10 Myths We Need To Stop Telling To New Lolita

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.

l304-2 l362-2l124-2l368-2

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.
Large_BCR-015
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.

AP-Made-in_Japan

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).

Dream of Lolita Replica of Innocent Worlds GertrudeIt 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 
Gothic Lolita Bible Old School BtssB Lolita
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.

9 thoughts on “10 Myths We Need To Stop Telling To New Lolita

  1. This blog post is really good ^_^

    One of the things that people who advice beginner lolitas to ‘just sew your own’ don’t realize that a lot of time, skill, and money goes into sewing your own dresses. If you don’t know how to sew then you need to get set up with a sewing machine and starting lessons that cover the basics. Good quality fabrics for dresses is expensive (upward of $10/m in Aus) and that doesn’t include zips, trims, buttons, thread, maintenance to your sewing machine etc.

    Another thing that people don’t realize is that once you graduate beyond elastic skirts you will need to get patterns for JSKs, OPs and Blouses. Or have the ability to draft your own pattern from scratch. If you get patterns from Otome no Sewing or GLB you need to know how to translate the instructions and adjust the pattern to fit you.

    That being said it’s very rewarding to being able to make your own pieces. Just be aware that the resources (the cost and your time) you put into a hand made dress is comparable to the cost of a Brand piece.

    • I agree 100%! Living with an indie designer has really opened my eyes to just how much time and work and complexity goes into things and how much things cost.

      Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to add a couple inches to the straps of a dress and it takes me all day and it’s a little crooked, and my sewing machine eats the fabric a good half dozen times in the process.

      And it’s funny because this was totally the advice I got when I was new, and I still have the fabric and trim I bought back then in a box, unsewn because I started on the petticoat and realized I was waaay in over my head.

  2. This is pretty awesome. I have a friend who left lolita a handful of years ago, and the perception of indie brand status is one we always seem to be on completely different tracks. I’d show her a dress I like, my idea is that being an indie, a smaller number of dresses would be available secondhand, so if I really liked it, I needed to buy it now while I can. Meanwhile she takes a look at the price and gets shocked that a brand that isn’t “brand” has the balls to charge higher prices without the status the “brand” has. It really shows how the lolita scene has changed between the time she left and now.

    No. 3 and No. 7 really needed saying. There’s so many “budget lolita” or lolita DIY posts out there, sometimes it almost seems like we blame someone for not wanting to get into what is essentially a frivolous hobby that eats up time and money. It’s just difficult to strike the right balance between encouraging girls to make their own dresses for fun, or telling them they should spend hours learning how to sew just to make a cheaper dress; or to strike the balance between letting girls who are interested know that lolita on a relatively lower budget is possible and not all dresses cost $300, but it’s not a good hobby if someone is not even able to make rent or other living expenses.

  3. Really useful post. I can’t say I really disagree with any of them. Although I do think there’s better options for non-wrinkly fabric than polyester (but that wasn’t really the myth).

    I think the last point is often said more as an observation on why something is ugly, not an encouragement to actually try to change the lace. I might be optimistic though.

    • Woops! Sorry, yes, I did not word that very well, yes, there are probably lots of fabric choices which would be better than 100% polyester, you are right. Sorry, I’m the farthest thing from an expert on fabric. @_@;

      Ah, no, sadly, I routinely actually see this put forward as a legitimate suggestion by people who don’t sew to people with no sewing experience. :( And sometimes it’s like, lace in a seam that would require deconstruction of the garment. @_@;;

  4. The other myth is that wearing a petticoat is absolutely 100% required for Lolita. The fact is I see tons of Japanese girls around Harajuku wearing full brand coords, with no petticoat. Why? Because it’s Sunday in freaking Harajuku, and there’s no room for a petticoat. Even the side streets are packed to almost a standstill with people. And on the train? You don’t want to be consuming extra room with your ginormous petticoat there, either.

    Sure, if you’re going to be taking photos, you might want to wear one for the aesthetic, but if you are going somewhere crowded wearing lolita just because you like it, don’t worry about it.

    • This is a hard one, because as much as lolita in the west say that we copy everything off of Japan and however the Japanese lolita do things is best… it’s really not 100% true. The western lolita community has different tastes, trends and a slightly different style. Also,I feel like western lolita are really judgy about certain things, and petticoats is one of them.

      So while this may be true, I wouldn’t advise a new lolita in the west to go without a petticoat while she was new, because people would judge her for it.

      I’m not saying that they should judge her for it, but because western lolita are very set on that specific look it likely would not be the best advice for someone new.

