Advanced Coordinating: #6 - Colours 201


And so we have reached an important moment: the point where I’ve finished all the Advanced Coordinating topics that I had planned when I first started that series and am now tackling the ones that people have asked me to. It’s incredibly rewarding, as well as humbling, that people out there value my opinions enough to want to hear my take on more topics, and to receive feedback from people how this series has helped them in one way or another. Thank you for that support.

Despite some initial plans to do otherwise, I decided to first tackle talking more about colours in lolita fashion and lolita coords. A lot has already been said on that, yet a bit of filtering reveals that within that there are only a handful of themes that keep coming up time and again. Like most advice related to lolita fashion commonly found online, those resources tend to focus on building up the knowledge and understanding of newer lolitas, leaving those intermediate ones to figure things out for themselves. I myself have approached that topic on several occasions from a handful of different angles: a Wunderwelt Libre post from 2017 about the basics of balancing colours, a video from 2020 about adding new colours to your lolita wardrobe, a blog post from 2016 showing those builder piece sets in action (albeit by my standards today, somewhat stretching some of these), a Wunderwelt Libre post from 2018 incorporating an uncommon colour in lolita in three different ways... Whilst individuals may know some bits and not others, generally speaking all of the above still lean more towards the newer or the less confident lolita than towards someone who already feels they have their basics covered and want a step up. So for the “Colours 201”, if you will, let me show you how to be a colour rulebreaker like me. You don’t have to actually follow my example, but hopefully understanding my perspective on colours in a lolita coordinate will enable you to try something new or let go of some of the pressure you might not have even realised you internalised.

When taking your first tentative steps into lolita colours 201, don’t underestimate the impact of an unusual or an uncommon colour. Even when sticking to the same sandwiching template, doing this with an unexpected combination can give off an aura of being very experienced at coordinating, more so than you may feel yourself to be. Provided, of course, that you pull it off, i.e. don’t get your shades too terribly different and have enough of them to make the colour look intentionally part of the coord. This is a good stepping stone for those who find lots of comfort in colour matches, and particularly if you can accomplish that by having a good builder piece set. People generally like to stick to the safety blanket of what they know and I feel that the rule-based nature of lolita fashion makes people even more reluctant to try something too outside the box. Which is precisely why when someone accomplishes that, it makes that person appear a lot more experienced and confident. They may genuinely be pretty experienced at coordinating - or maybe they simply had good luck with finding and obtaining the right pieces. Those looking at the outfit will never know unless you tell them.

Let’s exemplify this using one of my favourite colours that’s not too common in lolita: dark green. Violet Fane’s Otome Nostalgia series has been a pretty much instant hit across the community, so we’ve seen lots of various coords with it. And while red and white are undoubtedly great colour combinations with any of the colourways it comes in, we’ve seen dozens of those within merely a week of the series reaching people. My own first time wearing it more properly was with those two colours, not only to fit the Christmas spirit of the occasion, but also because it’s a cute and fool-proof combination, for myself as well as this print. However, the unexpectedness of the dark green instantly makes the other coord from August 2021 stand out. The formula doesn’t even differ that much between the two outfits: we have colour mostly being introduced through the cardigan, neutral legwear with a coloured lace-up design, pretty minimalist styling in terms of the accessories (even if the December 2020 is indeed toeing the line of whether it even could be considered a coord in the first place). The sandwiching technique is also there, which helps conceal the fact that these greens are slightly off. Nonetheless the very choice of dark green as the feature colour, how unusual it is compared to what we’ve seen done with this print already, helps this coord stand out and makes it seem as if I know something about coordinating colours that others are oblivious to. And I don’t - all I have is enough green pieces to make this work and the guts to put them together.

I love red and green equally, if for different reasons, and Otome Nostalgia lends itself surprisingly well to a very wide variety of colour pairings.

