Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Creative lolita coords made easy.

Well, maybe not easy, but definitely easier! These are a few ideas I've had and a few things I do when trying to come up with nice and unique lolita coords.

Though before you read on, let it be said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing tried-and-true combinations. White blouse and socks with a sweet lolita coord will always look nice and lots of brown in a classic outfit will always be fine ^__^

Forget the labels.
Something I find that can be limiting when trying to think of a new outfit is labels. If you're thinking of your new outfit as being "gothic" or "sweet" you can limit you thinking. Just put together things that you think would look nice and worry about what to cal it later. The substyles really only exist to make it easier to talk about things anyway, so making sure your outfit fits as specific substyle isn't an important starting point. Forget what to call your new, uber creative and wonderful coord, just make it!

Is it sweet? Is it punk-ish? No! It's a coord ^__^

Keep an inspiration folder.
I have a gigantic lolita coord inspiration folder. There are hundreds of awesome coords saved, and some are sorted into folders according to the main items I own [some, like the folder for my Bodyline red-and-white JSK remain empty, while the Silk Cherubims folder is rather full] for quick reference. I find that saving inspiring outfits, and especially outfits using pieces you own, is a great way of getting fresh ideas.

Of course, I'm not saying copy other people's outfits. You can if you really want, but to me a lot of the fun in lolita is being creative with the way you dress. Also, and I'm going to put this bit in bold because it really does matter that much; save all the pictures you want for your own reference but never, under any circumstances, share them online without consulting the person who originally took and owns the photo. Maybe I'm alone in feeling so strongly about it but people who just randomly post other people's pictures annoy me so much. Even when there's a disclaimer of "I don't own any photos on this blog" that still annoys me, because it's an acknowledgement that they're doing something wrong and don't care. As both a photographer and a model, I really object to people posting my work around without even asking. So please, be nice. Save and look at anything you want, but don't share it online ^__^

Learn to sew, or at least craft.
It's so much easier to finish of a coord exactly the way you want when you can make your own matching accessories, or even just make the whole outfit from scratch! And then you'll also have the added benefit of knowing that no-one else out there is wearing the exact same thing as you.

A floral headband I made, for sale here.

Sewing is actually fairly simple, especially if you're a practical or logical type of person. That lolita staple, the rectangle skirt, is incredibly easy and though following patterns can be a bit tricky sometimes you do get the hang of it. Sewing really is easy as pie, once you master the basics. Actually, easier than pie. Literally. I've tried pie making and sewing, and sewing is definitely easier...

Pick an item and make as many outfits as you can.
Recently [and extremely belatedly] I did the Lolita Blog Carnival "one piece, five looks" challenge and even though the dress I chose was super versatile since I could change underskirts I still found it challenging to come up with radically different outfits. But I really like the results! Especially the "punk" coord [pictured below] because even though it's something I'd never really wear out it was also something I'd never even thought of and now I do have thoughts in the back of my mind about how to layer print and non-print items. And of wearing my waistcoats more.

Just experimenting with your clothes, rather than only pulling them out when you're getting dressed to go out, can be a great way of seeing your wardrobe in a new way. You may also want to try working in some non-lolita items - personally, I have some lovely structured jackets that really look great with puffy lolita skirts. It's also a great way of seeing if anything in your wardrobe doesn't match and needs to go. If you can't make outfits you like with something, what's the point of keeping it?

Chill out a bit.
Come up with the coord and wear it out. Take an outfit shot if you want. And then don't worry about it. Unless you post that picture online of your wore the coord out with other lolitas, chances are no-one is going to notice that your shoes don't quite match the rest of your outfit, because in all likelihood anyone who saw you was so amazed by your poofiness they wouldn't have noticed if you were barefoot ^__^

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Three lolita trends I love.

This post is [in the most loving way possible] an anti Lolita Blog Carnival post. Allow me to explain. Twice the topic for LBC bloggers has been "three lolita trends I could never get into" and each time it's come up I've loved reading everyone's thoughts - especially when some trends seem so prevalent and can-do-no-evil-ish it's refreshing to read about people not being into classical art prints or tea party shoes. So I thought maybe I'd blog on the topic. But then I realised that, even though there are plenty of lolita trends I don't want to touch with a barge pole, I'd rather make my own twist on the idea, and share three lolita trends I love.

