Advanced Coordinating: #9 - Maximising Your Options


So let’s say that you’ve read every Advanced Coordinating post so far or watched every video. They made sense to you, they’ve helped you realise that you really are much further along than you thought, that you’re really not a beginner anymore. That in itself is amazing and you should celebrate that! But now it seems that your shopping list has at least doubled in length with all these things you feel you should get. First of all, if that is the case, then I apologise. Whilst it was never my intention to make anyone feel like they need to have a large collection, I realise that my emphasising how some aspects of advanced coordinating rely on owning the right pieces to achieve the look has had that effect.

Truth is that not everyone can have a large collection and not everyone may want to either. Both approaches are equally valid and lolita fashion isn’t intrinsically about maximalism. Being able to do the most that’s possible with the least amount necessary is a skill that goes a long way and helps keep the size of one’s collection manageable (good for storage, good for the budget, good for creativity - good all around). And even those who do own a lot may sometimes have need for a capsule, for example when travelling or to get out of the rut of only using their full sets as full sets.

This is exactly what this instalment sets out to do: share with you some of the tips and tricks that will maximise your options without constantly getting new things. It will tie together a lot of the topics that I have covered previously, and I will link them as they are mentioned, so that you can refresh your knowledge or catch up before carrying on. Unlike the previous instalments of Advanced Coordinating, the things I mention here are much more independent from each other, meaning that it is easier to pick one or two that apply to your situation best and ignore the others, as opposed to a gradation of difficulty or different facets of the same thing. So fingers crossed wherever you are in your lolita fashion journey and however you approach this fashion, you will find something useful for yourself here.

To get the obvious out of the way and to repeat what I said in the very first Advanced Coordinating post, hair and makeup are your biggest friend here. There is so much that you can change about a look just by applying a different coloured lipstick or doing your hair differently without ever needing to buy any new item of clothing. Do refer to the example in the post linked above using the same OP and hat, but also compare how different the pictures below feel. Even if you cover up the different skirts, whilst these are obviously the same top halves when it comes to clothing, the styling of the hair makes a significant difference. Sure, the accessories do a lot of lifting here too, but do you definitely need to get new ones to make the looks feel different? All that’s really changed between these two is no beret vs beret, the earrings, and a brooch vs no brooch. Minimalist as heck, which was necessary for the practical purposes of travelling, but it goes to show how stuck we can get on the idea of needing everything to be entirely made up of different items to make the coords different. If these two looks hadn’t been seen side by side, most people wouldn’t have even noticed that they rely on practically the same outfit base. Use what’s already within your control to your advantage - as you can see, it doesn’t even have to be any majorly complicated hairstyles or makeup looks, though of course the more skilled you are the more scope you’ll have to play with.

Put your hand over the skirts and even then the looks give off different vibes. All the more so if you do include the skirts in there.

Speaking of travelling as an example, whilst I did say at the beginning that I don’t want anyone feeling like they now have to start buying loads to round out their wardrobes, there is an element of planning that’s unavoidable when trying to maximise your options. Packing and capsule wardrobes demand that by nature, though there are indisputable benefits to planning the direction of your wardrobe as a whole too. I’m certainly in no position to shame the chameleon lolitas who seem to own a little bit of everything, that’d be very hypocritical of me. But I am also not blind to how much more cohesive my collection would be if I set out on and then stuck to a substyle, a colour palette or a theme. So instead I can only talk about planning when in reference to travelling, where having as many interchangeable pieces as possible is crucial. The good thing is that all you need is to pick one thing to base the capsule (or your whole wardrobe) around for things to start falling into places - and that something could be anything! It could be a colour (@hellquinn doesn’t lose any style versatility by sticking to an all-black wardrobe), it could be a substyle (self-explanatory, but have a look at @prettyknightlauri’s ouji looks, for example), it could be an overarching theme or aesthetic (like @sweetlullabai chocolate lolita), it could even be a singular item if we’re talking a capsule rather than a whole wardrobe. Planning around something helps ensure that you have more pieces that fit within that box than not. You don’t have to do that for your whole wardrobe, as Mana is my witness I don’t. But take it from me as one of those who have a little bit of everything - I can attest to how much easier it is when a wardrobe or a capsule has some connecting element in there, since it allows for much more free mixing and matching of the individual elements.

Using my January trip to London as an example, my connecting elements there were the red boots and a vague colour palette of ‘can it be coorded with red, white and/or black’. The top looks are what I planned, what I knew I wanted to wear to the shows that I was seeing. However, the shows weren’t until the evening and not all of these were practical enough to wear for museum or shopping trips during the day. By making sure that every piece could be worn with red, ivory or black, and that all of the accessories I brought were interchangeable, I was able to put together some more casual looks without needing to add anything extra. Between the items that you can see below I haven’t gotten anywhere near to exhausting all of the potential coord possibilities, even if I excluded the first coord from the left as the obvious outlier that introduced brown and green to the mix. All it took was about an hour of throwing things on my bed, checking what I could wear with what, and seeing if it fit with the shoes I planned on wearing. Which, for those of you interested, looked like this.

