Boy, did he have stories for me when he returned! Here's what I've learned about sending someone else to do your lolita shopping in Japan:
1. Don't send a man to do a ladies job: J went to the Shibuyu shop with a Japanese-speaking friend, also male, and promptly got hustled out by the staff! Even with a translator explaining they wanted to buy a dress for J's bride-to-be, the shopclerk would not look them in the eye. Instead, she stared at the ground, alternating between begging them to leave and insisting there was nothing in the shop for them!
This isn't true of every shop, of course. J had no problem at the other two Closet Child locations he tried, but the experience was quite upsetting for him. If you are sending a gentleman on your behalf, be sure to warn him in advance that he may get a rude reaction from some shopclerks.
2. Fudge your measurements: Japanese lolitas, at least the ones working at Closet Child, don't seem to view shirring in quite the same way Western lolitas do. I'd written down my measurements in cm, with Japanese tags, but listed them a little higher (2 cm) than they really are - and the shopclerks were adamant that nothing in the store would fit me, even though J's photos show fully shirred items in the window displays! In retrospect, I should have given my exact measurements, and told J to watch out for items with elastic panels.
On an amusing side note, the shopclerks were apparently amazed & impressed by my bust measurements, and couldn't stop teasing Jim about how well-endowed I was :)
3. Provide lots of photos of print options: I'd only give J photos of three different prints I liked, because I didn't want to seem greedy. In hindsight, I should have given him way more. As a second-hand shop, Closet Child's stock changes from day to day. Having more options to choose from would have given J a better chance to finding something just right for me.
4. Suggest accessories and handbags as alternates to clothing: I'm not sure why, but the Closet Child staff never thought to recommend non-clothing items to J. Hangbags, headbows and jewelry fit all sizes!
5. Be prepared to love whatever you get: In lucky pack fashion, asking someone else to shop for you may leave you with an item you'd never have picked out on your own. In the end, J brought me back a lovely dress, made all the more special because of the effort and thought he put into choosing it for me.
So what did I get?
This lovely Metamorphose JSK! The fabric has tiny white polka dots, with loads of frills and pintucks. The skirt is huge, and it's super-comfortable to wear. A bit more sweet than my usual style, but I love the length and the way it feels when I twirl around.
Also, I freaked J out by declaring the brand as soon as he pulled it out of his suitcase, by the fabric alone. Since it's not even a distinct print, and he hadn't checked the brand tag when he bought it, my capacity for brand-spotting really wigged him out :) This may not be the fanciest dress in my closet, but I think it will always be my favorite, because I know how much J went through to get it for me, and what that represents.