On Being Lolita: Dry Cleaning

On Being Lolita: Dry Cleaning

Dry Cleaned Blouses
Originally uploaded by sweetmilktea

I don’t trust myself to wash some of my more detailed and more expensive pieces of clothing. Certain lolita garments are hand-washable, but I worry about colors bleeding or stains getting set in. Considering that I tend to climb just about anything that might have foot-holds, love dessert–no matter how messy, and can sometimes fall asleep in awkward places, my lolita clothing does not stay neat and pristine forever. To avoid unduly damage, I take my things to the dry cleaners.

However, it’s very important to find a reputable dry cleaner! Not all places use the same cleaning methods, chemicals, or level of care. Having an expensive, beloved jumperskirt meet its demise at the hands of someone who was supposed to clean it is very upsetting.

Right now I rely on Briar Cleaners or K M Cleaners. (K M Cleaners houses the dry-cleaning plant; both locations are owned by the same person.) They’ve been cleaning a fellow lolita’s clothing for years, and take exquisite care of every garment that passes through their hands. I’ve seen them remove old, set-in stains, and I’ve never lost a button, ribbon, or detachable piece. Not to mention that they press everything very well, so I don’t have to re-do it myself once at home. They even do alterations~

The price is higher than some of the other cleaners, but I don’t trust my lolita clothing to anyone else’s hands. They even cleaned my BABY, the Stars Shine Bright bunny pochette~ I kept trying to clean Mallow myself without much in the way of results. When I brought that purse in, they said they’d have to take him over and call me back. That call came only a few hours later, and they confirmed that they could clean him. He hasn’t looked this good since I unwrapped him from the original shipping box!

If you’re going to test out a new dry cleaner, make sure that the first lolita garment isn’t something too detailed. Avoid something with fake pearls, paste jewels, or any other dangling pieces that aren’t removable, as they can be melted or eaten away at due to chemicals or heat. Be upfront with the clerks at the dry cleaner, and ask if they think they can clean it. If your response is frowning and a stress that there is no guarantee, you should consider taking your clothing elsewhere. You may want to take a few detailed pictures of the item as proof of what it looked like before it was taken in for cleaning, just in case anything happens.

Once the item is returned to you, inspect it for any burns, tears, stains, or bleeding before you even leave the shop. If you have a complaint, you want to make it as soon as possible. Then, check to see how well it was cleaned, if there is any residue that you dislike the feel or smell of, and how the lace was ironed. If you’re generally satisfied, the next step is to have them clean something more detailed. Lolita clothing is usually much more expensive to dry clean than non-lolita clothing, so you definitely want to get your money’s worth!

Also, talk to other lolita in your area! Ask where they like to have their things cleaned–maybe there’s an experienced cleaner that you didn’t even know of.

On Being Lolita: Laundry Day

On Being Lolita: Laundry Day

All garments benefit from proper cleaning techniques. The wrong temperature water can have a drastic effect on certain fabrics or trims. Colors may bleed, stains become set, or tears exaggerated. Lolita clothing is far from affordable, and even if you own inexpensive garments from Bodyline, Anna House, or one of the many TaoBao sellers it’s still a shame to ruin something by laundering it improperly.

The easiest garments to wash, in my opinion, are petticoats, socks, and bloomers. Jumperskirts, one-pieces, blouses, and other items typically require more attention–usually very careful handwashing or dry cleaning. Socks tend to get dirtier than any other item, especially if one is the type of lolita who perhaps is not terribly ladylike. …Not that I know anyone like that, of course.


Most socks, even expensive socks from Japanese brands, can be safely machine washed. There are two things to watch out for when washing socks–colorfastness and lace. This is more pertinent in the case of dark socks with white lace. An easy way to test colorfastness is dampen and apply the detergent you hoped to use on less noticeable part of the sock–such as under the foot. Then, rub a white rag against it. If the color transfers onto the white rag, it is not colorfast and should be washed separately. (Soaking in vinegar and salt is an old trick to help keep colors from bleeding out of an item.)

It is also important to check the lace on your socks. Ironing the lace back into place can be tedious, but there’s no need to do so if you are careful.

