Step 1: So you want to be a lolita?
Great! Being a lolita is a fun and rewarding hobby. But before you buy your first items, you should do your homework. For example, do you know the different styles of lolita? Everyone knows gothic and sweet lolita, but there are tons of styles!
Gothic: A very recognizable style. It's not just black pieces though. Gothic can have dark reds, blues, or even jewel tones like rich purples and ruby. It's not to be confused with American gothic styles, and should not feature whiteface with dark makeup!
Sweet: Very cute and innocent. Pastels and white are popular colors, but you can wear black and be a sweet lolita! The prints usually are cute with animals, toys, candy, or cakes as the focus.
Classic: features floral prints and classic silhouettes. Often skirts can deviate from the cupcake-shaped ones of other styles. Also can utilize vintage pieces and simple hairstyles/makeup.
Casual: an easy style to wear everyday. It's all of the pieces of a lolita outfit, but toned down. Instead of a fancy, lacy blouse, you can wear a cute printed t-shirt (or cut-sew). It's still important that you match your colors and patterns and that you don't forget a part of the outfit, like a headpiece or a petticoat.
Kuro: In Japanese, Kuro (くろ）means "black." And that's what you wear, black. All black items.
Shirou: The sister style to Kuro, Shirou（しろう）means "white" in Japanese. Shirou lolita features all white items. It used to be quite popular to do twin photo shoots with kuro and shirou lolitas, but I haven't been seeing too many recently.
Country: Country is a mix between sweet and classic. This is where you find the ginghams, fruit prints, miniature straw hats, and baskets. It's reminiscent of a country picnic in the summer. Some country lolitas even choose to use fresh flowers to accessorize their outfits!
Punk: This style has been more influenced by the west than any other. It is reminiscent of British and American punk styles, but with a lolita twist. Skirts can be somewhat shorter, and plaids are very popular. Ties are appropriate in this style, along with simpler tops and crazier hair styles.
Sailor: Many brands put out pieces that are inspired by the typical sailor uniform worn by Japanese school students. It's not an extremely popular style by itself, but often the pieces can be integrated into other styles.
Pirate: It's a fairly new sub-style of classic lolita. It often features tricorner hats, belts, swords, and lots of jewelry. It can get close to becoming costume-y though so you have to be careful. The only "official brand" for pirate style is Baby the Stars Shine Bright's other line, Alice and the Pirates.
Hime: This is a hybrid between lolita and Hime Gyaru styles. It features the same hairstyle and accessories as the Gyaru style, but the silhouette and anatomy of a lolita coordinate. Pieces can overlap between the two styles, as well as color schemes and prints.
Kodona: Also known as Ouiji, Dandy, or boy style. It's one of the few styles in which it is okay to wear pants! It's based off of the clothes that young boys would have worn in the 1800's. Sometimes, the wearer will choose to add feminine touches in the shoes or make- up, it's up to you! It can also be easily mixed with the punk style for a cool hybrid.
Aristocrat: Also known as Elegant Gothic Aristocrat. It is a more mature style of lolita, with longer skirts and fewer frills. Often, skirts are ankle length and blouses are long sleeved and high collared. The shape is not at all what other styles are, but it is a very elegant silhouette. There are also aristocrat styles based off of mensware from Victorian England.
Common misconceptions about styles:
You would be surprised at how many questions I get about styles that don't exist. For example, I got a question at a convention about where this person could purchase "maid style lolita." There is no such thing! There are websites out there that will tell you that maid uniforms, nurse uniforms, cosplays, and even Alice in Wonderland costumes from a costume store are appropriate lolita items. I always tell people the same thing: absolutely not! Even if your Chii cosplay may fit some of the requirements for a lolita outfit, it will never work. This is because people will always recognize you as a Chii cosplayer. This point always earns me skeptical looks from the cosplayers in the room. But trust me, it isn't a proper lolita coordinate.
So now you know a little bit more about the different styles of lolita. What did you think? Did you see a few that appeal to you?