The Importance of Builder Pieces


I know that when you’re starting out in Lolita fashion builder pieces aren’t as exciting to purchase as all the JSKs, OPs and skirts. If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that the other bits are just as important, but how can you resist that cute print or those layers of ruffle and lace? However, while I can’t stress enough that you need to have your blouses, socks, shoes and headwear just as much as you need that dress, I’d like to approach the subject from a slightly different angle than I’ve seen it done so far.

You may have read about certain items being particularly versatile, for example white blouses, but I’d like to take this a step further. If you have some mad planning skills, you could invest in one set of builder pieces and by wearing it with different main pieces, still have a new outfit. That way, if you’re the type whose number of main pieces greatly outweighs that of the builder pieces, you could build up a small bank of outfits in a relatively short amount of time and without necessarily spending loads of money.

Below are three sets of bases, loosely matching up with some of the Lolita styles (Sweet, Classic and Sweet-Classic/Hime), and every one of them uses a different colour palette for its builder pieces. For each set you will see three coords, but in every one it’s only the main piece and one other item that are changing. Why that other piece? Predominantly for colour balance, as changing the dress means that a different colour is put at centre stage in an outfit, even if the remaining pieces are the same.

I feel like this is a very poor explanation, so let the pictures do the talking! (Also, check me out picking up fancy science vocab from my GCSE students. Because learning is mutual!)

Base 1: Hime

Control variables: Soufflesong Ice Prism blouse, Metamorphose Snow
OTKs, offbrand short boots, offbrand snowflake jewellery
Independent variable: headwear

AP Crystal Dream Carnival with matching headbow

BtSSB Bright Starry Night with Jeshii Doll bonnet and Two
Days Slow wine hair ties

Metamorphosse Shirring Tiered Ribbon with AP Dolly
headbow and Celestial Castle chain bows

Yes, white certainly is the most versatile of colours and as long as you’re pairing it with a contrasting colour (and not attempting to match the whites) your options are endless. The princess sleeves on that blouse push it towards Hime Lolita, although if you don’t do the hair in a Hime style, it could just as easily be OTT Classic or Sweet Classic, depending on the main piece. As you can tell, I’ve even gone for a theme, the one here being winter and snow – and you could do that with many more different themes! I could just as easily replace these socks with AP’s Twinkle Carnival ones, substitute the jewellery and maybe pick a different white blouse and voila!, you’ve got a more carnival themed base. White base doesn’t have to be boring and offers a wide range of possibilities precisely because it can be jazzed up with little pieces.

Base 2: Sweet

Controlled variables: AP Large Ribbon Brooch blouse,
offbrand ankle socks, Imperial Fiddlesticks headbow,
After Midnight doughnut and offbrand star clips
Independent variable: shoes

AP Diner Doll with Bodyline tea parties

Haenuli Whipped Cream Kitty with Deary replica heels

Bodyline Sweet Macaron with Bodyline tea parties

Unless you’re me and have an unexplainable aversion to pink Sweet Lolita, that’s a good colour to keep in your wardrobe basics for that particular substyle. Most typically Sweet prints will likely feature pink as an accent colour, regardless of whether the dress itself is pink, blue, lavender or even black. While going down this route may mean that your pinks won’t always match 100%, it’s an alternative to an all-white base, although it will limit you considerably more should you decide to get some non-Sweet items. I’m missing a pink headbow that I could use here and pink shoes would’ve greatly improved the second coord (where I couldn’t be bothered to remove all the red bows, sorry), but I made do with what I have and the results aren’t terrible. Can you tell that I don’t do pink Sweet Lolita much? :P

Base 3: Classic

Control variables: Miss Point Earl Grey blouse, Secret Shop tea parties,
Primark flower crown
Independent variable: legwear

