Splurge or Save: Lolita Edition


Although the general understanding of Lolita fashion amongst newcomers tends to be a lot better than in the past, certain themes of questions remain the same. To answer some of these I created this little guide called Splurge or Save: Lolita Edition (inspired by a Splurge or Save video made by Cherry Dollface).

Here I will deconstruct a Lolita coord into its constituent parts and give you my opinion on whether I think you should splurge or save on these. To clarify, when I say “save”, this does not mean “buy a replica” or “buy from a shady website”. Similarly, the splurges don’t necessarily have to mean brand straight from the shop. Instead, I’m using “save” to say that with good enough knowledge of the fashion you can find good examples of these items offbrand, but can also rely on Taobao and Bodyline for help and if looking for a brand version of that item you would make better use of your money by buying it cheaply second hand. On the other hand, “splurge” denotes an investment in quality and something that even though can be found cheaply (e.g. on Japanese second hand sales), usually isn’t and you should expect to spend more than £40-50 on it at least. So, let’s start from the innermost layers and work our way out.

SPLURGE! Petticoat is what carries the outfit and what makes it Lolita, you definitely want to invest in it. A cheap petticoat from a costume shop or a cheap manufacturer will deflate very quickly. Before you know it, you buy another one and then end up layering ten dead petticoats just to get somewhere near a decent poof at the cost of your waist suffering from too many waistbands. That’s not healthy and in the long run it’s counterproductive. Instead buy a good quality petticoat (or a hoop, if that’s what you’re after or what you need) from a maker that has plenty of positive reviews from members of the Lolita community. Bunny House, Me Likes Tea, Dear Celine are all good choices – even Classical Puppets, despite going down in quality recently, still has better petticoats than the eBay shop selling them for £10 each.

Don't skimp on something that makes all the difference!
Image from BecomingSleepingBeauty.tumblr.com

SAVE. Bloomers aren’t even essential, they’re just nice to have if you want to protect your modesty or get cold easily. Ultimately they’re just a fancier pair of shorts, so unless you really want a particular design (and even then there are places that do it for a good deal) anything will do, from pyjama bottoms to sports shorts. And as they’re supposedly very easy to make, you could have a go yourself, but plenty of indie brands sell lovely quality actual bloomers which won’t break the bank (even Closet Child has their own line). There are better things to splurge on.

This one is a bit of a debate, but I lean towards SAVE. Once you know what you’re looking for and what you need, you’ll realise that Lolita-appropriate blouses can be found literally anywhere, from your high street shops (if the current fashion trends are favourable) to charity and vintage shops. Even when you’re looking for colours and shades that aren’t common in normie fashion, such as pastels, Taobao and Bodyline have you covered. If you time it right, you can get actual Lolita blouses very cheap and at the end of the day the only major difference between those and brand blouses are designs – which Taobao is quickly catching up on. Honestly, I own brand blouses and don’t think that they’re that much better quality to warrant the price tag when new and have a few totally offbrand blouses which are amazing and I’d struggle to find something similar from the brands.

Look out for collar style and height, and
details like lace, pintucks or embroidery.
Image from Pinterest.com

Another debatable one, but I still think you should SAVE. Plain things like ankle socks, tights or even lace topped under the knee socks in colours like white, off-white, black and a few others are very common and easy to find – if your local shop doesn’t have them, look on eBay or AliExpress. Even if youre after patterned socks with a design on them, despite getting a fair share of wear, many socks or tights sold used are in a great condition. Plus, as socks are machine washable, you really don’t need to worry about hygiene, give them a wash and you’re fine to wear them. Taobao is also getting very good at making printed tights that fit a variety of styles and sizes, so remember to check it out too. Yes, socks and tights are one of the cheaper items to be bought new from brands, but unless you struggle, e.g. with size or want/need a very particular design, you shouldn’t have to splurge on them. (Unless, like me, you’re addicted to buying OTKs and want to splurge.)

SPLURGE! This is where you want to make your next biggest splurge – after all, Lolita fashion is all about the main pieces and all about quality, so do not skimp on that. Whether you go for brand, Taobao, Bodyline, handmade, indie, whatever, make sure that you’re buying an item made out of high quality materials as well as is a design you love, and make sure it has the correct silhouette and length for Lolita (this instantly excludes most “Lolita” items found on Amazon, eBay or AliExpress). Do your research, know what’s what and what to look out for, save up for an item if you have to, but don’t for a second think that a £20 lace concoction from some random shop on eBay is better value or equal quality to a £80 brand dress bought second hand with minor flaws or a £50 brand new dress from a Taobao shop with good reviews. It’s not and will not ever be. You don’t have to buy brand new straight from the shop if you can’t afford to or don’t want to, as long as you invest in a good quality JSK, OP or skirt.

Simple or elaborate, the main piece is the star of
the show, so why put a cheap star-wannabe centre
BtSSB Bless from Michael, image from

SAVE. Cardigans are easy to find offbrand and modify to your needs, which are mainly length and design. Plus with the rise of vintage reproduction items, you could even find some ready-made ones that will tick all the boxes for Lolita. Similarly with outerwear such as jackets or coats, which you can also find good ones on Bodyline or Taobao. I find that if I splurged too much on outerwear, I wouldn’t want to wear it out of fear of ruining it in the unpredictable British weather or through excessive wear. You don’t tend to worry about that when your short coat was hunted down in a charity shop and modified or if you got a nice one on Taobao. Also, for many of us these are ultimately seasonal items, which we’ll only wear for a maximum period of six months, whereas a dress can be worn all year round, so I don’t see much point in getting a ridiculously expensive coat or cardigan seeing as you can get good quality ones for an affordable price. Although if you do live in a colder climate where you spend most of the year in thicker, warm clothing, splurging a little may be a better choice.