      Of course, anyone can make the choice to not wear a petticoat at any time, but I personally feel like for newer lolita it’s better to encourage them to “follow the rules” for their first few coords until they get more comfortable with the fashion and start to understand when and where and why and how to break them.

      But that’s just my personal opinion on things. :)

  5. You seem to have something against DIY Lolitas. Quality is about the care and the effort put into the garment not the name on the tag. One thing you forgot to mention in your price is SHIPPING! Yeah the skirt is only $9 but the shipping is $25 or more so in reality you would end up spending the same or more as getting materials to make your own. When you sew on a hobby basis you already have a good amount of what you need like threads and notions(buttons,zippers,trim, etc.) so most of the time you are only buying fabric. I am all for handmade cause humans spend too much time on technology so why not encourage someone to develop an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile skill. I’m not saying handmade is superior and the only way to go but we shouldn’t dissuade people from giving it a try.

    • Quite the opposite, actually! I think handmade lolita is gorgeous and have a ton of respect for people who can and do make their own lolita garments. My significant other happens to run an indie lolita brand, and I’m constantly in awe of her skills! ^_^

      What I have an issue with is people suggesting that it’s the cheapest option and the fact that it’s suggested to people who have never sewn as if it takes zero skill, time or interest in sewing. It also bothers me that lolita routinely devalue the time and skills of people who make lolita clothing, by suggesting that handmade/indie items should be sold for cheaper than anything else.

      That said, yes, if you happened to have the correct color thread from another project then the cost of the thread would be only the cost of the fraction of the spool you used, and if someone gives you materials or you have them left over from other projects already, then yes, you can recoup the cost by using materials which are otherwise going to waste… but unless you were given them for free, then you did still pay for them, so, while it is a good thing to do, it doesn’t exactly make it cost less.

      ((On a side note, I was talking to my girlfriend after posting this and we did come to the conclusion that if someone could thrift a decent quality evening or wedding dress and deconstruct it, one could probably get lace and fabric for a better deal, as long as one had thrift stores in the area that regularly sold those types of things for like ~$5 or less. But, that does mean that the person would already need to know how to judge fabric quality and condition.))

      True, I didn’t mention shipping, but Bodyline routinely has free shipping promotions, and without it, said skirt costs ¥399 to ship ($3.29 USD) using AIR mail. The sample order from Fabric.com would cost $5.49 to ship to me, so including shipping actually makes the cost worse! D:

      That said, it gets really rough if you start trying to compare cost of buying online versus buying in person. Gas here is $2.17/gallon, and my car gets 32MPG. The nearest store is 8 miles away. So for me, the in person cost is about $1.09 USD. But gas prices and distance to fabric stores varies wildly, so I just went with flat online shopping for both the handmade and bodyline. You do get like a couple bucks more wiggle room if you buy the same things at the same price in a local store, for most people in most urban areas, but still, that’s just a skirt. If we start getting into a blouse or something more complicated, then we have to factor in the cost of a pattern, or someone has to already have the skill to draft a blouse pattern, which the average new lolita doesn’t have.

      Ok, all that aside, should people make their own lolita? Absolutely… but only if they actually want to make their own lolita.

      I’m not saying we should discourage anyone from making lolita. But I do think we should be realistic in the advice we give.

      If someone has never sewn before, and their main goal is to get lolita clothing as cheaply as possible, then it’s not responsible, IMHO to set them on a path of making their own clothing if they do not have the skill to do so. They are just going to end up getting frustrated, and that’s not really helping them.

      As for technology versus handiwork skills, as a professional web developer, I’m very biased! I love technology. I think that we have made great advancements in technology in the last decade or two which will greatly benefit the human race. From biotechnology and medicine advances which will help reduce malnutrition and disease, to advances in clean energy technology, to advances in communication which allow people to communicate over vast distances, and allows for people in remote areas to have access to information and educational opportunities they have not had in the past… I think it’s all wonderful, really.

      Of course, handiwork skills are wonderful too, but they aren’t mutually exclusive things. I think there is certainly a pride that goes into something handmade, and creativity and one values such things differently, of course, but at the same time, I wouldn’t look down on someone who invests their time elsewhere.

      I don’t sew my own clothes (at least not yet! I’m still learning. I’ve only made doll clothing), but I do make accessories and rosettes and I paint. And as I’ve said earlier, I greatly admire people who do make their own lolita! It’s really amazing to see what people come up with!

      It really all comes down to what each person values and how each person wants to spend their time. ^_^

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