Lolita Fashion Guide: Where to begin?

(This is the 2nd part of our Lolita article)

For the first part of our Lolita article, I delve into the history of this culture. Got into how scientifically we can explain why this culture is so prevalent here in Asia. And also how and why this culture is slowly gaining worldwide recognition and following. Also, I wanted to show how Lolita is a fashion choice that came out of a revolution against the system. If you want to read it, you can click on Lolita Fashion: Cutest way to fight against the system. And this is our attempt at a Lolita Fashion Guide for you guys.

*Disclaimer: The author of this isn’t a Lolita, so please take whatever you read with a grain of salt.

These are just some of the things which confused me when I first got into this culture and talking to the people following this culture. So hopefully this will help ease those awkward moments you might find when starting out on your journey to becoming a Lolita.

Pracheta Banerjee as a Lolita Fashion Guide
Pracheta Banerjee. Indian Lolita
Lolita Fashion Guide

Short Dictionary:

First, let’s go through the few words/terms I’ve encountered on my journey. Knowing them won’t really help you when actually coordinating the outfits, but it helps to understand what other Lolitas are saying. Just so they don’t intimidate you when you see them. 

  • Coords (Co-ords): I mentioned this a few times, but it’s short for “coordinate” which is whether all your clothes fit the style/theme you’re going for.
  • Ita (Jap: Itai): Which basically means “hurts”. This is when the ‘Coord’ failed and the set hurts to look at. If you hear this, take down the picture and reassess your life and how you get to this point in your life.
  • Colorway: The colour/colours you chose on which we based the whole Lolita Dress on.
  • JSK: Short form for Jumper skirt which is a popular style for Lolita dresses.
  • SK: Short form for Skirts.
  • OP: One Piece dress which is very popular for Lolitas.
  • KC: Short form for Katyusha, which means head bows (head decorations are very important as well)
  • Loliable: When one is choosing items, whether accessories or even clothes, they have to determine whether it goes with the whole set or not. Or whether one can use it as part of a lolita set. We use Loliable to determine that. Like “oh, that crown is super Loliable and really goes with my Hime Set”
  • OTT: Over The Top. This is when you take a coord you really like and just add more to it, to really take it over the top. Usually done by people who have a lot of experience as it might just make the whole set tacky.

There are like 100 more words to go through, but I think these are more than enough for a starter… Also I’m not the right person to ask about every word in the Lolita dictionary. 

Student Lolita from China Lolita Fashion Guide
Source: China Plus
Lolita Fashion Guide

Anatomy of a Lolita Dress

So let’s go through what makes a Lolita dress a Lolita dress. We can do this by going through the anatomy of a Lolita dress… very quickly. 

Innerwear

Petticoats: The most important part of the dress is to have a good petticoat. There are many cheap imitations and choosing the best quality ones is for your own good. Unless you want to end up with rashes, sad looking puffs, or just misshapen Lolita dress. There are 2 shapes which you can choose from depending on the set you have. There is the petticoat which has the bell/cupcake shape and the other with the A-line shape

Different kinds of Petticoats Lolita Fashion Guide
A-line – Cupcake – A-line – Cupcake
Sources: MeLikesTea
Lolita Fashion Guide

Bloomers are the go-to undergarment for Lolitas. They go together with the petticoats underneath the skirt. Underskirts are also very important, especially if the skirt is a tad bit short. Lolitas can use underskirts to give those extra inches to the skirt.

Lolita Underskirt Lolita Fashion Guide
An underskirt
Lolita Fashion Guide
Lolita Bloomers Lolita Fashion Guide
Bloomers
Lolita Fashion Guide

Other inner-wear are things like corsets, chest binders or even Spanx. People use them to get that Lolita silhouette but they’re not necessarily important to the overall coord.

Lolita Corset
They use corsets to help with their lolita silhouette.
Lolita Chest Binders
Chest Binders
Lolita spanx
Spanx
Main Pieces:
Skirts (SK):

So what’s there to explain about this, apparently there aren’t many rules to skirts other than having them coord with the rest of your outfit. Shirred, unshirred, partly shirred, corset style, etc. anything goes. The one and only rule is that it should be knee-length or lower. Lolita is about decency and being elegant. The only time you can go against this is if you’re going for an Ero Lolita style. But this would change the whole coord again. 

