This weekend, I visited Iris Garden at their week long pop-up in Venice, California. Owner Iris is the brand rep for a number of Korean lolita brands like Lief, Baroque, and Haenuli, and has lots of inventory in hand. The pop-up had everything from dresses to bonnets, necklaces to wristcuffs and included a selection of second hand items. Visiting the pop-up, I was reminded of what a treat (and a rarity) it is to see, touch, and try on lolita fashion in person.
Long distance shopping
Because most fans of lolita fashion don’t live in Japan, we have to rely on stock photos, fashion show videos, and flat measurements to determine whether or not a garment will work for us. While most lolitas just accept the risks associated with buying items sight unseen, there is definitely a learning curve when first starting out. I remember being shocked that people would pay hundreds of dollars on dresses that might not fit. I’ve gotten better at determining whether a dress is going to be a keeper or not, but sometimes, even with my tricks and experience, I’ll get something that simply doesn’t work.
Try this on for size
All of this colored my experience as I stepped into the pop-up shop. Iris helpfully let me know that I could try things on if I wanted. Honestly, when I stopped by the shop, the idea of trying something on hadn’t even occurred to me. (I also was wearing a necklace, JSK, and a hair style that was not suited to taking clothes off and on over my head). I’d basically assumed that if I saw something I liked, I’d just have to take the same chance I always do when I buy lolita fashion.
Beyond just the simple fact of being able to try something on, being able to touch the fabric of the garments was a luxury I wasn’t used to. In the secondhand section, Iris had three colorways of Metamorphose’s Pintuck JSK. This is a dress I’ve had my eye on for a while, but after seeing it in person, I realized that it was made of plain polyster that didn’t “wow” me in person. I also found a cute brown bustle JSK that was stunning (but didn’t fit). I also had a chance to try on a Meta sack dress. While it didn’t got home with me, it was way cuter on than I would have expected. I never would have known that if I hadn’t had a chance to try it on in person.
Striking out or striking gold
After striking out on on several contenders, I was resigned to the fact that maybe I just wasn’t going to find anything for me that day. Luckily, I found a different JSK from Chinese brand Mumu in a more interesting textured fabric, with similar tucks and tiers. I ultimately walked away with the JSK from Mumu, a dress I might not have loved if I hadn’t seen it in person.
It’s a privilege to be able to see lolita garments before buying, but pop-up shops (either as stand alone events or as part of larger conventions), fashion shows, and community swap meets can be fantastic. You can try on dresses that you might not love without committing to buying. You can also touch garments and see them in motion. If you have the opportunity to attend an event like this locally, jump on that chance!