The Resurgence of Old School

Black dresses with white lace. Giant platform shoes. Simple headdresses. Stripy socks. A tiny hint of bloomer underneath a skirt. That was the lolita I fell in love with, long ago on the internet! And I like that it's having a bit of a comeback lately, though with a bit of a modern twist.

A few ways I can think of off the top of my head to do old school with a modern vibe would be adding printed tights, coording a printed dress with old school accessories or wearing an old school style dress with a chiffon blouse and nice heels to make it a bit more elegant.

I whipped up this example to show how I think a modern old school coord could look. Everything is Bodyline, except for the Fan Plus Friend bonnet and the Ophanim printed tights.


It's not really a trend, so shhh, but I really love the use of chiffon in lolita. Every so often someone releases a chiffon-y dress, so it's not really a new thing, but from my lurking it seems like chiffon blouses are more of a recent thing. And I love it. There's something so lovely and delicate about chiffon and other light fabrics that I think really compliments the lolita aesthetic.

Sugar of the few Angelic Pretty pieces I absolutely adore.

Book Prints

The bibliophile in me demands that I mention book prints. Just...that is all. Book prints are awesome. Deal with it.

Monsieur Fancypantaloons

Though, for anyone curious, three trends I'm really not into, lolita wise, are:
1. Flat shoes, because I think you need a heel or platform to balance out the giant skirt.
2. 99% of all wigs, be they colourful or natural. This is mostly because I feel they are fairly unnecessary because any hairstyle or colour can work with lolita, and because very few girls can wear a wig really naturally and well.
3. Pastel mess prints. That's not a proper term, but I'm talking about pastel prints on a pastel background which from a distance just look like a messy pastel blob.

What are some lolita trends you love?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Bodyline vs Fan Plus Friend

Lolitas on a budget tend to buy from three places - Bodyline, FanPlusFriend [hereafter F+F to save my typing hand] and taobao, either through a reseller like Clobba or by using a shopping service. I haven't really seen much comparing the pros and cons of these different "budget buys" so I thought I'd chip in my 2c about Bodyline and F+F - I haven't bought anything from taobao stores yet and as taobao is pretty much eBay making sweeping statements about it is as stupid as saying "everything lolita on eBay is crap/brilliant/a flying unicorn".

For ease of reading I've separated my thoughts under some broad subheadings and will rank each store out of ten points for each, with ten being "totally perfect" and one being "hellishly sucky". However, when reading do be aware that I'm assuming you have the sense to buy clothing from each store that is actually lolita ^__^

Ready? Onwards!

I had to start with the hard one, didn't I? If I had to make a broad statement about design for these two stores I'd say that Bodyline tend to cater more for the sweet lolita and focuses on printed fabrics rather than the detail of the garments for interests whereas F+F has a more classic and gothic theme overall and uses lots of different and contrasting fabrics and detailed construction. Having said that, I think both stores have lots of brilliant designs [and some totally shit ones] to choose from in a range of different styles. However, I do have to dock a few points from Bodyline for their monstrosities and from F+F for listing a bunch of things in their lolita section that aren't lolita at all.

Bodyline: 7/10
F+F: 7/10

A simple yet lovely Bodyline design that would suit sweet, classic or hime.

As a general rule, much as I have been very happy with my Bodyline purchases, as far as quality of materials and trims used, F+F takes the cake here. Bodyline occasionally uses some very crummy polyester sometimes and though most of their pieces that I've experienced have been decent cottons or cotton blends, they are only "decent". Their prints are generally fairly clear, and everything is normally thick enough not to be see-through or to sit badly, but Bodyline's fabric quality is quite run of the mill. Likewise, the laces they use are fairly middle ground; it's not all scratchy raschel lace [though some is!] but even their nicest laces are fairly basic and nothing out of the ordinary. Having said that, I should point out that I actually think some of Bodyline's laces are totally adorable [like the stuff on my Alice in Wonderland skirt] but I am speaking from a quality standpoint here, not  my actual personal opinion. As far as other trims and buttons and such go, Bodyline falls into the lower end of decent; everything is serviceable but not really the nicest on most pieces.

F+F, on the other hand, tends to use fabrics that are on the nicer side of average. Not phenomenal, but definitely a step up from Bodyline's choices. They also use a wider range of textured fabrics, rather than nearly everything being cotton or polycotton, and use that range more frequently. I haven't had first hand experience with any of their original prints, but from what I've seen online their print quality seems to be about on par with Bodyline's in that it's perfectly okay. F+F's laces, trims and buttons all seem to be of slightly better quality than Bodyline's, though they aren't particularly phenomenal. However, like with fabric range, they seem to use a much wider variety of notions than Bodyline does.

