As I mentioned before Lolita is an expensive fashion, dresses are usually about £200 + and as they are coming from abroad they will also have a customs fee and shipping on top which can bump the price up drastically. That doesn’t mean you can’t do Lolita well on a more limited budget though. Also its important to bear in mind that as the main Lolita Brands clothing is produced mainly for a Japanese market they don’t always fit us non-Japanese girls all that well. Often items are too small and too short, the good news is that there are lots of options available to sort this problem and brands are starting to cater for larger sizes. The sites always state the measurements of the items and often if you are a UK 16 or less you can find certain brand items that fit – always look for items with lots of shirring and that are elasticated. Also its important to point out that some brands don’t sell to overseas customers and that language barriers can cause issues too. Don’t let this put you off the fashion though as there are lots of solutions out there.
Buying from Japan:
Many Japanese Lolita brands have now employed English speaking staff and opened their websites up to overseas customers, just follow instructions on their website when buying or search for a guide/help if you get stuck. Some of the other websites have very basic English or in some cases none at all which can make it very confusing when trying to purchase from them.
Some of the most popular Japanese Lolita Brands Include: Angelic Pretty, Baby the Stars Shine Bright/Alice and the Pirates, Metamorphose, Innocent World, Juliette et Justine, Mary Magdalene, Atelier Pierrot, Chantilly, Victorian Maiden, Moi-même-Moitié
For Japanese brands that don’t ship to overseas addresses there is the option to go through a shopping service. Basically a shopping service is someone that is based in Japan who buys the items you want and then ships them on to you – this can be risky plus they charge a fee too. I don’t recommend it to start with or without doing a lot of research. There are recommended shopping services out there, always make sure to use one that people have vouched for and trust.
Hello Lace has a list of a whole load of worldwide companies that you can buy from and some extra tips on shopping online, sorting out sizes, shipping costs, quality, etc.
An extra important note to include about a few brand items is that some items are not colour fast, this means if it gets wet the colour will run. I don’t know if this is just on older designs, certain colours/prints, fabrics or what but its something to pay attention to and check out when buying items or wanting to wash them.
Buying in the UK:
Unfortunately there are no Lolita brand shops based in the UK, the closest to us will probably be Baby the Stars Shine Bright who are located in Paris. Brands are starting to attend events outside of Japan though like conventions or special Lolita events/tea parties. There is also the opportunity to get hold of brand 2ndhand here in the UK through facebook sales pages, occasionally on ebay, on the egl sales com and in person at bring & buy stalls (lots of Lolita events tend to have these) or at other events that brands are attending.
You should be able to find lots of accessories, bags and shrugs/cardigans on the highstreet that would work well for Lolita. Sometimes you can find blouses and cute tops too and very occasionally skirts or dresses that could work (it takes skill and experience to get the hang of using non-lolita skirts/dresses though in a Lolita outfit). Ebay is always worth a look, mainly for individuals selling their unwanted items or for cute non-lolita items that could work as part of a Lolita outfit. Steer clear of places abroad that advertise to custom make items, usually the picture of the item they are selling is stolen from a brand so its highly unlikely your item will look anything like it or be of the same quality. If in doubt have a look online to see if the place has any reviews from other Lolita’s or ask in Lolita facebook groups. There are also quite a few UK based indie companies producing accessories and clothing who can be found on etsy and facebook. Again always do a search to see if they seem to be reliable and pay close attention to the photos to see if the construction of the item looks good e.g. does the skirt/dress seem to have the right shape, does the lace and fabric look to be of cheap or decent quality etc.
A quick note on Camden & the shop Sai Sai – Camden is great for lots of punky, Gothic, Steampunk, Visual Kei stuff but sadly is lacking in decent Lolita items. You may find a few items like tops that could work well for gothic Lolita but don’t visit Camden specifically for Lolita as you will be disappointed. Sai Sai although it sells some Lolita and Visual Kei type items is very expensive, sizes generally are quite small and most of their stock items are by G.L.P, Red Queens Black Legion (RQ-BL), K-Star, Punk Rave and other similar brands which all tend to be overpriced and really aren’t the best quality though you may be able to find the odd item that’s nice or a bargain when they have a sale. The bags, shoes and accessories that they stock are nicer quality but again can be really expensive.
There are a couple of places you could consider buying from here in the UK, I have added links to them on the shopping page.
There are also cheaper alternatives to the main Japanese Lolita brands, these brands are usually based in China or Korea. Brands like Infanta, Surface Spell, Dear Celine produce lovely items that are usually of a good quality. They can be bought through Taobao or via resellers like Qutieland (USA based and they overprice items) and Clobba Online (USA based so expensive customs and shipping).