If your socks aren’t bleeding, you can safely wash them in the washing machine on the delicate cycle. I always wash with cold water to avoid fading. As always, wash with like colors just in case of any bleeding. I put my socks in a mesh lingerie bag to keep them from getting caught on anything inside the machine and bent out of shape. If your socks aren’t colorfast you can still wash them alone, but their color might fade if they aren’t treated. If they have contrasting lace or an intricate pattern, it might be safer to spot-treat or dry clean, unless you trust yourself to clean them by hand.

Most lolita socks look nicest if they are laid flat to dry instead of tumbling in a dryer. Smoothing the wrinkles out can really improve their appearance. This is most important for lace! Don’t dry lace-topped socks in the dryer unless crumpled lace doesn’t bother you. I always smooth out the lace with my fingers until it is laying neatly–it dries best that way.


In my opinion, bloomers are the easiest garment to wash. I’ve never run across a pair that couldn’t be machine washed and dried–unless you own bloomers made of the silk Mana spins from his own hair. Simply wash and dry with like colors. I like to use a mesh lingerie bag to keep ribbons or trim from getting caught on other clothing.


There are generally two types of petticoats in lolita fashion. Petticoats should be categorized by fabric type–usually tulle/netting or organdie/organza. Both kinds can be safely machine washed on the delicate cycle with cold water.

However, tulle petticoats benefit from being washed in a large mesh lingerie bag, to keep the tulle from tearing. It is very useful to starch tulle or netting petticoats, as well, as they provide better support to skirts when stiffened by starch. This can be accomplished either afterwards with spray-starch or during the washing cycle with a starch added to the washing water. Tulle petticoats can be dried in an electric drier, but only with extreme caution–they will melt if the heat is too high! Hanging a tulle petticoat upside-down to dry helps it stay nice and fluffy.

Organdie or organza petticoats don’t need the protection of a mesh bag, and they usually clean more thoroughly when washed separately. They also don’t require starch, since they rely on volume, not stiffness, to provide their poof. They can be tumbled dry on low to medium heat with very nice results–it leaves them fluffier than hanging them up to dry~

I actually enjoy washing my lolita clothing. It makes me feel accomplished to see things become so neat and clean, and I hate to wear dirty things~

Sweet Treats: Ice Cream

Sweet Treats: Ice Cream

When the sun shines so strongly that I feel blinded even with my sunglasses on and the rays of heat seem intent on burning a hole right through my skin, that is a day for ice cream! Ice cream is one of the best summertime treats out there, as it is sweet and chilled~

Normal ice cream, purchased at the grocery store, is generally okay. There’s always a wide selection of flavors and consistencies, and one purchase is usually several servings of ice cream–unless my brothers get to the container first. Some of the newer, “boutique”-type ice cream brands offer really inventive flavors that can please even the trickiest palate. In the summertime, it can be a lot of fun to sit around the kitchen table and talk while everyone’s ice cream slowly melts.

In fact, an ice cream social would be a really lovely summer meetup! Hmm, maybe I’ve just given myself an idea~

All that aside, although there is plenty of ice cream available in the summer, sometimes it’s best to go out to an ice cream parlor! An ice cream parlor is (of course) the best place to get sundaes and sodas and other creations…but it can also be the source of exquisite flavors and wonderful craftsmanship! My favourite places to stop are little personally-owned shops where they make their own flavors.

In my neighborhood, this means Bobtail! I adore everything about their shop, from the delicious signature flavors to the quaint surroundings and ambiance. I ordered “Lincoln Park Zoo,” a strawberry ice cream with rainbow sprinkles and frosted animal crackers swirled into it! (How could I resist something combining so many tastes I am fond of?) A carefully-layered scoop was pressed onto the pointy-tipped cake cone, the rainbow-dotted pink confection looking almost too good to be edible~

Sitting on the bench, swinging my feet and trying to keep my cone from dripping on my hand, summer never seemed so sweet!

Sweet Treats: Tea for Beginners

Sweet Treats: Tea for Beginners

Tea Cabinet Chaos
Originally uploaded by sweetmilktea

The beverage most closely associated with lolita fashion is tea. There is a decided fixation on tea time, taking tea, and tea parties; tea is even a theme for clothing designs or prints. The focus on tea is due to its relation to Victorian times, one of the many inspirations for lolita fashion. Additionally, a formal tea time or tea party seems quite fitting as a luxurious activity for beautifully-dressed lolita to partake in–even if they’re sipping coffee or soda from the delicate china.

