May the Beginner Lolita -posts continue! The Icelandic community has recently gained lots of new members which has inspired me to look at the fashion from a point of view I rarely have, that of a beginner. You see, I've done this for years now. I have almost forgotten that many things that I take for granted are nothing of the sort in reality, just a result of me endlessly repeating and bettering certain formulas, ideas, aesthetics and the like. But it wasn't always so easy.
My biggest problem as a beginner was that I quickly got bored of one coord, yet gaining more items was a costly and/or time consuming business - or so I thought. Then one day a friend of mine gave me a pair of white shoes with flowers, a fleamarket find she said, that she thought would fit my style well. Too right they did, and I eventually wore the pair to shreds.
It gave me an important lesson as well: lolita does not HAVE to be an expensive hobby. All depends on what you buy and how well your clothes all fit together as a whole. Here's an example of items that have proven to be worth their weight in gold, things I've bought for cheaps and which go with almost any coord - to illustrate here's my three latest projects coorded with exactly the same base items.
My shirt is from a second-hand store. What makes it so awesome for all kinds of coords is the simplicity of its design: small collar with ties and a lace shoulder piece, good quality material that doesn't wrinkle easily and the colour of it - always go for white, off-white or black if you can.
Shirts like this one are often cheap like soap because they're not in fashion. They were, once upon a time, but as fashion moved on it left in its wake closets full of non-salvageably old-fashioned lace and ruffle shirts that no one wanted to buy even at flea markets. Therefore people tended to sell them for a fairly cheap price and still do, Icelanders go check Kolaportið and you'll no doubt find some on the 500-1000kr racks.
Other forms for shirts that you could go for are peter pan collars and smaller round collars. Sharp collars rarely look good in lolita and are harder to coord. Avoid patterns and strong colours, always wear a shirt that's actually your size and preferably isn't tight. Tight shirts can work too but again, they're harder to coord. What you want from your fleamarket shirts is coording flexibility!
Another great find are block colour skirts, especially ones with inbuilt pettis or ruffles. You can wear those over your petticoat to create a smoother look, or underneath it to protect your tights if the petticoat material is scratchy (such as well starched tulle). You don't necessarily see them when the coord is on - mine certainly isn't showing - but their value is more in the comfort and tidiness of the coord.
Especially an Icelandic lolita will benefit for extra skirt layers. The weather is cold enough as is and even one skirt can make a huge difference in how you're feeling walking downtown. Besides if you're going to go for apron skirts block colour skirts are the best thing to go underneath them to showcase the cuteness of the apron skirt itself to the max.
Other possibility, of course, is to get a petticoat that doesn't look like an obvious petticoat, f.ex. a cotton petti with ruffles, but all in all getting just simple, wide skirts might prove cheaper and more multi-purpose, giving you chances of wearing them even outside o the lolita fashion.
Another item that'll keep you warm and more importantly secure are bloomers/pantalones/shorts. No one's going to see them while everything's ok, and if people do end up seeing them... well, it could be your underwear on show instead. Wind, people, all that wind. WIND.
Bloomers are a super easy sewing project, but you can also just wear simple shorts if a ruffly butt isn't your thing. Like I said, they're not meant to be shown so who cares. :Þ
Lastly, shoes and tights. For tights it's good to go for as simple as possible when you're new to the style. Again, white, off-white and black are great colours, simple patterns rule over complicated ones, or if you like lace then why not wear a pair of lace tights over a pair of simple block colour ones? It both creates a tidier, warmer look and really makes the lace tights stand out. Still, if you're only going to buy a pair of tights to wear with lolita, rather get something simple. Tights are a billion times better option than socks for Icelandic lolitas, reason being again the weather and easier coording.
Shoes follow the same rule. White, off-white or black. Simple. No thin heels. Heels on their own are fine but your outfit's going to be poofed to clouds and back, thin high heels will make the look unbalanced and silly. Avoid sharp toes and peep-toes. Peep-toe shoes are meant to show your toes, not your socks, and lolita as a style does not really work with bare legs and feet. Sharp toes don't work with all lolita styles, making them a hard-to-coord item iow not a good choice for using in a wide variety of coords. Round toes and slight to exaggerated clunkiness at the heel compliments and balances your coord perfectly and you'll feel much more relaxed wearing them not having to worry constantly about tripping and breaking your ankles.
This btw is a very valid concern when wearing lolita; you cannot see what's right in front of you because all that poof gets in the way. For the love of everything wear shoes that are sturdy! You'll thank me when you go down the first staircase on your way.
And if the simplicity of the shoes bothers you you can always tune them up to your liking. The shoes I'm wearing here are originally from Dinsko's sales bin, very basic in design. I added the pearl chains myself as a final touch but even without them this pair would have been an excellent find.
These are just some general pointers to a beginner in lolita on what to buy and how you can tell it'll suit the style. When you gain some more power levels and your wardrobe begins to grow you'll notice something funny: there'll be a few of these beginner items that will stay with you along the years. Things that you bought because they were cheap and simple and fit the aesthetic, things that keep their coording value because they work with absolutely everything. Start with a few of those and you're all good. Even in the case that you decide lolita's not your thing after all those items won't lose their wearability the same way that obvious lolita items would.