Speaking about coords, they consider Lolita skirts to be much more difficult to coord than JSKs and OPs simply because they leave the torso open. So one has to coord their blouses with the skirt very well. People use a lot of belts and necklaces to accompany the blouses/cutsews when wearing skirts.

And not to mention, if the skirt is shirred or unshirred and if the skirt is from the waist or above the waist. All these things have to be considered when one is coordinating their set.  

Lolita Skirts Fashion Guide
Classic Lolita Skirt
Source: My Lolita Dress
Lolita Fashion Guide

Also, when picking the right petticoat, one has to be sure which style they are going for as well. Example, aristocrat or military styles uses A-line petticoats while Sweet Lolitas usually use cupcake shaped petticoats.

Lolita JSK/Jumper skirt Fashion Guide
Jumper Skirts (Blouse doesn’t come together). Source: Unknown
Lolita Fashion Guide
Jumperskirts (JSK):

Jumper skirts are sleeveless dresses which have shoulder straps, a halter-neck or occasionally no straps at all, they are usually for a bustier style. Though this should be worn with a blouse, Cardigan or even a bolero to cover the shoulders. Japanese girls have this thing where they don’t show their shoulders as it’s considered indecency. And since Lolita is a Japanese culture, this rule is taken from there. But again, in this day and age, this rule isn’t as followed by the Japanese anymore, but you can always play it a bit safe. 

One Piece Dress (OP):

These dresses usually come with sleeves and are the only dresses where wearing a blouse on top is a choice rather than a rule. Though some Lolitas choose to wear a blouse underneath the dress, especially during cold weathers.

Although OP dresses are relatively more easy to coord, they still have to follow the rules when it comes to other things. Things like accessories, KCs, stockings, etc. all have to be in perfect coord. They all have to follow the colour scheme chosen by you and also follow the theme as well.

Lolita Indian Pracheta Banerjee in a OP dress Fashion Guide
Pracheta Banerjee
Lolita Fashion Guide
Tops:
  • Blouses: Normally made with nonstretchable material fastened with buttons in the middle.
  • Cutsews: Frilly top which you put on like a t-shirt which are usually stretchable materials for comfort. Some brands often release Lolita style T-shirts with puffy sleeves. These are acceptable for some Lolita sets as they may coord well with the rest of the set.
Lolita  blouse Fashion Guide
Devilinspired Blouse
Lolita Fashion Guide
Lolita  cutsews Fashion Guide
Cutsew from AP
Lolita Guide
Headwear

KC or Katyusha are very important to finish the Lolita look. One can choose any headwear of their choice which goes along with the set that they are wearing. There are many choices like Head bow, Canotier, hairband, bonnets, hair corsage and many other choices.

KCs are also very important to complete the Lolita silhouette. But one has to be very careful to make sure said head accessories coord with the rest of the outfit.

Lolita hat Fashion Guide
Canotier but wunderwelt
Lolita Fashion Guide
Lolita Stockings Fashion Guide
Stockings. Souce: Devilinspired
Lolita Fashion Guide
Socks/Hosiery:

All kinds of Socks, knee highs, thigh highs and stockings are used. Whether there are frills and ruffles depends entirely on the coord of the set.

The patterns in the socks and stockings should also match the entire coord. Unless you’re wearing knee-high boots with a dress below the knees. Then they aren’t as important to the whole outfit.

Shoes:

Traditionally, you will find most Lolitas only wear Rocking Horse Shoes (RHS) or the famous Mary Janes, especially when going to tea parties and all. Though right now, there are multiple companies making all kinds of shoes with the Lolita Aesthetics in mind. So you can have a lot more options now than you would many years ago.

The most important thing is to remember to pick the shoes which goes best with your coords.

Lolita Shoes Fashion Guide
Source: Comfortable Lolita Shoes
Lolita Fashion Guide
Lolita Shoes Fashion Guide
Source: Madeour
Lolita Fashion Guide
Outerwear:

Unlike the others mentioned above, these are optional depending on the weather and the style you want to go for. No one will judge you for not having these. They include things like the cardigans, jacket/coats, capelets, and many other styles. But again, remember to coord with the chosen theme.

