Thursday, December 23, 2010

News & Updates

Kelsey of I Do Declare has posted some photos from the Dances of Vice runway presentation last month. Her designs just keep getting better and better! One of my goals for 2011 is definitely adding a piece from her to my collection :)

Metamorphose is launching their winter sale items already. A few of the items I had my eye on, including their Old Rose JSK, have already sold out, but if you dig Meta's sweeter or light-toned items, there's still plenty left to choose from.

Grimoire is offering a 10% discount code for orders from their online shop in this blog post. As I noted yesterday, they buy it here (for non-Japanese readers, anyway) but the store also carries the Dolly accessory line, which is made in Japan.

Baby the Stars Shine Bright's winter lucky packs are almost sold out, but there are still acessory sets and LL shoe sets available.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Indie Brand: Pina Sweet

I'm counting Pina Sweet as an indie brand, although they do get frequent features in the Gothic & Lolita bible, enough exposure that most Western lolitas have at least heard of them a few times before. Even so, they definitely don't have the advertising clout of the big brands, and their limited operations scope puts them in the indie category as far as I'm concerned.

Like most Japanese brands, their "concept" page is a Japanese-text image file, making translation through online tools impossible! Looking at their gallery and collections, their focus becomes clear pretty quickly: classic-sweet designs with an emphasis on self-fabric frills and small amounts of lace. They tend to work with a palette of white, black, rose pink, wine and soft florals, although they do put out the occassional lilac or tartan piece as well.

Unlike many indie brands, which focus mostly on signature pieces like dresses, jumperskirts and skirts, Pina Sweet offers a full design range, including blouses and bloomers.

Pina Sweet doesn't do overseas shipping at present, so a shopping service is required to purchase from them. If you're in Japan, they are also carried in four shops, including the Atelier Perriot Laforet shop in Tokyo (which you were going to visit anyway, RIGHT?). Their sizing is a little on the small side, but many of their items include shirring to allow for a more flexible fit.

To be honest, Pina Sweet has always felt a bit like a hyrbid brand to me: there are elements of all the major classic brands in their designs, and they don't have quite as fixed a style as some other indie labels. In a way, that's nice, since it gives them a fair bit of flexibility. At the same time, though, I really don't have a clear idea of the brand in my head: most of the time, when I look at their stuff, I'm thinking "wow, that reminds me of Victorian Maiden/Mary Magdalene/Innocent World", rather than standing out on their own.

Grimoire: They buy it here

One of the most memorable lines from the Japanese Fashion panel run by Martha (of Moss Garden) last Otakon was her comment while explaining the main source of Dolly Fashion items in Japan:

They buy it here.

It struck me as true then - Dolly Fashion pulls many elements from vintage European style, especially from the Gunne Sax/Little House on the Prairie era, which is more common in vintage stock in Europe & North America than in Japan. It strikes me as even more true, though, looking at the Grimoire store blog over the last few days, where Hitomi (? I think) documents her recent shopping trip to Toronto, Canada.

You see the second photo of a Tim Horton's store in this blog post? The one with the Starbucks next to it? I GO THERE ALL THE TIME. Not even kidding. The Grimoire staff were buying stock in my city, probably even at the thrift stores I haunt regularly. Too funny!

Really, honest to goodness: They buy it here. Which means you can too.

(they also post images from "The Brand Upon The Brain!", a film by my favorite Canadian art house cinema director, Guy Maddin, in this blog post, which makes me very happy!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday Movie: Kalamari Kastle visits BtSSB San Francisco!

Dreaming of checking out Baby the Stars Shine Bright's San Francisco store, yet lacking the travel budget? Check out this video shot at the September Ice Cream social by Kalamari Kastle instead!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Indie Brand: Princess Doll

Princess Doll is a long-established Japanese indie brand, specializing in subdued classic designs. Their signature styles include empire-waisted babydoll dresses, detailed or gathered bodices, skirts with ruffle hems and off-center bows near the hem.

For the most part, they stick with solid colors or light floral prints, although they do branch out into more Victorian-wallpaper prints and tartans for some releases:

Perhaps their most iconic piece is this one, which features custom printed fabric along with their detailed bodice style and a more fittted waist. This one was featured in a Gothic & Lolita Bible ages ago and is very hard to find these days!

For the most part, Princess Doll seems to be about relaxed, comfortable, timeless elegance. Their dress designs in particular have a charming yet refined look: the bodice detailing makes them seem more formal, but it's combined with a floating, easy-fitting skirt that looks super-comfortable. My favorite combination!

