Lucky Packs How To

The lucky pack season is almost upon us now, which seems like a perfect time to reflect on my lucky pack experiences so far and what have I learnt from them.

I’m by no means an expert: at two Lolita-specific lucky packs with quite different reactions I’m far from it. However, in the spirit that one learns best from one’s own mistakes, I hope to figure out why one was so much better than the other. And maybe my observations will come useful to you and will help you to avoid (more) disappointment.

It’s important to establish a few things. Firstly, what I’m discussing here are lucky packs (福袋, fukubukuro in Japanese), where you receive a selection of random items with no prior knowledge of what’s inside, not happy packs (ハッピーパック, happii pakku), which are special sets released specifically for the New Year’s sales. What that means is not only that you have no control over what’s inside (when shopping in person, depending on the bag the pack is in, you may be able to feel or see glimpses upon very close inspection), but you need to come to terms with the fact that you won’t get anything that was majorly popular – never mind that the very popular items have usually long sold out and are simply not available any more. Lucky packs started as means to sell old stock because starting the New Year with old stock is considered bad luck in Japan. What you are guaranteed is that the items inside will be worth more (in retail price) than what you have paid for the pack, that’s it.

Keeping this in mind, you can start dissecting your decision making process: should you get a lucky pack and if so, which one?

Decisions, decisions, decisions!
Image from Tasty Peach Studios

The answer to the first question lies entirely with you. Some people want full control over what they’re purchasing, some find lucky packs to be a quick and easy way into the fashion and others are in it for the thrill. No approach is inherently good or bad, but make sure you know which one would suit you. I suggest thinking about it in terms of how much would you dislike getting an item that doesn’t suit you or your wardrobe and how accommodating you are to trying out things that you may have liked but wouldn’t have purchased yourself? Think about this carefully, consider what you can afford and what you can take storage-wise and take it from there.

If you decided to purchase a lucky pack, then you need to decide which one. Every brand will release these for the New Year, since it’s traditional, but you may also find some around popular sale times such as summer or Golden Week. Follow the news from the brand directly to avoid missing out as sometimes these things are announced quite last minute (especially by European/American standards as the time difference works against us a little bit). Some packs are cheaper than others and your cash flow may work differently for you (maybe you’re always broke after Christmas, but have a birthday around Golden Week and could use birthday money), so make sure to consider this when deciding.

Winter and summer sales, golden week, shop anniversaries, any
kind of special events - know when lucky packs might come out.
Photo from EGL Live Journal

Remember what I said about lucky packs being made out of stock that didn’t sell? Make sure you know that stock. At the very least check out the brand’s last year of releases to see how many of those items do you like, how many you hate and how many you’d be willing to give a go. Ideally, check out at least 2 or even 3 years prior to the lucky pack release as some brands may include older unsold items in the pack (I think Innocent World is the main culprit here, but do your research). Take into account how well they would fit with your current wardrobe – know what your style is and which brand caters to it best, even if it doesn’t do so exclusively. If you’ve recently moved away from Sweet pastels towards Gothic looks and colour schemes, then Alice and the Pirates would be a safer bet than Baby, for example. After looking through past stock you should like the majority of items, give or take 75-80% of it or more, for your chances of a lucky pack risk paying off being higher. It’s still a gamble, but at least it’s a more calculated gamble now.

Making the decision is all about knowing the brand inside and out, which includes sizing. Only people who fit comfortably into brand main pieces without shirring can rest assured that things will at least zip up (they may still not fit right because of unflattering cuts or different body types), so know the average sizing to avoid disappointment. Remember, that you’re not guaranteed anything, you’re as likely to get a shirred JSK as you are to get an OP or a skirt without any shirring whatsoever, so know what you fit into. Meta is generally good for plus size Lolitas and many of their items have stretchy shirring anyway, whereas Innocent World offers packs in sizes M and L. With AP, Baby and AatP you’re in for a real gamble as they don’t offer different sizes and have about an even split between shirred and non-shirred items. Know what you’d fit into based on the listed measurements for some random items from that brands and try to compare size-ranges for different cuts, since you may find that you fit into babydoll dresses but not into low waist cuts, for example. If you don’t have a large wardrobe yet, see if you could borrow someone else’s and try a few different cuts and brands to check what fits and what doesn’t. A very determined person would also look at a selection of reviews of releases from the past year or two and look out for comments on accuracy of sizing, however, if you’re not a newbie and/or already own some items from that brand, then you should know what to expect from whom.