Lolita Cardigan Fashion Guide
Cardigan
Lolita Fashion Guide
Lolita Jackets/coats Fashion Guide
Jacket/coats
Lolita Fashion Guide
Bags:

Most, if not all, Lolita dresses rarely have pockets. So carrying a bag is a must for all Lolitas. 

Other Items:

Choosing jewellery which will go with your coord is also pretty difficult as you have to determine whether they are loliable or not. Although the Lolita community doesn’t really encourage tattoos and piercings as it goes against the idea of being Kawaii, but nobody will shame you for it as well. One can easily hide their piercings and tattoos or better yet, make them be a part of the whole outfit. One can only use their creativity to find ways and means to make them fit together overall. Other miscellaneous items for Lolitas include gloves, scarfs, earmuffs, umbrellas and many other things which they can include. But I feel I have to mention it again for the people in the back… it must coord with the rest of the set. 

I bet you’ll never see the word coord as much as you do now. Unless you actually get into this Lolita culture, if so, join us.  

lolita scarfs Fashion Guide
Scarfs from Devilinspired
Lolita Umbrella Fashion Guide
Umbrella by Holita

Various Lolita Styles:

Sometimes, Military and Ouji/Kodona do fall under the Lolita roof but they don’t follow the same rules as other Lolitas. These follow certain other rules which we will not get into in this article in details. We will however give a short intro to their style later in the article.

Military lolita style Fashion Guide
Military Lolitas: Lolita Wardrobe
Ouji epic style Fashion Guide
Military Kodona. sources: Lolita Wardrobe
Lolita Fashion Guide

The three main styles of Lolitas dominant throughout the world are as follows.

Sweet Lolita:

They are typically sweet looking in the sense that they are very youthful and princess-y yet not Hime which is a different style altogether. Also, usually have colourful dresses like pink, Mint, saxon, blue, white, lavender, yellow and a few more colours. The patterns on their dresses include cats, cookies, puppies, etc.

Cute sweet Lolita dress from Devilinspired
Sweet Lolita: Source Devilinspired
Classic Lolita
Sources: Milanoo
Classic Lolita:

These are the closest to the Vicorian style they were inspired by in the first place. They have a mature, classy, vintage, Victorian/Edwardian look to their dress. Which is why their colour palette revolves around ivory, Brown-ish, Bordeaux, beige or even Navy and Jewel tones. Regarding patterns, some choose to have flowers, paintings, books, clocks and even crowns as patterns and motifs.

Gothic Lolita:

As the name states, these Lolitas are more into mature themes which can be mysterious, dark or even ghostly. Their colours range from black, white, red, silver to navy, purple, gold or even royal blue. Themes include religious imagery like crosses, gothic architecture, roses, bats, witches and other such patterns and motifs.

Gothic looking Lolita
Sources: Lolitaknot

Mixing styles:

For some experienced Lolitas, mixing these styles is something which they can do. To get an effect like a sweet/classic set which can work well together. Even Classic/Gothic is pretty popular in the community of Lolitas. But again, this is only done by experienced Lolitas who have years of experience and know how to coord well among his/her set.

Substyles: 

There are countless substyles that are offshoots from the 3 mentioned above. Styles like nautical which includes both space and sea Lolita style, then country which has a lot of fruits and veggie patterns, then old school Lolita as well but a lot of these old schools are considered tacky or even Ita by modern day Lolitas. Then we have the Hime style mentioned above which are a more mature princess-y type. Kuro/Shiro style which literally means darkness and light is quite popular as a theme rather than basing their whole wardrobe on just this substyle.

The Guro is very interesting where the dresses are very doll-like yet they are covered in blood and look disturbing to have an eerie feel to the dress. Ero style which means sexy is the only style which relaxes its rules on skirt length and all, but it isn’t as popular anymore nowadays. Sadly so, as someone who is a big fan of this style. And finally punk style, which is also sadly dying, came out using tartan prints, chains, studs, ripped designs and other such designs.  

Very princess like Lolita
Hime Lolita. Devilinspired
Nautical lolita with compasses on her dress
Nautical Lolita. LolitaDresses
Guro Lolita with bloodover her white dress
Guro Lolita. Serebii42

Basic things to remember when coordinating your Lolita Dress:

Although there are some people who just buy sets which are already coordinated, you can also buy separately and coord them together to fit a certain style. To some, buying sets is just lazy but for some, they’re still worthwhile and one can still use their creativity to really bring out its beauty and elegance. Not to be confused with trying to be OTT (Over The Top) which I will explain soon.