International customers can order Princess Doll items through Neo Tokyo, which also stocks some Angelic Pretty, Chocomint, Decoart, h.naoto and even old items from the now-closed Sex Pot Revenge label. However, these items are marked up, as the Princess Doll site notes, and you will want to check the exchange rate & shipping costs to decide if Neo Tokyo offers a better deal than using a shopping service.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shopping Services

I've mentioned shopping services a few times now, without really clarifying what they are - it's one of those things most lolita fashion followers just assume everyone knows about!

A shopping service is pretty much what it sounds like: someone who will buy things for you and then ship your purchases to wherever they need to go. Obviously, this is incredibly handy for lolitas who live outside Japan, especially since many brands do not yet ship internationally. In addition, shopping services aimed at the lolita market may offer other services, such as:

- Reserves: for popular items and special prints, brands offer their customers a chance to "reserve" or pre-purchase items before they are released. This can sometimes be your only way to get highly desirable prints, colors or cuts of certain items. Reservations can be a complicated process, so the shopping service which can do this well is highly regarded (and often very busy).

- Auctions: mbok and Yahoo Japan are bustling markets for second-hand lolita clothing, but it's difficult to get an account on either if you're not inside the country, and many sellers will not ship outside Japan anyway. A good auction service will bid on your behalf, ask questions of the seller, resolve any problems which arise with your item (like checking for stains and damage) and handle shipping the item overseas once the auction is won.

- In-person shopping for specific, hard-to-find items: Resale shops like Fairy Angel and Closet Child only list a fraction of their inventory online. The matching socks for your new dress may no longer be listed on the website, but you've heard there are still some on the shelves at smaller shops. A few shopping services will actually go look in person for you, with the understanding that if they find and buy the item you've requested, you're on the hook to repay them. This is a lot of work, and many shopping services will not do this at all, or only for selected customers.

Of course, shopping services don't do all this for free! Most of them charge a flat fee based on the cost of your items, between 5% to 20% depending on various factors, plus additional costs like shipping, packaging, transportation and more. Specialized services like reserves or in-store hunting for rare items generally come with a higher fee.

The added benefit, for Japanese lolitas doing all this brand shopping, is getting to rack up loyalty points and earn status as a brand VIP. Most Japanese brands offer special perks to their most loyal customers (a.k.a. high spenders), and it's easy to rack up points towards free items, special party invites, and so on by running even a small shopping service.

If you're interested in knowing more about how a shopping service works and the effort involved, Kalamari Kastle has agreat interview with Chibi_Tenshi, who runs a highly respected and well-reviewed operation.

My personal experiences have been with Celga (Yahoo Japan auctions, okay service but the fees were a little high) and Japonica Market (Yahoo Japan & Mbok auctions, my preferred service due to their reasonable fees and great customer service).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Movie: Gay Pirates

This one's for all you pirate guys & gals, a sweetly sad little sea shanty about love and loss among the pirates (well, the gay ones). Not very frilly, but still adorable!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Indie Brand: Antique Beast

Highly sought-after by the ubergothic are the rare items from indie brand Antique Beast. They've been around since the early days of Gothic & Lolita, and they continue to turn out a handful of designs each year, always sold out in early reserves and cherished for many years by their owners. And is it any wonder? If you dig old-school gothic elegance, Antique Beast has you covered:

Antique Beast is especially well-known for their lush and detailed accessories, especially head pices. Each one is hand-crafted and the consideration given to texture and balance is stunning.

This is perhaps the most iconic Antique Beast design for me, and the first piece I saw by the brand. It's low-cut enough to qualify as Ero-Loli, but it captures the dark elegance that first attracted me to the whole Gothic Lolita style:
The timeless quality of their designs puts them outside the realm of trends; they're neither fashionable nor unfashionable, eschewing change for a fixed, unwavering aesthetic. That makes their pieces great wardrobe investments, but it also means they show up rarely on the second-hand market.

Their infrequent sales periods are announced three days in advance through their website, and also on their email newsletter. The designer also keeps a blog where they mention upcoming reservation dates, although it's mostly brief personal entries. Basically, they open up the shop for a few days, closing down again when they've reached the maximum amount of orders they can produce within a 6-8 week window. Once those orders are made, they re-open for new purchases. It's a smart system, one that keeps their income steady while ensuring clients don't wait overly long for their reserves to be filled.

Antique Beast only accepts payment via bank transfer and postal order, so you will probably need a shopping service to place an order, although there is a mention of accepting Paypal for internationl orders buried in their blog, so it might be worthwhile to send them an email first. They just did a round of orders from Nov 25-28, so it may be a month or two before they open up again.

