Ruffle Review: LittleMacaron Hairbow

Ruffle Review: LittleMacaron Hairbow

When my little sister last visited Japan, she bought a lot of fabric–most of it with the intention to sew various lolita garments. One of the fabrics that she bought was an “Alice in Wonderland” print with ribbons and flowers. She was sweet enough to sew me a jumperskirt of this print. I was surprised to see the same fabric weeks later in a sewing project on EGL. Then there were more photos of the jumperskirt, a photoshoot, and then a post about hairbows~ I decided to buy a hairbow to wear with the jumperskirt my little sister made for me. ♥

The hairbow was made by Little Macaron. (The designer has a blog, Little Macaron Fashion.) I purchased this hairbow as a ready-made piece, not a commission, so I didn’t have to discuss aspects of the order or wait for it to be sewn. It is a part of the “Alice and the White Rabbit” collection.

The shop is located on Etsy, so check-out was simple and secure. I purchased the bow on Sunday, January 30, and received a message from the seller that it had shipped on Monday, January 31, along with the tracking number. It was delivered on Friday, February 4.

Little Macaron Hairbow
The hairbow atop the tissue paper, plastic bag, and padded bubble mailer that it arrived in~

The hairbow arrived in a new padded envelope. Inside, it was wrapped in pink tissue paper and sealed in a plastic bag. Overall, it was very well-packaged and protected. The bow was accompanied by a fabric swatch in its own small plastic bag and a small note.

Little Macaron Hairbow
A close-up of the beaded chain and rose charm.

One of the highlights of this accessory is the small decorated chain that dangles across the bow. The pink pearl beads are smooth and unscratched, the small pink crystals are very sparkly, and the gold findings are neatly wound. There are no sharp or rough edges that might catch on hair or skin. The chain is removable–it hooks on to small loops behind the bow at either end with a lobster-claw clasp. I really appreciate that it can be removed–not only does it provide a slightly different “look,” to the bow, it is also easier to clean.

Little Macaron Hairbow
It took some effort to get my camera to focus well on the edges of the bow.

The bow is well-shaped and firmly sewn. The edges are neatly pressed, with crisp corners. The lace trim is well-secured inside of the seams, with no unraveling bits sneaking out.

Little Macaron Hairbow
The back seam of the center portion was hand-stitched.

The small piece of fabric that wraps around the center of the bow is hand-stitched in the back. This work is also done neatly, although the stitches are slightly larger on one side. It is well-stitched–I’m not worried about it coming undone.

Little Macaron Hairbow
Another detail shot to show the back of the bow.

The bow is nicely-gathered and very even. The back of the bow is pleated well; it doesn’t look lumpy or awkward.

Little Macaron Hairbow
The bow is attached to a fabric-covered headband.

I really like how the headband is covered. The seam is neat, and the stitching is even. The extra fold of fabric at the end of the casing prevents the headband from poking; it provides a bit of extra cushioning.

Little Macaron Hairbow
I love the gold-edged floral pattern on the front of the card!

The hairbow arrived with a cute hand-written note on very pretty stationery. That’s always a lovely touch~ ♥

(On a scale of ♥ to ♥♥♥♥♥…)
Communication: ♥♥♥♥♥
Shipping: ♥♥♥♥♥
Construction: ♥♥♥♥♥
Materials: ♥♥♥♥♥
Overall Quality: ♥♥♥♥♥

I am very, very satisfied with my purchase~ Now I’m curious to see what Little Macaron will come out with next!

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: 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!

Meetup Report: Shopping Excursion

Meetup Report: Shopping Excursion

Cherry Amaretto Summer
Deliciously wonderful cherry amaretto ice cream! I didn’t expect it to have chocolate, too–but it did!

I’ve been so happy to have my husband to myself for a weekend that I didn’t want to waste a moment of it! (Especially as I am working Sunday and Monday–no long Memorial Day weekend for me~) However, there was a meetup to be organized on Saturday that I hoped to attend, as I keep missing out on a lot of events, and he had no objections, so we went!

