I've decided to do a bit of an intro post for lolita fashion for those who are looking into getting into the fashion, but don't really know what, exactly, is needed, or where to start. This entry is my opinion, personally. Some people may see it fine to deviate and swerve off the path I'm outlining as they see fit. Everyone determines their own style, so there's no absolutely "correct" way about going about building up a wardrobe! However, I find that this would be the best way to begin from the base on up!
- A Petticoat -- In my opinion, this should be your first purchase. Before you can get anything with a lolita silhouette, you need to have the petticoat that will give the skirt the proper fluff! There is any number of different places to go for these, and it really depends on what style you prefer. For sweet lolitas, generally a cupcake shaped petticoat is the best way to go; for classic and gothic, A-lines are a little more typical (though gothic lolitas often wear the bell-shaped or cupcake-shaped petticoats at times, as well). For a cupcake shaped Petticoat, I would recommend buying from Classical Puppets or from Dear Celine. For an A-line, both brands are fairly good, but Malco Modes petticoats can also work very well. A modded Malco Modes can even make a very nice cupcake or bell petticoat, as well! Keep in mind that the petticoat is the workhorse of your wardrobe, and this is one area where you will not want to skimp. Do your research on petticoats before buying one, and check out a few reviews of potential stores. For the most part, petticoats should be white or natural, though some Gothic lolitas or lolitas who dress in other predominant colors may consider black or another color.
- Bloomers -- Bloomers are not exactly a strict "must have" item. Some girls prefer to just wear bike shorts or similar to prevent accidental panty-flashes when bending over (bending over with a bell-shaped skirt is pretty much an insta-flash). You could always practice kneeling as opposed to bending over, but this can be problematic sometimes. Bloomers are a good way to keep your legs warm in winter, as well, particularly if you choose a flannel pair. This would be an item that I would highly recommend buying offbrand; for anything this close to your bum, I don't think that the brand price tag is worth it--particularly during that one wonderful week of the month (sad, but true). I've made plenty of very cute bloomers for $10 or less--they're very simple and very comfortable, and would be a lovely beginner's sewing project!
- A versatile blouse -- Learning to coordinate clothes can be a little difficult. One of the most instantly recognizable "lolita" things are JSKs and skirts (one-peices, as well, but I tend to think of JSKs as a better starting off point because you can learn to properly coordinate clothing together without the "easy out" of an OP). In order to wear a JSK, 99% of the time, you'll need a blouse. Skirts, 100%, of course! There are tons of different lolita blouses, so you should pick the kind that will work best for your style. What colors will dominate your closet? If your style tends to be sweet, a white blouse may be a good starter point; if you're a gothic lolita, perhaps black; a classic lolita may prefer ivory or cream; and so on. If JSKs are your thing, you may want to start with a very basic pin-tucked blouse with few embellishments. You can always add on jewelry and the like later on, but it's a lot harder to take things off of a blouse. If you decide to begin with skirts, then a bibbed blouse with some more interest may be a nice choice. In general, bibbed blouses do not look very good underneath JSKs (though they occasionally can look nice paired with an underbust JSK). I would suggest beginning with two blouses of different sleeve lengths, so you have a choice to lean on during warmer or colder times.
- A plain JSK or skirt -- Coordinating prints can be a bit trickier than coordinating solid colored peices. As a result, I would suggest getting a solid colored peice for your first JSK or skirt. Additionally, this peice should be able to be dressed up or down depending on what accessories you add to it. Not to say that your dress can't have any interesting details--the skirt can have pintucks or gathered panels, or lace details, and the bodice can have some delicate detailing that truly makes it a beautiful peice. But if you jump straight into OTT lolita, it may be a little more difficult to adjust to! Keep in mind that this beginning JSK does not need to be brand. In fact, I've seen plenty of amazing closets that have little to no brand in them at all.
- Shoes -- Though a simple Mary Jane style shoe is easily worked into a lolita coordinate, it may not do for certain lolita styles, or you may find that you want something more lolita-specific. To begin with, I would recommend buying a pair of black shoes. These will go with just about anything. For sweet lolitas, buying shoes that go with the predominant color in your wardrobe, such as sax or pink, may be worth the money. If you only have one dress in that color, however, I would recommend spending the money on something else, unless you truly want a fully-sax coord. Shoes give you a bit of room for creativity, depending on what style you're located in. While sweet lolitas tend to stick towards tea parties or basic mary jane-esque shoes, brands have also released sandal-like shoes in the past few years that would work well with a sweet lolita look. Gothic and Classic lolitas can find a good amount of variety, and work in Victorian-esque shoes in a little more easily than sweet lolitas can. Rocking Horse shoes are another possibility that is distinctly "lolita".
- Leg accessories -- In all likelihood, you have a pair of plain tights sitting around somewhere that would do you during your beginning lolita days. As you bring together things, however, you may want to get something a little more complex. Knee-high socks or over-the-knee (OTK) socks are a common choice of legwear for lolitas. Often, the prints that a brand sells will be matched to socks from the same collection. I would recommend buying a pair or two of plain white OTK socks for sweet lolitas, or plain black for more gothic-inclined styles, for beginners. If you have another predominant color planned for your wardrobe, feel free to get a complimentary or matching color, as well (for example, cream socks to match a cream blouse that would be worn under a wine JSK). You'll want balance in your outfits. Later on, you can feel free to mix up your legwear a bit more with layering--for example, Mana from Moi-Meme-Moitie tends to layer his legwear by wearing lace tights underneath OTK socks. I personally love this look. If you live somewhere that gets colder, I would recommend buying a pair of wool or wool blend socks or tights, as well, to keep your legs warm during the winter months.
If there are any more questions, please feel free to ask!