Because items are made in limited numbers for pre-purchasing customers, you can request up to +5 cm on the measurements for your order, including bust, waist, skirt and sleeve length. That said, their standard measurements are on the small side, so it's not a huge amount of leeway.

More on Meta Sales

According to this blog post, Meta is doing an in-store sale on two of their more recent prints, Twinkle Journey and Old Rose. Old Rose is a classic-style print in muted colors, and Twinkle Journey is the infamous unicorn print.

Strangely enough, the Twinkle Journey items are completely sold out on their website, and have been for a while. I know the print is very popular among Western lolitas, and it seems odd they would discount it for local customers rather than sell it full-price to international clients. Old Rose is still in-stock online, and at full price too.

Then again, the blog does mention that the Hukuoka store is the only one to still have the Twinkle Journey print in-stock, and perhaps it's less expensive to sell at a discount rather than ship to the main office for webshop processing. Who knows? But if you've been hunting for either of these prints, the 30% discount will more than make up the cost of a shopping service!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meta Honey Picnic Set

Starting at 5 pm Japanese time on Wednesday, December 8th (so, 3 a.m. the same day for those of us living on the east coast of North America), Meta's offering a special set featuring their Honey Picnic print.

Ordering info is here. The set includes a JSK or OP, socks, cardigan or blouse or bolero, and an accessory. Meta chooses the color and style for all items, as usual for lucky-pack style offerings. For 10,000 yen plus shipping, it's a good deal, especially for sweet or brand-new lolitas.

I'll be honest, this is totally not me: way too sweet and childlike a print, and I'm not thrilled about any of the JSK designs either. It would almost be worth getting just for the non-dress stuff included in the set, except the designs they're showing for those options aren't thrilling me either.

They list the set as being a special offer for their international customers only, but it does make me wonder just how badly this print sold, that it's being offered up pre-Xmas at bargain basement pricing (for lolita brand, I mean). Rumors are constantly floating about Meta's precarious financial state, often enough that I can't help but wonder what's really going on when they dish up deals like this.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The International Business of Thrifting

There was a really interesting article about the vintage clothing industry in my local paper today: On the Front Lines in the Vintage Clothing War.

So many people, when they think about donating clothing, imagine their cast-offs just go straight to the racks of their local thirft shop, but that's not the case any more. The sorting and shipping of second-clothing, especially quality vintage, is a big international business, and something you leave with Goodwill is as likely to wind up in Japan or Europe as it is to make it to your local store.

Although I understand the reasons why this business has evolved, it makes me a bit sad. I've been thrifting my wardrobe for over twenty years now, and the quality of what's available has definitely declined. Stumbling across a vintage Gunne Sax dress or discarded Doc Martens just doesn't happen any more.

It's especially weird, because the sheer amount of STUFF at thrift shops has exploded lately. Most of it's recent, however: I'll have an easier time finding last year's H&M top than I will finding last decade's plaid flannel shirt.

The thrill of the great find has definitely diminished, because the finds are rarely that great, at least compared to what they once were. It's also diminishing my interest in thrift shopping: I hate paying the inflated prices charged by vintage boutiques, but I also have to acknowledge that my chances of finding anything similiar on my own are increasingly slim.

Monday Movie: LoliGirls documentary

I'm sure many of you have seen this already, but for those who haven't (and for myself, to keep track of the link), today's Monday Movie is LoliGirls: The Story Behind the Frills and Bows, a short independent documentary focused on three Lolita Fashion lifestyle ladies in Conneticut.

I found the documentary to be interesting, although I wish it was a bit longer, so there would be more time to look at the issues involved with a more critical eye. There's mention made of people's perceptions of lolita fashion, the cost involved, and the concept of rules which prevades the Western Lolita community, but there's not really time to delve into these problems, and the piece overall has a light, unquestioning feel. Still, all three of the girls are interesting and articulate, and it's always great fun for me to hear other lolitas talk about their love of the fashion and how it impacts their lives!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The joys of closet cleaning

Guess who just found 3 yards of black & white striped fabric buried in the depths of her fabric stash? Which means guess who's making herself a new black & white striped dress this winter?


Of course, that's going to have to wait until after I *finish* the four semi-complete sewing projects I also found while going through my sewing stash. *sigh*

Closet cleaning!

Once or twice a year, my beau and I throw a Purge Party for our friends. It's a chance to go through everything we own and ask the ever-difficult questions: Why do I own this? Do I ever use it? Why am I still hanging on to it?!?