Bodyline – a Japanese company, ship worldwide, can sometimes get dresses from as cheap as £15 but usually they are around the £30 mark and go up to about £60 at the most. They are a great place for buying shoes and blouses, do larger sizes and I personally think that their items are pretty good quality – there are occasional items and designs that aren’t as nice but it’s just a case of picking carefully. I’m really happy with everything that I have bought from them plus most items can be hand or machine washed (most other companies items are dry clean only).
TaoBao – a bit like a Chinese version of ebay so like ebay there are actual stores you can buy from as well as individuals. Also like ebay you need to be careful of what you buy as some items are poor quality and not all shops provide a great service. You also need to use a shopping service, here is a good guide to buying from there from Hello Lace
Closet Child – Japanese company who sell online and have shops in Japan. They sell a few new items but are mostly known for selling second-hand brand items, they also often have a sale on so you can get even more of a bargain. They have English speaking staff too.
DOL (Dream of Lolita) – are a brand you will probably come across quite regularly. They produce replicas and the quality isn’t great, but prices usually are quite low and they do larger sizes.
Handmade – if you can sew you can make your own outfits and even design and print fabric through Spoonflower or otherwise any of the smaller indie brands who make their own items can generally do custom sizes.
Brands – some of the Chinese brands and Fan+Friend (Fan Plus Friend) offer custom sizing and sometimes do larger sizes anyway. They don’t always get it right though, Fanplus Friend in particular have a bit of a reputation for getting custom sizes wrong but again ask around and do some research.
Replicas – Oo Jia produces replicas in made to order sizes. Generally if you decide to buy a replica she is the person to get one from as they are usually of nice quality. Otherwise DOL make replicas in a range of sizes too.
Bodyline – does sometimes stock some items up to a 4L but very occasionally.
There’s a good list here of places to buy plus sized items from as well as information on what sizes certain brands usually go up to (it may be a bit out of date)
Here is a great article on being a plus sized Lolita and where to find clothing
A note on replicas:
What is a replica? Replica items, like those produced by Dream of Lolita (Dol) are basically a direct copy of a brand dress. The company will take a popular design from one of the main brand companies like BTSSB or AP and then replicate it themselves to produce a copy that looks as close to the original as possible. Often an actual brand dress will be gotten hold of and then the design of the fabric will be pretty much scanned, the fabric will then be printed off (often on fairly low quality fabric) and the dresses will then be made. Obviously this kind of thing is illegal but the laws there are different and so currently they haven’t been stopped from doing it. Now, lots of people own replicas and people are very divided on the issue of if it’s ok to own a replica or not with people arguing that the actual brand item wouldn’t fit them, is sold out and so is rare & expensive to get hold of, is too expensive anyway and you wouldn’t want to damage it etc. At the end of the day if you had made or designed something and someone else made an identical copy and started selling it you would be unhappy. I’m not trying to argue one way or another I just think you need to know the facts so you can make your own decision. For the record I own two replicas, one was really really cheap off ebay when I was starting out and the other was Vampire Requiem by Oo Jia (which is such a lovely design) which I also got off ebay when fairly new (and it cost quite a bit). Since then and learning more about Lolita fashion, the choice of off-brands and more about replicas I haven’t bought any replicas and intend trying to avoid doing so (no matter how pretty, cute or cheap it may be). I would rather buy an off-brand or indie brand item and support a unique design.
Don’t buy from:
MILANOO!! – Do Not Buy from Milanoo, they use stolen images for all their items which is bad enough anyway but they then make poor replicas of the items too. The main problem with Milanoo is their poor quality, badly made items that cost a lot of money and which they won’t deal with once you have it. They don’t have good customer service. Also it would cost you a lot of money to have to return an item to them. Milanoo draw people in with their adverts of cheap prices for what seem to be pretty items. Yes sometimes you can get ok items and my friend actually got an Infanta dress from them but the risks are very high so it’s much safer to avoid buying from them. If you don’t believe me then do a google search and see what reviews you find.
Milanoo also have various other companies and websites set up in other names, if it seems to be too good to be true or just seems a bit off then it’s probably safer not to risk it. Always do a google search for reviews and info when you aren’t sure so you don’t end up getting ripped off. Also pay attention to the reviews, a few companies, Milanoo included, write their own reviews or pay people to write reviews. These are usually easy to spot though due to unusual wording, poor English, pointing out unusual points and often saying very similar things about all the items.
Hello Lace has a good list of places to avoid buying from and there’s a list of all Milanoo sites on egl