Opinion: Perfect Color Matching isn’t Realistic
I’m still working on my wardrobe post, even though it’s February (why do I torture myself like this?). I decided to do a combined post with both mine and Bunny’s wardrobes together because they live together in the same closet.
But I realized as I was sorting my photos that this gives me a really beautiful example to use to talk about something that I have some strong feelings about: matching colors exactly in lolita is incredibly difficult and not realistic for everyday wear.
Here is a selection of pieces from our closet that I would describe as being “Wine Red”
And I know some of you are immediately thinking “well some of those things are just regular red”… so just for reference, here are some “red” items. As you can see, they are not quite the same.
And while the white balance is all over the place because of the wacky lighting, I focused my speed-editing more on getting the dress the right color and less on getting the background perfect, so most of them are pretty close to reality.
A few of these items are very close in color, but most of them are just a hair off of each other. If I wanted to perfectly match a pair of shoes to each dress, for example, I would need to have a dozen pairs of wine red shoes.
Now, I actually do have several pairs of red shoes, here is a picture of my 2017 red shoes (and I’ve added several pairs since) but even then, I don’t have perfect matches for all of these dresses.
But this isn’t a practical solution. Most lolita don’t own 5-12 pairs of shoes in the same color. Most lolita own one or maybe two styles of shoes in a color. If they even own novelty colored shoes at all. Owning dozens of shoes so that you can perfectly match every dress isn’t normal. It’s not practical. Same with blouses. I can’t express to you how many blouses I have bought and then sold over the last 10 years because the color wasn’t right when it came in. I have 3 wine red boleros. Three boleros in basically the same color.
And I still get people telling me that my shoes don’t match, or my bolero doesn’t match, or my tights reflect the flash so they don’t match, when I post coord photos.
I don’t know where this idea that human beings with physical clothing items can and should always have perfect identical color matching in their clothing came from. It’s… not realistic in the slightest. Like it’s literally not real. This kind of color matching is what people expect out of video games and illustrations and toys that come with outfits as a full set… it’s not the sort of thing that actual humans can or should do 100% of the time with actual items.
And yes, if you do what I have done in the past and keep buying and re-selling things over and over, eventually, you can get really close to having a perfect match for one dress. But the amount of time and money you sink into that which you do. not. recover. is enormous.
And you have only matched a single shoe to a single dress.
The sheer cost of having a perfectly matched pair of shoes, blouse, bag, socks and headbow for every individual dress you own is staggering.
Let’s do the math…
Let’s say we buy a dress second hand, so we can’t buy the items from the set (not that it would save us if we could…). I’m going to pick a dress I used to own: Miracle Candy in Sax. Let’s say I got this used for $150 (which is a pretty good deal).
So we want to buy sax shoes to match, and some socks that are pink with sax and a pink blouse that matches exactly.
So, let’s say I pick my first pair of shoes and they are Candy Color Bubble Toe Platform Shoes from Sheep Puff. (I wouldn’t personally pick these, but… sax shoes aren’t super common). Let’s say they come out to $35 after shopping service fees payment fees and domestic shipping. And shipping internationally is $21.90. So I pay $52 for them.
If I used a reseller, I might have spent a total of $78 on them. They come in. Let’s say they don’t match, but it’s not too bad. But, I’m being a perfectionist.
So I hop over to lacemarket to sell them. Sheep Puff shoes sell for about $35 on lacemarket, so I’ve now lost ~$20-$40 on the mistake.
So I hop over to bodyline and pick up Scalloped lace ankle cross strap Lolita shoes for $27 in sax x offwhite.
Shipping is… let’s say $20. It won’t actually let me get a shipping quote without putting in payment info. So now these shoes cost me $47.
They come in and let’s say they are really green toned (I don’t have these ones, but most bodyline sax shoes are a minty sax). These shoes routinely sell for $25 on lacemarke, but I do see one person got back $45, so good for them. But let’s say I loose about ~20.
Let’s say I go over to to Secret Party and get their Alice’s Key Heels.
Let’s say they run me $25 after shopping service fees and domestic shipping, and then another $17.00 for shipping. So a total of $42. Let’s say this pair actually matches and let’s pretend they work thematically as well.
But I’ve lost $40-$60 over the course of this process… so this “cheap” pair of shoes really costs me $80-$100. If I had kept the other two pairs hoping I’d later get a dress to match… then I would be out $141, basically the cost of the dress.
And that’s just the shoes. If I insist on a perfect match I probably will have to buy 2+ blouses to get a pink that matches and unless I’m super lucky, those pink x sax socks aren’t going to be right on the first try either.
This isn’t sustainable, it’s a huge time and money sink, and some things aren’t going to resell for even retail if they sell at all. And then if you are constantly reselling things that didn’t match for more than the retail cost (even though it costs you more than retail) people may even say “well this person is a scalper”.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t try to match things, matching is great when it works out, but this hyper critical approach where people insist on things matching exactly is just not sustainable or realistic at all. Lolita aren’t dolls that come with perfectly matching outfits. And brands don’t think they are either.
