One thing I keep hearing people suggest to new lolita that I absolutely and totally disagree with is the advice to buy a petticoat first. Does lolita need a petticoat? Absolutely. Should you buy it before you buy your first dress or skirt? Absolutely not. Not unless you run into a really, really good deal on a reputable petticoat (like a malco modes or a classical puppets one) and already have a good idea about what you will buy to go over it.
The reasoning is simple. Petticoats come in different shapes, lengths and fullnesses. Planning on wearing OTT Sweet AP? You will need a very full, but moderately short petticoat. Same style with BTSSB? your petticoat should be more bell shaped and less full. Innocent World? You will need longer petticoats that are more A-Line of variable fullnesses based on the dress. Putumayo? Super-short, low volume. Bodyline? Somewhere halfway between AP and BTSSB.
I swear by Malco Modes petticoats, but I own a number of things from BTSSB and Putumayo that couldn’t fit that petticoat. Not even close… and that’s a $50.00USD petticoat. That’s not a cheap mistake for someone just getting into the fashion.
But the biggest problem I have with this advice is the motivation. What reason is there to tell someone to buy a petticoat (which no one will see, so it’s not important to pick one you like the looks of) before they buy what it’s going to puff up? The only reason I’ve been able to come up with is that those people are trying to prevent someone from going out for the first time as soon as they get their first dress without having obtained a petticoat yet.
First coordinates are rarely great. Things don’t quite match, or aren’t quite right in other ways. New lolita rarely have the hair and make-up totally down, and usually don’t have the collection of accessories that more experienced lolita have amassed.
The only way you can buy a petticoat first, and have it work out perfectly, IMHO, save for by random chance, is if you already know exactly what dress you are going to buy. And, quite frankly, at that point, it’s just a matter of ordering one before the other, if you are already set in stone on the dress, not a matter of picking the petticoat first.
So many new lolita impulse buy their first dress/skirt based on what they find for sale second hand, or what’s on sale, or what they stumble across on Bodyline. You can’t always rely on the stock photos, or second hand sales listing photos to show the shape of a skirt right either. So why buy a petticoat first, and limit your choices in dresses, which is what you actually see, and thus what people usually care more about, instead of buying the dress you love the most, and then a petticoat that suits it.
I’ll even go so far as to say this; if you want to go out in your new dress the first day you get it, and don’t have a petticoat yet, open up your closet, grab a few skirts that are shorter than it, and layer them under it. Got a puffy Halloween miniskirt? Throw it on under the dress. I’d rather see that any day, than someone spending a bunch of money on the wrong petticoat because they bought it before they picked a dress.
I say; dress or skirt first. Always.