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Lolita Fashion: Getting Started

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Kat May is a beginner in Lolita fashion, having received her first dress March 19, 2021. She has studied and participated in it ever since.

Understanding Lolita

At first glance, one might shy away from the name of this fashion. However, it is not what most may think. Lolita was formed in the 1970s in Japan. It is a Japanese street fashion with many sub-styles. Mostly, one will find gothic or sweet styles. However, there are multiple others. Lolita fashion carries heavy influence from the Rococo Period, and Victorian era. Whilst it is a cute and somewhat feminine style, any gender can wear the fashion.

Since one's thoughts on this fashion might focus on the taboo name at first, it should be understood that that is not the case. The name of this wonderful fashion has nothing to do with the book, and the book is strongly rejected by those who wear Lolita. The fashion also has nothing to do with any sort of fetish. It simply exists for those who wear it to feel cute, beautiful, and to express themselves in this way if they so wish. The fashion is not for those who choose to make something inappropriate out of it. It is for those who wish to enjoy themselves and love this fashion that takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

A sweet Lolita posing with her fisted hand against her chin

A sweet Lolita posing with her fisted hand against her chin

Sub-styles of Lolita

  • Old School

Old School Lolita is the oldest sub-style. It is how Lolita began. Dresses were simple, and did not feature prints or designs. However, the same silhouette and decorations (lace, frills, etc.) were incorporated.

  • Hime (Princess)

This sub-style is more over the top, and features pastels and royal aesthetics. Curled hair, crowns, veils, flower crowns, layered dresses, and elegant aesthetics would all be seen in Hime Lolita. Outfits (mainly called "coordinates") are influenced by royal aesthetics.

  • Classic

Classic Lolita takes notes from historical clothing. Prints that feature flowers and more detailed, simplistic designs are common. Ivory, white, and off-white are common main colors, with the designs on the print featuring colors found in flowers and nature. Unlike sweet Lolita, animal and nature prints don't look like cartoons. This particular sub-style has more of an antique look, hence its name.

  • Shiro (white)

As the name suggests, this sub-style of Lolita features all-white coordinates (another name for coordinated outfits). Off-white, cream, and ivory may also be worn. Everything is in this color scheme, down to the shoes and socks.

  • Kuro (black)

Similar to Shiro Lolita, this sub-style features all black outfits. Sometimes, Shiro and Kuro Lolitas can create matching coordinates. The contrast is simple, but eye-catching.

  • Sweet

Sweet Lolita is one of the most popular sub-styles as of late. It features cute, cartoon or fantasy-like prints on dresses. Animals, candies, and desserts are frequent motifs that will show up in Sweet Lolita coordinates. Pink is a major color in this sub-style, but there are multiple other options - even black. Hair is most likely worn long and curly, but can be done in any way preferred. Headbows and bonnets are most common in this sub-style.

  • Country
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Country Lolita is like Sweet Lolita with a western or homesteader twist. Checked patterns, straw baskets, neutral colors, and fruit motifs are common. There is inspiration taken in this sub-style from farm aesthetics. Simplicity is key, here. Neutral colors typically remain in shoes, socks, headwear, and wristwear- while dresses typically have one or two colors, and a simple print.

  • Wa Lolita

Wa Lolita is inspired by traditional Japanese clothing. The sleeves on most blouses and dresses resemble that of a Kimono/Yukata. However, this may not always be the case. Sometimes, dresses focus on motifs inspired by traditional Japanese clothing. It is recommended to have correct knowledge of traditional Japanese fashion before incorporating it into Lolita coordinates, as there are a few stipulations regarding age, color, and the correct way to wear a Kimono or Yukata. Kimono/Yukata can also be paired with a Lolita skirt if folded correctly. This mostly works with a high-wasted skirt.

  • Qi Lolita

Pronounced "Chi Lolita", this style is influenced by the Chinese Qi Pao. Hair and accessories also follow the traditional Chinese inspiration in this sub-style. Like Wa Lolita, it is best to have correct knowledge of traditional Chinese clothing and culture in order to wear this respectfully, and in the correct way.