Hard as this can be, it is also wonderfully freeing. Making room for new things is great, and so is getting rid of stuff that's just gathering dust. I find it difficult - I wouldn't have bought something in the first place, if I didn't think it had the potential to be pretty or fun - but I'm always satisfied when it's over, when my room is neat again and I can actually FIND the things I do use all the time.

Right now, I'm trying to apply this process to my lolita wardrobe. If getting rid of normal clothes is difficult for me, getting rid of lolita is five times the challenge! I spent so much time saving up for this clothing, or making it myself, that's it's hard to think of letting it go. Even so, my closet is stuffed past capacity, and my past month of wearing lolita almost daily (a topic for a future post!) has taught me a lot about what I do and don't wear, about what I have enough of already and where I need to fill in some gaps.

I'm hoping, by the end of this process, to have a much more organized and functional wardrobe. Right now, my stuff is spread out over three spaces: a closet in the hallway, a wardrobe in my room, and an accessory unit on the other side of the room:

What a mess! Getting ready in the morning involves a lot of running around: blouses are in one closet, dresses and skirts in the other, not to mention accessories EVERYWHERE because I am terrible about putting things back where they belong. Hopefully if I prune down my collection a bit, I will be able to impose some sort of organization on the whole she-bang in time for the new year.

Any advice? I'm thinking of switching over to vintage suitcases for storing socks, bloomers & accessories, and getting a lot more skirt hangers, but I'm not sure that's enough to fix the problem. I'd love to hear your best solutions for taming a wild closet!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Link: Fashion from Old People

One of my new favorite illustration & fashion blogs is Fashion From Old People, wherein two fabulous artists (Emily Carroll and Vera Brosgol) dish up their interpretations of historical fashions and the ladies who might have worn them. The fashions run the gamut from Rococo and Victoriana through 1950s retro, with a link back to the reference photo of the dress that inspired the drawing. It's not quite lolita fashion, but it's all-around lovely and well worth checking out!

(found via

Kuranosuke Stripe JSK

Like many other lolita fashionistas, I am currently making grabby hands in the direction of Alice & the Pirate's newest reserve dress, the Kuranosuke Stripe Jumper Skirt:

*Swoon* It's a Burton-loving gothic lolita's dream come true! I even adore the little bustle on the back, although it is a bit more narrow that really suits the fabric and design. That said, it's not as if I don't already own a fair bit of striped clothing, and the design is plain enough that I could replicate it fairly easily - in fact, one of my very first lolita dresses involved stripes:

(yes, yes, it's rather low-cut for a lolita dress. This was 2002, the wild west of the loli fashion frontier, and we did all kinds of crazy things)

It's up for reserve now, with a January release date. The price isn't too crazy, for AatP, and I'm curious to see how this does both with initial sales and the resale market. It reminds me strongly of Atelier Pierrot, the Japanese brand I most associate with black & white stripes (they've released a number of items over the years with this theme, including a piece currently in their sale section).

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You guys! I got married!

My apologies for neglecting this blog so shamefully. I've spent the past few months in an ever-increasing frenzy about the wedding preparations, and then recovering from the whole process. I also signed up for NaNoWriMo, the national novel-writing month, and spent Novemeber banging out 50,000 words of my new book. It's been an amazing, awe-inspiring whirlwind of joy and creativity, but it knocked me right out of my blogging habit. I'm hoping to correct that come the new year - which does not mean I'm going to stop posting until January, however!

I don't want to post too much about the wedding here, but I did want to share my dress with you all. I'd posted ages ago about the Vera Wang gown which inspired me. In the end, I simply couldn't find anything else off-the-rack to compare, and so I wound up making my own gown:


The photo doesn't really do it justice. The bodice is white silk, with an overlay of ivory chantily lace and additional off-white lace appliques on top. The skirt is layers of white and ivory tulle, with pleated white organza as a base. I added lace appliques (not as many as I'd planned, due to time!) throughout the tulle, along with some pick-ups for extra pouf. The brown satin ribbon matched my shoes and purse, and my husband's suit, not to mention the bridesmaid's dresses.

There's a few things I wish I' had more time to finish, mostly the lace appliques (they took FAR more time than I'd expected) but overall, I was happy with the dress, and thrilled with how the whole day went. Everything went wonderfully, from the rain holding off until juuuuust as we were leaving the outdoor ceremony location, to so many wonderful friends and family coming in from around the continent, and of course the whole madly-in-love part :)

Anyway, there's a set of wedding photos online for anyone who wants to see more detail of the dress and the day, and I will get back to my regular blogging topics of fashion and foolishness later this week!