What works: almost everything!
What doesn't work: no obvious mistakes.
What could be improved: the obi could look tidier but aside of that this is lovely as is.
I've collected here some tips on how to make a wa-lolita outfit look good. I'm going to briefly mention the things that I spoke of before in this entry and add some details that will help you create a more accurate look - but that's only if you're striving for extra kimono influence in the outfit. Basing a lolita outfit on the standards of wearing kimono is a whole different thing than just wearing a sode-sleeved outfit, and after having tried it for a while I thought to collect all the little tips and tricks here that I've found to work. Don't take them as rules though, they're a) written from the point of view of kimono-wearing and b) by a total amateur.
Wa-lolita is first and foremost a lolita style, therefore keep the rules of lolita as your main ones. Have the right shape - shorts with a wa-top are not wa-lolita. Use a petticoat, use good quality materials, don't show too much skin. The wa-part of the style does not excuse you to look cheap, quite the contrary: the kimono influence should make you up the modesty! You can look sexy in wa-lolita outfit but bear in mind that the sexiness should come the same way as in a kimono: it has to be elegant and not over-the-top, and you can't do it by showing lots of skin - it very unlikely to work. Ero-lolita is difficult enough a style on its own, combining it with wa-lolita is almost certainly going to fail miserably.
Qi-lolita takes influence from Chinese styles, not Japanese.
Don't confuse wa-lolita with qi-lolita. This is quite rude to both cultural backgrounds and you can bet your frilly butt on that someone's going to correct you. Don't try shortcuts, wearing this style takes just as long (if not longer) than every other lolita style. I feel like I'm on a repeat here but do your hair, do your make-up, see that the colours look good together, yadda yadda.
However, the above rules are just the lolita part of the equation. Here's how you make the wa-side of it look accurate:
What works: the colour combination is not overtly garish.
What doesn't work: cheap materials, cheap combo, shiny fabric, accentuated waist, the long sleeves make everything look a little bit worse still.
What could be improved: there's too much wrong for that.
While a very important part of the look, kimono sleeves are not a necessity. You can skip them if the outfit has enough kimono influence otherwise. Metamorphose has made some really wonderful JSKs - check them out!
A good rule of thumb is that the larger your sleeves, the tidier your look has to be. The longer the sleeves of a kimono are the formal a garment it is. Just look how massively accessorized furisode coords are, flaunting some of the most glamorous obis there are, wildest obiage styles, jewellery, fur collars, fancy hairstyles etc. etc. If your sleeves are longer than your skirt you should pay double the attention to all the following points.
This means that the longer the sleeves are the easier your other mistakes are to see and likewise if the sleeves are shorter you'll get away with less effort. Hair hanging open? Better with short sleeves. Narrow obi/using a corset as an obi? Better with short sleeves. With long sleeves you're facing two hurdles: one of them is that the sleeves are going to be the most prominent part of your outfit so you'll have to balance them out somehow: the point of wearing kimono is that the coord should direct the viewer's eyes to your face, not sleeves. The other hurdle is the aforementioned really long sleeves making all your mistakes a little bit more obvious.
What works: there's a good level of busyness vs. plain colour + details, the combo works for the long sleeves.
What doesn't work: the belt is a big no, the shape doesn't work for wa-lolita and it seems to be too tight - all that material bunched up underneath it looks bad.
What could be improved: new obi plus I would remove the shoulder ties - they don't do anything for this outfit. I would wear a larger petti, long sleeves demand more poof!
If your sleeves go all the way to your knees I suggest wearing a wide, well-stiffened obi or an obi ita underneath it (obi itas are way cheap so don't worry about getting one, those couple of dollars are going to put all the difference into your outfit). Tie the obi - or whatever you've chosen to wear - high on your chest. The longer the sleeves the higher the obi has to be. Again, short sleeves give you more leeway with this part, but furisode length dictates a somewhat youthful, borderline childish style so you should also be wearing your obi on the same "age-level".
And finally, after all the above tips... get some extra poof for your skirt. Nothing dampens a long sleeve wa-lolita look as well as a flat skirt. The larger your skirts the better they help balance out your long sleeves!
What works: the obi looks great, the colours and patterns are well combined, the body shape is correct.
What doesn't work: the skirt is way too short, the shape of the sleeves does not work.
What could be improved: I would wear another skirt underneath to give it both length and more volume.
The following will go against every beauty standard you're used to if you're from the West, but for a style based on wearing a kimono they're crucial. They won't make you look "less pretty", trust me. Getting the right shape for your coord only serves to make it look like you know what you're doing, besides wa-lolita style is one that brings out your legs and neck the best so don't try to take the spotlight away from them.
To begin with a kimono outfit avoids curves like the plague. It's a good idea to flatten your boobs if they, like mine, magically turn five cupsizes larger in a kimono. Pad the waist too, accentuating it makes the coord look cheaper. You can get away with a prominent waist too but as the first tip states, the longer your sleeves the unlikelier it is to look good.
What works: I like it as it is! It's a bit old school.
What doesn't work: no actual mistakes.
What could be improved: an obi could be added to it, and maybe another kind of shoes.