Miss-matching is common for brands
Next time you are looking at a brand advertisement or fashion show, take a close look at the leg wear and the shoes. Next time you look at a new brand release, compare the socks to the dress in the same color. A lot of times? They don’t match.
With a lot of their new dresses coming in colors that are a little more new or experimental, AP has been relying heavily on white or gold shoes this season to get away from having to match, but here is an example… the pink in the dress is more mulberry than the shoes, but from a distance, and with a little editing you probably don’t notice.
Angelic pretty photoshopped the socks to be closer in the Dream Fantasy release… but if you look really closely? The socks are a muted dusty pastel and the dress is a cyan based sax / bright pink.
And inside of a single piece, brand’s don’t even match things perfectly. AP’s Sugar Sweet OP? The colors don’t even have the same undertones!
Even when you use dress up doll sites, like Gaia Online, or other sites where multiple artists work to make clothing over a long period of time, you see the same thing: unless someone has specifically and consciously limited the artists to very hyper-specific color pallets, the colors don’t always match.
I think, personally, that a good bit of the hyper criticism about matching comes either from people outside the fashion / very new lolita or people who have been influenced by people outside the fashion. And I think this is compounded by people photoshopping away miss-matches to give the illusion of perfect matching and people feeling like they must come up with some kind of con-crit in coord groups focusing on things that are very specific. All of this, the Instagram culture of faking the perfect photo (filters,10+ shots to get it right, photoshop, etc etc etc), the compulsive need to find something to critique in groups like CoF, and people outside of the fashion treating lolita like they are non-human “characters” who make suggestions the same way you would to a cartoonist: “hey, it looks like you didn’t mix your paint to the same color on the shoes”, it all compounds to create an environment where the standard seems to be divorced from reality.
So, what’s a lolita to do?
First of all, if you find yourself being hyper critical of a color match or some other very nit-picky thing in someone else’s coord, stop and think about it: is this criticism realistic? How hard would it be to correct, and how worth it would it be for someone to expend that amount of time/money for what really just boils down to an outfit?
Beyond that, there are a number of tricks you can use to help make any color differences in your own coords less apparent. Though, I think posting things where the match isn’t perfect isn’t something that really should be avoided to the degree some people avoid it.
Use a contrasting colored blouse / legwear
This is a basic one which most people already do, but instead of trying to pair a sax blouse with a sax JSK, or red socks with a red dress, pick a secondary color for the blouse / legwear. This can be white or another neutral, or it can be a color from the print or even just an accent color. This means that the things directly touching the dress aren’t the same base color as the dress, so any slight color miss-matches are less apparent.
Create visual space between items of the same color
Matching your shoes to your dress, or your blouse to your socks is much easier than matching two things that touch. The more space between two items, the less likely someone is to notice if the color isn’t a perfect match. I like to pick either a neutral, which is usually the lace color on the dress (white / cream / black), or an accent color from the print. For things that are solid, with no accent colors anywhere on them, you can pick any color that harmonizes with the dress.
For a basic two color alternating JSK coord:
- Headbow in Color 1 (red)
- Small Hair accessory in Color 2 (white)
- JSK in Color 1 (red)
- Blouse in Color 2 (white)
- Leg wear in Color 1 (white)
- Shoes in Color 2 (red)
I also tend to buy the matching socks in a color other than the dress color when I buy a dress new, so if I buy a dress that came in wine or navy, and I get the wine dress, I might get the navy socks. If I buy a red dress, I might get the pink or white socks. This means that I have the print motif and some of the print colors in my socks, but I don’t have to worry about balancing two shades of the same color, which can be more tricky.
Use many shades of the same color close together / many similar colors
One of my favorite hacks for solid colored / classic things where there is more than one shade of a color in the item, is to use silk flowers as an accent.
For the Sugar Sweet OP mentioned above, I was able to get the same exact fabric as one of the fabrics in the dress to cover this hat, which, honestly, is already way above and beyond the norm. But because the dress contained 3-4 shades of sax with different undertones, and because I couldn’t find flowers in exactly any of those colors, I decided to buy flowers in a bunch of shades of sax and white. Then, I combined them all together with some tiny pearl accents and white feathers. The flowers look more realistic and have more depth, and the difference in color between the several types of blue flowers looks deliberate. I also made a few matching little pin on flower corsages to bring the color throughout the coord.
You can also do the same thing with small bows and accessories for a deco lolita or OTT Sweet coord, bringing in a whole pastel rainbow with a pastel print dress can hide that some of the tones in the accessories aren’t spot on.
You can do this with a monochrome cord that doesn’t have flowers as well though. If everything is various shades of pink, but the undertones are harmonious, you can pull off an all pink coord even if it’s not all the same pink. However, I feel like this is a bit harder, and also, think about it, when was the last time you dressed head-to-toe in a single color (that wasn’t black) in normal everyday fashion? There is a reason the head-to-toe denim look was… a trend and not timeless. Same thing with lolita. A lot of the time it works better if you aren’t trying to be monochrome.
Lastly, I would say focus more on what looks good to you, what makes you happy, and what is practical and comfortable for you to wear. At the end of the day, these are your clothes and they are supposed to make you happy and be reasonably comfortable. Don’t stress too much on everything being pixel perfect: real life isn’t.