  • Gothic

Gothic Lolita takes dark elements and motifs, and mixes them with the silhouette and beauty of Lolita. Bats, cats, witches, and the like are all common themes. Aside from the typical "Halloween-esque" characters, dresses can also be plain with more stylistic elements that give off the Goth aesthetic. Most EGL (Elegant Gothic Lolita) looks feature a main color of black, with accents of another dark color (red, blue, orange, etc). Jewelry features roses, cameos, bats, cats, or anything of that nature. Headwear typically ranges from headdresses to hats. Witch hats are even worn in this sub-style.

  • And many more...

Step 1: Choose a Sub-Style, or a Few

Step one to getting into a Lolita fashion is to find out what sub-style, or sub-styles, one is drawn to. One sub-style does not have to be stuck with- Lolitas can wear multiple if they wish (just not all at once).

It can be easy, or hard to find out one's particular style. A suggestion would be to start with looking at dresses on sites like, or and see what dresses catch one's eye. The next step is to make a mental note of what style those dresses fall under, and then continue the hunt for similar items. This is similar to window-shopping. Whichever dresses, styles, and motifs catch one's eye are most likely to be the sub-style, or sub-styles, that will be chosen. Once a Lolita chooses a style, they can then move on to picking out their first coordinate.

Step 2: Coordinate Planning

An outfit, in Lolita, is referred to as a coordinate. The main pieces include a dress or skirt, blouse, and headwear. However, accessories can be added to one's liking.

When coming up with a new coordinate, it is recommended to start with the dress or skirt. The colors, or the print of the dress/skirt, is used in finding matching pieces to go with it. For example, if there are cats on the dress, and the dress is pink and white- one would use these motifs to complete their coordinate.

After choosing a dress, a petticoat should be chosen. This is what gives the classic Lolita silhouette. Color or pattern does not quite matter for petticoats. What matters, is how much volume the wearer wants in their skirt- or what shape. A bell shape or an a-line (think triangle) shape are the most popular options. However, there are many more. Thickness is also a factor- which is affected by how many layers the petticoat has.

The next step is to find a blouse. Most will choose a blouse that matches the colors in the dress, or a black or white one. To go with the example mentioned above- if the dress is pink and white, one could go with either a pink or white blouse. Shade is also something that matters when matching blouses and dresses. However, it all depends on the wearer's personal preference.

Once one has their two main pieces- blouse and dress/skirt, they can move onto headwear. There are multiple different headwear options. Headbows, berets, hats, headdresses, and mini hats are among the most popular options. Sometimes, dresses that are sold by brands come with a matching headbow. So, this is an easy option to include in a coordinate. However, if one wants to branch out- they can pay attention to what is in the print or the colors of the main pieces.

Wrist cuffs are a good next step. These are lace decorations that are worn around the wrist. They can range from short, to concealing most of the hand. Wrist cuffs can include different motifs and colors as well. Continuing with the example of a pink and white dress with cats- one could include pink or white wrist cuffs with a cat theme in their coordinate. This could mean there are paw prints on the wrist cuffs, cat faces, cat ears, or... there is a cat-like design incorporated into the lace.

After choosing wrist cuffs, jewelry is a good next step. This is where there is a lot more freedom in not only color, but also design. As in the example- if there are cats on the main piece - there is an unlimited amount of options. Jewelry can include cat paws, faces, full-bodied cats, or anything related to cats. One can choose as much or as little jewelry as they want.

The last step is socks and shoes. Over the knee socks are a popular option. They also come in either a solid color, design, or a print. So, for the example, socks that are pink and white - or either of the two - would be a good option. Socks with cat-themed prints that follow the color scheme would also work. If one does not prefer over-the-knee socks, ankle socks are also an option. Ankle socks can be worn with or without tights. Most will opt for tights, however.

For footwear, they are not normally printed. Shoes are normally a solid color. Most wear close-toed shoes, but this may not be an option for everyone. When it comes to height, flats are mostly worn. Heels are also an option. It all depends on the wearer's preference.


Lolita Fashion is open to any and all people. Regardless of the fact that this fashion takes a lot of effort and time to participate in, it is well worth it. From meet ups, to tea parties, to wearing the fashion on a daily basis- it is hoped that those who wear Lolita enjoy it, and enjoy expressing themselves in it.

© 2021 Kat May

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