Meetup Report: Lolita Day Picnic

Meetup Report: Lolita Day Picnic

This year I was determined to have some sort of gathering on International Lolita Day, which falls on the first Saturday of June and the first Saturday in December. It’s a biannual holiday so that we can have the opportunity to wear our finest warmer- and cooler-weather coordinates. It’s also more fun! Lolita Day is not an “official” holiday–it’s something created by Western lolita who wanted a day of celebration. For that, I fully support it!

It’s clear that there would never be a bank holiday in honor of lolita fashion, but if there can be days like “National Strawberry Ice Cream Day” (January 15, for the record), why can’t we have an “International Lolita Day?” All that it really takes to create a holiday is enough momentum. It starts somewhere, is little-known, those interested in it celebrate and spread the word, and eventually it gains enough momentum to be more than just the inkling of a good idea. I love celebrating, and I know I’m not the only one! I hope that in the future, International Lolita Day becomes part of the core knowledge of anyone gaining an interest in the fashion. I never need an excuse to get dressed up, but I certainly won’t turn one down~

Mingling Amongst Ourselves
I was so happy to see new faces and talk to old friends! It was a great meetup.

To try and make the meetup in Chicago as accessible as possible on Lolita Day, I planned a potluck picnic at the free zoo. I didn’t count on the increasingly dismal weather forecasts. For the week before the picnic many potential attendees worried about the talk of thunderstorms. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of suitable rain plans–there isn’t really anywhere in the city for a large group to meet and have a picnic indoors without renting something, and the group had outgrown the capacity of my tiny home. The weather forecast isn’t very accurate in our area due to the effects of the lake, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for a good day.

Of course, as soon as I left the house to head to the zoo, it started raining. We trudged along anyway, as I would not be convinced to cancel without seeing lightning. Nearly everyone was sending me messages or calling to ask if it had been canceled, though! We were all very concerned with the status of our intended event. My small group arrived very early and right in the heart of the downpour, so we huddled in the conservatory and tried to avoid the leaky spots. (It’s a beautiful vintage building, so it isn’t water-tight in the slightest!)

By the time several of us had assembled, the rain was over. Unfortunately, the grass was wet, which complicated the picnic a bit. I wound up sending the group about a block or so north to a covered gazebo so we wouldn’t be sitting on blankets soaked with rainwater, then waited for the rest of the guests. I wish I had brought a checklist, because it was very difficult for me to figure out who had arrived and who was missing, since no-one notified me that they weren’t going to come.

It’s not a meetup without lots of picture-taking, although honestly a lot of the time most of us forget.

After a leisurely, enjoyable lunch, we headed back to the zoo. At this point the weather was gorgeous~ The rain had alleviated some of the humidity, although it wasn’t exactly “dry” weather, and the sun was shining but the clouds still remained. I appreciated that it wasn’t blazing hot, but also had the chance to give my parasol lots of use between the rain and sunshine. We meandered around the zoo for a while, and then split so those who wanted to ride the carousel would have the opportunity.

The zoo has a lovely carousel that is truly a work of art. It has 48 handcrafted endangered species, most of which can also be seen at the zoo in a non-carved form. It sits near the back of the zoo on a structure custom-built to hold it, beneath a canopy to protect it from most of the weather. Thus the paint isn’t faded from sunlight, we didn’t have to worry about it being wet from the rain, and it’s always a bit cooler on the carousel even though it doesn’t go very fast. I didn’t get any pictures, although I really wanted to, because I left my camera with my husband and I was holding everyone’s bags.

As much as I adore that carousel, I’ve actually never ridden it! Isn’t that silly? Maybe one of these days I’ll actually go on, but I don’t know how I could choose which animal to be my steed–they are all so beautiful~

Polar Bear
I love the polar bears~ Seeing this one out and active made me so happy!

After everyone had enjoyed the ride, we rejoined the other group by the polar bears, took pictures, and enjoyed each other’s company. There were so many people at this meetup that I hadn’t had the chance to meet before, so it was very exciting! Lately there has been a lot happening in the suburbs, which I can rarely get to, or events on Sundays when I’m trapped in the office. It was nice to finally connect a face with a name or identify a girl with her picture. I enjoyed being a part of so many conversations~

Slowly different members began to depart, and those that remained headed over to some tables to have a “second” picnic. A few people had arrived a bit late, and many of us had leftover items. There’s almost always an abundance of food, but it can come in handy if the meetup lasts a few hours longer than you might have thought it would and everyone is feeling hungry again. My husband was glad to have people drink more of the tea we brought, since it made the bag he was carrying lighter and lighter~

Soon it was time for me to head home, while some attendees went to Chinatown for dinner. That would have been kind of fun, but since I had to be up early for work the next day it just didn’t seem like a good choice. I had a really wonderful time meeting so many people, I can’t wait to see everyone again~! ♥

Reading Corner: Sense and Sensibility…and Sea Monsters

Reading Corner: Sense and Sensibility…and Sea Monsters

When I first started to hear about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I was intrigued–but not enough to actually seek it out and read it. I find Jane Austen enjoyable, but I’m don’t feel compelled to read everything she’s ever written. (However, I am compelled that way about F. Scott Fitzgerald and have done so. That’s an entirely different subject.) I thought the concept was amusing, but I worried about the actual execution–I worried that the other writer’s work wouldn’t mesh well enough with Austen’s story.