We started the day bright and early. It’s easy to let a whole day be consumed by preparing for and attending a meetup (even a short one), but there were other things I wanted to do. We cleaned the house, made breakfast, and headed to the farmer’s market. My original plan was to go the farmer’s market and then to the meetup, but we arrived at the farmer’s market much earlier than I expected to. To bide some of the time, we popped into the free farm zoo that was right across the street.

Cowbellion Supporter
Not sure the gender of that bovine–it probably was a bull–but regardless I thoroughly approve of it.

After wandering through, taking pictures of chickens, and dodging small children, we headed to the market. It was absolutely packed, the best of the vendors’ goods were long gone, and the heat was starting to make everything and everyone wilt a bit. We picked up some oyster mushrooms and strawberries. I was a bit iffy on the strawberries–there are lots of them for sale right now, but they aren’t always sweet. These also looked like they were getting soft from the ride to the farmer’s market and being in the sun. When I was offered a sample, however, I knew they were coming home with us! They were the perfect dessert…and even more amazing when drizzled with maple syrup.

After picking up the goods we headed towards the meetup destination. There was a very casual shopping excursion planned in an area of the city I don’t often visit, starting at LUSH and including Vosges. LUSH and I have a love-hate relationship, but the only strain between me and Vosges is that my wallet isn’t bountiful enough that I can buy everything I’d like. We loitered outside of the rendezvous point for a bit, taking pictures with some of the beautiful pink flowers.

Pink Ribbons
There were also some roses, but they weren’t as vibrant as these flowers, and I tended to block them by accident.

Then, the hostess arrived, and soon the other girls assembled. It wasn’t a very big meetup, but that was probably best for the shops! I don’t necessarily think we could have fit everyone inside if there was more than a handful. We browsed the LUSH for a while. I did my best not to touch anything, even though I really wanted to! It’s a lovely store and I adore a lot of their products, but my stupid allergies complicate things. Even so, I couldn’t resist picking up some shampoo for my husband and one of the face masks. I just like the way it smells! (And the name.)

I really wish I could have brought home a sparkly pink bubble-bath bar, since those were always my favourites, but I knew I’d regret it. ;_; ♥ Why, bubble bar, why? I think I’m going to have to resort to tossing glitter into the bath tub to regain that lost sparkly-ness that I miss so much. (Although I’m sure that glitter is bad for the drain!)

Vosges was our next stop. We thankfully sidestepped a certain deadly stationery store, good for me and even better for another member of our group. Vosges had all of their toffee out for samples today, which was kind of alternatively-deadly~ The original toffee is wonderful, the bacon toffee is that salty & sweet taste that only comes from bacon + sugar, and the chile toffee had a kick right at the end that wasn’t unbearable but was certainly noticeable.

At Vosges
The interior of the store was so beautiful that I just had to get a picture of everyone. The couch and the chairs were really beatiful!

We loitered in the store a bit, waiting for my husband. He had run the farmer’s market produce back to the house and was on his way back to meet us again. Thankfully there was a soft, vintage couch–and the shop didn’t mind. I didn’t want to buy fancy expensive chocolates without getting his input, since I’d obviously be sharing them with him. ♥ I planned on getting caramels, but wound up with toffee instead! I usually get caramels, so I’m glad I went with something new this time. (The samples were very persuasive.)

Anniversary Cake
Tasty, tasty cake-flavoured ice cream. Clearly I am not the only one who thinks cake ice cream is great, since two people in the group ordered it!

We stopped for ice cream afterward. It was sunny, with warm but not scorching weather, and ice cream sounded delicious~ The place we stopped at was a little window from a nearby building where we placed orders, received ice cream, and sat at the umbrella-shaded tables on the sidewalk. I ordered cherry amaretto~ ♥ The shop had a really nice selection of flavours–not the typical Edy’s-supplied lineup. Everything was delicious, too~

After that, it was time to part ways. I had a really great time, and was very happy to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, spend time with friends, and make new friends~ ♥ There seem to always be more and more lolita in my area, and I’d love to meet them all! Little by little, I’m making my way towards doing so.