Lolita Blog Carnival: What Made Certain Prints Like Iron Gate & Cat’s Tea Party, Etc, So Popular?

This weeks Lolita Blog Carnival topic is “What Made Certain Prints Like Iron Gate & Cat’s Tea Party, Etc, So Popular?”. For those who aren’t aware, “Iron Gate” and “Cat’s Tea Party” are two different lolita print series, from two different brands. These two series have one thing in common though: They were so sought after that they have sold second hand for over $1,000 USD, despite the initial prices being much lower.

This is something that really fascinates me personally, because at first glance, it seems almost arbitrary which pieces are and aren’t very valuable on the secondhand market. Personally, I think it varies from piece to piece, so I’d like to break it down by series, and I’d like to talk about a few other high price lolita items as well.

Moi meme moitie iron gateMana Iron Gate

First of all, Iron Gate. Iron Gate was released by Moi-même-Moitié in 2006. It was featured in Gothic Lolita Bible, Volume 20, where it was modeled by Mana, himself. One thing that is very interesting to note, in my opinion, is the opposite page. That left hand column talks about the latest album from Moi dix Mois; Beyond the gate. This issue of the GLB hit news stands a little less than a month after the album release. And in the side column, Mana talks about his latest Moi-même-Moitié collection and his latest musical work, which are tied together by this theme of gates. It didn’t all immediately sell out, though, in 2006, very few things did. In fact, In april, the JSK was still available in black x white, and black x navy, and the skirt was still listed in most colors in may. At least one cut/color of the skirt was still availableyear after release. So, while we can infer that the white colorway, the bag, and the OP cut, at least, were immediately popular, it appears that the series as a whole wasn’t immediately gone from stores. In fact, someone even posted in 2009 that they had an easy time buying it from CD Japan, who used to sell MMM overseas, because of how long it had been available.

It was, however, one of very few border prints available at the time, and it was relatively popular. It’s likely that there was a significant number of pieces made, since it lined up with the CD release. 2 years later, in 2008, a skirt auctioned off on EGL sold for 280 Euros. In 2012, a bag appears to have sold for $700 USD. In 2014, a faded dress was auctioned off with a starting bid of 400 Euros. It got no bids. In 2015, a JSK was listed for $850 USD. In fact, the first time I saw Iron Gate listed for over $1000 USD, it was a western second hand shop selling it, and it sat for a while because the price seemed too high to people at the time.

Royal GateIron gate now regularly sells for over $1,000, and while MMM has released a very similar print called Royal Gate, it doesn’t sell for anywhere near as much, though it does still fetch retail prices. (It is worth noting that Royal Gate is flocked and generally much less attractive). Overall, Iron Gate has an attractive motif, it was a border print in a time when border prints were just starting, and, I think most importantly, it’s still in fashion in a way that many of the other popular prints from that time period aren’t. For example, Angelic pretty’s 2006 print pastel a la mode looks dated when you compare it to other sweet prints, and there are so, so many cake prints to pick from. I think with Iron Gate, part of it is just that it was established as a status symbol, and once it became a status symbol, once Iron Gate became Iron Gate, I think it accelerated it’s value. Add a few people who were willing to pay way more for it, and the fact that it’s now well over 10 years old, and you have a piece who’s reputation as a rare, expensive status piece precedes it to the point where it easily fetches a 4-figure price.

puppet circusThere is another piece that is conspicuously missing from the lolita blog carnival topic’s title though, and that piece is Angelic Pretty’s Puppet Circus. By around 2010, if my memory serves, Puppet Circus and Iron Gate were pretty firmly established as the iconic lolita prints. Puppet circus has a lot in common with iron gate; it’s a monotone border print on a solid base, with lots of delicate detailing, it was one of a very small number of border prints available in 2006 when it came out, and it has a very solid design. Unfortunately, the wayback machine didn’t capture much of the Angelic Pretty webshop in the fall of 2006, but Puppet Circus was soundly and thoroughly sold out by February of 2007. It’s very interesting to compare it to some of their other pieces though; many other pieces that were popular at the time like Carnival mention that they sold out on reservation (pre-order), but Puppet Circus doesn’t say anything about that on the JSK listing. In fact, according to the sendai blog, only the OP sold out on reserve at all, and even then it was just red and white. The skirt, at the very least, was still available a month after release, even in red, one of the more popular colors per the same blog. So, while puppet circus certainly started out at least moderately popular (it did sell out in some cuts/colors relatively fast for the time), it wasn’t the most popular piece from AP that year.

Cats Tea Party

Cat’s Tea Party is the first of the prints in this post that was released after I became a lolita. At 41,790 yen, it was significantly more expensive than the average Angelic Pretty dress at the time. It was released as set consisting of a choker, headbow and JSK. There were two colors, but that was it. Gray or Pink, one cut. It has quarter shirring, and while I can’t find anyone who actually lists the minimum and maximum measurements, it’s relatively safe to say it’s probably around 90cm +/- 8cm in the bust and 70cm +/- 8cm in the waist. So, it’s about on par with Innocent World’s standard sizing. When it came out, the dollar to yen exchange was horrendous, like 78 yen to the dollar, kind of horrendous, making this set something like $535 USD (and that’s before international shipping and shopping service fees).

