The first thing’s first: that new, shiny piece of brand had been calling to you since you first saw it online. You need it, you tell yourself. It comes in such a pretty color, and it looks so good!
But you find yourself continually falling for the new brand, tempted to buy things that you love, even if it doesn’t quite fit in your closet (or on you). “I can squeeze into that,” you think. “I’ll get a blouse to match this dress, since I like it so much!” Pretty soon, you’re low on funds and your closet is huge—and not cohesive.
In photography, we call this gear acquisition syndrome, or GAS. It’s an impulsion to buy the newest and shiniest equipment because it’s the latest and greatest, and that can’t be a bad thing, right? A lot of photographers are stuck with these impulsive buying habits, and I’ve noticed these habits in both myself and others when it comes to J-Fashion too. If you want a further discussion of GAS, go here!
Before you drop your hard-earned cash for that piece you have your eye on, think about some things first. This will help prevent some regret when you realize later that the cut isn’t right, the color is off, or—heaven forbid—the piece doesn’t actually FIT.
Here’s some guidelines for you to think about.
1: Be conscious of your financial situation
No money in the bank? Trying to decide between paying back your friend and Angelic Pretty’s Holy Lantern—your dream dress that you just found on Lace Market for half the going price?
The truth hurts. Been there, done that. But no brand is worth defaulting on your car, missing your rent, or skimping out on a friend. Keep your head down and make sure you have your priorities straight. Don’t just wing it! If you struggle with this, have a plan, like another bank account, that you deposit into every once in a while that’s dedicated for impulse buys or just J-Fashion in general. That way, you make sure you have the money when Holy Lantern shows up, AND you make sure you have the money for your landlord.
2: Measurements, measurements, measurements
Know what your measurements are and how they compare with the model and the actual piece. There’s a huge difference between body measurements and the measurements of the finished garment—and as a general rule, your body measurements should be 3-5 cm smaller than the finished piece to allow for a proper fit.
If the site you’re looking at doesn’t show the measurements, be wary. If you can find the item on lolibrary.com, it’s a great resource for measurements, other colorways, etc. but even it can be wrong sometimes as the information is crowdsourced. I’ve heard horror stories.
If you want to be an overachiever, check the original measurements of the item by going to https://archive.org/web/ and navigating the the brand’s website from the year the item was launched. Generally from what I’ve seen, brands typically show the finished garment measurements (unless they say “will fit 80 cm waist” for example) so keep that in mind.
Think about your desired fit carefully. If the piece isn’t going to fit the way you want it to, and if you don’t want it tailored, then there’s no point in staring at it any longer. Let it go.
3: Know which cuts you like, and which you hate
Remember that the model is just that—a model! They were selected based on their body to represent the brand in the best way possible. If the dress is a high-waisted JSK, the model they choose WILL look good in a high-waisted JSK. If you aren’t a fan of the way those fit you, be aware of that no matter how good it looks on the model. Don’t let yourself be swayed too much by the brand’s listing.
If there’s no model—like if you’re shopping on a resale website—learn how to recognize different cuts if they’re out on the floor, on a mannequin, etc.
If you’re still unsure, try and borrow a friend’s wardrobe to try some things on. Try a bunch of different cuts until you find your preferences. This also goes for blouses, vests, shorts, skirts, etc. Love shirring? Hate it? Know the answers to these questions before you get too deep into your shopping. You’ll be happier with the way you look later on.
4: Would you wear something like this piece in your everyday life?
No, I’m not saying you have to be a lifestyle Lolita. In fact, by all means, don’t if you don’t want to! It’s your fashion.
However, buying something vastly out of the norm of what you’re comfortable in is the fastest way to ensure you won’t want to wear it. I’ve bought a few pieces where I know the shorts will be far too short for my taste—but I bought them anyway and I’ve only worn them once so far. Why? I’m not comfortable showing that much of my leg. I never wear shorts in my day-to-day life—ever.
J-Fashion should not feel like a costume. If you’re not comfortable in something, be glad you tried it, but walk away.
Tip: Trying things from friends’ wardrobes is a good way to learn what you like. If you have a friend also in the fashion with about the same measurements as you, invite each other over and go to town. Dress each other up! It’s great to experiment with new styles. Even if you don’t like the style in general, you may learn that you like certain aspects of it—which you can later incorporate into your own wardrobe.
5: Be aware of the items in your closet and how the new piece would fit in
Have nothing red but LOVE the red colorway of this piece? If you’re not willing to introduce red accessories and other red details into your wardrobe, you should probably pass…unless you can think of a way to coord it right off the bat. If you can’t think of a way to coord it with your current pieces, either be aware of the financial implications of buying more pieces to fit or walk away. You may decide on getting another colorway, but even then, if you’re not going to be happy with it, don’t buy it.
Overall, don’t underestimate being yourself. If you want to rock that red JSK with a pink bolero and blue tights—go right ahead! It’s your style, your closet, and your fashion. Don’t let people try to sway your style if you don’t want to change. Fashion in general is a reflection of yourself—if you love it, wear it!
Now that that’s over, I want to say that there can be some exceptions to all these guidelines.
I’ve bought some things in the past knowing that I wouldn’t wear them at all, and knowing that it probably wouldn’t fit. I don’t normally wear dresses or skirt, but when I caught sight of The Gold and Silver Tree of Starlight skirt from Ichigo Miko/Strawberry Witch I couldn’t help myself. At the time, my closet was primarily green, but I went ahead and bought two colorways: green and blue. I hoped they would fit, but honestly I just wanted to OWN them. I wanted to be able to pet them and admire them when I wanted to, and maybe coord them one day.
I love The Lord of the Rings. I always have. And this skirt is BEAUTIFUL. Do I regret buying it, even though I can’t coord it? No. Have I slowly been thinking about adding pieces that will let me coord them? Yes! Will I probably wear them out one day on my own? Probably not, since I am exceedingly uncomfortable in skirts these days. But they’re still exciting pieces to have (and pet) in my closet simply because I love the design so much.
As shown above, your love for an item is definitely something to be weighed as well. If you’re willing to let an item (or two) sit in your closet without being worn, go right ahead and buy the thing. But, think carefully about that. In my case, these skirts were $250 I will never get back. If you can’t stop thinking about this item for months and months and months (like I did waiting for these skirts to release) that’s a sure sign that you will love it. Just make sure the risk is worth it to you before you decide to buy.
Kal from Lightningsavage Photography specializes in creative portrait photography for J-Fashion enthusiasts and more. He has served as the J-Fashion event photographer for Oni-Con 2016–2020, as well as fashion shows, meetups, and personal shoots. He is also a co-owner of Kuroshiro Kawaii. You can follow him on Instagram at @lightningsavage_photography and @kaldec_
He is currently into visual kei and EGA fashions.
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