Bodyline: 5/10
F+F: 7/10

Note the velveteen vest and the heavy hot air balloon fabric.

After those two hefty paragraphs on materials you'll be relieved to hear that I don't have very much to say about garment construction. Both companies produce well made clothing, about the same quality of one of the better department stores like Target. All the seams are properly finished, as are hems. I haven't encountered any errors from either company like wonky straps or uneven hems except that Bodyline doesn't always do the best job of sewing on buttons. However, as sewing a button back on is such a simple sewing task that I really think everyone should be able to do, I don't count that as a major flaw. It's definitely a flaw, but not a big one, at least to me.

Bodyline: 7/10
F+F: 9/10

This blouse is guilty of crappily sewn buttons!

Now this is definitely a very subjective point, so bear with me. Theoretically you could buy an entire lolita wardrobe for any of the major substyles from either company, so if you look at it that way they both have a very good range of products. However, F+F overall focuses more on using plain or simply patterned fabrics in good combinations whereas Bodyline places more emphasis on mostly unique and some mass produced border or all over prints. Of course, F+F does have it's own unique prints and Bodyline has a number of solid coloured pieces but if I had to oversimplify the situation that would describe their range of clothing stylistically. I can't really rate one higher than the other on range of styles; they are different, but similarly diverse.

However, I think Bodyline has to gain a few points because they offer a wider range of shoes and socks than F+F. If you were to count actual items, I think F+F has more individual pieces overall, but Bodyline's shoes range and their variety of both plain and patterned socks hands down trumps F+F's. Then again, to "however" my "however", the sheer number of lolita items that F+F stocks and the amount of colours options many of their items come in definitely gives them a wider range to choose from than Bodyline overall.

Bodyline: 10/10
F+F: 9/10

One example of F+F's diverse offerings.

This point is pretty simple. As a general rule, Bodyline's prices are cheaper than F+F's and to me the difference in quality doesn't always correlate well enough to the difference in price. I do think, however, that both companies offer very reasonably priced lolita items, because there is a lot of yardage and detail in even the simplest lolita dress.

Bodyline: 9/10
F+F: 6/10

This is currently only $20 on Bodyline.

The discussion of sizing has two main points - the range provided and the accuracy of actual garments to the stated sizing. As far a the range of sizes goes, F+F is the hands down winner because they offer custom sizing for a minimal fee on top of having a large range of set sizes. Bodyline frequently releases clothing on only one, two or three sizes, and doesn't offer custom sizing. On top of that, their sizes are inconsistent from item to item. On the accuracy of sizing, both companies are fairly good but neither are perfect. In my experience garments from both stores can generally fit a little larger than indicated, but I've also heard many stories of Bodyline running smaller than indicated. I've heard mixed reviews about how well F+F does their custom sizing, but I have no first hand experience in that department so I can't really comment in fairness.

So, in summary F+F gets a high grade because of their large range and custom sizing options, though they lose a single point for their slight inaccuracies. Bodyline, on the other hand, doesn't do so well because of their limited and inconsistent sizing range as well as the inaccuracy the listed measurements sometimes have.

Bodyline: 5/10
F+F: 9/10

This topic is actually a fairly simple one. Bodyline has two postage options - Air and EMS. Air is currently a flat rate of $10 and for me in Australia takes about three weeks to arrive whereas EMS is priced according to weight and should arrive within about a week, though take that with a grin of salt because I've never used their EMS option. F+F only offers EMS, so it can be rather pricey and it kind of sucks not to have another option. As far as packaging goes, neither company does anything noteworthy. Individual items are in plastic wrappers or boxes, which are inside plastic mailing satchel things. It's not particularly sturdy, but I've never had an item arrive with damage from either company.

Bodyline: 9/10
F+F: 7/10

Overall Verdict
Bodyline: 52/70
F+F: 54/10
That's actually closer than I thought it was going to be when I was adding up the totals...

So there you have it! F+F wins this race by a narrow margin, but depending on what your priorities are the verdict may be different for you. Neither store is perfect nor terrible and I would recommend both to any new lolita ^__^

Lastly, I shouldn't have to make this disclaimer, but I am just in case; all opinions here are my opinions, based on the pieces I own from each company, observations of stock pictures and other people's reviews. Unfortunately, I'm not omniscient. Yet...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Review #18: Fan Plus Friend

Clothing review time again! This time the purpose of the order was for James, not me... but I ended up having a few things in the cart at the end, and that's what we're reviewing here...