Do zoom in to notice every detail.

After that you can start having fun imagining what else was possible with the items that you dowith what you can see being packed.

However, travelling and capsule wardrobes aside, making the most out of what we own isn’t restricted to just that, it’s something we can do at any time and any occasion. Those are merely situations that force us into being stricter about that. A great next step for everyone who started out (or maybe even continues) buying full sets out of fear that they won’t have anything to match with the dress is to get into mixing them. Yes, take all those nice sets you’ve accumulated and throw them together, regardless of which series they go with. Maybe not quite so literally, but whilst having a full set is nice for that easy and low effort option, you’re not limited to just that! Think about them in terms of colours: do they work together, can you space them out between one another enough to hide any mismatches, are they at least a similar undertone, could you mix two in a more unexpected way? Think about them in terms of themes - and not just motifs from the releases themselves, if they are printed, but also themes that you could create, the inspirations and ideas, the areas of plausible overlap and aesthetics… Haenuli’s Just One Bite and BtSSB’s Polonaise Brillante may not seem like they have much in common, yet somehow they both pulled off a folksy kind of styling thanks to the themes that I was able to impose on them. Because sets can also be your base outfits and trusted combinations of pieces, not just items from the same release. Switching your thinking from one to the other is already going to open up a whole world of possibilities when it comes to mixing and matching them, so you can start with that if there is a base combo (like a cardigan and legwear or shoes and a bag etc.) that you use a lot.

I know that so many people out there have spent most of their money on dresses, so mix and match your trusted base sets. And don't be afraid to mix and match the detachable pieces - this apron came with Polonaise Brillante, but who's to stop me wearing it with other dresses?

But since I appreciate that I tend to be in the minority in that I rarely buy a full set, let me also show you some examples of mixing the actual release sets between one another. It wasn’t easy to find some because I only have a few full sets to begin with and don’t typically use them as one unit, so finding an effective example took time. In the end I picked Baroque’s Repose of Queen, which is one of the few releases that I have a full set for: the dress, the headpiece and the legwear. Although I’ve only ever worn it as a full set (with some extras) once, for the 15th AYWi30C post about following the rules. The headbow and the tights from this release, whilst printed, are versatile enough to be easily worked into other styles and looks. Printed legwear can be a great addition to spice up a solid coloured main piece, like in the 8th AYWi30C look, or for tying in a colour palette and/or theme with a printed one, like in this dark classic look from April 2021. Similarly, even a printed headbow isn’t restricted to just the release it came with. Though admittedly I haven’t worn mine much in general, the ornate filigree and floral print of Repose of Queen would work as beautifully with the Rococo vibes of BtSSB’s Soiree of the Beginning of My Memories as with any other solid dress that needed some extra pizzaz. And considering how having a pair of items from the same release can work wonders in tying together the various elements within a coord, even using them as a set with a completely different main piece gets more bang for your buck within your wardrobe. Remember, coordinating is not the same as matching. It’s fine to have a full set, but the set items are more than just a bit of the same print and/or fabric as a dress. They’re colours, motifs, themes, and vibes, all of which can be coordinated, complemented, enhanced, evoked, used to your advantage in whatever way you can think of. That is how you maximise the potential of your wardrobe.

The closer the full sets are in colour and/or theme to the rest of your wardrobe, the easier it will be to use them with other main pieces. Often just being within the same substyle can be enough to allow for some interchangeability.

The final point that I’d like to make is about thinking beyond the intended purpose of individual items. So many elements come together into a singular lolita outfit, but how often do we really think past the labels? Just because something is a dress doesn’t mean that you can’t use it as a blouse, an underskirt, a skirt, a cape… Similarly with placement: a hair clip doesn’t have to go in your hair, it can be pinned to your beret, the skirt of the dress, your shoes, across the chest as a brooch, to your bag… And then there are the detachable pieces: put them on dresses they didn’t come with, put them in places they weren’t advertised to be used, as well as add and remove them as required. The sky's the limit, so play with what you have. Doing so can not only switch up the look of a coord that’s the same as something you’ve worn before, but also add a whole lot of depth with careful placement or change up the silhouette of an outfit, or even add a touch of theming. I know that it can feel daunting to do so much mixing around, especially if you feel like your wardrobe is all over the place and you have pastels next to jewel tones. Remember that colours can be contrasting, as well as matching, that some themes work with multiple colour palettes, that if you have pockets of accessories for various sides of your wardrobe, then you can probably make them work together based on that one common thread - and take it from there.

