice DeVille:

    FANTASTIC post! The same rules apply no mater what you style addiction is, and it can be so easy to develop bad habits. I’m trying foreign in my spending at the moment as I’ve now booked my April trip to LA and better make sure I still have enough that I’m not sleeping on the streets! :)

  • Tahyun:

    Thanks! This was really reassuring, haha. I’m on a super (like negative) budget and I’ve just taken to making things from the fabrics and notions I find in my grandmother’s closet. Pretty much giving up on brand. But this makes me feel a little more hopeful. 

  • Miss S A E Brown:

    Can anyone suggest some good online second hand lolita shops? I’m really struggling to find them as I’m from Britain and there really aren’t any lolita shops here! Thanks! :)

  • Sylvie De Bruyne:

    ha, even with just 50 euros a month, and as a student also going to artschool in the weekend i can’t have a job because i have artschool, and i sometimes need to spend money on art supplies.

  • Mailee_kim:

    Nice post^^ but here the place where I live, there is none :( I mean the shop

  • kwaii-kun!:

    i think i can spend some money. hey i got a scholarship when i was ELEVEN!!! with my manga. also i watch houses,play while watching them,and sometimes a charge people on my server.

  • Aliceinwonderland:

    i want a shop where i live! i was thinking about making one but that meant doing work! *~*

  • You mentioned to buy offbrand petticoats. Are there any that you have found to be the flounciest the longest? I have heard a lot of great things about Malco Modes. What would you recommend? (or any other commentators here!) thankyou thankyou thankyou!

  • I love this post! Do you know where is the cheap place to buy local that isnt off ebay?

  • Molly Littleford-Schacht:

    I am just starting out in the Lolita world, and I have many questions! However my main concern at the moment is, I am a plus sized girl (175cm/90kg) and I have a very large chest (Australian size 16 with EE-F cup size) and I know that a lot of brand dresses don’t so custom sizing. I’m concerned about being looked down upon in the lolita community if I can’t own branded dresses because of my size…I’ll need to order custom sized replicas or attempt to make my own (although here in Australia, you can’t really buy lolita print fabric, and I know that the amount of fabric needed to make a dress can cost more than buying a pre-made dress!).

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