We placed our order on the 13th of August and after a few very quick and very polite emails confirming custom sizing [I mis-measured James's shoulders because I couldn't find the full measurement guide on their site that included where to measure shoulder width] waited only a few weeks until we got an email confirming shipping on September 2nd, which I think is very reasonable construction time for a made-to-order jacket, vest and two shirts. We got our package September 9th and I have to say, even though I am a bit annoyed at F+F's lack of shipping options [read; you don't get options] it is nice to have your items arrive so quickly. Anyhoo, onto the reviews!

And yes, before someone yells at me, I know there are no photos. There are no photos because a. If I had to take photos, this review would never be posted because I am feeling sick, busy and grumpy, b. The stock photos are quite accurate, and c. My descriptive powers are so awesome you will hallucinate a perfect image of what the items look like. I'm dead serious.

Steampunk / Military Lolita Double Breasted Chains Piping Velveteen Unisex Vest

I used this vest in blue for my hypothetical gothic lolita wardrobe, and have been eyeing it off ever since. And when James decided her liked it too, it just had to be bought! As I was between sizes at the time of ordering I decided to go smaller rather than larger [I've been selling some of my lolita clothes on eBay lately because they're too big!] and got a Lady 85 but by the time it got here it was too big! Our crazy September workout and diet plan has really been paying off!

So unfortunately this lovely piece of work is going NWT onto eBay soon, but I can still give a few quick notes on it. The braid around the collar is not black but more a burgundy to match the stripes on the seams. In this colourway it's made of a lovely corduroy rather than plain velveteen and I think that gives it a fantastic extra layer of texture. It does seem to be made with boobs in mind though, I had a bit of room to spare in front, though that's also due to the whole thing being too big. All in all, it's rather nice.

Gothic Lolita Basic Long Cotton Bloomers

Both these and the next pair of bloomers were bought for an uberly epic photoshoot James and I are planning, and that's all I'm going to say for now ^__^

The first thing I noticed about these bloomers [other than how cute they are!] is that the lace the the bottom and the ribbon around the leg were both cream, not white. So the bloomers went straight into a tea-dye bath to even out the colours and they look super wonderful now! But that is kind of bad, though looking closely at the stock image now I can sort of see that the lace looks slightly off.

Other than the lace colour match these bloomers are fantastic. They are comfortable, well-made, soft and I think the laces used are really cute.They're also nice and long, so I may be trying a bit of an old-school peeking bloomers look sometime soon ^__^

Elegant Gothic Lolita Cotton Frilly Bloomers

As I said, hush hush photoshoot item...

These bloomers are also rather cute, well-made and etcetera. I don't like them as much as the white ones, but they are definitely quite good!

Cassical Lolita Solid Color Bowler Hat

You've got to love not only how silly F+F's titles can be, but how charmingly mis-spelled they are at times! Also, their mannequin heads are kind of really scary...

Mocking of titles and stock photos aside, I should really confess here that I have a thing for full sized hats in lolita. I already have a black bowler hat, but it doesn't go with much, so I had to get a brown one. Had to. No choice in the matter. Had to.

This hat is a little on the small side. I think I have an average sized head and it fits me quite well, but a little tightly so keep that in mind if you have a big head, or a very small one.The colours are very accurate, and the felt of the hat is quite decent. Not phenomenal, but definitely nice. It holds its shape well, even after being a bit squished in the post. The only flaw with the hat is that the stitches holding the bow in place are kind of noticeable as the thread colour is slightly off the ribbon colour. It's not really noticeable when worn, but is when you're holding the hat in your hands.

We also bought a few pieces of jewellery, and have before, so here is my brief Fan Plus Friend jewellery review - it's all pretty darn good. Not the most phenomenal quality, but both design and construction are quite good for the price. Definitely better than the pieces you'd get at a place like Equip or Diva.

The Pros:
Lovely materials and sturdy construction, as always.
Fantastic communication, especially in picking up that something didn't see right in the measurements

The Neutrals:
Lack of shipping options!
Ample bust room in the vest, but that can be mostly attributed to the whole thing being a size too large.

The Cons:
Mismatched lace is mismatched.