Advanced Coordinating: #3 Accessories


Coming off the back of talking about depth in a coordinate, we can’t go any further without at least touching on accessories. Whilst even the most beginner lolitas, those who only just about managed to get their first dress, will know that accessories improve a coord, knowing how to use them is often what makes the difference. This means that similarly to the post about creating depth, we are firmly in the territory of needing to own stuff in order to take our coordinates to the next level. And although accessories don’t have to be expensive, depending on how specific you are with your wardrobe and how strictly you stick to a particular look, you may need more or less than others.

Regardless of whether you want to keep to one very specific look or span across several substyles, you will need accessories if you want your outfits to be more than just the basic coordinate elements. The diversity of styles that you wear will affect how much you need, as in how many different pieces you may need to get, but not really how you use those accessories. This particular area of advanced coordinating is harder to generalise, but as always, it doesn’t matter whether the look you’re aiming for is by definition simple or OTT. Accessories are a key element that helps add depth to an outfit, but they do a lot more than that.

Let’s take it all the way back to the root: what does the verb “to accessorise” mean? As always when defining terms, it’s important to do so without using the word you’re trying to define. In which case, after checking a couple of dictionaries, we arrive at the conclusion that accessorising boils down to adding things and that those things are decorative in nature. This is an apt time to compare lolita outfits to Christmas trees: you can prefer to have yours more decorative or less, with fewer ornaments or more, but without the ornaments it’s just a tree. And in a similar vein, a lolita dress is not a coordinate until you add all the other bits, of which accessories are a part of - small, but just like the tiniest Christmas tree ornaments, crucial in tying the look together. Which brings things back to the idea of balance and needing to match the level of styling to how elaborate your main piece is.

Decorating or accessorising anything is a highly subjective matter. Just like a person can have their own personal style in general, they can also have their preferred style of accessorising. Some people are more methodical or formulaic in doing so, whereas others end up being more spontaneous. Personally I believe that eventually, with enough time spent doing so, everyone falls into a pattern of their own, which usually comes with the discovery of what sort of look one hopes to achieve. This also mixes with people’s personal preferences for certain accessories that may stem back from their previous dressing style (e.g. not being used to wearing rings having never worn any) or that they discovered through lolita (e.g. finding out your love for wrist cuffs).

Whatever one’s personal accessorising style and preferences may be, I think that they can be distinguished into the following types:

  • Using accessories for colour balance
  • Using accessories for theme balance
  • Using accessories to fill up empty spaces within a coord

And a combination of some or all of the above.

Accessories can be used in a variety of different ways. In many instances which of the above accessorising styles takes priority is determined by the occasion for wearing a particular coord. Theme tends to be more important for fancier times or when we are deliberately challenging ourselves to achieve a certain look rather than for casual outfits. Furthermore, theme is a broad concept in itself, it can be interpreted very strictly (e.g. roses) or quite loosely (e.g. florals or a garden), which can also change how the coordinate reads overall. Filling up empty spaces is more typical of OTT styles, although even in very simple oldschool looks a carefully placed accessory is what makes or breaks the coordinate by filling in a gap. Most lolitas learn fairly quickly about colour balance and the visual nature of that makes it somewhat easier to pick up, so people end up practicing that the most, then learning to combine it with the other two.

I know that the side-by-side pictures help, so here it is for reference, since below I will focus on zooming in on each of the above example coords.

Let me try to exemplify all of those types of accessorising styles in one go and I think coords using Rosier Fleur JSK will be the best ones to use here. Starting with the Strike a Pose Day 1 outfit, here it couldn’t be clearer that accessories are there to balance out the sax colour. Without them the bonnet and the shoes, whilst technically balanced by sandwiching the all-ivory coord with blue, would seem pretty lonely and kind of shoehorned. There aren’t a lot of pieces here, but between the wrist cuffs, sash and brooch there are enough additional pops of sax to tie the colour in. Whilst at the time I did try this outfit with some ivory x sax socks, they really weren’t working, not with blue shoes and not with ivory ones. Sometimes keeping things limited is more effective and with the additional three pieces there are now enough sax blue elements in this coordinate to make the colour scheme an obviously deliberate choice. A point which would be harder to make without the accessories, with just shoes and bonnet.

Without the accessories, the sax blue would be rather lost, like an afterthought in a shiro coordinate.

However, whilst similar enough in terms of broad substyle, these accessories weren’t exactly matching each other in theme. The wrist cuffs have a sweet-themed heart lace, the sash uses almost military-esque gold braid, and one floral brooch and bonnet are not enough to say that there was any kind of floral theme. For this we go to the #Coordtober2020’s first prompt outfit. Although my idea of a ghostly theme may not be the most obvious in this outfit, it’s also not entirely lost, mostly thanks to hair and makeup. However, accessories introduced a secondary theme of flowers, without taking anything away from the overall inspiration. As such there are rose-printed tights and rose clips attached to the headdress. The ring has roses on it and whilst the cross necklace doesn’t, it still has some flowers, so it matches the broader floral theme. The dress itself is made out of a fabric which has flowers woven into it, as well as several types of rose-themed lace. If my goal here was only to maintain colour balance, I could’ve easily just reached for my Wicked and Whimsy ring or used a pearl choker or the Puvithel Crystal Heart necklace. There are plenty of red and white accessories I could’ve used instead that would’ve worked with this gothic-leaning look, but I deliberately focused on the floral ones to carry that theme into the outfit.