AP Fantasy Theater Gilet JSK with Putumayo Celestial Lightt OTKs

AatP Sheherazade with AatP Arabesque OTKs

Magic Tea Party Bears Paradise skirt with Enchantlic
Enchantilly Angels' Ball Party tights
I tried to avoid both using white again and using the dresses I already showed, although that’s purely to keep this post a little bit more interesting and show you a greater variety of options. Wine is a bold colour choice and as a jewel tone it’s also one that is most often associated with Classic Lolita – that’s why even pieces that don’t necessarily belong to that substyle somehow feel instantly toned down. If I hadn’t made it a point to not reuse dresses, you would’ve seen this at work better with Baby’s Bright Starry Night or Bodyline’s Sweet Macaron, which would suit that colour scheme beautifully. I decided to go with a flower crown because you can pick them up very cheaply almot anywhere, just wait for the so called festival season and high street shops with throw them at you. However, a simple bow would look just as lovely.

I hope that this post and the photos included showed what I had in mind. Yes, it’s still better to have a multitude of builder pieces – in different colours, cuts and styles – as that allows you to create more and more varied coords, so I can’t emphasise it enough that you shouldn’t ignore those completely. But whether you find yourself in need of filling a gap created by buying too many main pieces or are on a tighter budget and can only buy so much – this is one way around it and should hopefully give you some pointers and inspiration. That as well as serve as a reminder, next time you’re wondering what to wear to a meet, that not every item in your coord has to be something your comm hasn’t seen before. More likely than not, they’ll be too distracted by your dress to notice that you’ve worn the same blouse/legwear/headwear combo before already.


  1. This year I actually building up on basics, rather getting mainpieces. The mainpiece I got this year, I actually regret buying it. I didn't think it would look like a 80's wedding dress. I stil need a ivory blouse, but I have matching socks now.

    1. That's so awful when it happens! Will you try to sell that piece? Depending on what you're after and your size, I think Innocent World's ivory blouses are the most trustworthy in terms of colour (Taobao's "ivory" ranges from white to yellow sometimes), but I've seen one or two people successfully tea dye white blouses into something more ivory.

    2. I am not sure yet. It might be useful for OTT. I have looked on Lady Sloth, since I already own blouses from the brand.

    3. Oh yeah, Lady Sloth's blouses are great, I need to get me some. <3

    4. Exactly. Even they are a little short on me.

  2. This is an excellent post and illustrates why blouses in a basic colour are so useful - I have a lot of ivory/offwhite blouses, tights and accessories, so if a main piece works with that I know it will fit with at least one outfit in my wardrobe. For a while my go-to blouse was a high tie neck chiffon blouse in offwhite - so versatile!

    I really love your Sheherazade and Whipped Cream Kitty outfits too!

    1. Exactly that. Sometimes I try to stop myself by saying "come on, you have so many white/offwhite/ivory/cream blouses already, you don't need another one" - but the fact is that unless you're planning on building a wardrobe around a different colour, e.g. pink or black, that remains the most versatile blouse colour out there. And to be fair, if I was to do the same thing, but only change the blouse and keep everyting else the same, they'd all be different outfits too.

      Aw, thank you! I think that Sheherazade one has a satisfying simplicity and colour balance to it, it's just calm, and yet so elegant.

  3. I like this theory - the idea of having a base with one changeable aspect does make it far more useful. I have to say that I really like your classic set and the Diner Doll outfit in particular.

    1. I hoped to show the versatility of builder pieces that way. I remember from many other people's posts about what to add to your wardrobe the focus was always on keeping the dress the same and changing the rest to show how many different outfits you can make. But especially for beginners who went mad with buying dresses and skirts I think this better shows that they don't have to buy another 50 blouses to make different outfits with their 10 dresses, but that if you think about what you need and what goes with what you can make different outfits with just a couple of base sets.

      Thank you! I have a soft spot for the classic ones too (I decided now that it must be because of the blouse). And I actually only ever got that pink blouse and socks because of Diner Doll. :P


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