Tips on Getting Dressed in Lolita on Your Own

Putting on a lolita coordinate is an involved process. Sometimes there are things we may need help with like stuck zips or tying all the various bits - and there’s no shame in asking for help with those. However, be it temporarily or long-term, you may find yourself in situations where you have to do it entirely on your own. Even when living with my parents, I couldn’t always rely on anyone’s help, so through experience I learnt to get dressed all by myself. Hopefully these tips will help some of you too!

For those who prefer to watch and/or listen, this post is also available as a video, which I will embed below. And for everyone else - keep reading.


Although usually we can manage them, they can get stuck at the waist seam. This is most common for invisible zips due to their nature and how they’re sewn so close to the seam to create that illusion of there being no fastening at all. Some think that they’re flimsy and that they’re a sign of lower quality, but invisible zips are in fact used as a high-quality finish. Think about it: most clothes from the high street shops, like Primark, H&M or Zara, use visible zippers, often even making them a feature. It’s as much a fashion statement as it is a way of keeping the costs down because they’re less fussy to insert. Ask anyone who sews or watch The Great British Sewing Bee and listen to the contestants bemoan having to do an invisible zip!

Invisible zips aren’t necessarily lower quality or flimsy, they just feel like it because the handle is usually so small and it feels like we’ve very little to physically grab. In my experience those zips are much more durable than lolitas give them credit for. It’s most likely the fear speaking, the mentality of “this is an expensive dress and I don’t want to break it” speaking. Remember, it’s a dress, not a porcelain vase - a broken zipper can be replaced. Though as I said, those zips can withstand more than you think.

If you find yourself with the zip stuck at the waist seam, the first thing to do is to stay calm. It happens. Don’t give in to nasty thoughts or panic. Stretch the dress to reassure yourself that it still fits, if you have to, but don’t immediately jump to weight gain conclusions. They won’t help. Instead take a few deep breaths, shake your hands off as they probably hurt from pulling, and then patiently try again. Instead of trying to force the zip up, focus on perseverance. You can wiggle the zip about a little to help it get over the spot where you’re stuck and check that nothing is caught in between the teeth. After a few attempts I suggest changing hands, if you can: the new angle may be what does the trick, as well as give your aching fingers a break. Once you get it past that waist seam, it normally glides smoothly to the top.

One thing that can help is to loosen or completely remove your corset lacing. Having the extra bit of stretch to pull the dress away from your body will make it easier to keep the two zip halves close together and help it close. There were plenty of times when I battled a zip that wouldn’t budge and then did as soon as I took the corset lacing out.

If you’re worried that you’re struggling with this dress more than you have in the past and have the time, take it off for a second and inspect the zip. It is unlikely that something broke, but does happen sometimes. And even if the zip turns out to be fine, it may still stop briefly at the waist seam, which should reassure you that it’s really not you, it’s the dress. That can be an important morale boost to help you persevere and keep trying.

And in the very rare cases where you’re fighting with the zip over and over, and really can’t get it done without a helper, consider replacing it with a non-invisible zip. It’s one of the cheaper alterations to get done in a repair shop, you don’t need to look for a specialist tailor or seamstress, and if you’re very worried about resale value, you could probably get it replaced back. Though truth be told, if you were struggling with the invisible zip, then the next person owning this dress probably would too. Being honest in your listing description about the alteration, especially when it’s so minor and not particularly invasive, and adjusting the price accordingly is not painful. Your buyer may even appreciate the alteration and buy it because you’ve had it done. But that is your decision to make.

Corset lacing

I’ve touched on corset lacing, so let’s expand on it. Starting with breaking down why dresses have it in the first place. On the one hand it’s a decorative element, usually to cover the less attractive panel of shirring, but not exclusively. On the other, it helps adjust the fit. While shirring makes garments fit bigger sizes, corset lacing helps make them smaller and fit more snuggly.

As I already mentioned, removing it is a completely valid option. If you’re like me and need all the shirring, then you’re not dealing with unsightly bunched up fabric when shirring is not stretched out to its fullest. On garments without shirring that still have corset lacing, think about how much of it would be visible. If the ribbon is threaded through lace, it might not be obvious if removed - but it would if the garment had panels with grommets. So if this wouldn’t be hidden by another layer of clothes or by your hairstyle, and if you are wearing the outfit out, it’s up to you how much you’re bothered by others being able to see that. In most cases people don’t really care about details like that, not on others at least, but do what you feel is right for you and your outfit.