Hair accessories
SAVE. Regardless of your style, there are plenty of hair accessories everywhere that you could use. Yes, it’s nice to have the matching bow, but these suckers go for £30-40 apiece. For that price you could get a whole bunch of varied accessories offbrand or get a few nice Lolita headbows from Taobao, all of which would still match your coord (and potentially other coords as well). Leave the matching hair bits for when you can find them very cheaply or if you want to add it to your Christmas or birthday list.

This is literally $5 and comes in 15 colours. More colours and
cheaper than brand, but just as good!
Image from CutieCreator.taobao.com.

Jewellery (including wrist cuffs)
Again, SAVE. These and hair bits probably should’ve been one category of just “accessories”, but since you tend to get them in different places and have different needs for them, I split them into two. There is lots of jewellery hidden away on the high street and charity shops, that you shouldn’t need to look at brand jewellery much. But what about the novelty plastic jewellery like AP’s Halloween bat rings etc.? Check Taobao or some local indie vendors, or even look into making these yourself out of resin or polymer clay. Brand jewellery is very expensive for what it is, so I only bought some when it was a deal too good to pass up on or a design too difficult to find or make. Similarly with wrist cuffs: if you can’t make them yourself, there will be an indie brand or a Taobao shop that will and the quality of their lace will be very much comparable to brand ones. I have a pair of Taobao wrist cuffs that feel just as soft as my AP ones – and they were available in almost all the shades that I could ever need.

SAVE. Although there are some really cute designs coming out of brands and, admittedly, brand bags tend to be a good investment, I found Taobao ones to be just as resistant to daily wear and tear and offer just as good designs (they upped their game recently, just check out the Chinese Lolita Updates page if you’re curious). Additionally, if you’re more into Gothic or Classic, there will be plenty of lovely, good quality, inexpensive bags available offbrand, especially when you look at vintage ones, so check those out. I’d suggest only splurging on bags when you’re after a design that you can’t find offbrand, like carousels or treasure chests.

A heart-shaped bag, Lolita staple, can be gotten
almost anywhere and will be just as durable.
Image from Polyvore.com.

After much thought I decided: SPLURGE. Whilst my instinct wants to say “save”, shoes are something which you will get a lot of use and wear out of, so you have to make sure that your shoes are comfortable, as well as fit the Lolita aesthetic. This is particularly hard when you’re looking for Sweet Lolita shoes (there’s a bit more leeway for Classic and Gothic, since they don’t use that many colours uncommon in regular fashion like pastels). The current shoe trends make it very hard to find loliable Sweet shoes and you do want them to last. Yes, Bodyline shoes are still the most comfortable and durable that I have had, but once you include shipping even they become less of a “save” and more of a “splurge”. Look for cheaper shoes where you can, because postage will inevitably hit you hard, but ultimately don’t compromise on the look and the quality, given that it’s harder to just suck it up and carry on if they start hurting your feet halfway through the meet (whereas a pinching blouse or an annoying accessory is easier to bear).

SAVE. Just like bloomers, they are non-essential. There are some lovely, quality umbrellas and parasols out there, so establish what is it that you need more of: protection from rain or protection from the sun, and find yourself an appropriate one offbrand (especially for sun protection, there are lots of nice lacy parasols in vintage shops and even wedding sections of eBay). Yes, brand parasols are very pretty and very versatile, since they’re usually both rain-proof and have UV protection, but they’re expensive to ship, even if compared to their quality not that badly priced for what they are. Some can be found second hand, on places like Wunder Welt or Closet Child, so have a look there. But as proof that you’d rather save than splurge: I bought a brand new parasol from Baby, on reserve, because I fell in love with the design. However, I’m so lazy that unless it’s already raining, I’d rather pack my normie umbrella into my bag than carry another thing and then worry about forgetting it somewhere in a shop for the sake of aesthetics. And as West Yorkshire isn’t the sunniest or hottest of places, so far that parasol has spent most of its life inside my wardrobe.

Ask yourself if it's really worth the price tag plus postage.
Photo by cafe_gutsy, from their EGL 2013 wardrobe post.

How do you feel about these? Do you reckon that this is an accurate representation of what Lolita fashion on a budget (for those who already know a thing or two about it and its aesthetic) is about? Let me know whether you agree or disagree with my judgements here, I’m very interested to know!


  1. By and large I agree with you...BUT this can also be a recipe for a cheap looking coord. How often do you see a nice dress with the proper shape end up looking really dull because the rest of the coordinate isn't quite there? Not that "save" in this context means getting something loliable and hoping it works but still.

    Anyhow, that was off-topic and yes, I do agree with your assessment...especially on the shoes! Uncomfortable shoes are death.

    1. No, that's definitely true. That's why I prefaced all of this with how I'm treating the words "save" and "splurge". Neither is a ticket for excess and quality has to always be considered. But given that I still stumble upon people who think that they have to get things like blouses, bags, socks and all that new straight from the brand, it's good to remind them that not everything has to cost a fortune and that as long as you know what to look out for, there are budget friendly options out there. And if you don't know what you're looking out for, then spend some time figuring out Taobao shopping services and you have a whole range of good budget-friendly items. In my head I keep mulling over ideas for posts about making Bodyline look less cheap and how to spot good loliable items in charity shops, but both of these will be labour intensive posts, so they end up getting postponed. :P


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