Hello, January You! You know who I’m talking to: the one full of promises to change, improve, and make amends. How many times have you promised yourself to add more blouses to your lolita wardrobe? Or any other builder pieces like socks, hair accessories, shoes or jewellery? How many of those promises have you actually kept? If it sounds like I’m coming for you, then fear not, I’m here to offer a solution, not to berate. It may seem sacrilegious, but have you considered offbrand? And would you know how to go about that without looking ita? Read on to find out more!
As a word/phrase of its own, offbrand has several different meanings. Of those the one that applies to lolita fashion is something not having a recognized or popular brand or name. In lolita fashion ‘offbrand’ refers to anything that’s not from a brand producing lolita fashion items. Be clear about that distinction and don’t unfairly dump any small, independent brands with that. For example, Atelier Beatrice, who make primarily hair accessories, may not be very widely known, but they use lolita fashion in their brand marketing. Therefore, we should class them as an indie brand. However, while Claire’s pieces may work with lolita fashion, they’re not designed with it in mind, which makes them offbrand.
Adding offbrand clothes to your lolita wardrobe is much harder than with other pieces. This is because clothes take up a bigger proportion of space in a coordinate. This means that they are more visible and by extension, any mistakes are more visible too. Do not expect to find offbrand main pieces that will fit lolita fashion aesthetic. While you may have a little more luck with ouji, they will still look and feel different to clothing made specifically with lolita and ouji fashions in mind. However, you may be able to find blouses, cardigans and boleros that could work for those looks. The easiest way to categorise offbrand clothing is by how difficult it is to incorporate into lolita fashion.
The easiest way to incorporate offbrand clothing is to shop for other Japanese brands whose aesthetic is compatible with lolita. The reason why many Western offbrand pieces don’t work is because they lack the necessary detail. Also, Western feminine fashion doesn’t place the same emphasis on looking cute as Japanese fashion does. As such, a blouse that’s too plain will stand out the wrong way against a heavily detailed JSK. Luckily, there are plenty of Japanese brands that produce just the right kind of clothing. Many of them, while much cheaper than lolita, will still be pricier than Western fast fashion clothes when new. Their prices often are more accessible second hand, so don’t be afraid to try. Consider brands such as Axes Femme, Dream V, Fi.n.t., Liz Lisa, Amavel or Ank Rouge, but also look into other labels.
This is best reserved for those who already have a good grasp of what lolita fashion is and isn’t. However, once you know what to look out for, a good vintage find can really add flair to an outfit. Given lolita fashion’s history with vintage reproduction brands like Hell Bunny, let’s reinforce: should not get main pieces from them. While rockabilly fashion shares some inspiration with lolita, they’re two different styles and silhouettes. Having said this, these brands are great for things like cropped cardigans. Search for Hell Bunny, Collectif, Vivienne of Holloway, or Banned Apparel. Vintage reproduction brands have a similarly thriving second hand market as lolita, so use those search terms on eBay. Blouses should be easy to find second hand for cheap, especially if you like high neck or Peter Pan collars. While there may be completely offbrand blouses and cardigans, if you’re still unsure it’s best to stick to vintage reproduction brads as a safer bet.
Yes, it is possible to do that. Extremely hard, but nonetheless possible. Generally speaking, only long-standing, very experienced wearers of the fashion will know how to avoid mistakes. Scouring second hand shops for hidden gems is time consuming. However, it yields fantastic bargains to the patient ones who persevere. It’s important to not have any expectations and to keep an open mind when searching. Once you know what necklines, hemlines, levels of detail, and colours you’re looking for, browsing the racks of blouses or cardigans will become quicker. When looking online, you may have some luck with certain keywords. ‘Lolita’ is one of them, but don’t be afraid to use ‘Victorian’, ‘gothic’, ‘kawaii’, or ‘frilly’ too. You’ll still scroll through endless pages of irrelevant stuff before you find the right bargain. So it’s up to you to decide whether eBay or your local charity shopwill be more likely to have something, before you make this time investment. But with a good eye for detail, lots of patience, and a solid understanding of lolita fashion, you will eventually find something. And it will be worth the wait.
Adding offbrand pieces of clothing to your lolita wardrobe is a skill, in the same way that coordinating is. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. This in turn will allow you to build a bigger collection at a smaller cost. If you’re only just starting out in lolita fashion, then stick to the easier options. When in doubt, check with your lolita community or a lolita mentor. If there is a vintage fair or a sample sale in your area, why not organise a meetup to attend? That way you could receive feedback on a specific item from a more experienced lolita immediately. However, remember that sometimes even the best offbrand piece won’t replace a proper lolita one. And there are some great bargains in that area too.
29-year-old Capricorn, Polish-born, UK-based and in love with Japanese fashion (predominantly Lolita). I enjoy a good bargain, OTT coords, cats and baking, and when in Japan I’m a self-confessed purikura addict. When I don’t blog, I work in the education sector, overseeing international exchange programs, and sometimes I get to do some exciting freelance translations on the side.
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