Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Review #15: Shirt Punch

I did it again. Ordered something and only then thought to look for reviews, and the reviews on Shirt Punch are all over the place from fantastic to a total flop. But what could I do? It was a Sailor Moon shirt designed by my favourite Australian model, Isabelle Faith. And it came in hoodie form as well. Double dose of winnage. Or, you know, that's how it seemed.

My Shirt Punch experience turned out to be kind of hectic, so here it is all neatly laid out in timeline form.
23rd February. Placed a very excited order. According to their website orders are generally shipped out within a week and can take 3-6 weeks to arrive if it's an international order. So I settled in for a wait.
1st April. It should be here any day now, so I sent an email via the ShirtPunch website just to make sure there were no hiccups.
2nd April. At least they replied quickly, but the reply had quite a copy-paste feeling with no reference to my actual order and I was told shipping could take 5-12 weeks. Ouch. And also, why was that not on your website?
30th April. Am getting rather antsy. Count weeks on calendar. 27th May marks twelve weeks after one weeks production time, if it's not here by then I'm gonna be pissed. Briefly contemplated sending another email, but that would achieve a sum total of nothing.
7th May. A package arrives! The hoodie is inside because apparently your orders get sent to you straight from the manufacturer, or something, and the people who do the hoodies don't do the shirts. Checked the website so I could give an accurate review of how their service rates compared to what they offer and it turns out they've updated the section of their FAQ about postage times so it does now mention it can take up to 12 weeks, which is good.
10th May. Another package comes to my doorstep, the shirts. Only, when I happily rip it open, there's only one shirt inside though the invoice inside clearly says two. Why oh why does this have to happen to me?
13th May. After debating it for a few days I sent a firm email saying that I was disappointed to have not received one of my shirts and requesting [well, kind of demanding, actually] a refund for the shirt and the cost of what one shirt's postage would be according to making up a dummy cart for a single shirt on their website, for a total of $17.14.
14th May. Got an email back saying I can definitely get a refund though they'd prefer it to be store credit, but could I please wait until the end of the week just to make sure it wasn't shipped separately.
15th May. I replied saying I would wait and store credit would be fine. And now we play the waiting game...
21st May. It didn't show up even though I gave it a few extra days so I sent another email asking if I could please have the store credit.
22nd May. Received a reply saying the credit was in my Shirt Punch account and it was. All good.

I sent a thank you after that but that's not too relevant. To be honest, I was really bummed to not get the second shirt, but the fact that they gave me my store credit without haggling is definitely a point in their favour. The person I was emailing was a bit abrupt but that's understandable and like I said, in the end I got my refund so I am satisfied.

However, I just have to rant about the postage for a moment. How does it take a package nine weeks to get from Canada to Australia? Are they being shipped via bicycle boys and sail boats? I don't like paying twenty something dollars for nine week shipping, and the other option would have cost more than my actual products. Now, maybe Canada Post sucks. But to me it seems a bit odd not to offer some middle ground as far as shipping goes. There's no way I'm paying more for shipping than I am for my gear and I'm not likely to buy again if I have to wait over two months, so just because of postage options, not because of bad products or bad customer service, Shirt Punch have lost my repeat custom. I will pipe up and say though that the postage is probably great if you are in Canada or the US, and I know lots of people probably don't mind long shipping times, so this is really just a personal thing and you shouldn't base a judgement of Shirt Punch solely on their postage options.

Now, as for the product themselves, I'm pretty happy. They both came with a bit of a factory smell but that came out with a quick wash. The print is big, clear and looks exactly like the design as displayed on the website, so I'm happy. The hoodie is really big and comfortable, I've been bumming around in it while I've been sick and it's nice to have something nerdy to chillax in. The shirt is a bit on the large side but still nice. Both items feel like they are pretty good quality. There's not too much else to say but both shirt and hoodie definitely hold up to similar things I've bought from sites like Threadless or Think Geek, and are definitely good value for the price.

This is a crummy shot and I've blurred everything but the print in an attempt to somewhat disguise all the clean laundry. Shush

So, in summary, Shirt Punch does pretty decent quality and decently priced shirts and hoodies and by buying their stuff you are supporting independent artists, which is always good. However, postage to Australia at least is pretty slow. The fact that I didn't get one of my shirts was a real bummer but they dealt with it well. If they had argued over giving a refund, this review would be decidedly negative but as it stands it's a neutral. I'll spend my store credit when something catches my eye, but probably in all honesty won't buy from them again, at least until they change up their postage options.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Review #14: Fan Plus Friend

James and I did a little bit of retail therapy after Syra left us, and bought a few things from F+F. I've always been really happy with all the things we've gotten from there, and this time was no exception. We got a few things for us personally as well as a bunch of jewellery, a couple of hats and a knee length cage skirt for the model wardrobe - keep an eye on our photography facebook page if you want to see all that gear the instant we use it!

