What makes a lolita dress the lovely and sophisticated garment that we love and not the cheap halloween costume monstrosity of our nightmares ? Well, the answer can be a bit tricky, especially for beginners. This little guide is here to help you find good quality lolita main items such as dresses, skirts and blouses.
This guide is non-exhaustive. I’m trying to cover the most common flaws on garments that strive to be lolita. I do not address aesthetic matters beyond what is lolita. Your taste, your choices. My dos and don’ts aren’t definitive, you can play with those rules. Just be aware that if you play too much, you may not end up with something lolita, as cute as it is. If you’re unsure, ask the community for help ♡
Here lies most of the biggest flaws in lolita garments. It can be tricky to recognize them when you’re shopping online and can only rely on stock photos. Don’t hesitate to ask other lolitas who own the piece you want or other pieces from the brand what the quality is like.
Most pieces will either be made of cotton or polyester. Both have their pros and cons. Choose what fits your needs and preferences.
|Is it soft ?|
|Is it breathable ?|
|Is it prone to wrinkles ?|
|Does the print may fade with time or bleed in the wash ?|
|Is it biodegradable ?|
In short, cotton is usually more comfortable while polyester often looks better in the long run and is easier to care for, especially for printed dresses and skirts. It is not an absolute classification though, some polyester fabrics can actually be very soft and some others still bleed dye in the wash. From an environmental point of view, both fabrics pollute a lot to be produced but polyester being plastic, it will release microplastics in the water every time it is washed and will take a long time to decompose once thrown away.
Let’s talk about the quality of the fabric now. While cotton is generally good, polyester has a wide range of appearances and can look very cheap or very luxurious. Here are some things to be wary of :
If you replied “yes” to one of those questions, don’t take the risk. There is a high chance that the garment is made out of cheap polyester. It won’t look good, won’t be comfortable and may also be fragile.
|Cotton||Polyester of good quality||Polyester of poor quality|
The cotton and the good polyester look quite similar albeit the polyester have gentler curves when turned. The polyester of poor quality is much shinier and already shows some weird wrinkles despite being new and laying flat.
With some exceptions, pieces from the most famous Japanese lolita brands are fine both in cotton and polyester. Cotton is much more prominent in older pieces and polyester has been more common since the mid 2010's. Taobao brands are mostly polyester.
What about velvet, chiffon etc ? It is a style of fabric, not a fiber. It more or less follows the same rules as before. For example, velvet can be found in polyester or cotton. Cotton velvet is quite thick and more expensive but I've never seen one that looked bad. Polyester velvet is more of a hit or miss. Once again, shiny is a bad sign.
If you have sensory issues, certain types of fabric may be uncomfortable. Check the materials of your favorite clothes to know what you like on your skin.
Just like fabric, lace can look really bad if done wrong, especially with pieces where lace is part of the main design. Bad laces can also be extremely uncomfortable and scratchy. Avoid lace that looks like raschel lace, especially wider ones and prefer cotton eyelet, embroidery lace, chemical lace or crochet lace. Here are some examples :
|Avoid this kind of lace||Some examples of good laces, courtesy of my own sewing stash|
Most of the time, if the materials used are good, the basic construction will be too. Some dresses and skirts will feature pockets, or a built-in petticoat (which does not preclude you from wearing an actual lolita petticoat). Those are little pluses that are always appreciated but won’t make your dress look bad if missing. Dresses with lots of frills have a higher chance to be poorly constructed as they take more time to make.
Disclaimer : This section talks about body sizes and shapes. I do not get into too much detail nor do I use gendered terms but stay safe if this is a sensitive topic for you.
For a garment to look good, it’s important to get it in your size. Lolita fashion can be a bit limited on that front, especially with the big Japanese brands. Luckily, more and more options exist so that everybody can wear lolita comfortably. Lots of taobao brands offer custom sizing in addition to a wider range of sizes and some indies brands are specialized in plus size dresses. But sometimes, we are not so lucky with the dress of our dreams, so here are some tips to get something that fits or to make it fit.
Some last general advices
When buying online, practice good internet safety. Check the website reviews as well as the product reviews. Be wary of what seems to be an extremely good deal, you may not get what is shown in the product photos. There are lots of lists of where to buy lolita on the internet so I won’t write one for now but avoid websites like Wish, Amazon and AliExpress.
When in doubt, ask the community, lots of lolitas are ready to help. Ask about sizing issues, if a dress is comfortable, if a website is safe etc