Tea can seem overwhelming or hoity-toity at first. There are “tea snobs,” just as there are elitists of almost any kind. In the United States there isn’t a lot of information readily available on tea, as there might be in other countries were tea is a more popular beverage.

However, it’s easy to learn more about tea! Greater tea knowledge can increase enjoyment of the drink and make gatherings focused around it more fun~

There are many varieties of tea–black tea, white tea, green tea, red tea, and herbal teas. The most important thing to know when making tea is the temperature the water should be at. Steeping at the wrong temperature can make even the most wonderful tea taste bitter, while steeping even the lowest-quality teabag at the correct temperature improves its taste wonderfully! Herbal teas can withstand the highest temperatures, then black teas, followed by red, green, and white teas. The water for green and white teas should not be boiled! Either turn off the water before it boils, or let boiled water sit for several minutes until it cools sufficiently.

Tea bags are never as flavorful as loose leaf teas, for several reasons. Tea bags often contain fannings, which are smaller particles of tea that are often swept from full tea leaves. Loose leaf teas consist of the actual leaves, sorted depending on the grade of tea. Tea looses its flavor when exposed to air, so it is best stored in an airtight container. This is another reason that tea bags are less flavorful–air seeps into the box and gets to the tea. The bags themselves can introduce odd flavors to the tea when steeped. Tea bags are quite tiny, which doesn’t allow enough water to come in contact with the leaves inside–thus less flavor is infused by the leaves.

If you aren’t ready to make the leap to loose-leaf tea, pay attention when choosing bagged tea so that you can brew a better cup. Try your best to sample the tea before you purchase an entire box, or at least smell the box to get an idea of how the flavor might suit you. Look for tea bags that boast to contain whole tea leaves, and tea bags made of meshed fabric instead of paper. Also, look for large bags–pyramid is a popular shape–so that the tea inside has plenty of room to expand and add it’s flavor to the water.

Although I am certainly no tea expert, I love tea and am always hoping to convert others to my obsession! I don’t think I could resist writing more on it in the future.

On Being Lolita: Luxury vs. Necessity

On Being Lolita: Luxury vs. Necessity

“Give me the luxuries of life, and I will willingly do without the necessities.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Several years ago I read this quote, and soon jotted down a hasty jumble of thoughts on how I related the saying to lolita fashion. When re-reading some old entries in my personal journal and reflecting on how far my life has come thus far, I crossed over my old composition. I still believe it to be true, and thought this would be a capital place to share a neatened-up version of my old writing.

This aforementioned quote often comes to mind when I reflect on lolita fashion, which seems an epitome of luxury. Clothing is a necessity, to keep bodies warmed and covered. Lolita fashion is barely suited for the latter! The style idealizes luxury as opposed to necessity: the clothing is beautiful, expensive, and decadent. It is not suited to protection from the elements. It cannot stand up to the daily chores of life. The intent is to project an image of removal from most aspects of the real world.

Even with seasonal adjustments, lolita fashion only suits itself to one type of weather–mild. In blazing heat the layers of detailed clothing is oppressive and stifling; in frigid flurries those layers seem ineffective in keeping out the bone-chilling cold. It is possible to dress to alleviate these problems: long-sleeve blouses, no knee socks, mittens and scarves, or fewer petticoats. However, these alterations are designed by resourceful wearers of the fashion, not necessarily the designs of the fashion. Lolita maintain their appearance diligently in inclement weather, but there is a difference indeed between a lolita attired in her finest and a lolita bundled up for winter survival.

It is not suited to daily work. Washing the dishes, scrubbing the floor, or shaking out rugs in lolita fashion is awkward. The poofy skirts squish in an unflattering manner when pressed up against the sink, making the surface fully available for spills and drips. Kneeling on the floor risks dirtying one’s socks and the skirt that is sure to brush across that floor. It is not impossible to do housework in lolita, but no lolita would wear her best dress for the activity! Pulling weeds in lolita would seem an open invitation for a dirt and grass-stained skirt and sweat-stained bodice. This is because lolita fashion is not intended as every-day wear for average people. The influences of the style draw heavily from aristocrats of the 18th century and middle- or upper-class Victorians who would have servants to do their menial tasks. The lolita is not supposed to partake of these activities.