For some reason though, I've really struggled with writing up this review. Not sure why. So if this is a bit more haphazard than my usual writings then so be it. 

Steampunk Lolita "Fire Balloon Adventure" Corset Lacing Up Dress

Lolita and steampunk together is the ultimate winnage. This dress is almost a weird choice for me, because given the choice I normally tend towards darker colours but this was both James's and my favourite colourway. I love steampunk that isn't gear-heavy, so this dress really suits my preferred steampunk aesthetic. I know that from a lolita perspective the plunging neckline is a bit of a questionable area, but I love it. I'm sure if I make sure to label any picture of myself in this as "Steampunk Ero Lolita" I'll cop less flak, because I don't intend to wear a blouse under this ^__^

As far as fabric and construction goes it's pretty good. The skirt fabric is a really lovely, heavy, textured,  canvas-esque fabric, and the bodice is a much lighter cotton or poly-cotton blend. The little bow and cameo on the front is detachable, which is how I like it! The head bow doesn't seems quite so tall as the one pictured [but maybe that's just because I haven't fluffed it up properly yet] and is mounted on a nice wide fabric covered headband. Construction wise it's quite sturdy and there's only one flaw - the hidden zipper at the side isn't as hidden as it should be. It's under the arm, so it's never really going to be noticeable, but it's not a particularly good zipper job. But other than that, this dress is perfect and I love it.

Yes, I know this is a terrible photo. Shush.

Rococo Lolita Tri-layer Trimmings Stiff Half-head Bonnet

I've been harbouring a secret love for bonnets recently, and have made one for myself for a photoshoot that has yet to happen. This bonnet is what actually started this order - I was having a trawl through F+F's website and my thought process literally looked like this: "$20 bonnet, hell yeah! But their shipping is expensive...maybe I should see if James wants to buy anything..." and it went from there ^__^

This bonnet is a lovely piece of work. I'm not a bonnet expert but it seems to have just the right balance of everything - enough stiffness to keep it up but not so much that it looses the soft vibe. There's lots of lace and ruffling but to my mind all the materials used are lovely. Ten out of ten for this. However, Blogger doesn't like my full photo of it so here's a close up of some of the lace on the back and you'll have to take my word that it's brilliant.

And you know the best part? It perfectly matches my new Bodyline L479 ^__^

We ordered April 4th. received an email that it had been shipped on the 22nd and our big-ass package arrived on Monday April 19th, which is really reasonable given that the breeches we ordered for James were [perfectly] custom sized. So all in all, another good lolita online shopping experience.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Loliable Shops #2: Ally

A couple of weeks ago I took myself shopping to an actual  physical shopping centre. It was a decidedly surreal experience. I went with the intention of finding some loliable tops, but given that our Australian Autumnal trend seems to be for disgusting knitwear coupled with randomly placed spikes and lace inserts, I didn't have too much luck. However, even though a lot of things weren't to my taste, there were several pieces in Ally that could be worked into a lolita wardrobe.

Dramatic floral? Dramatic floral ^_^

  Patterned tights are all the rage, in and out of lolita. And monochrom eis always fun.

I love this fabric!

Of course, those dresses are a tad on the short side for lolita but shorter girls would have no problems, nor would those of us who can do a bit of modification. I can just see the dramatic floral dress with a few inches of nice lace at the hem and a ruffle of lace at the neckline ^__^

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

A Complete Sweet Lolita Wardrobe for Under $500

Before I started dressing lolita, I went through a stage where I was googling everything lolita related like crazy. And in my frenzied googles I came across the blog F Yeah Lolita and most particularly, this post. I swear I've read that post at least twenty times. It makes me happy, odd as that sounds. Hypothetical wardrobes [as well as real ones!] fill me with so much joy. Lolita is frequently viewed as such an expensive hobby [and it can be, it really can be when the pretty dresses beckon] but the idea of building a complete, simple wardrobe has always appealed to me so without much further ado I present to you a small but versatile sweet lolita wardrobe that you could buy, right now, brand new, on the cheap.