However, I want to draw you away from the strict confines of colour matching, at least a little, if I can. More times than I can count I’ve gone on record to say that “colour matching is easy, the trick is to coordinate” - or, in the less polite version, that “colour matching is for the weak”. This isn’t meant to insult anyone, but to point out that finding items of exactly the same colour and shade relies primarily on luck and a bit on purchasing ability, whereas creating a good looking outfit is a skill that anyone can develop and hone through practice. And if you still aren’t quite with me on that, cast your mind back to the seemingly distant past that is February 2015 and the dress. Remember the dress? That viral dress not only went to prove that our very own eyes can deceive us, but also pointed out that what we see isn’t necessarily what other people may see. In terms of lolita fashion this means that colours may look different in your coord photo than in real life - and that you can trick people into believing that colours match when they don’t. Sandwiching colours helps with that immensely, though you still need to stay within the realm of “plausible deniability”, e.g. by sticking to colours with similar undertones and a similar shade, but it can help you get away with a lot. Especially if your coord exists primarily to be filmed or photographed. If in doubt, throw your planned outfit into a quick flatlay in the light that you intend to use for the photo or film, then point your camera at it and see what things look like. This is how perfect colour matches end up photographing differently and colours that aren’t quite there - as if they were the exact same thing.

The dress that tore the internet literally had people see two different colours. Why then should we stress so much over whether our pinks match exactly?

If the dress hasn’t convinced you enough, let me try with this April 2020 Crystal Dream Carnival coordinate. Someone once complimented it on my excellent colour matching of the greys. And as flattered as I was, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony because the blouse and the socks are two different colours. And I mean that literally: the blouse is grey, whereas the socks are lavender. Look at them separately and you can see that. Look at them side by side and you can see that. But stick them in a coord, where they’re separated by a big block of saturated navy blue, and then point a camera at it and you don’t see a thing. Why? Because they’re both cool toned, because they’re both lighter shades, because they both have that slightly dusty hue to it - as well as thanks to the layers of separation and the camera, though IRL the effect was the same. Remember that next time you lament that your socks are not the exact same shade of pink as your blouse or when your headpiece is not the exact same shade of ivory as your dress. With clever coordinating you can get away with more than you think you do. And as I said, if you’re unsure, just try it on. Worst case scenario is that it won’t work - that’s no big deal, it happens and no-one but you needs to know that.

If two completely different colours can work as one within a coord, then so can slightly mismatched shades.

The final bit of advice I’d like to impart is a significant step away from the beginner lolita realm and pretty far into the advanced coordinating territory. Not just in terms of needing to have a wardrobe of usable pieces, like it’s been a common theme throughout this series, but also in terms of having the confidence that you have those basics in the tip of your little finger and don’t even need to think about them. Because that frees up your creativity and allows you to focus on and prioritise the overall vision of the coordinate first over a tick-box-perfect colour balance. This is still lolita fashion that we’re talking about, which means that you cannot get away without a certain degree of intentionality and at least some thought (at this point preferably an instinct rather than conscious thought) to some sort of colour balance. However, particularly when venturing into the territory of themed coordinates or ones with clear inspiration or a reference point, I would argue that successfully accomplishing your vision will compensate for some colour imbalance.

This is extremely hard to explain, though hopefully the visual examples help get the point across. Meta’s Bubble Bath skirt is one of those items in my wardrobe that I sometimes struggle with as the colours are just enough off from the rest of my wardrobe to become a challenge. And whilst it can be tiring sometimes, to have to think outside the box every single time I reach for this skirt, it can yield some really great results. The first time I wore it back in September 2019 I did stick to something relatively safe for me, something I knew would work. Balancing the colours as best I could, with just a touch of playfulness with the patterned top, I was able to pull together a cohesive outfit. Yet despite being very clearly, very visibly imbalanced as far as colours go, the February 2021 coord doesn’t seem any less successful than this other one. This is all thanks to the overall concept for this look immediately reading across. You look at this and instantly know that this is giving a nod to something along the lines of 80’s/90’s cool kids look, acknowledging some pop vibes and the casual feel of street styles. The colours in here, except for the top and socks, are all over the place. But between the careful selection of cuts (denim jacket, novelty wedges, a T-shirt), intentional tweaks (rolling up the sleeves, keeping the jacket open, tucking the T-shirt in quite loosely), hair and makeup styling (bright lipstick, twin buns) and accessory choices (patches, bow hair ties), the whole idea is cohesive and looks intentional. Yes, you could argue that the saturated colours of the bows mirror the saturated colours of the shoes, so together with the top and socks there’s enough matching or complimenting. Nonetheless, that is entirely secondary - the primary thing was the vision and its execution. Without those, the mostly accidental/intuitive mirroring of some of the shades would not have worked and the coord would not have looked good.