The quote most strongly applies to the many girls and guys who pride themselves on being lolita. Few people have the idle income to be at their lolita finest every day, with a vast array of costly garments, decorated fingernails that impede certain activities, immaculately-styled hair and makeup unmarred by heavy work, or exquisite shoes ill-suited for much walking. Most lolita work, typically in environments where they cannot wear their frills, and have other expenses beyond clothing. She must scale back on some things to afford to buy clothing, attend meetups, and pamper herself in her own “lolita” way.

Thus a real-life lolita balances the luxuries with the necessities. Should she save up for a new dress, or see a movie? Or go out for dinner? Or purchase other clothes? Or pay the bills, perhaps? Often it is very tempting to result to harmful tactics, like credit-card debt or even fraud, in an attempt to enjoy the very best of both worlds. A lolita that conducts herself minimally when living as her day-to-day civilian disguise can dress herself to perfection, surround herself with opulence, and indulge in the manifestation of the dream-world.

My father often says, “We go big, or we don’t go at all.” I fully agree. I would rather enjoy the things I do enjoy exquisitely, and do away with the rest, rather than have a little of each but none of the best. It becomes a mix of miserly and overindulgent–an empty refrigerator and a full closet. I love extravagant things, but I must chose. A fancy meal or a new cutsew? Even when money is so tight that clothing purchases are best not considered, there are always places to cut back just enough to have a bit of spending-money for something luxurious, like a specialty cupcake or admission to a museum.

That is the state of the lolita, who would rather enjoy herself to the fullest than walk the fence between extravagance and essentials. She does not exist at a steady yet dull level, but flares up every so often like a dying star, returning to the colder, dimmer state when that bit of energy has been expanded.

Reading Corner: Little Women

Reading Corner: Little Women

When I was little, one of my most prized possessions was a collection of six thick novels with matching red covers. A present from my grandmother, they had been hers when she was a girl. The six novels did not match merely by chance, but because they were a set of stories that continued together: Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, An Old-Fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom.

As I child, I never read them. I kept them neatly on the top shelf of my bookcase, organized neatly into a row. I liked to stare up at their maroon spines, all exactly the same height and nearly the same width. It seemed so orderly and mature to have those matching books on my shelf. Then we moved, and I packed them away never to unpack those tomes again.

Although the setting for Little Women is the Civil War, I settled on it for my second “lolita” book because of a regret for not having read those treasured gifts. I knew vaguely of the tale enough to think it could be tied together at least somewhat. After all, through lolita fashion I had found friends dear enough to me to think of sisters and relatives, and together we have been through trials of all kinds.

I was not disappointed. I found the text engaging, and enjoyed following the story of the four girls who each had their own hardships, disappointments, and joys. None of the characters are flat–each has her good and bad sides, just as all people do. Even though they develop through the story as they try their hardest to live good lives, each retains a humanity that makes them seem real. It seems obvious that experiences inspired the best of the work.

I believe that lolita fashion is strongly about being a young lady. The appearance is childish, but the clothing does not directly resemble children’s fashion. There are certainly elements that conjure up images of rosy-cheeked little girls, but the wearer is decidedly intended to be older as the clothing is made to an adult size. Little Women offers advice that any romantic, old-fashioned young lady can take to heart. It does not chide one for longing to hold onto youth but provides guidance looking towards the future.

On Being Lolita: Prints on the Rise

On Being Lolita: Prints on the Rise

As the fashion has evolved over the years, specialty prints–where a company creates special artwork and has it worked onto the fabric before the garments are made with it–haven taken over for most of the sweet lolita brand-names. There is a certain allure to prints, for they are both artwork in their own right and a status symbol.