It’s a cute print, sure. Some people really liked the snooty little cats in it. But it’s a pastel print with cats. There are a bunch of other ones. So, at the time, a few people were really excited about the way the cats looked in this print, and some of them could afford it and bought it. But, some people were also just really indifferent to it, and some people couldn’t afford it, and some people just missed the fact that it even existed, and some people it wouldn’t fit so they didn’t bother. And that matters, a lot. Because it was make-to-order only, and it was only available for a short period of time. My theory is just that not many people bought this dress and/or the people who did had to really, really love it if they were spending twice the cost of a new dress for a dress in an unpopular theme (cat prints did not sell well in 2012; it was hard to get rid of them second hand, even when they were new). When the dress is sold in the western community, it’s often a piece that has already changed hands before, and it doesn’t come up for sale often. A few people who really love this set have been willing to pay a very high price for it over the last 5 years, and because of that, in particular, the price has gone quite high. It’s sort of become a status symbol because of this, but it’s a very bizarre one, in my opinion, because it’s really only so rare because people didn’t want it.

By the way, if you are interested in the value, there is an analysis of sales prices by Nadinao.

4c38abdb8acef17a750d23a81d305a60--gothic-lolita-fashion-lolita-styleBut, while these three dresses are currently quite expensive on the secondhand market, that status isn’t guaranteed. Alice and the Pirates Elizabeth Bride of Death series released in 2012 shot up to over $3K USD at it’s highest point on one particular Japanese auction. In early 2017, the cut without the slit in the front was selling for a cool $1k on lace market. Then, Baby announced that they were going to re-release the cut shown to the right on make-to-order. Overnight, the value of both cuts plummeted, and now the pieces from the series are go unsold at half that price. If you are in love with one of the dresses above, but not their current price tag, my advice would be to check out other pieces from those brands. Search lolibrary for things like cats, or gates. You may find that one of the many other pieces with those motifs speaks to you, and your wallet too. Or, just wait it out. Values of most lolita pieces have been falling in general. Time will only tell if it will hit these iconic pieces as well.


545430_945698161629_573562109_nOther blogs participating in this theme:
Cupcake Kamisama’s Lolita WorldThe Bloody Tea Party ♥

How to Buy Putumayo Outside of Japan!

Putumayo is a great wash and wear casual lolita and punk brand. Most of the clothing Putumayo makes can be washed on the gentle cycle in the washing machine on cold (Velveteen or other special fabrics might not be though; I’ve never tried washing anything they have made of velveteen). Because they sell both punk and lolita items, not everything they sell is suitable for lolita. Putumayo’s lolita items tend to be short; I would recommend their pieces for people under 5’4″ (163cm). If you are taller, pay close attention to the lengths of the skirts and dresses. Some of their dresses are longer, but most are pretty short!

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Buying Putumayo New

Harajuku Hearts – Ships worldwide and they can special order anything that is in stock from Japan as long as you meet the minimum order amount.

If you would like an item that is listed in the primary label’s Japan website but is not listed in our store, we can place a special order if the item if it is still available. The rules for special orders are the following:

* $150 Minimum merchandise purchase are required for all Special orders.
* Special order services does not only apply sales, and exclusive regional store items.
* 50% non-refundable deposit required (charged after stock is confirmed and reserved)
* No cancellation, so make sure you’re absolutely sure before you commit.
* Patience, due to the nature of special orders.

Tokyo Rebel – Ships worldwide, and can also special order anything that is in stock in Japan as long as you meet the minimum order rules.

Minimum order: $50 *per item* (unless ordering three or more of the same item)
Maximum order: $1,000

Accessories usually cannot be special ordered in quantities of less than three per item. Please note that we are not a shopping service. We accept special orders as an extra service for the benefit of our customers, but we are a retail store ordering wholesale from our brands, so we cannot easily order single small items.

Putumayo Japan – You can buy from Putumayo Japan directly now using Tenso (Just like with AP Japan!).  There are instructions on the Putumayo site.

Kera Shop – You can use a shopping service like FromJapan to buy Putumayo from Kera Shop online.

Buying Putumayo Used

Putumayo is really, really cheap second hand aside from certain popular pieces!

It’s cheapest to get Putumayo on Auction from Yahoo! Japan Auctions, Mbok or Rakuten Auctions. However, you can also get it pretty cheap from second hand shops.

Avoid:

  • Shop In Wonderland – It’s run by people who are well known as shady people in the lolita community.
  • Toabao – It’s probably fake; a few places make replica Putumayo clothing items that cost more than buying the same thing second hand and are waaaay worse quality.
  • Ebay – Again, it’s often fake, unless it’s second hand, and even then it’s better to stick to reputable second hand sales platforms like lacemarket or egl-comm-sales.

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.

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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.
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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.