Now, before I go much further I want to explain my choices and offer my 2c on how to build up a cheap yet versatile wardrobe. On F Yeah Lolita, Caro said that her definition of a complete wardrobe was one where you would be able to wear a different Lolita outfit every day of the week. I agree. And I think that you can do this with my [comparatively] uber cheap wardrobe, though you’ll have to do some laundry throughout the week. I also decided to go with a bit of an unusual colour scheme – mint and pink with neutral white. Even though, for example, all pink or all sax blue would be a safer palette to go with, something with more contrast means you can come up with a wider range of more unique looking outfits.

The wardrobe consists of the following items:

1 OP, 1 JSK and 1 Skirt:
I’m lumping all these together because, though it doesn’t matter which is which, I think you need to have one of these in a plain colour, and the other two should feature a patterned or printed fabric, preferably with one being more elaborate than the other. Here I’ve used a very, very sweet mint OP from Infanta [$74], a plain chiffon JSK also in mint from Bodyline [$67] and a pink border print skirt also from Bodyline [$27]. Both the OP and the skirt have a mix of pink and pale green so they can be coordinated in a variety of ways.
1 Neutral Blouse with Detachable Sleeves:
There are two keywords to remember here – neutral and detachable. To get the most bang for your buck this is the best way to go for a blouse. I found the perfect white blouse with detachable sleeves from Fanplusfriend [$55] for this sweet Lolita wardrobe.
1 Coloured Blouse or Cutsew:
This piece is to add versatility to the wardrobe. I chose to go for a pink Bodyline cutsew [$13], but another blouse in a non-neutral colour or a top or radically different design but still in white would have been equally as good.
2 Outerwear:
Though these are terribly unspecific terms, I think having something “structured” and something “pretty” are two good choices for outerwear such as, for example, a full coat and a light bolero, or a military style jacket and a ruffled cardigan. Both boleros pictured are from Bodyline [$20 each] and though on the surface they may seem quite similar the white one is very simple and elegant whereas the pink has a cute hood, which isn’t visible in the stock picture, along with all the ruffles and bows so they still bring different options to the wardrobe.
2 Headpieces:
Something unquestionably lolita, either a headbow or a rectangle headdress if you like the old school look, and something else that suits your personal style – a floral crown, a full sized hat, a miniature hat, a beret, whatever. The pink Bodyline bow [$7] is the typical headbow, and the white floral crown from this Etsy seller [$9] can be either cutesy or fancy depending on the rest of the outfit.
2 Pairs of Shoes:
You could get away with just one pair of incredibly style neutral shoes but having two different pairs makes a wardrobe that much more complete. I’m a huge shoe person so I know I’m biased here but I really don’t think you can be totally stylish with only one pair of shoes. Both from Bodyline and both in white, I decided to go with different styles [shoes $33, boots $47] rather than different colours.
5 Items of Legwear:
Only five? Like shoes, socks and tights are one of those things I never think you can have too many of. But for the purposes of keeping versatility while limiting amounts I think you need two pairs of tights, one that’s a solid colour and one that’s either patterned or printed. Then there are three pairs of socks – plain neutral OTKs, a more interesting pair of knees highs and a pair of ankle socks. With these selections you’ll have something for your legs from the height of summer to the depths of winter. Both the sheer polka dot tights and the pink stockings are from eBay [total $8] and all three pairs of socks are from Bodyline [total $17].
1 Petticoat:
I haven’t put a picture of a petticoat in the collage because really, there’s no need to. There are also lots of differently shaped and priced petticoats, so I’m factoring it into this equation the petticoat as costing $50.
Total Cost: $447
Well, would you look at that. There's enough left over for another item or two - if I were making this wardrobe for real, I'd invest in some more socks and stuff to stick on my head. But that's just me ^__^ 

You’ll notice that this list doesn’t include accessories. This is for two reasons; firstly, I think the choice of accessories is very personal and provided the rest of your outfit is lolita I don’t think it matters whether you wear a single necklace or bracelet, a matching set of jewellery, or pin a hundred bows in your hair and secondly, most girls already have a collection of jewellery and other accessories that can be worked into lolita so it’s kind of a moot point for that reason also. A purse/handbag is another thing that I feel I can safely assume most everyone already has and even if it’s not perfectly lolita, it will do.

As I said near the start of this wall of text, I believe a full wardrobe is one where you can create at least an unique outfit a day for a week. So, with no further ado, please welcome to the stage seven outfits made using the above items.