After choosing a theme for the Lolita dress, one has to choose a dress, KC (Katyusha/Headbow), blouses, hosiery, and shoes. One has to remember that they all need to look like they came in a set to give the impression of everything being coordinated. Like perhaps one picks a cat theme, one doesn’t wear a sash with religious markings. Although these things aren’t written in stone, but can be changed accordingly, it’ll be better to wait till you’re more experienced before trying such designs.  

Lolita and the Bean stalk
Lolita and the bean stalk

So with OTT style, one can add more to the entire outfit to really stand out. This is perfectly acceptable in the community but then, again, standing out means more criticism… so don’t wear it until you’re confident with yourself. For example, like the cat themed outfit mentioned before, one can wear cat shaped earrings, rings, necklaces and other things which are Loliable. 

Just remember that they must follow the colorway and the overall theme of the outfit and you should be good to go to the next Lolita exclusive tea party. 

Ouji boystyle

Although this style has their own rules and is mostly different from Lolitas, they do still act as partners. Ouji basically means prince, which is the princely style opposite to the Princess style of Lolitas. This is just a small introduction but even they have 3 main styles just like Lolitas. So we won’t really explain them individually as you already read it before.

Sweet Ouji

Just like Sweet Lolita, these Oujis follow somewhat the same rules in terms of coords. But they have more of a shota feel to the whole set. People who follow this style tend to couple it with a sweet Lolita for twinning.

Regarding rules of the set, there aren’t as many as their pant’s length isn’t usually a problem but their blouses should have ruffles. Also, they also must have KC though they tend to be boystyle in general.

Sweet Ouji. Source: Lolita Wardrobe
Classic Quji/Kodona style. Source: Lolita Wardrobe
Classic Ouji

Just like Classic Lolita, these tend to have a more mature feel to the whole set. These also kind of follow the same colourway like that of classic Lolita which again, is usually coupled with.

Usually people who does this style also wear boots instead of MJ, RHS, or other style of footwear like sweet Oujis or Lolitas in general.

They also usually have certain types of buttons and formations for the jacket to be considered Ouji and finally, even the pockets are of a certain style.

Gothic Ouji

Just like Lolita dresses, this is also usually paired with the Gothic Lolitas for twinning. They also rely on darker colourways, patterns, makeup and style in general.

Just like the two styles above, they also have to have a lot of certain details to be considered perfect Oiji Gothic. The bows, buttons and pockets should be made with the Ouji rules in mind.

Though an expert can make anything loliable, if they’re good and confident enough with their skills.

Gothic Ouji. Source My Lolita dress

Please note, these styles, rules and lifestyle are also very lengthy. I really don’t have the energy to explain them as well. If this article does well and gets a lot of response, I might just make a follow up with these other topics in mind. So don’t forget to share the article as much as possible and spread the Lolita/Ouji styles everywhere. And subscribe to our mailing list to know when we actually do write on it in details.

Makeup for Lolitas

When it comes to makeup, this should only push the coord of the set. So different themes will follow certain rules when applying said makeup. Since Lolitas is to make oneself doll-like, Lolitas usually emphasize the eyes and make them appear bigger. One can do this by using makeup and circle lenses to achieve the look. Even fake-eyelashes really help with the look as well.

Different Lolita styles need distinct looks which are achievable using makeup. Some of the more common ones are like Aristocrat Lolita, which are usually more mature and on the darker side. Dark eyes combined with rich red lips are popular, though some prefer lighter coloured lips as well.

Casual Lolitas usually use very little makeup for that natural look. Classic Lolitas also wears darker makeup but with a softer look to it. Country makeup is also very simple and natural. For those going on picnics and spending time outside, they can wear sunscreen. Country Lolitas also wear light lipstick and blush for a certain effect.

Youtube T Cake
Sweet Lolita Makeup. Source: T Cake

Ero Lolitas uses a lot of darker makeup while Gothic Lolitas use makeup usually ranging from light, natural look to even dramatic smokey eyes and red lips. White face is considered bad taste in Gothic Lolita Fashion. Guro Lolita uses fake blood and fake scars to get that look. Sometimes, Lolitas will draw cracks on their joints to look like a broken porcelain doll.

