There are a lot of myths that I see tossed around, especially to newer lolita.
1. Quality lolita clothing is always made of cotton
When was the last time you bought a dress that was actually 100% cotton? Do you even know offhand? 10 years ago almost everything was cotton. Today it’s less than half for many major brands. AP made Whip Jacquard (which is a jacquard, not a typical flat cotton), Dolly Cat, Wonder Gallery, University, Classic Fairy Tales, Fantastic Carnival (which has a linen-like texture) and Melty Berry Princess in 100% cotton. The rest of the main pieces on their web shop at the time of writing (representing 16 other series)are chiffon, polyester, or polyester/cotton blends.
Many of bodyline’s nicer things today aren’t 100% cotton, and many, many experienced lolita are moving away from wrinkle-prone cotton towards lighter chiffon and polyester pieces which don’t look rumpled at the end of a hot day.
2. Handmade/Indie (not from Taobao) is the cheapest option to buy
It’s been a very long time since this was true. I’ve bought secondhand brand dresses for $30 on multiple occasions.
Bodyline’s prices have gone up in the last 5-10 years, but their quality has also gone up, and with the weak yen, their stuff has become incredibly affordable again.
With the current Yen-to-USD conversion rate, all of these Bodyline pieces are under $35USD; the solid colored skirt is less than $10 USD.
Meanwhile, handmade and indie lolita isn’t what it used to be when this was the rule of thumb. Sure, you do still have a few people on Etsy sewing quilting weight cotton into elastic waist skirts for the cost of the fabric, but that’s not common. Lolita is so easily available for so cheap, that there isn’t a market for filler indie brand items, at least not in the way there was 10-or-so years ago. Most non-Japanese and non-Chinese indie brands cater to people who are looking for custom sizing, or high quality, detailed hand work. Or they are producing their own fabric prints and operate much like smaller Japanese brands do. Indie designers who are making comparable-to-brand products actually tend to charge the same or more than brands due to the fact that they have higher out of pocket costs for materials and labor. When you are making 100 or 200 of the same thing, you can buy materials in bulk, and the price goes down a little. When you make just 1-50 of something the price for the materials is much higher.
3. It’s cheaper to make your own lolita clothing than to buy it.
So, the cheapest lolita main piece you can make is a basic skirt with an elastic waist, and a ruffle at the bottom instead of lace. Different tutorials suggest between 1.25 yards, and 2.25 yards of fabric. Let’s say, for the sake of ease of calculations, that it will take 2 yards even.
So, I hopped over to fabric.com, and it looks like the cheapest fabric they have that is suitable is some cotton broadcloth in solid colors on clearance for $2.48/yard. This purple isn’t my first choice; but it was cheap. If you shell out another 50 cents per yard you can get black. So $2.48 x 2 = $4.90 for fabric.
Now, to that you need to add some Elastic for the waist. Let’s get some 1″ White Flat No-Roll Elastic, and it’s sold by the yard, so we will get a yard. That’s $1.48 for a yard.
Lastly, we need some thread. A spool of 110 yards of purple all purpose thread is $1.75.
So, our total is $4.90 + $1.48 + $1.75 = $8.13 USD. For a no-trim, elastic waist skirt with no details at all. It’s cheap, but it’s really boring. Adding lace to just the hem pushes it way over the price of a comparable skirt from bodyline. I’d like to stop and mention that the bunny pocket skirt from bodyline above costs 1,000yen, which is $8.34 USD with today’s conversion rate.
So, yes, if you make the cheapest possible skirt by hand you can save 11 cents over the cheapest option from bodyline, but at the end of the day, handmade lolita just can’t compete with manufactured lolita on the pricing scale when it comes to things that use lace and other trims.
Where handmade is going to save you money is if you want something very specific with lots of heirloom details like pintucks. However, you have to have the time and skill to do it yourself. Really, handmade is a good option not for cost, but for people who enjoy making garments by hand. If you don’t enjoy it, or don’t have the skill and cost is you main point, this isn’t the way to go.
4. AP is all Made in China, Baby is all Made in Japan.
This is a strangely prevailing myth that would be solved in a moment if anyone who owned these brands looked at the tags. Baby no longer makes all of their garments in Japan, and AP makes their garments in many countries (including China and Japan). I hear this come up a lot in arguments about why a specific brand costs more, is replicated more, or is of a higher quality.
5. Lolita clothing made in Japan is higher quality than lolita clothing made in China.
Japan has a much smaller garment manufacturing industry than China does and higher wages. A local, Japanese factory is going to be closer to where the brand is located, so they have cheaper freight costs, no import fees and the designers are more easily able to check and make sure the production is going the way they want. That said, production in other countries, including China is not necessarily sub-par. Wages are cheap, there are far more people with higher levels skills, and there are more factories specializing in garment manufacturing. That means that outsourcing to China allows brands to pay less for better work than they would at a local sewing house. So outsourced sewing done outside of Japan can actually be better than work done inside of Japan! It all depends on what sewing house a brand contracts with, and their particular level of skill.