A fairly straightforward sweet outfit with lots of pink. 

Again, a fairly simple outfit that let's the print of the dress remain the focus. 

Taking a page from the Classic style, this print-less outfit is elegant but still a bit cute.

This outfit is again a slightly more elegant and mature take on sweet lolita.

Mixing colours but keeping it in solid blocks for an eye-catching outfit. 

Using the pink hooded bolero and knee high socks makes this outfit more pink, less mint. 

Simple, floral and fun - perfect for a summertime photoshoot in a field of flowers.

And there we have it. Although still obviously limited, it is possible to create a workable lolita wardrobe on a comparatively small budget. You'd definitely want more if you wanted to wear lolita day in and day out every week, but for someone who wears the style only a few times a week this wardrobe is definitely enough to give you a wide range of outfits.

A few endnotes on pricing:
I deliberately avoided “buying” from Taobao via a shopping service for this wardrobe as different shopping services charge different fees and I didn’t know which one to quote, so my Infanta “purchase” came from Clobba. Also, all these listed prices are exclusive of shipping. Lastly, Bodyline tends to change prices seemingly on a whim, so today’s cheap dress may be tomorrow’s abuse on the wallet.

And a final endnote thingamabob:
I actually had a lot of fun putting together this hypothetical wardrobe, so if you’d like me to do the same with a different style of Lolita, please comment and let me know ^__^

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Review #13: Lady Sloth

After admiring from afar for quite some time, I recently ordered the Silk Cherubims JSK from Polish indie brand Lady Sloth. After chatting with James we decided to go with a different version to the standard model with a more detailed bodice and a line of lace at the hem.

Isn't it a lovely design?

As there are a few steps involved with ordering from Lady Sloth, here is a bit of a timeline of how my order went.

March 16th: I sent an enquiry about the JSK via facebook. I knew it would be a few days until I got a reply because she had mentioned having computer troubles on her facebook page.
March 19th: After a couple of quick messages Lady Sloth sent me the order form and requested it be sent back via email.
March 20th: I roped James into measuring me and sent off the order form. I also discovered that I've somehow grown a centimetre taller...I think it's probably something to do with having better posture from doing more exercise. Or something like that. Anyways.
March 23rd: Invoice was sent and paid via PayPal. At this point I was expecting the JSK to arrive around the end of April as somewhere [thought I can't for the life of me remember where] I had seen a mention of a 2-4 week making time, so I had plenty of time to plot, plan and save inspiration pictures of coords other girls had made with this lovely dress.
April 25th: Got an email saying my order had been posted, and the general time for it to reach Australia was 10-14 days. Okay then, early May arrival it is. Still awesome. Still plotting. Maybe something a little more causal with my hardly worn bowler hat would look nice.
May 3rd: It's here! And it came on an awesomely times day after a set of stressful days. James went out first thing for McDonalds breakfast and when he came home, so did this package. All the happies in one morning.

Inside a sturdy postage satchel was the dress all neatly folded in a plastic bag with a cute little thank you card! 

Okay, Blogger doesn't want to orient that photo correctly. Weird. Anyways, that is how epically lovely the bodice it. The lace is just luscious, and the cute bow is detachable and perfectly made. Even the cotton of the bodice feels really nice, it's very soft to the touch. There's a Lady Sloth label at the back where labels usually are.

A neat little shirring panels with corset lacing is in the back. The dress has a hidden zipper on the left seam and is fully lined in some of the nicest lining I've ever seen. The silk of the skirt falls so nicely and feels great to the touch. The construction on this JSK is simply phenomenal; not a loose thread or sloppy stitch anywhere.

Now,  I didn't bother to grab a full length shot because this print is one of the better know lolita indie brand pieces but print is lovely in person and the colours are delightful. There are so many hints of blue and green in the print that one day I'd like to try coordinating it with a sky blue blouse and peacock feather accessories. 

As far as fit goes, since Lady Sloth's designs are all custom-made, it's damn near perfect. However, I've lost a few centimetres since ordering so we do need to tighten the corset lacing to make it fit tightly. I haven't compared things like the skirt length to what I asked for but it hits at the top of my knee, which is where I like my lolita skirts to finish so I am a very, very, very happy camper.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Yay for ten kay!

Overnight I hit the 10k pageviews mark and I just wanted to do a quick post to say thank you. I love writing here and it's great to know that the what I write is being read.

This photo indicates the joy I feel. And if that sounded sarcastic it wasn't meant to be. ^__^