To demonstrate how thinking outside the box opens up a world of possibilities, let me use the Valentine's witch look from February this year as my example. It is full of things being used differently than the purpose they were intended for. This Puvithel necklace pinned to the brim of the hat is just the most prominent one here, even if also the most striking one. Besides that there is heart-shaped confetti glued to my face in lieu of freckles, one brooch pinned to the belt, and another brooch pinned to a pouch, which in itself is a card game. The other ones are more minor in comparison to the necklace on the hat, though they still work to create a cohesive look and make up for the lack of actual items I may have wanted. In my opinion, a bunch of safety pins, some eyelash glue, and a touch of lateral thinking is often all that you need to bend the world to your vision instead of your vision having to bend to the world.

I believe that necessity is the mother of invention. Even if having a very specific theme helps.

The most creative examples of people maximising what they own usually come either out of a place of need or out of the desire to be OTT. This doesn't mean that you can't do the same with simpler coords - from using JSKs as skirts to pinning elements from one dress onto another, combine every aspect of advanced coordinating to work with your style. Whilst a minimalist wardrobe may create the need for more extreme/creative mixing and matching, it also seems to me that those content with a minimalist collection are happy sticking to simpler and by-the-book looks. So in a way, if your own collection has hit the awkward growing pains by being bigger than just a beginner's, but not yet the overwhelming size of someone who's been in the fashion for 10+ years, you may actually be in the prime position to test these tips fully, to have enough to work with and enough gaps to need to think outside the box sometimes. Prompt challenges and themed meetups are a great motivator for those more conceptual looks, while attempting to get by with a capsule or trending tags like OP x JSK could help you try out something more appropriate for daily wear. And also don't feel like you have to employ all of these suggestions all at once. Maximising your options isn't a competition of how original you can get. Each coord and occasion will demand something slightly different, so look at them individually. One may feel like the colour balance is a bit off, which could be fixed with a detachable bow being pinned to a particular place. Another look might need an extra oomph to tie in a particular theme and using a necklace as a belt or a hairpiece could just be the thing that does it. And sometimes things are simply practical matters, so knowing that you can get by with just a beret and a handful of clips instead of a matching headbow for each dress you're bringing is all there is to it. The only one you're trying to prove anything to is you. Don't push yourself unnecessarily just to prove a point, your energy really is better spent elsewhere. I speak from a place of experience, as someone who has gone to great lengths to prove a silly point sometimes, trust me on this!

To give a good example of someone working their collection to the absolute max requires both for that person to share their coords pretty regularly and a great deal of familiarity with them and with what they own. Otherwise, a lot gets lost to memory (outfit repeating or re-doing with very minor tweaks months apart aren’t the clearest to online bystanders) or simply isn’t obvious without being able to zoom very closely or see everything in person. And let’s be clear here, once you start paying attention, you’ll see that so many lolitas out there do it! Finding someone isn’t the problem, it’s noticing and not allowing yourself to be distracted that stops us from seeing it. One of the people whose style I greatly admire is @darkxdelirium. Her wardrobe incorporates all of the major lolita substyles, as well as several other styles of fashion in general, so without looking at her Instagram feed as a whole it’s easy to lose sight of the details. The moment you turn that distraction off, you will notice how she utilises basically every aspect of maximising your wardrobe’s potential that I’ve talked about. Look how different the IW OP coords feel, even though the overall styling remains simple and most of that impression comes from the hairstyle and accessories. Notice how swapping out the top half of an outfit gives the same JSK, tights and shoes base a makeover. And you should definitely stop to notice how often you can spot certain builder pieces (like shoes or legwear) reappear across various coords, unnoticed because they are seamlessly woven in with everything else in the outfit to form a whole look instead of being a box ticking exercise of ‘a coord needs X, Y and Z’.

Same OP, definitely two different coords. Link to the original left and right coords.

Layering is your friend when it comes to making coords feel different. See the original post here.

These Iris Corolla shoes are almost synonymous with Rococo-inspired coords - which doesn't mean that they're limited to those. See the left, middle, and right coords on Instagram.

Hopefully after reading this, whatever pressure you felt to go on a gigantic shopping spree has been eased. The last thing I want for anyone following this series is to feel like they have to do anything, let alone spend their hard-earned/saved money. Whilst I definitely want to encourage people to address genuine needs within their wardrobes (hence my banging on about the importance of builder pieces), do assess what is an actual gap that could help you make the most of the rest of your collection and what is a mere whimsy that could create more needs than fill them. Truth is that whilst owning more opens up possibilities, it can also create too many of them if you’re not set on a particular look or aren’t limited in any other way. So if you’ve found your niche within lolita fashion, the look that makes you the happiest and feel your best, a carefully planned out smaller collection of versatile and complimenting items will result in far more possibilities than going for a little bit of everything. There is maximising your options and then there is falling down the spiral of continually creating more and pushing the goal of ‘getting there’ further away. Find out what conditions you should meet to feel in your heart that you ‘got there’ and you’ll know the difference between these two.

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