6. Only popular brands/prints get replicas (counterfeited).
It depends on the replica manufacturer. Some, like Oo Jia take surveys and base what they make on surveys, and borrow legitimate pieces from lolita (or get agents to buy pieces for them from brands, because the will ban replica makers from purchasing from their shops when caught). However, most counterfeiters, like Dream of Lolita and the manufacturers that the ebay shop ling_lam2008 resell from replicate whatever they can get their hands on. This results in a fair number of replicas where the real piece sells for less used than the fake does new.
The dress at left went on clearance on Innocent World’s site before it popped up as a replica on Dream of Lolita, for example. There have also been many cases of random Putumayo punk prints being stolen (beyond cat’s window which is well known).
7. Anyone can wear lolita
Ok, ok, before you get out your pitchforks and chase me out of town, hear me out on this. Not everyone can wear lolita. Some people can’t afford to buy lolita. That’s not to say that they aren’t permitted to wear it if someone lends them things, or to buy it later if their financial situation changes. What I am saying is that we have a very unhealthy mentality in this fashion where we argue with people who say they can’t afford to buy lolita / need to sell off their lolita for really sound logical financial reasons. Time and again, I see people encouraging young people to make poor financial choices. I see people offering payment plans, and arguing with people who say they can’t afford things. I see people saying they are going to leave lolita because they need the money, and people argue against it. It’s fine to find it sad that a friend is leaving lolita, or to try to be encouraging to someone, but we need to stop ignoring that lolita costs money and some people really can’t afford lolita. It’s just not healthy.
8. [Only] Black x White is [Always] Ita
Sure, cheap white lace on bad black polyester is probably the worst combo possible, but it’s gotten to the point where new lolita think old school coords are bad just because they are black and white.
And most lolita aren’t going to run into the old school maid-like black and white costumes that plagued the lolita world 5-10 years ago. We aren’t saving people from Bodyline lace monsters any more because even bodyline doesn’t sell most of their lace monsters. What people are finding is sites like lightinthebox, where they are shown monstrosities in costume satin, stolen stock photos and ballgown length abominations. Most of which aren’t black and white. Milanoo might not sell the worst of what the lolita world has to offer anymore, but similar sites like lightinthebox still do. The new lolita of 2015 should be pointed towards reputable sites, and given a list of things to look out for (satin ball gowns, for starters), but telling them to skip out on black x white isn’t enough to save them anymore.
9. Taobao Brands aren’t “Brands” / Everything in the GLB is a Brand (and only Those Things)
You know what they call the bigger taobao brands in china? Brands. Because they are. For years we have defined a brand, in short hand, as “anything in the GLB”. Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Pina Sweet Collection are in the Gothic Lolita Bible. They are tiny little indie brands. But, we call them brands. Meanwhile, there are brands on TaoBao like Krad Lanrete that have sold thousands upon thousands of pieces and operate on a much larger scale than a lot of small Japanese indie brands that aren’t considered brands. While I wouldn’t consider all taobao based brands “brands”, just like I wouldn’t consider bodyline a brand (low level of design creativity, mid-range quality), I think we need to re-evaluate what we consider to be a brand. I think the Gothic Lolita Bible has realized this as well, as they have started to feature some Chinese-based brands in their pages.
10. Just Replace the Lace On That ____ and it Won’t Be Ita!
I’ve told people this. I’ve seen people tell people this. But, how many of you have ever done this? Have you ever taken a really whatever piece of clothing that you got cheaply and replaced the lace with high quality lace? No? I surely haven’t. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. Let’s be real here. You can replace that blouse/skirt/dress with a better one from bodyline or with second hand brand for how much you would spend to replace the lace with quality lace from a local store. Yeah, sure, you could buy lace on taobao using a shopping service, and wait for it to come in and then use that… but the time and skill we are talking at that point is ridiculous for a thrifted blouse or a milanoo dress. (You have to know how to find lace on taobao, how to tell if lace is good, how to actually remove and replace lace, how to use a SS… it’s not a small task.) And it saves them, what, $5?
The answer to “can I save this ita thing”, unless someone really wants to use it to learn how to sew / likes the idea of sewing for the sake of sewing should be “no, you should sell it on ebay”. List it as a Halloween costume if you feel guilty about calling it lolita, but sell it off; don’t waste time and money on something that isn’t good quality, just to make it sort-of-ok.