If you don't know what you fit in, you may have a bad time with
lucky packs...
'Measuring Tape' by Maria Eklind on Flickr

It’s generally a good idea to look for past reviews or unboxings of lucky packs from the brand you’re interested in as well, not just individual items. These reviews will show you a range of items received in that particular pack (whether it’s a full coord or mismatched items) and may also compare what they got versus the sample images online (which is a fantastic resource if you can get a couple of reviews from different people of the same lucky pack from the same year and season). This on top of more common review comments like the fit of the items, the quality of service and any additional charges incurred like customs (especially useful if you: a) live in a country where you are likely to be charged customs or tax; and b) intend to bypass a shopping service and order directly from brand, who will never mark down the parcel). Again, whilst there are no guarantees with the lucky packs, if one brand seems to stick to the sample previews more closely than others or throws things into the bag in a little more coordinated manner, that will give you clues as to what you might expect to receive and whether you should get the pack that year.

Also, consider what you want out of the pack, in other words, why are you buying it. Their unpredictability makes them unfit for filling up gaps in your wardrobe, but since often you may get items that will complement each other they could be a good option for newbies looking to build their first coord and not being too fussy about what they get. Consider your motives very carefully and judge how much of that brief a lucky pack will fulfil. Occasionally brands may release some item-specific lucky packs – Angelic Pretty has done ones that were just blouses, just legwear or just hair accessories, which may be more what you’re after, but may be harder to get (this year they were only around during Golden Week sales and some were exclusive to certain branches) and not for everyone (e.g. Gothic Lolitas). Keep an eye out for what’s being released and ignore everything that you know for sure won’t meet your needs.

Do you want a full set outfit or a mix of things?
Image from Tokyo Rebel blog

Ultimately, lucky packs are a gamble – sometimes you’ll love what you got and sometimes you’ll hate it. Now add the unpopular-in-the-first-place items to the saturation of the second hand sales market and this is where most people will make their decision: on whether they think they’d be able to get rid of the things they dislike and whether they should buy a lucky pack in the first place. Keep in mind that whilst the value of your items is more than that of the pack, it is only for when the items were new – as they weren’t selling in the first place, you won’t get their original retail price when selling second hand and since you didn’t pay that in the first place, asking for retail seems unfair and bordering on scam, never mind that it will deter most people from buying it off you. Check the item’s current value on the second hand market and price it accordingly. If it’s something that was released over a year prior to the release of the lucky pack or if a lot of people got it and got rid of it, you should find enough examples on Closet Child, Wunderwelt and Lacemarket to give you a good  average. Your sale may be slow, but at the same time the lower price of a brand new unworn brand item may attract newer/less wealthy Lolitas, especially if you are local to them (so no customs, no extra tax, cheaper shipping etc.). Spread the news of your sale as far and wide as you possibly can, keep on top of the sale with updates and stay patient, and you should get rid of it sooner or later.

