I think about clothes a lot, and doing my recent wardrobe challenge series has made me really consider if there is a best way to go about starting a lolita wardrobe. I've blogged about this before, but this time, now that I've been in the fashion longer, I thought I'd share three different methods you could possibly employ if you are a new lolita looking at starting to buy pieces for your wardrobe.
None of these methods are necessarily exclusive, and of course you can build your wardrobe however you want but since lolita, even offbrand and low-end lolita, is an expensive hobby I thought I'd share some possible ways to help new lolitas not waste time and money when they start their wardrobe. Naturally there is always an element of trial and error in a fashion that for most Western girls is based primarily off online shopping. You may think you adore gothic, but really feel more comfortable in classic. You may think onepieces are the best because you don't need a blouse, but then find them a bit limiting to wear. So you'll always learn more about what you like and what works on you once you actually have pieces in your possession, and it's quite probable that as you learn you'll discover better ways of building up your wardrobe, but I hope this post can suggest some good starting points.
Start with an single outfit
Well, everyone starts with a single outfit. But this is my suggestion of how to use your initial lolita outfit to organically grow the rest of your wardrobe. This is a great method for those on a very tight budget or those who wear lolita rarely.
Firstly, choose and buy a complete outfit you love, including the correct petticoat [not pictured]. For the purposes of future versatility I'd recommend getting a skirt or JSK as your initial main piece, rather than an OP.
Once you're satisfied with your first lolita outfit, break it into two sections: the "base" and the "main pieces" and then use each half as the starting point for a new outfit. That's all there is to it!
Here I used the blouse and tights with all new main pieces, but I could have kept the original hairpiece as well. However, hair accessories are cheap, so they're one of the easiest ways to add extra versatility. Also, most girls already have several different bags that, while perhaps not the perfect lolita bag, will go with one or both of their outfits so you may only have to buy a new main piece and new shoes to do this.
And in this outfit I've taken the main parts of the first outfit and paired them with new pieces to make a very different look. From this point, depending on the pieces you chose for outfits two and three you may be able to make a fourth unique outfit, like the one below.
At this point your overall lolita wardrobe is still quite limited, but there is sufficient variety that an occasional wearer will not feel like they're wearing the same thing over and over. And it can be an endless process to further branch out from here. In summary, the principle of this method of wardrobe building is when adding new pieces make sure you have something already to match it with, and try to have several alternatives for each main piece. This method is the most budget friendly as you can build up gradually while making sure things match ensures you won't have lonely pieces with nothing to match, and you will always have complete outfits to wear.
Have matching "base sets"
On a completely different note, I know some lolitas don't care as much about having lots of different blouses and such to pair their main pieces with but would prefer to focus on having a lot of main pieces. So in that vein, I do think another alternative way of starting a lolita wardrobe is to pick your substyle and colour scheme, get "base sets" of a blouse, legwear, shoes and headwear in matching colours when starting out, and then just focus on getting a variety of main pieces, preferably with matching headwear and/or legwear for a bit of variety. To make the base sets even better, add wristcuffs and a piece of outerwear as well, but consider those optional extras.
I would suggest having two base sets to start with and possibly work towards adding alternatives within the set, such as two different blouses in the same colour, or adding additional sets in new colours. Getting one or more big matching accessories to each main piece can also really help this style of wardrobe look not as basic as it really is.
The colours I would suggest making the base sets vary for each substyle. For gothic I'd recommend one black set and one white, for sweet a set of white and one in whatever you intend the main colour of your wardrobe to be, and for classic the sets should be ivory and brown. Pictured below are examples of the bases sets for a sweet lolita wardrobe that features pink.
You'll notice that though the items in each set are similar, they are slightly different to add a bit more variety. Also, not all the pink or all the white pieces have to be worn together. You can mix and match between the base sets or incorporate any pieces that match your main pieces. With two base sets like this, you could acquire all the main pieces below and wear them all in at least two different ways immediately, more if you mix and match and have matching socks or headwear for each piece.
This method is not one I would like to use, but I'm a person who loves mixing-and-matching. With this method, though you have to make a bit more of an initial investment in basics than you do in the first method I suggested, you are always guaranteed that a new main piece that matches your base sets will be easy to wear without having to buy any additional pieces. In that way I think this is a great method for people who want to have a range of interesting main pieces but are on a more restricted budget.
As you can see by the array of main pieces above, this method also doesn't result in boring and same-y outfits. Even when picking dresses and skirt that will work with both pink and white you have a lot of variety in styles to choose from, and over time as your wardrobe goes and you add more pieces to the base sets or more sets in different colours you'll find you end up with a very cohesive yet varied wardrobe.
Pick a colour scheme
Now I'll be honest about two things here. Firstly, the method I'm about to describe is something I saw on The Chocolate Maiden's blog. Secondly, this is more a method to use as you build up your wardrobe rather than advice on what pieces to get first.
Similar to the method of acquiring base sets above, if you choose and stick to a colour scheme when you start out once you have a few basic pieces you can easily add any kind of item as long as it matches the overall colour palette. Though not as immediately budget friendly, this kind of method can really allow you to be a great bargain hunter. If you have a palette of three to five colours and something pops up cheaply that matches, you can buy it and know it will work. You'll also be able to easily avoid buying things that won't match and thus won't be wasting money on either unworn pieces or buying things to match just one main items in your closet.
For my example here, I chose the sax colourway of Cream Cookie by Angelic Pretty, and sampled the four main colours. I think this is a fun way to find your initial colour palette - get a photo of your ultimate lolita dream dress, or even a favourite "normal" outfit that you love to wear, and sample three to five colours from it. And bam! Instant colour scheme.
After coming up with the above colour scheme I slapped together a sample wardrobe in those colours. And when I say I slapped it together, I really mean slapped together. I'm normally quite methodical when it comes to hypothetical wardrobes, but to prove my point about how this wardrobe method could work I just grabbed things in the appropriate colours without caring too much about how they look and match.
If this was my wardrobe you can see that after this point I could buy anything that matched my colour palette and be able to wear it in a number of interesting ways. In a sense, this is the more advanced version of the basic sets method and is better for people who want variety within a main structure.
I hope these three methods can possibly be of help for people looking to get into lolita. There are some many lovely things to choose from that it can be quite daunting, and I know I bought my fair share of pieces that didn't suit me and didn't match my wardrobe so I hope that this can help others to perhaps make a better, more thought-out start into the fashion.