Whether you agree on what substyle this is doesn't undermine how accessories worked to balance the theme.

Last but not least, we come to the idea of accessories as fillers for empty spaces. If you think about this in a similar way as you do about colour balance, then you will quickly grasp that if any one large-ish area feels like it’s lacking something, then it probably is. Of course, you don’t have to fill those gaps with accessories and this is what I talked about when discussing depth, as textures can also fill in the empty spaces. But when textures are lacking or too subtle to come across, accessories are the next obvious choice. This particular example shows how by combining the power of accessories with creating depth, you don’t need to go too far with accessories themselves. The layers and textures already add enough interest as far as neckline, arms and legs go. Having moved the big bow from the dress’ waist to the top of the bodice, I ended up creating an empty space in the middle of my torso, which was promptly filled by the long necklace. However, without the tails of that detachable bow hanging over the skirt, this was still a large area of flat-looking ivory. Had I taken the rose clips off, the skirt would look bare, like it was missing something, like a print or extra ruffles or gathers, because the fabric texture isn’t noticeable enough on the photo. All it took was three flower clips to fill that gap and plug it with something to catch the eye. This coord is also a good example of how to combine all three uses of accessories, since not only this coord is entirely red and white, but all of the accessories, down to the pattern on the socks and the lace on the headbow, are strictly roses.

The colours are balanced, the rose theme is balanced and no area of the coord feels like it's missing anything.

Now that we’ve established what accessories can be used for, I have to quickly touch on the kind of accessories that one should use. But not in terms of saying that you need specific items, since this varies too much based on the styles that you wear. Instead consider investing in a range of accessories that you could use to change up an outfit, as well as think about how visible they will be. We all know that accessories can sometimes disappear in coordinate photos, hence the continuing popularity of detail shots. As such this is more of a “think about the context” kind of advice. If your aim is to create an outfit only to share on social media, then you may want to use pieces that are more prominent and don’t disappear so easily, e.g. by stacking/adding more or by using bigger items. This applies equally to flatlay pictures and to worn outfit shots. However, if your outfit is there to be worn because you want to wear it, then the prominence of accessories in your coord photos becomes secondary. Moreover, if the outfit is being worn to a meetup, other lolitas will be able to admire the details and smaller pieces in person, not through the lens of a camera, so whether your necklace is the daintiest little chain or a chunky piece of plastic doesn’t matter very much at all.

As for having a range, I do believe that accessories not only make or break a coord, but help in creating a variety of looks. Depending on how much your definition of accessories includes, whether you restrict it to jewellery only or encompass legwear, headwear, bags etc. as well, you can switch up an outfit by changing the jewellery you wear with it. Of course, the smaller the items that you change, the less dramatic the difference is, but it can still be noticeable enough. Once again, OPs are the best to exemplify that on, you can see the differences well when not distracted by changes in blouses. Though even had this been a JSK and blouse combo, the accessories themselves would’ve done exactly the same amount of work in creating different looks.

Accessoriess have the power to make a coordinate complete on its own merit, but also to transform a main piece into whatever you want it to be. Hair, makeup, dress, even (mostly) the pose are the same here. Seeing the side-by-side really lets that fact sink in, because separately these would just be individual coords.

As I keep saying, how one uses accessories is extremely subjective and personal, with people developing their own styles of doing so. Often when we talk about lolitas whose style is distinct enough to be identifiable without seeing their faces, the way that they accessorise is one of the things that sets their coords apart from other people’s. Throughout this series I encourage you all to look at the lolitas who inspire you to see if you are able to visualise the points I made through their outfits. For my own inspiration I would like to mention @milkcircus, who is now more active through her website or brand, @dandypuppetrois. From the get-go @milkcircus had a clear theme in mind, which certainly would have helped in narrowing down the kinds of accessories that will be needed for that kind of wardrobe. And yet despite sticking to the same overall theme (circus lolita) and clearly and obviously using the same main pieces, you can really see how much of a difference accessories make in creating distinctly different coords. You may need to look very hard, as her excellence at creating depth, particularly through layers and patterns, will try to distract you, so start out by comparing some of her more casual coordinates first before unpacking the elaborate OTT ones. As someone who is a bit all over the place with their wardrobe myself, it’s incredibly inspiring to see how such diversity of looks is done within the same theme thanks to masterful mixing and matching of the garments themselves. This is also what I mean about ‘how strict is your definition of accessories’ - because @milkcircus really proves that your blouses and socks are just as much of an accessory as the headpieces and jewellery, that they are an integral layer to creating visual interest and not just there to stick to the rules.

I hope that this instalment made sense and that I was able to present my ideas clearly enough. The further we delve into this series and into advanced coordinating, the more we start to get into splitting the hairs and minute details. This also means that it becomes more important for you to do your part if you’re tuning to these posts to learn something yourself. In other circumstances this would’ve been more of a mentoring kind of territory - or at least highly detailed feedback on individual outfits. To keep the tips broad and applicable to as many as possible, I can’t go into too much detail, hence you’ll have to put some work in yourself. Though if you are interested in mentoring, then I have a Patreon tier for that.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.