The Hime Lolita uses natural yet classy makeup. They used Kodona use minimal but sometimes darker shades around the eyes. Kuro is also usually natural though sometimes they also use dark makeup accordingly. Punk Lolitas use makeup that is a bit heavier than classic and Sweet Styles.

How to act as a proper Lolita (TLDR)

To act as a Lolita, one must be polite, elegant and proper in the way he/she acts and performs. So things like running while in Lolita clothing are forbidden, though some Sweet Lolitas felt its part of the whole coord. Also, don’t show your pannier, especially when going up staircases and steps. Don’t laugh too hard and be a nuisance. Also, we understand your petticoat is extra fluffy today, but don’t use that as an excuse to bump into everything.

Remember to be proper, so no messy hair…no matter how coord it is with your outfit. Also, yes… you have a very kawaii Lolita umbrella, but stop swinging it everywhere! There are a few more things to go through, but you get the basics. You’ll learn as you go along this journey.

Lolita painting from PrachetaBanerjee.com
Lolita Art by Pracheta Banerjee

Unspoken Rules of Lolita:

Before we end this entire journey, let’s go through a few rules that are accepted in the Lolita community, to my knowledge. Please note that some of them might have changed and maybe people are more accepting these days. But from what I’ve read, these are some of the unwritten rules one needs to follow.

  • Lolis aren’t Lolitas. We usually associate Lolis with Lolicons which is closer to the Vladimir’s description of Lolita.
  • Speaking of Vladimir, barely anyone from Japan knows of the book… so no one really gets offended by that. Well, unless the person you’re talking to isn’t from Japan… then you better be careful mentioning that book frivolously. 
  • Don’t buy cheap Lolita dresses or you’ll get an “ita” comment… It hurts.
  • Lolita isn’t a fad but a lifestyle. So if one chooses to be a Lolita, they must act accordingly. That means acting with decency, and learning the rules and guides thoroughly. Reading through this isn’t enough because the guy writing this is as far from being a Lolita. He doesn’t know anything so go research through the links provided below.
  • When going to tea parties, remember to carry a cupcake. It’s customs. 
  • Lolita dresses are not costumes, so a person can be a Lolita while not being a cosplayer. But a cosplayer can be a Lolita as well.
  • Finally, most anime Lolita characters wouldn’t be considered Lolitas by most people in the community. This is mainly because mangakas don’t really understand the concept of being a Lolita and break a hell lot of rules.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask about coords and sets from senior members of the community, they’d be more than happy to help.   
  • But don’t listen to the bullies. As long as you’re genuinely trying, always be proud of your achievements. This isn’t a cheap lifestyle, so just being a part of it deserves praise. One dress or even one small component at a time till completion. Don’t give two sh… cents for the online hate.
  • Sadly, Maids aren’t considered Lolitas but there are Maid inspired Lolita dresses and sets.
  • In the same way as the maids, there are lots of princesses from different places like disney, anime, and other forms of media. But they might not be Lolitas but there can be said Princess themed lolitas inspired by those princesses. 
  • Also, I still think this is a TLDR version of what Lolita culture is. At least I wrote with that in my mind. So be sure to research it again for clarifications.
  • If I remember anything else, I shall add more points here.

Here are some links you can use to get your first Lolita dress.

Extra help and information

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Pracheta Banerjee and Dr. Charlotte Rodricks who were instrumental in turning this should’ve-been-1-paragraph article to a 2 part series on such an interesting subject. Never thought I’d get this deep into a fashion trend as someone who never cared about clothes…like ever.

And also for the other people who helped me complete this, like Kitsune Nyanko, Loli Neko Shillong, and Pipi Desu.

To remember:

The guy who wrote this and the previous article is someone who has zero experience in Lolita fashion and culture and the studies of genes. So please do your own research and don’t just rely on what I have to say. I have provided many links below through where you can do your own research and come up with a different conclusion.

But if you want to read more articles by this guy which goes unnecessarily deep into mundane topics, you can check it here

To get immediate updates about the third part of the series and other similar articles straight to your email, you can join our email list below. You can also read the first part of the series here.

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