What style you chose will affect the colours and accessories that you use in your co-ord (means coordination or coordinate, so called I guess as usually coordinating your whole outfit is what makes it a great Lolita outfit). Keywords for Lolita I would say are cute, young, simple and elegant. Bear these in mind when putting an outfit together. When I use the word young I don’t mean you need to be young but more that you want to appear youthful.
Hellolace has a good list of the various Lolita styles. Obviously the guide I’ve written only applies to the main styles, some sub-styles have slightly different rules.
Top to Toe
Headwear : headwear varies depending on the style you are going for but items that can be used include bows (large and small), fascinators, simple hairbands with bows, flowers or pearls on, fuzzy shapes, cute hairclips, boater hats, berets, bonnets – the list is endless really.
Hair : Hair is important. Lolita is all about the full outfit being polished and coordinated. Having a lovely outfit but un-styled hair spoils the whole look. If you are lucky enough to have hair that’s nice and smooth, full and easy to style then you could do fancy classic up-dos, cute pigtails, sleek and straight or gentle waves in your hair. If you have trouble hair (like me) then it’s really worth investing in a nice wig. It speeds up the whole getting ready process, keeps the style, stands up to weather and can be worn a good few times.
Face/makeup : Lolita generally is about applying a little makeup but nothing over the top. The aim usually is to make you look young, cute and sometimes a bit doll like. This usually involves aiming to make your eyes look big so fake lashes are popular while keeping your face smooth and just adding a slight tint to your lips. Gothic Lolita allows for slightly heavier makeup but again simple usually looks better as otherwise you can detract from your outfit.
Outerwear : In cold weather you will need a cute coat or jacket, when choosing a coat make sure it is full enough to get your petticoat under. It can be hard to find suitable coats on the highstreet so maybe invest in a Lolita specific coat that will go with the majority of your outfits. For example I have two coats, one is black so will go with gothic co-ords or any that are mostly black and the other is blue and white so that will work well with my sweet co-ords. Bear in mind your footwear too, if you have an all black coat and pink boots it will look weird so balance with a pink bag/accessories. All depends on the contests of your wardrobe really, pick a coat to work with it. Mittens, gloves, scarf’s, earmuffs – all the usual stuff really, match them to your coat (or shoes if needed) and again keep it simple, as it’s all about getting the right balance. Then small capes, shrugs, boleros and cardigans are popular for in warmer weather.
Tops : blouses and cutsews. A cutsew simply put is a cute t-shirt but not just a normal t-shirt. I have added a few photos of cutsews so you can see what I mean. Blouses come in a verity of colours and styles. It can be hard to find suitable highstreet ones as often they don’t button/fasten high enough up. They are both worn either with a skirt or under a JSK (jumper skirt) obviously if it’s to wear under a JSK you don’t want anything that’s too ruffly as it will create bumps under the dress, also it’s a shame to hide fancy details.
Dress : You can either get an OP (one piece dress, means it has sleeves) or a JSK (jumper skirt, doesn’t have sleeves so is worn either with something under it or a cardi/shrug over to cover your arms). Again these come in all sorts of cuts, prints and colours. They should be full enough that you can get a petticoat under it properly and be knee length. There are a few dresses that are produced to be a bit longer than knee length too, usually by classic Lolita brands.
Skirt : Again skirts come in a wide range of designs, some are highwaisted/underbust, a lot have waist ties and again they should be knee length and full enough to have a petticoat under.
Underwear : Bloomers, tights and the all important petticoat. Tights can be printed, plain coloured or lace. Bloomers come in a range of styles, some are really short and others are long. Generally the idea is that they are there for modesty not to show off or have sticking out from under the skirt. Probably get them in the same colour as your petticoat or to match your colour scheme but it doesn’t really matter. Petticoats are very important to your outfit, they change the whole silhouette and kick the skirt out which is an essential part of the Lolita fashion plus if it has a print around the bottom it allows you to see it properly. Petticoats are a big debate, generally Dear Celine and Classical Puppets petticoats are the most commonly recommended. You will possibly need two petticoats, one that’s A-line(fuller at the bottom) for under A-line shaped dresses/skirts and one that’s cupcake/bell shaped (fuller/rounder at the top). The only budget petticoat that I have heard good things about is from an ebay store called Victorian Dress Girl. They make childrens skirts for dance etc but the 11-16 aged one will fit adults with a waist of around 30”.
Legs : if you don’t want to wear tights then you can wear either cute frilly ankle socks (not super common and can look too school girl if not careful) or knee high/over the knee socks. Socks come in a range of colours and designs including ones to match brand dresses. In winter/if it’s a really cold day I often wear thin leggings if I’m wearing boots rather than tights or you can wear tights with knee high socks over them.
Feet : Cute shoes or boots usually with a low chunky/block heel (not thin or stiletto heels). For gothic you can get away with a slightly higher platform and heel but generally Lolita shoes have a medium/low heel or are flat. They also are rounded at the front. Popular styles include Mary Janes, Rocking Horses and Tea Parties or more Victorian inspired/styled footwear can work well for Gothic and classic depending on the style.
Accessories : pearls, bow rings, gothic crosses etc if wearing gothic, wrist cuffs, depends on the style you are going for.
Additional notes: try to colour match as closely as you can, pink is especially difficult to match as there are so many different shades. It does spoil it if your outfit is a delicate pale pink but you have salmon or hot pink shoes etc.
If you want more help and inspiration then check out Hello Lace’s (website link is earlier in post) different Lolita styles guide, and look through the different brands in the wardrobe section to see examples. Research is key.