When you’re just starting to get into lolita fashion, the sheer variety and choices can be overwhelming! I remember debating for weeks about what would be the very first thing I’d purchase. The prices seem so unimaginably expensive–and they especially did several years ago, before the accessibility of Bodyline or reputable Chinese sellers, such as Dear Celine or Rose Melody, and services like Qutieland.
My sewing ability is nonexistent, which is too bad–bloomers and petticoats are easy (and useful) first projects! Shorts can be substituted for bloomers if you don’t care for them or don’t want to make or buy a pair right away, but there’s little substitute for a petticoat. Sometimes another skirt can fill in, but that’s only if you’re lucky enough to already own something in the right shape with plenty of “floof” to it.
I found this petticoat tutorial by RhodyGunn at DeviantArt. Her tutorial has lots of pictures and follows the pattern from the GosuRori pattern books. Kouhiko posted a petticoat tutorial in Sew_Loli, which has some very adorable illustrated instructions. Free bloomer tutorials are easy to search for online, although most of them are historical patterns and may need a bit of modification to use for lolita fashion.
A petticoat and bloomers are foundation garments. They’re not always pretty and lacy, and you can’t usually show them off or take your first lolita fashion pictures with only those things, but without a petticoat and bloomers it’s difficult to wear the outer layers of lolita as best they could be worn. For a lolita-at-heart, I recommend making these undergarments, if you can, as inexpensively as possible so you can save your hard-earned money for clothing items without lacking what ought to go beneath.
Undergarments aside, I personally feel that there are two “best” starter pieces for a lolita’s wardrobe. Which one is a better choice for which lolita-hopeful really depends on her sewing goals and ability.
For the Lolita-to-Be with Sewing Potential
If you can sew or are learning/want to learn to sew, a blouse with detachable sleeves is a great starter piece. Simple rectangle skirts are a staple of the style, and quite easy to make. When those have become second nature, there are other skirt styles to add to your repertoire. Then, jumperskirts, and from there–the world! Additionally, most lolita accessories such as hairbows or wrist cuffs are not terribly confusing to make, either.
Blouses, however, are generally not very easy to make. Figuring out the patterns in the GosuRori pattern books can be difficult without a good grasp of written Japanese, and most commercial patterns just aren’t quite right for lolita fashion.
Owning a blouse with detachable sleeves will give you a proper top to wear with the skirts or jumperskirts you can make, and it will be suited for warmer or cooler weather and slightly different “looks” due to the ability to be short- or long-sleeved. There are often blouses with other detachable elements as well–waist ties or additional collars. These extra pieces allow more variety from the same garment, so that even if you are always wearing the same blouse you don’t have to feel or look like it! You can add a little bit of interest with your craftiness with brooches, ribbons, or other temporary embellishments. Maybe even change the buttons once in a while~
Also, a blouse is also usually less expensive than a skirt, jumperskirt, or dress–so you can save some money on your purchase and have more to spend on the supplies you’ll need for your sewing endeavors!
For the Future-Lolita without Much Sewing Interest
Maybe you already know that you and your sewing machine are mortal enemies, you cringe at the thought of pricking your fingers yet again, or you just know you’ll quickly grow bored of the practice. Maybe you just don’t have enough free time, or have too many other hobbies. Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that you really don’t want to sew your own lolita outfits.
In that case, you probably ought to get a “one-piece,” the term used most commonly within the fashion for a dress with sleeves that typically isn’t intended to be worn over a blouse. This makes a nice first item because you instantly have an outfit. It’s much simpler to start off with an item that doesn’t require too much to complete it–you can usually accessorize with things you already own. Doing the opposite–starting with what you already own and accessorizing it to be lolita–is much harder.
A good first one-piece ought to not be a specific print. Brand-name or small-label print garments are incredibly popular, but they’re also incredibly noticeable. After you’ve worn and re-coordinated that dress several times, you’ll likely grow bored with it. There’s no real harm in wearing the same outfit over and over, if you like doing so, but a lack of variety can make you envious of other girls with more varied closets. A dress without a specific design is easier to reinvent over and over again, because it has slightly more of a “blank canvas” quality.
You can wear the one-piece as it is, you can wear it with patterned tights, you can wear it with a cardigan, you can wear it with a skirt over it like some of the models in Alice Deco À La Mode, you can wear it over a blouse or cutsew like a jumperskirt, etc. You can wear accessories in matching colours or contrasting colours. There’s a lot of opportunity for experimentation! (Also, non-print one-pieces are much less expensive than their highly-sought-after and limited-release counterparts!)
Pictures are online shop catalog images from Angelic Pretty, but that doesn’t mean your purchases need to be! I simply chose them to illustrate my points because I love Angelic Pretty! ♥ Moi-même-Moitié, Sweet Rococo, Bodyline, a shop from TaoBao, or a commission from a seamstress–all are great choices! It’s best to pick something you love, so you won’t get tired of wearing it, and to pick something that fits you well, so you will be comfortable and look your best.
I’d love to hear others’ opinions as to the best “first item.” It can be quite hard to choose~ Thinking about this subject has made me very nostalgic~ ♥ My first “starting point” seems so long ago!