If you’re comfortable to do so, open your item up for trade as well as sale. Someone else may have received something in their pack that they don’t like but you do. This might give you a sense that you still got your money’s worth, i.e. paid for the pack and still got an item out of it, and allows you more of a say in what you get for your stuff to target the needs of your wardrobe. Personally, I’m happy to trade item for a different item, e.g. a skirt for a bag and some socks or a dress for a bundle of blouses, so if you are too, specify that. Asking for dream dresses in exchange for your lucky pack things is unlikely to yield you results, so know what you can realistically get for your item and ask for that. The vaguer the description is the better your chances of getting something, e.g. asking to trade for BtSSB’s Sugar Bouquet vs asking for a light-coloured floral JSK that’d fit your size. If you’re anticipating a swap meet, you may have more luck there: people are more likely to get something when it’s right in their hands and they can appreciate the details in person, as well as negotiate the price with you face-to-face. Ask in your local and/or nearby comms about that, but also think about the kind of people who might attend (if you know them). Some people come to swap meets with specific goals that they stick to, whilst others can’t help impulse buying, especially if something is cheap. Similarly, a comm with a lot of newer Lolitas may be more likely to buy things off you than a comm made up predominantly of long-timers. Know your market and estimate your chances based on that.

Remember that one man's trash is another one's treasure.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

In case neither selling nor swapping has worked and you’ve waited patiently enough, consider gifting the unwanted items. Little bits like accessories are much easier to part with and make great presents even for non-Lolita friends, but it’s not impossible to offload main pieces either if you know your gift won’t burden the person receiving it with a sense of obligation (not everyone would be comfortable accepting a brand dress as a gift). It might work a treat if your wait got you until Christmas or someone’s birthday, but also if you’re planning on organising or attending a big meet and could donate your item as a raffle prize. If you’re not against it, you could also try (re)using the item in another way: alter it to fit your style or taste, use as sewing practice or to deconstruct into a pattern if it fits very well, re-purpose and make into a bag or a pillow. Some people are against modifying brand, so I’m not forcing anyone to do anything they’re uncomfortable with it – but if you’re not going to wear it and can’t sell it on, remember that it belongs to you and you can do whatever you want with it.

Following the suggestions above will not, and cannot, guarantee you a good lucky pack experience. What it can do is reduce the risk a little bit through very focused reflection on your needs, wants, likes and dislikes, and almost turn that into a decisional balance sheet when trying to figure out if you should buy a lucky pack or not. At work I used to have a table where you compared the advantages and disadvantages of change vs no change (here: purchase vs no purchase), but you could also stick to a simple pros and cons list. Hopefully this post has given you some tools to become more confident of your decision, whatever it may be and however you may have reached it.

Have you ever bought a lucky pack? What arguments have put you off or encouraged you to do so? Would you buy one (again, if you already have)? Do you plan on getting one this season? I confess, I like the thrill, so might not be able to stop myself, although I’ll try.


  1. I've only bought happy packs before, but I've been thinking about buying a lucky pack from Lolita Desu for a while because I like that you can give them style, color, and theme guidelines. The reviews that I've read make them look very promising!

    1. That's true, I really like that you can tell them your likes and dislikes and they will make a lucky pack just for you. I've also been thinking about getting one from them, but there was always something stopping me. Maybe one day :)

  2. This is all some very good advice! I love lucky packs but it's always a bit of a gamble. I'm actually hoping to get a special set or lucky pack this New Year!

    1. Same, but I find that it's the gamble element combined with the potential for trying out something I might not have picked out for myself that attracts me. Have you seen any you like yet? I'm intrigued by the Regimental Stripe that Meta is bringing out, but I want to see actual photos first. And I did feel as if you got fewer things for the price paid than in the packs before? Although that probably applies to all brands.

    2. Haha yeah, I like the gamble element long as I "win" at least a little bit!

      And I'm also keen for the Regimental Stripe set! I'm 90% sure I'm going to get it in the "grey" colourway. Though I do agree it seem like you're getting a bit less value - though the two skirt packs they have this season would be fantastic if I liked either of the prints...

    3. See, now that they've shown the actual dress, I'm less keen. I would've wanted something either more navy or more red, so won't be going for it, at least not now.

  3. *studiously takes notes* Never purchased one myself before, but I might now!

    1. The good news is that lots of brands do lucky packs in Japan, so even if you can't get one yourself online, it's always worth contacting a shopping service if they'd be able to go to a physical store of a brand and get you something. Best of luck! :D


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