Then someone wrote Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. The “sea monsters” portion sealed the deal for me, and I absolutely had to read it. I took a gamble and bought myself a copy, hoping I wouldn’t be dropping it off in a few days at the library donation box and wishing I had just read it instead. Thankfully, that’s not how I feel about it at all~

...And Sea Monsters
I love the cover illustration with the way Colonel Brandon is featured. The artwork is soft and beautiful…but he has a tentacle-face.

The story takes Sense and Sensibility and alters the setting to a Britain where humans are at war with marine creatures. It’s man-versus-fish all the way through! This is incorporated into the story very thoroughly, with a definite campy and cheeky edge to the additions. Personally, I think that made it even better. It would be impossible to take this story 100% seriously, what with place locations like Pestilence Island and the bloody devouring of young maidens by massive sea creatures, so I appreciated the lightheartedness!

I’m very enthralled by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, particularly the Cthulhu mythos, so the draw of a historical book intertwined with monsters of the deep was irresistible. There were certainly moments when I thought of Lovecraft’s grim, weary sailors or brave men of science while reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, but all did not turn to horror as his tales regularly do. (In fact, there’s even a happy ending! ♥)

I hadn’t read Sense and Sensibility when I started the book, but I enjoyed it very much regardless. I knew that I would probably feel more “in” on the running jokes if I had read the original Jane Austen novel first, but I couldn’t resist once the derivative work was already in my possession. You don’t need to have read the original to like the sea monster-laced version–just enjoy humor, a Georgian historical setting, and giant maleficent fish; that’s all you need.

Attack Tuna!
The book was illustrated, and they always seemed to pick the scenes that I really hoped would be illustrated. The attacking tuna was one of my favourites.

Once finished, however, I set about to remedy the problem and read Sense and Sensibility to pick up on whatever jests I had missed in Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. I discovered I didn’t miss out on much. I think I prefer it with sea monsters~ ♥

Next on my reading list? Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Ruffle Review: Grace Gift & TaoBaoNow

Ruffle Review: Grace Gift & TaoBaoNow

Whether or not I’m wearing lolita fashion, I have a problem shared by many, many girls: it’s difficult to find clothing and shoes that fit me well. Personally, I’m smaller than most measurements, but not terribly short (although certainly not tall). The issue I most commonly face is the smallest size just not being small enough. Buying shoes is particularly difficult. I’m finding that most companies are now starting at 6 US or larger–there are few options for my 5 US or smaller feet! Many of the shoes I have owned for a while are slowly reaching the end of their shoe lifespan, but I’m finding it harder and harder to buy replacements.

This was what led me to order from Grace Gift via their “flagship” shop on TaoBao. TaoBao is a Chinese auction/shopping site that is rather like Japan’s Rakuten or US-based eBay. It’s generally considered to be an internet shopping mall, as opposed to an online store, because there are so many goods available from a variety of retailers. I had been curious about TaoBao because there are more and more up-and-coming lolita fashion brands selling via that network, but I hadn’t actually ordered anything.

Grace Gift is a Taiwanese shoe company that makes “Lovely Shoes for Sweet Girls.” They do not specifically or exclusively sell shoes to be paired with lolita fashion, but they offer several styles that would be cute with a coordinate. (Although they also have many other sandals, flats, pumps, and boots that are “trendy” or gal-style.) You can purchase their shoes through their shop at Rakuten, their shop on Yahoo!Taiwan, their shop at TaoBao, and their “flagship” shop on TaoBao. I ordered from the Grace Gift shop on TaoBao because they had the best selection of the shoes I wanted.

Shopping at TaoBao requires a shopping service, an intermediary who makes the purchases for you and ships them internationally for a fee. I chose to use TaoBaoNow because I had read a few reviews and liked the look of their semi-automated system. They are not the least-expensive shopping service for the website in question, and I have heard they do not respond to emails promptly. I did not email them, however; I posted questions within their system which they responded to within two days. The shopping cart automatically calculated shipping and provided me with an image of the item I was purchasing, which I very much liked. I wish I would have gotten emails from the system when certain steps were complete during the processing, but instead I had to log on and check–although it wasn’t difficult to see which stage my order was at, as there are easy to understand icons and instructions at each step. My transaction was satisfactory, but I think I might try another service if I place another order, just to see how it compares.