Each print begins with an idea, transmitted to an artist, who then illustrates the desired image. However, printed fabric does not often show a simple picture repeated over and over again; the desired effect is usually a continuing, fluid series of images that can cover as much of the surface as possible. A typical border print, where most of the artwork is concentrated just along the edge of the fabric (typically used along the bottom edge of a skirt), may require several separately designed pieces that are then carefully arranged together for a final print on the full dimensions of the fabric. An all-over print, on the other hand, requires a different skill to make sure that the continuous design matches up correctly to repeat endlessly.

The effort of the artist shines through in a garment made with a specialty print. It gives the piece more adornment without any other materials. A typical jumperskirt might add interest to the skirt portion with pintucks, ribbon-bows, or ruffles, but a jumperskirt with a border print does not, to keep attention focused upon the crafted illustrations near the edge. Decorative touches on a one-piece with all-over print can increase the opulence of the dress until it seems like a frosted wedding cake!

However, prints are also used as a status symbol. A specialized print conveys the same message as a large logo–and indeed, most prints contain the company’s logo tucked away in the pattern! It lets everyone who recognizes lolita fashion know which company your outfit is from. Additionally, prints are usually hard-to-find, as they are popular with many lolita and often sell out during the reservation period, leaving only a few items to wind up on store shelves.

Several years ago, prints were rather uncommon. Now they are released in an almost-constant stream! Each company seems to aim to out-do the other with over-the-top ideas, bold colors, and eye-catching artwork.

Most prints haven’t impressed me very much, but now that I own a recent print I couldn’t help thinking more about them. I love looking at the dress hung in my closet, bedecked with cherries, strawberries, bunny silhouettes, and Angelic Pretty emblems on the bodice and skirt. The enormous fluffy bunnies border-printed along the bottom catch my attention so that I notice every detail–long eyelashes, massive tails, a hint of blush. The fascination is only slightly different than how I feel looking at a beloved one-piece or skirt, but a print draws attention differently; it offers drawings to examine instead of design elements to fawn over.

Neither is any better or worse than the other, despite the higher sum a popular printed item might fetch on resale. Prints add modernity to lolita fashion, further removing it from historical accuracy. I believe this is natural for a modern fashion. Lolita fashion cannot remain stuck in the past because it never was the past–it is a glance into a time and place that never actually existed, like a vaguely-remembered dream. I can’t help but wonder what other new elements will be incorporated as time goes on.

Outfit Snap: Bunnies, Cherries, AND Berries

Outfit Snap: Bunnies, Cherries, AND Berries

Today was my birthday, so I celebrated by dressing up~! In my family, birthdays are always given a special importance. Even if I haven’t the money to spend for frivolities, the ability to schedule something with my busy friends, or a massively delicious dessert made in my honor, there is always something that can be done! My person was a true dear and treated me like a princess all day–he even fetched my things while I dressed.

My little sister bought the pink Cherry Berry Bunny jumperskirt from Angelic Pretty while she was on a school trip in Japan. I wanted it even before she went, but I was not able to afford to ask her for it. She returned with it anyway, because the print is truly amazing, and now I am slowly buying it from her. She dropped it off the other day, even though it is not paid off, giving me the opportunity to wear it today~ ♥

I don’t own any of the matching accessories. This isn’t much of a problem, except for the fact that Cherry Berry Bunny is trimmed in dark pink eyelet lace. The lace itself is adorable–tiny bunnies stitched into it–but it’s such an odd color choice! None of my socks or hair accessories have pink lace–it’s almost all white. I think I managed as best I could. I was very glad that at least the pinks all matched~!

Overall, my day was lovely, and being dressed up in a new something that I have yearned for since I saw pictures on the blogs added an extra-special touch! I feel so fortunate! ♥ What a happy day~

On Being Lolita: The Merit of Courage

On Being Lolita: The Merit of Courage

Wearing lolita fashion can be extremely nerve-wracking, regardless of sub-style. Some people are blessed with incredible self-confidence, able to conduct themselves how they please without the creeping fears of being humiliated. Others, myself included, are not so lucky. The outlandishness of lolita clothing makes it as much of a target for unkind words as other extreme styles, but the reputation of “other lolita” certainly doesn’t help. It is one thing to be mocked by strangers–another thing entirely to be mocked by fellow devotees.

Newcomers to the fashion often ask the question: “How can you wear lolita in public?” There is no secret; the only thing necessary is courage.

