Whether you've run out and bought a beautiful brand print item because you can't live without it (that's how it happened to me) or you're just taking your first baby steps and daydreaming while searching through website after website, you're probably wondering where on Earth to start. As with every fashion wardrobe, you should start with the basics...
Examples of basics
I've focused on Sweet Lolita for the examples and the majority are from Angelic Pretty but you're really looking for the shapes and styles. I've also put them in order of priority (in my opinion).
A plainer, non-printed skirt or JSK is a great choice for a starter-lolita. It will probably be timeless and carry you through different seasons as well as being a good mix-and-match items in your growing wardrobe.
Petticoat and bloomers
A cupcake-shaped petticoat is a must to hold your new skirt in shape. Without it, the silhouette looks flat and frankly, wrong. Invest in a good petticoat in a basic white (or black for those building a wardrobe based on that colour) and you can wear it under most of your outfits-to-come. Choose some comfy bloomers too to preserve your dignity!
You'll want something to go with that JSK or skirt, and that is where blouses and/or cutsews come in. Look for a simple shape with minimal fussy details so it will suit most outfits. Peter-Pan collars are popular for Sweet Lolita and one with detatchable sleeves will carry you through the seasons.
I'm a bit of a heretic. I often wear simple high-street tops under my Lolita clothing and I think it looks fine.
Shoes in your main colour are a must. High-street shoes can clash with the style of Lolita so be careful when coordinating with them but it CAN be done which is why I've put these as a low-priority item. A simple Mary-Jane style shoe suits most styles of Lolita.
A simple pair of over-the-knee or knee-high socks in a coordinating colour to your shoes will help to add the finishing touches to your outfit. Again, choose a simple style so they can be worn a variety of ways. A lot of places carry a simple lace-topped sock and these are usually best.
I've put these last on the priority list as people generally have a few already! Bows, clips, headbands; anything will do as long as it matches with your outfit and looks pretty. That said, bows are the standard for Lolita and are definitely the 'crowning glory' of your outfit. Although crowns are good too!
- Steer clear of eBay until you know what you're looking for.
- Keep a journal to note down the things you see that you like, wishes you want fulfilled and definitely what you have already, with pictures if possible. This will make choosing new items and filling in gaps in your wardrobe super easy.
- REPLICAS: I say if you're new to Lolita and are still finding your feet and your personal style, buying a replica isn't the worst thing you could do.
- Pick a main colour for your skirt/JSK, shoes, hair accessories and petticoat. Choose a secondary colour for your blouse/cutsew and socks. Good main colours are pastel pink, pastel blue (sax), black and red. Good secondary colours are white (for any main colour) or co-ordinating pastels.
- If you've chosen a printed item for your skirt/JSK, choose a secondary colour that's in the print.
- Flat shoes are best for a first choice so you can get miles out of them. If you choose heels, be prepared to walk in them at meets and in daily life.
- Consider getting a matching bag for your outfit that can hold all of your things. Mis-matching bags can throw off the whole look.
- Keep you choices multi-seasonal with layers and breathable fabrics so you're not stuck with clothing you can only wear a few months of the year.
A few proven places for buying reasonable Lolita basics;
Bodyline - Good for blouses and basic JSK/OPs. They do sales and/or free shipping every so often so worth checking back every now and again if they don't have current offers. ($1 AIR shipping until 31.11.11)
Anna House - A lot of items can be made-to-measure and are good value.
EGL Community Sales - Basics are often listed here and you can snap up brand pieces for a fraction of the cost of new.
Qutieland - Again, a lot of items can be made-to-measure (there can be a long wait for the items to be shipped, however) and they offer brand replicas and brand-influenced pieces as well as carrying lower price-bracket brands like KidsYoYo and Rose Melody. Also great for shoes.
Clobbaonline - Similar to Qutieland, Clobbaonline acts as a buyer from the Chinese site TaoBao and is a great place to buy shoes, bags and Dream of Lolita brand replicas.