These are the official shoe pictures from the webshop. I ordered the pumps in white and the flats in pink~ I love each pairs’ romantic look!

I ordered two pairs of shoes: flats with bows at the toe and kitten-heeled pumps with a bow on the back. (I like bows–that should be already established.) I did not order these with the thought of wearing them with my lolita wardrobe, but now that they’ve arrived I just might! I particularly think the white pumps might add elegance to some of my outfits~

The Box
This was the box that arrived at my house. Less damaged than usual, too! Our sorting center is very brutal.
Inside the Box
TaoBaoNow packed my box very neatly. I would have liked some cushion around the plastic-wrapped shoe boxes, but there wasn’t much room around them. The shipping box was very sturdy.
Shoe Boxes Freed
The shoe boxes looked very professional! They are made of heavy cardboard.

The shoes arrived well-packed in a very thick and sturdy shipping box. However, the local sorting center is very unkind, so the shoe boxes inside of the shipping box were still a bit damaged, but the shoes were packed so well they remained unharmed. The shoe boxes were wrapped together in plastic wrap and tape, protecting them from any moisture. The shoe boxes themselves are very sturdy, beautiful white boxes with a gold foil logo for the shop on the top. Inside, they’re lined with tiny pink hearts~ ♥

Under the Lid
When I opened the box, I didn’t expect to see non-shoes, nor did I expect the shoes to be so nicely packaged.

Two Pair
I love shoe bags–they really keep shoes protected when in storage. And these are particularly adorable with their colours and pattern.

Non-Shoe Stuff
Each box of shoes contained these items. It was very thoughtful!

Pink Bow-Toes
The bows at the toes of these shoes were carefully wrapped in plastic.

Each shoe was stuffed with tissue and a plastic rod to keep its shape, and slipped individually within a printed fabric bag. The toes of the pink shoes were wrapped in plastic to prevent the bows from being bent or pushed out of shape. The bagged shoes were nestled in the box underneath a small pile of “goodies”–a printed eco-tote, ankle cushion inserts, toe cushion inserts, a business card, and a care guide. (Unfortunately, I can’t read the care guide; it is obviously in Chinese.) There were also a few packages of silica in each box.

More White Pumps
These are so elegant and mature! Even with the playful ribbon, the shape of the shoes is lovely!
Pink Flats
I love these! I’m going to wear them constantly with my non-lolita clothing, and maybe even with my lolita clothing.

One of the most exciting moments for me was seeing that the shoes genuinely look like the pictures in the shop. I’ve purchased shoes before, only to be disappointed when I see flaws or design elements that were carefully covered up or distracted from in the company’s official pictures. The pictures in the shop are obviously edited–but not in a way that misrepresents the products.

Those Bows
The seams are sewn very straight, and the ribbons are well-applied and adhered to the back of the shoes. There’s no excess glue or hanging threads.
Back Seams
Straight seams on the pink shoes. Straight seams are always something I look for when I buy shoes.
Bow Edge
My only qualm is the way the end of the bow was cut on this ribbon. I think it could be neater.
Bow Edge
This bow, although not ribbon, has the same unfinished edge that I don’t care for.

The construction of the shoes is very, very good. They’re made from a shiny synthetic material that smelled very strongly when I first opened the box, but the smell faded quickly. The material does not look cheap, and it has a pleasant feel. The seams are sewn very straight, and trims are applied evenly. The only thing I don’t like is the way the ends of the ribbons are finished on the heels of the pumps–I think they could have been done better. Despite this criticism, they aren’t an eyesore nor do I feel compelled to alter them.

Heel Lining
Here you can see the suede-like material lining the heel of the white pumps.
Cushioned Insole
The insole is cushioned and of a smooth, comfortable material.
Adorable Sole
I love this pattern! It ought to be on a totebag or something~

The very best part is that these shoes are extremely comfortable! The backs of the heels are lined in a thin suede-like material to prevent blisters. The insoles are cushioned, and provides support for ones foot even without the additional inserts provided. The sole is stable and attached cleanly to the bottom of the shoe. It’s also ADORABLE, with the company name and cute little emblems all over the bottom. It’s a shame this bit of decoration can’t be seen, but these details provide some traction.

The fit is just slightly larger than I would like it to be, which leads me to believe that the 35 is equivalent to a true-to-size US 5. The shoes are not so large that they slip around on my feet or require insoles, and in fact I’m sure that after a long day of walking I’ll be glad they aren’t vacuum-sealed to my feet!