Go for something big is a good rule of the thumb. No ballerina flats (unless of course they look really good - rule number one in lolita outfits: look good and you can happily dump the rest of the rules), careful with slender heels, but likewise wearing platforms may not always be the right choice. Choose your shoes according to the lolita style you're going for. Is the outfit gothic in style? You may get away with platform boots. Classic? Slender heels might work well here. Rocking Horse shoes are nearly always a safe choice, but if you don't like them as a look there's absolutely no reason you should get them. Still, the longer the sleeves the clunkier the shoes is another good rule of the thumb.
What works: I like that it isn't too complicated in design. The colours go well together.
What doesn't work: the obi looks a bit strange - that strip of fabric in the middle that's the same as in the main outfit looks unnecessary and makes the coord look like a costume.
What could be improved: a new obi.
Wa-lolita coords are often inexcusably garish. Different pattern for the top and the bottom is no big problem but if both are busy and bright you're easily making yourself an eyesore. Look at it from lolita POV: would you still wear the combo if it was an ordinary lolita look? Wa-lolita gives more leeway with the combinations of course, but if your first reaction is "omg ew no" then there's a good reason to begin to doubt the coord.
What works: ...er... I don't know...
What doesn't work: this doesn't even look like wa-lolita anymore, rather a bathing robe. A cheap one.
What could be improved: don't bother trying.
Here's some ideas:
- Go for simple patterns. Simple is always easy to make look good, besides you can add a lot of stuff to it without it becoming tacky.
- If you go for a busy pattern instead, tone it down with the rest of the stuff. Use large blocks of single colour to balance out the busy. Black is a bad choice though: it accentuates the colourful part, making the busy look double-busy. It's even better to have the whole outfit of the same colourful fabric instead of pairing it up with black and then wearing a simple, plain, one colour obi.
- A busy pattern likewise should have few details. If you use lace use good quality - never the cheap plastic-y rachel lace mess seen so often in wa-lolita outfits. Skipping the lace altogether might be a good idea too, consider a ruffle instead - or even better, no extra details at all.
What works: hahaha this is everyone's favourite piece to hate, but actually it looks pretty nice in a yukata-ish way! I like the placement of the pattern on the sleeves.
What doesn't work: the obi however is honestly awful. Skirt looks too short.
What could be improved: another skirt underneath for more length, this one also needs a good petticoat. Better obi, definitely.
There's at least one DIY pattern on how to make a wa-lolita top out of a yukata and while it's not a bad one, those sharp pointy ends really don't do much for the look. Cutting it short doesn't work either, especially when people cut it way too short. That little fold called ohashori that you see peeking out from under the obi is not only a visual treat, it's crucial for wearing a kimono or a yukata. Without it your collars won't stay put and you'll end up with way more cleavage than you wanted to. There are many helpful guides online for wearing a yukata/kimono that will teach you how this part is made.
Once you've mastered it (I say mastered but it's actually kind of easy) you can try to just gather the yukata/kimono up instead of chopping it. Traditional Japanese clothing is all about folding, gathering, tucking up and tying down, and I've so far found at least three different ways of wearing a full length yukata/kimono with a lolita skirt.
What works: the colour combos are good, interesting shape for a sleeve and I love the huge bow in the back.
What doesn't work: the obi has the same problem as another one that I already showed: those strips of fabric in it make the whole look costumish and cheap.
What could be improved: someone wash model-san's face please, that's way too much make-up! Seriously speaking I would remove that cheap looking lace from the skirt. The obi needs more oomph to it, maybe accessories to give it more volume - an obiage alone might make all the difference.
This is mostly a personal opinion but I find a wide belt always better looking than a narrow one. Especially so if the sleeves are long, I've never seen a coord that would have successfully combined a narrow belt with furisode length sleeves. I may be entirely wrong here though so feel free to point me outfits that succeed in this!
The quality of the obi is not a big issue though, as wa-lolita is a street style. If anything it should look flat and suit the chosen style but other than that it's all free game. You don't necessarily even have to wear an actual obi - I've seen some good ones that use wide belts or corsets - but an obi is the safest choice and therefore recommendable. They aren't expensive either: go for a pre-tied yukata obi and possibly an obi ita and you're all safe. Just remember to check that your boobs aren't hanging over it because that's a bit tacky.
Btw nothing stops you from wearing a fancy obi either. It should always be better quality than the rest of your outfit anyway, so if you have one that would suit the style you have in mind, go for it! I'm merely pointing out that there are many affordable options that are very easy to make look good, so don't turn away from the idea of using a real obi just because you've always been told that they're hard to use/uncomfortable to wear/expensive. :)
What works: this is a really cute combo and the model wears it really well! I like it as it is.
What doesn't work: no complaints.
What could be improved: it's good as is.
With all this said, never take fashion dead seriously. You're allowed to play around with it and have fun, there are no laws to what you can and can't do, at least not in the Western world (aside of that whenever taking influence from other cultures it's a good idea to do so respectfully). Especially don't mistake me for an authority on the issue: these tips are all either gained through personal experience, are my own opinions or found and agreed with elsewhere. Main thing about lolita is - have fun and look your best!