However, if you are like me, then you may actually want to keep the corset lacing to help adjust the fit to your body shape. I’m an hourglass and like to emphasize my waist, which corset lacing helps a lot with. Or you could simply like the look of it, which is equally valid. If that’s you, read on.

The biggest tip I can offer which genuinely changed my life is to rethread the corset lacing so that it goes from top to bottom. Most dresses are sold with the corset lacing going from the bottom up and not many lolitas change that. Not everyone is flexible enough to tie it like this on their own, but most people are able to reach behind them at their waist level. Having the ties lower makes them easier to do without sacrificing any of the corset lacing’s functionality or look. I’ve done that to all my dresses and I suddenly found that dresses I previously had to take the ribbon out of I could wear with the corset lacing in and actually use it!

Another common problem, particularly with shirred garments when you need the shirring, is that the ribbon ends escape their loops/grommets as the elastic stretches. Again, having the loose ends at the bottom may help you rethread them back if that happens and if you’re very flexible and nimble. If not, consider replacing the ribbon with a longer one. Those ribbons are not the most special, you can take it with you to a crafts shop or a haberdashery and find something that matches in width and colour. It won’t cost much and it will solve that problem, as well as give you more of the loose ends to pull by.

Those not in a position to replace the corset lacing ribbons, whether just for now or in general, can tackle that from yet another angle. Identify where you need corset lacing, what parts of the dress would you be tightening, then rethread the ribbon to only be in that place. For me, that’d be waist, so I could insert the corset lacing ribbon only over the bottom half of that panel, giving me more ribbon hanging out. By threading it from top to bottom it also creates a good enough illusion that this is where the corset lacing was meant to be instead of when the bow ends abruptly halfway up your back. Because there’s nothing stopping you from combining several of these tips to make corset lacing ultimately as easy for yourself as it could be.

Waist ties

This is the most typical one for lolitas, isn’t it? Hands up if you know a lolita who doesn’t take off waist ties from every dress they can because they claim to be unable to do a nice bow? I used to be that person too until I decided that this was a lolita skill I wanted to acquire.

Just like with corset lacing, waist ties are both decorative (nice big bow at the back) and practical (tying things to create a tighter fit at the waist). And like with corset lacing, if you don’t need that and don’t want or don’t care about having a bow at your back, removing your waist ties is an option. Of course, this won’t be so easy when your dress has waist ties that are sewn on (looking at you in particular, Bodyline) and while an alteration is possible, this may be a step further than some people are willing to take.

I started out by practicing on dresses with detachable waist ties first. You can open up a video online (I use this one) and follow it step-by-step, pausing when you need to, whilst doing the bow at the front. That way you can see what you’re doing and can adjust things more easily. Once done, you simply unbutton carefully and reattach. Simple! Sure, it takes practice and it might not always come out as nicely as you’d like it to, but you’ll get there.

As the motions become more familiar and your hands can do them without looking, you should be able to start doing that with the waist ties at your back. It will again take some time and practice for that bow to turn out as nicely as it did on the front, but it should be good enough to not be embarrassed by it. This is also when we get back to context: where are you wearing that coord to and who else will see that? A wonky bow won’t matter for staying at home, but it may at a tea party. Having said this, in my experience most comms have at least one person good enough with waist ties who may be willing to help - in which case all you need is a bow good enough to get you through the commute. Though I won’t lie, a big reason why I decided to learn how to tie waist ties was so that I could be that person for my comm, a true comm mama so to speak. Mutual grooming is such a lovely part of this fashion and our community, and it seemed like one of the easiest ways to look out for each other.

Hopefully you’ve found at least one tip here that came in useful. These all come from my own experience over the years and are things I use regularly, now even more so as I dress up a lot more often. Of course, I’m not self-sufficient all the time and every time. It’s nice when I do have someone help me - just as nice as it is to help others with these little bits. So whether you are still staying at home, anticipate moving and being on your own or equipping yourself with some lolita life skills for when you need them, it can’t hurt to know these. And if you have any other advice for making getting dressed in lolita entirely on your own easier, let me know! I’m going to be on my own for a lot longer than I thought and anything that makes my life easier is most welcome.


  1. This is such a cute post, loved it! And I can relate a lot with the stories about the zips (I bet every Lolita can), agree that panicking doesn't work and most of the time the zip is stuck due to its nature, so everyone take a deep breath and try again!

    1. Zips are such a common woe, I couldn't even count how many times I had to fight with mine. I'm grateful for all the dresses I own that have an exposed zip with a placket instead of an invisible zip, because it makes my life so much easier, but I also know that with enough deep breaths and attempts the invisible ones will do up too.


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