I paid 541元 (Chinese yuan) for both pairs, domestic shipping, and the 10% service fee, which came out to roughly $88 USD on the day I paid the invoice. Overall, I would say they are definitely worth $44 per pair! They are nicer quality than most shoes I see in American stores, and more professional than any non-brand lolita shoes I’ve purchased. (My Secret Shop ballerina replica shoes, although very nice, do not have this level of attention to detail.)

There are already a few other pairs of shoes that I’m eyeing from Grace Gift, but that will have to be a future purchase. These two pairs were a kindly funded by my mother, although I tried to chip in at least by paying the international shipping fees.

On Being Lolita: My Frilly Beginning

On Being Lolita: My Frilly Beginning

Inspired by some of the thoughts from my previous post, I decided to reminisce a bit. I’ve been wearing lolita since 2006, which sometimes seems like a long time and sometimes seems like a very, very short time!

I’d know about lolita fashion before then, but hadn’t paid too much attention. I wasn’t very aware of sweet lolita, only the more gothic or punk styles which aren’t really to my taste. Then I became interested in Pullip dolls and purchased one who wore shirololi. When she arrived and I saw all the cute little details, I knew that’s what I wanted to wear, too. I started to plot immediately.

I joined EGL on LiveJournal right away and tried to compile as much information as possible. I browsed the websites of lolita fashion brands; it was the reason I installed Japanese text support–so I would see characters instead of boxes or random symbols. I studied discussions, although I was too nervous to participate. I actually took notes on some things, such as lace types or abbreviations. It’s funny to think back on how focused and serious I was! I fretted about my hair, my finances, and more things. I started typing differently after being ridiculed for a stupid but mostly harmless habit of adding extra syllables at the end of sentences for emphasis. (Didn’t stop me from abusing the tilde, though~!)

This was my very first picture! I had just gotten all items for my outfit, and I insisted on putting it on right away and forced my father to take some pictures of me outside. I still remember how excited I was!

I attended my first meetup without any proper clothes, because I wanted to meet other lolita in person. I was not disappointed in the least! One girl (who was later my roommate for several years) arrived in full regalia, and I was fascinated. She was perfectly coordinated, wearing everything I wanted to own, and didn’t mistreat me for being awestruck. She wasn’t even taken aback when I asked awkwardly if I could touch the lace on her blouse. (I still remember thinking, “WOOOOOOOOOW, this is what they mean by good lace!”)

My first items were purchased shortly afterward. I bought a custom dress from In the Starlight. Sadly they closed in late 2009, but for many years In the Starlight was a go-to for custom-made lolita clothing. They probably provided petticoats and bloomers to hundreds if not thousands of girls! My first dress was of my own design, with a built-in petticoat and detachable sleeves. I wanted something that would be versatile as possible. I didn’t commission my item from In the Starlight because it was any cheaper, I did it because at the time I thought (based on measurements) that lolita brand clothing would be too big for me. I didn’t realize the versatility of sizing until a little bit later!

Once the dress and hair accessory were in hand, I commissioned some socks from another lolita seamstress–then I set out on a hunt for white shoes. My grandmother was kind enough to not only help me hunt out white shoes for tiny feet that didn’t look like toddler shoes, but also to pay for them once we found a pair at a dusty shoe store in a neighboring town! I found a white child’s umbrella with a ruffled edge to complete my look and felt very satisfied. I had the opportunity to wear the entire outfit both in a parade (where I was mistakenly thought to be the lead singer of a band) and to a meetup soon after my birthday~ It was very exciting!

Same outfit, but this picture was taken at my first meetup. I was always very fond of this particular image–the girl who took it coached my pose.

I only have a few not-great-quality pictures of that outfit, but I think back on it fondly. I no longer have any of those items except the shoes–eventually I stopped wearing them. For a while I had just those items, and I wore everything so often that I really bored myself even though I tried to add variety, but I wasn’t bored until I’d worn it to death for a few years! The detachable sleeves made it really easy to wear in different ways, although I’m sure someone more creative than me could have done even more.

Overall, looking back on old pictures gives me a warm sense of nostalgia. I’ve definitely come a long way, but I really regret or cringe at anything. I’m happy that I can think of the way things started with such fondness~ I can’t even really imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t started to wear lolita fashion; it would be much different! For something that isn’t earth-shaking, it really has had a significant impact on my life. Someday, when I’m old, I want to be able to look back on this part of my life with a smile and think, “Wow, I had fun wearing those ridiculous clothes!”

On Being Lolita: Where to Start?

On Being Lolita: Where to Start?

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.

A Blouse with Detachable Sleeves
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!

A Non-Print Fabric One-Piece Dress
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!