In the first part I spoke of situations where something that looks like wa-lolita may not even be meant to be worn as a lolita style. But what about those cases where something is being sold as wa-lolita, what should you look at before buying to be sure that you're not ending up with something itasomely ita? Let's compare:
Examples 1 and 2. Compare the sleeves, the length of the skirt and the general combination of colours and prints.
Example 1 on the left has a problem with sleeves - they do not work that way. If you want to go for the yukata sleeves then note that they're completely rectangular in shape and should reach below your elbows.
With the length of skirt the two differ but slightly - it may be only 5-10 cm difference but that's what's making the skirt on the left look skimpy. The one on the right has also way more material in the skirt, creating more poof to balance out the sleeves which is always a huge plus.
Most importantly, the combination of busy patterns needs a mention. On the left - a messy eyesore created in only two different, busy prints. Nothing stands out, it all blends into a total confusion. The outfit on the right has even busier a print, but it balances it out by block colours which calm the look and make it work.
Examples 3 and 4, compare the sleeves, the obi, the colour combinations and the general styling.
(The skirt length here is so obvious that I'm not even pointing it out. No lolita style is supposed to look cheap.)
The sleeves on the left are not the worst thing about the coord and in another, more tastefully done coord they might work. Still, the rectangular sleeves are a safer choice if you're going for the yukata top look.
The obi on the left... is a sorry mess. Never wear a flimsy obi. Even if you wear a thin, soft one it's still supposed to look sturdy when you wear it. Granted, you can't see much of the obi on the example on the right but what little can be seen looks nice and smooth. You can click all the images bigger by the way!
The colour combinations... oh my Bob. Exhibit 3 is a hot mess. While it's not forbidden to match colours freely when going for a kimono look, don't think that this means that you can throw on just whatever combinations. If the colours are warm, select other warm colours and vice versa. Plus avoid everything with a lot of ruffly lace. Example 4 shows how to match a colour that's not fully present in the rest of the outfit by using a brilliant red for the obi and pale beige for the bottom ruffle.
General styling... compare the socks vs. tights, shoes, the hairstyle. No hair accessories can be better than a cheap one that doesn't even fit the coord. I also love how well they've gone with the kimono theme on the right but adding the typical obi accessories, an obiage and an obijime.
But what if you don't get an opportunity of seeing the outfit worn? How to tell what's possibly wrong with it?
Hem: look at the openings of the sleeves. If they're level with the hem the hem is likely way too short.
Colour combo: when in doubt avoid everything that matches black with a bright colour.
Obi quality: if it's wide enough to reach below your waist it's too wide. Likewise if it's just a scarf it's probably not worth your money.
Accessories: if there's a strip of the same fabric as the rest of the outfit going over the obi, avoid. It looks costumey.
Compare to this photo - hem length looks totally fine, black here is matched by a strong but not garish colour which is further toned down by other, calmer colours, obi ends at waist and has a belt used as an obijime.
As you can see, there are no safe tips. I've used lots of F+F to illustrate how to do it right but F+F is not a foolproof choice. Still, they're one of the brands that have hitherto turned up the best results and therefore I can recommend their better coords (hint: the better ones tend to have a normal width obi, not one that goes down over your hips).
In the third part you'll get to see something pretty awful: I tried to put together a wa-lolita coord that would have as many no-nos as possible to illustrate how, even with otherwise agreeable items, it's your own effort that can make it or break it in the end. The resulting photo is, to put it politely, absolutely hideous. :D