Unless you fall into a very specific range of measurements or specifically commission every item of your lolita wardrobe, it’s almost inevitable that you will fall in love with at least one garment that won’t fit. Japanese lolita fashion brands generally manufacture an item in only one size (although there are a few exceptions), and the same measurements are not used for every garment. The general idea is to have the garment fit “Japanese standard size 9,” but the result is not always so. Metamorphose typically runs bigger than BABY, the Stars Shine Bright, which typically runs bigger than Mary Magdalene. And even within a brand, sizes can vary even between items in the same series–that is why the companies list measurements for each garment.
So what is a lolita to do when she sees the dress that sets her heart aflame only to read the numbers that cast a shadow on her hopes and dreams?
There are roughly three overall options: dieting, alterations, or replicas.
Dieting really only works if you are slightly larger than the comfortable size for the garment. Losing weight is not simple, especially if you do it properly instead of hoping for a quick-fix. Also, there are many fit-related issues that cannot be helped by losing weight–if a garment is too large, that won’t be useful at all! Also, there are other factors to take into consideration–height, bone structure, etc. For some people, reaching a certain waist or bust size just might not be realistic. It’s very individualistic. Dieting tends to be an option only in the very rare case–it can still be useful for certain cases of fit! After all, if one just has to lose a bit of excess weight to wear a beautiful dress, it will be the dress with no extra cost incurred and no change to the garment.
Alterations can be used to take something in or let something out, but only within a certain range. If your measurements are drastically different from those of the original item, altering it will destroy the intended shape. It can be nearly impossible to find the right fabric to add inches by adding panels, especially if the dress in question uses unique fabric or details. Also, alterations require a certain level of seamstress ability–not everyone who knows how to sew can alter successfully. With an expensive or coveted clothing item, it’s important to do it right. If the alteration is badly accomplished, sometimes there’s no re-doing it!
However, alterations are generally a good idea if the garment is only slightly too large or slightly too small, and as long as you know you don’t plan to resell it. Anything tailored to someone’s specific measurements is very difficult to resell, unless you know there are lots of other people in your general size range.
Although I generally do not fit perfectly into most lolita items that I purchase from Japanese brand names, I usually don’t alter anything because the difference can be fixed in some other way. I wear extra layers to add bulk underneath, and use waist ties and corseting along with visual “tricks” to keep attention off areas where the improper fit is most obvious. As long as a few general rules are met–don’t tie the waist-ties so tight that the bodice “gapes” around you, make sure the skirt falls at approximately knee-length, and check that elements of the design aren’t exaggerated enough to look overwhelming–most on-lookers will never know!
This wasn’t the case with my recent purchase of a Metamorphose special set, consisting of a blouse and matching skirt. When I tried it on, I thought it fit wonderfully! When I decided to wear it for the first time, I realized it was huge! (I completely forgot that I had tried it on over the clothing I was already wearing, so once those extra garments were no longer underneath the difference was striking.) I loved it and desperately wanted to wear it, so I decided to have it altered. My little sister is a master in terms of garment construction, but she hates altering brand-name items in case the results aren’t exactly what she wanted. However, I talked her into it.
The blouse was the most difficult piece to alter. The skirt was very, very easy–we ripped the elastic out of the waistband and sewed a channel threaded with a shorter piece of elastic. Voila! The blouse was trickier. After some consideration, we decided to take in the front seams. It took some adjustment to get things just right. It looks much, much better now; I previously looked like a little kid dressed up in her grandmother’s clothes. I decided to alter these garments because I wanted to keep them for a long time, could not wear them as they were, and didn’t feel I would be “ruining” something too costly. (It’s much improved this way!)
Replicas are another option, but that really depends. Some people are incredibly moralistically opposed to replicas. I don’t mind it when someone copies something for their own personal use, but I dislike seeing replicas for sale beyond a commission request. After all, the design belongs to someone else–using it for profit seems wrong to me. I especially disagree with artwork, such as specialty prints, being replicated; I feel it infringes upon the rights of the artist. That said, it’s very difficult for someone who cannot wear a print but wants one very badly. I don’t think that he or she is a bad person for wanting, making, buying, or soliciting a replica–but I still don’t think that selling such a thing on a broad scale is right.
Replicas can be a difficult ground as well because it is very difficult to find a seamstress or tailor capable of creating a replica that can truly match the specifications of the original. Perhaps the sewer cannot find the right fabric or the right trim. In more drastic cases, the prospective creator of the replica may not have pattern drafting skills of a caliber to allow him or her to create a true copy of the original garment. When making or commissioning a replica, it’s important to make sure that whoever will be cutting and sewing the garment has the ability to accurately recreate it. You should also consider what is most important to you about the dress, to avoid disappointment in the (highly likely) even that the replica isn’t 100% identical to the original. Make sure that you know what to concentrate on or what to tell your commissioned seller.
There’s no easy, instant way to deal with a “dream dress” that only fits in your dreams. However, it isn’t a totally lost cause! Sometimes that dream can become a reality with a little bit of work~
And, out of curiosity, have you ever fallen in love with a lolita fashion item that wouldn’t fit? How did you deal with it–were you successful or did it just not work out?