The first Japanese dress I purchased for lolita might surprise you, if you glance through my Instagram or look at my coordinates on this blog. It was a one piece from Emily Temple Cute that Lolibrary calls “Mermaid Print OP“. The details, the cut, and the print all made my heart sing in a way I hadn’t felt before. It appeared on Wunderwelt’s Lacemarket for very cheap and I bought it.
Mermaid Print OP is no longer in my closet for a variety of reasons (it was the pink colorway, what was I thinking?) but the lessons it taught me are still with me. One of the biggest lessons I learned is judging whether an item will fit me or not.
Buying clothes online, especially expensive clothes, is always nerve wracking. Yet in lolita fashion, we regularly lay down hefty sums on dresses where we only have a few stock photos and some measurements. I remember being gobsmacked that veteran lolitas could do this with such ease. What secrets did they know that I didn’t?
I’ve been buying (and selling) lolita fashion for more than 5 years now. I’ve learned a lot since then, so here’s how I determine if a dress I like will fit me.
Research, research, research
New releases from brands almost always include detailed measurements. Stock photos can also offer clues about how a piece fits. Sometimes, brands will include information about a model’s measurements so you can see how a garment fits a real person.
Most of my pieces were purchased second hand. Reputable sellers like Wunderwelt and Closet Child (and good sellers in the Western market) usually include measurements in their sales post. When I list an item, I also like to include how a piece fits me and many sellers do the same. If a seller hasn’t listed measurements, don’t hesitate to ask them for more details!
Sometimes, though, you’ll have to make a decision and you won’t be able to communicate with a seller. Lolibrary is a treasure trove for older items. Many pieces include stock measurements. But if even Lolibrary fails you, you can try searching Lacemarket or Livejournal for old sales post to see what other sellers have noted the measurements to be. Sometimes, old sellers will insight into the measurements and fit of a garment. Don’t forget to check for reviews on blogs or YouTube!
Regularly check your body measurements
The most basic way to see if an item will fit you is by checking your own body measurements against the measurements of the dress. It’s a good idea to periodically recheck your measurements to make sure they’re accurate. The two most common measurements are bust and waist sizes, but it may also be helpful to check any of the following:
- Shoulder width
- Arm length
- Bicep circumference
- Wrist circumference
- Shoulder to waist (back and front)
- Calf circumference
- Thigh circumference
Remember to account for ease in the garment! You should allow for 3-5 cm between your measurements and the max measurements of the item.
Ask: do I own garments from this brand? Do I like the fit?
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Mulberry Chronicles: This cut is common for this brand. Since I know I fit this size, I can confidently buy others in the same style.
Obviously, this can only come with time, but even just a few dress can tell you a lot about the way brand will fit you. Brands often recycle their cuts, so purchasing and trying on one of those garments will tell you whether you’ll fit others in the same style. While I love Innocent World, I know that their JSKs with adjustable straps fit me best. Their square necked JSKs with fixed straps, even with partial shirring uncomfortably compress my bust. They fit, but I don’t love them the way I do other dresses.
Ask: when will I wear this dress? What will I need to be able to do while wearing it?
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Atelier Pierrot blouse: great for twirling, not for cooking!
My closet encompasses everything from casual cutsews to OTT dresses. When I’m looking to add something, I think about what I need to do in the dress and whether I think it will accommodate those needs. I know that I can count on my Black Ribbon cutsews to be great for walking the dog or cooking dinner, but I wouldn’t say the same for opulent sleeves on my Atelier Pierrot blouse.
One of the things that I pay attention to now is the length of blouses and cutsews. I have lots of skirts, but not all my blouses look good with them. Now, as I fill in the gaps in my wardrobe, I’m mindful of the way that a top will look beyond just under a JSK.
Ask: what adjustable elements does this garment have?
Lolita garments are often only made in 1 or 2 sizes. To ensure that as many people as possible will fit a piece, designers will incorporate elements to allow for individual adjustments. Shirring, waist ties, corset lacing, draw strings, and shoulder straps with buttons can change the way a dress fits different bodies.
When I’m looking at an item, I know that my short waist, wide shoulders, and larger bust can mean that dresses don’t fit me as a intended. Because of this, I look for partial or full back shirring and adjustable shoulder straps.
However, this can also be a double edged sword. If a blouse has shirring in the back and buttons down the front, I know that I run the risk of gaping in the front at the widest part of my bust. Which leads to my next question…
Ask: what adjustments or modifications am I willing to make?
As an intermediate seamstress, I comfortable making minor modifications like moving buttons, adding snaps and hemming. This means that I’m willing to buy dresses and put some work in to make them fit. However, not everyone wants to make those changes! You may decide that you’d rather leave alterations to the professionals. Or you may decide that you want your item to be ready to wear right out of the box. All of these are excellent options, but it changes what garments you’ll purchase.
Ask: what material is the item made of? How will that effect the fit?
Polyester has different properties than cotton jersey! So it comes as no surprise that a dress made out of one or the other will fit differently. A polyester chiffon blouse will shred if too much stress is put on the seams, whereas cotton broadcloth will have some give. I know that cutsew one pieces with no shirring will fit me pretty well, but a polyester one piece from the same brand probably won’t!
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Innocent World Cutsew OP: if I could live in a garment, it would be this OP!
Do you have any tricks you’ve learned to tell if something will fit you? I’d love to hear them!