It takes courage to step out onto a busy street without fearing other people’s reactions to your attire. It takes courage to hold your head high instead of breaking into tears when a crude comment shoots your way. It takes courage to put on a petticoat and hairbow and step outside again when you know that others will mistreat you. It takes courage to meet new people and do new things, no matter what the context.

The most important part, not just about lolita fashion but about any fashion, is feeling comfortable in your clothing. This may not happen immediately when that clothing is something so far from what you may have worn before. I often notice that lolita who wear other bold styles, such as gothic or punk, are less daunted by the prospect of being out and about in their clothing, and I believe it is because most of them have already conquered most of their fears about going against what is “normal” for fashion. If this is one’s first taste of being a black sheep, it can be very daunting!

Recently I took a bit of an involuntary break from wearing lolita fashion, because I moved into a new place and my clothing was left along the wayside for several months. When I finally dressed up again, I felt most of the nervousness that I thought I had lost return to me. As happy as I felt to be wearing my beloved frills again, I worried about what my landlord might think, about what passersby might say, and so forth.

Here are a few tips that I use to help get over that oppressive sinking feeling when fear has taken hold:

  • Stand up straight and tall, and smile! If I act like I am confident, even if I am shaking inside, it is easier to go about my business without thinking too much about my worries. Standing erect and having a pleasant expression exudes an attitude that makes one less of an easy target to pick on.
  • Bring a friend! I find that I think less about what other people might be thinking if I am engaged in conversation with a friend. There is strength in numbers.
  • Remember that strangers have their own lives. They’re not likely to dwell too very much on one odd-looking stranger, so don’t waste time focusing on what goes on in their heads. Keep your thoughts focused on the fun you are having or will have, or other pleasantries.
  • Ignore unkind comments. Arguing with some foul-tongued onlookers is a waste of time and energy. If they’re apt to be cruel, it’s best to move from their presence as quickly as possible. That’s not to say that it’s improper to stand up for oneself, but avoid drawing deeper into an escalating conflict.

The very best way to acclimate yourself to wearing lolita is to do it. Discover how far you can take yourself, and then test your boundaries every once in a while. If you love the clothing but are simply too shy to be seen in public (or you worry about being spotted by co-workers, friends, or schoolmates), pack your frills and change into them at your destination. Walking around with a full “flock” of fully-attired lolita is much less nerve-wracking than being alone.

Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t let yourself be unsafe. Whispers or mean comments can wound pride, but anything physical cannot be prevented by courage alone. Do your best to know how the people around you behave. If you live in a bigoted place where you might be threatened for your fashion choices, act responsibly.

Just don’t let unfounded anxiety keep you from fun!

Outfit Snap: Lounging Around Casual

Outfit Snap: Lounging Around Casual

Although I personally find it to be the most fun to wear an elaborate lolita fashion outfit, coordinated with several accessories, sometimes I need more practicality. As much as blouses, jumperskirts, one-pieces, cutsews, knee-socks, and fancy shoes make me feel like a fairy, it isn’t always worthwhile.

Today I am doing housework and enjoying a “white day” with my person, so I wanted to dress up, but didn’t want to wear something I might splash with bleach from scrubbing the tub. Lazing about on the floor wrinkles skirts and petticoats, and I haven’t an iron in my new apartment. Dusting and vacuuming can become very complicated if there are trims and ribbons dangling from one’s outfit.

So I wore a skirt that I very much adore but have been unable to coordinate well. It is Bodyline‘s “fruits parlor” replica–a wonderful gift from my little sister. ♥ The skirt is gorgeous, but it uses a lot of peachy-pinks that don’t match the more violet-pinks or red-pinks in the rest of my clothing. Even the reds on the skirt aren’t similar to any reds I own–not even on a t-shirt! It can be frustrating, and I’ve rarely managed anything I want to wear to a meetup.

Since I’m going to be indoors, enjoying myself, I just wore it with a yellow tank-top (as there are yellow lemons on the skirt) and a pink sweater that isn’t the right shade. My strawberry hair-clips are the only matching part!

Regardless of disappointment in my coordination, I still feel like a lolita to sit here typing in my poofy skirt, and I certainly wouldn’t be happier in jeans!