And if I'm honest with you and myself, I prefer the right coord far above the left one. Colour imbalance and all.

Ultimately, what I wish lolitas would learn is that there is more to colours than just finding the exact same shade and more to coordinating than sandwiching two colours within an outfit. That alone could elevate your coordinating game to heights you haven’t even imagined you could reach. Explore the rest of the colour theory to play with complimenting or contrasting colours. Have fun breaking the formula of alternating and place colours in different places of your outfit to see what happens. Pick colours that are in the print, but are hardly visible unless you look hard, to draw them out. Use the clothes that you own to express whatever wild idea you may have and trust yourself that by now those basics and “rules” have become second nature to you, so you won’t just lose them by stepping out of the box. Or that you’ll notice that if things go awry and will either know how to fix it or that it’s ok if it doesn’t fit under the lolita umbrella. Every single lolita who has carved out their own style did so through experimenting, which involves trying things you haven’t tried before. That is nothing to be afraid of and nothing to feel pressured to share with anyone.

Because of everything that I have talked about, and because I’m the type who loves seeing things that are less common, I have plenty of love in my heart for lolitas who are unafraid of using colours in their coordinates. One of my biggest inspirations in that regard is @recklessrave. She’s been wearing this fashion for a while, which shows both in her confidence when mixing various colours together and in the sheer number of coloured clothes that she has at her disposal. And not only does she have practically every colour of the rainbow represented in her main pieces (as well as every substyle of lolita fashion!), but in her builder pieces too - which, when you care to look carefully at, very often are offbrand items or inexpensive ones from Chinese brands. The colours themselves are typically what she pushes the boat out with, as her coords are all extremely wearable and very practical, rarely stepping into the extreme OTT territory that we might see at elaborate tea parties or concept photoshoots. If you are someone aspiring to the sheer range of colour possibilities that @recklessrave has, you will first and foremost need patience, and then to have your eyes constantly open to possibilities because you never know where you might find a blouse or a pair of shoes that just might work. And as usual, those not aspiring to literally have a bit of everything will find that they get there a bit sooner, though I’d also encourage you to not dismiss any outlet for the possibility of finding exactly what you were searching for.

A small selection of @recklessrave's coords which really had me like "Ooooh, I haven't seen that before, I love this!". Go give her some love on Instagram!

Here we are then, probably the first “Colours in lolita 201” sort of post out there. If you have stumbled upon this one, but are yet to build your first coordinate or are not yet confident that you’d be able to put together a solid basic coordinate without thinking about it - all of the things above may be a bit too much for you. Remember to walk before you run and that the more you do it, the easier and quicker the journey there will be. There’s no shame in sticking to safe options and there’s plenty of coord variety that you can create with builder pieces in your chosen base colour if you only care to invest in a variety of cuts (coincidentally, something that I’ve also touched on in a Wunderwelt Libre post before and something I’ve touched on in another Advanced Coordinating post). But if you feel like you’ve explored all there is to that, then hopefully this post has given you some ideas on what challenge to attempt next and what goal you might want to stretch towards to next. If there’s anything at all that I’d like you to take away from this post, then it’s even a crumb of that mantra of mine: the trick is to coordinate. And that is a skill that you 100% can learn and master and which I hope to help you with through the Advanced Coordinating series.

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