A bolero is a sort of sweater that's much shorter than a cardigan. For
lolita, it's usually frilly around the neckline, bottom, and cuffs. They come in long or short sleeves and in a wide variety of colors. Many brands and off-brands make boleros for all seasons. In the summer, there are chiffon ones that are translucent and let air in. In the winter, there are knit ones that keep you a bit warmer. Boleros are a replacement item for a blouse, in other words, if you're wearing a bolero then you don't need to wear a blouse. In addition, boleros are commercially available and many work well in Lolita fashion. When looking on Lolita clothing store websites, check under the "cut and sewn" or "knit" sections to find them.
I love cardigans! They are just the best. A cardigan is a long sweater that buttons up at the front. They're comfy and also commercially available. Cardigans are perfect for more casual styles. Many cardigans specifically made for Lolita fashion have decoration on the sleeves and up the button area. They often come in cute prints, like hearts and polka dots. Cardigans are also easily made at home. And by this I mean you can get a fairly plain one from somewhere like Target or a second hand store and add decoration in the form of bows, cute buttons, embroidery, etc. Use pictures from your favorite fall coordinates and pieces from lolita shops as inspiration!
Blouses & Cutsews
As you probably know, blouses come in long and short sleeves. But what if it's still warm in the daytime and cools off at night? Well, there's such a thing as detachable sleeves. This is a great solution if you want the more formal look of a blouse but with the options that sleeves offer. I know this sounds a little bit tacky, carrying around detached sleeves in your bag. It sort of reminds me of the zip-off pants they make for men. But it's practical and it's not like the sleeves don't match the blouse. All of the above also goes for cutsews, as they come in detachable sleeve styles as well.
Skirts & Jumpers
Skirts are just not something that I wear a ton of. I own them, I occasionally buy them, but for some reason I just don't wear them often. Skirts for cooler months are not so different from other months. The big difference is in materials. In the cool months, items made with heavy fabrics such as velvets start popping up. They give your coordinate a luxurious look, and I personally associate them with Christmas! This also goes for jumpers. If you're finding that you are getting cold easily, try wearing a plain colored underskirt for an extra layer.
This is the big change from summer to winter. Many Lolita companies sell coats specifically designed to accommodate the petticoat shape without crushing it. They come in a variety of styles and shapes. It's easy to get caught up in the options when it comes to coats, but remember, you should build up your wardrobe before you get into this sort of unnecessary but nice item. Many coats are plain color, but you'll often find one or two with a pattern. Usually it's a simple print made to go with lots of different things. Polka dots are the most popular by far. In addition to female styles, many companies that make menswear also make coats for men. Coats are very expensive items, ranging from $100 to over $500.
For fall and winter, there are a lot of new accessory options available. In addition to winter-themed bags and jewelry (think gingerbread houses, snowmen, and candy canes) there are plenty of items to keep you warm. Gloves with bows on them, earmuffs, hats, and scarves are all options! There's also this thing called a hand warmer muff, sometimes you see them in period films. It's the furry-looking thing that the ladies carry around in the winter. Innocent World makes a really cute one, but I haven't seen too many others made specifically for lolitas. There are also removable collars, made from faux fur, that you can add to your coat to dress it up.
Finally, I made a coordinate to illustrate just how to take an outfit from summer to fall.
For this example, I went with the Chained Berry Memoir print from BABY. Why? I don't really know. The summer coordinate uses a headbow with berries and knee socks, as well as a short-sleeved blouse with shirring. The socks keep your legs from overheating, and the short sleeved blouse is a must during the hot summer months. For the shoes I chose these sandal-esque ones from Bodyline. The strawberry bag is a little more casual and brings the red to the center of the outfit. Both coordinates use the same strawberry earrings, ring, and necklace. Over on the fall side, you'll see that I swapped the blouse for a cardigan. I also swapped the strawberry bow for a simpler one. In fact, I took all the red accents out of the coordinate. Thick tights replace the socks to keep your knees from getting cold, and I replaced the sandal-style shoes with normal ones. Finally, a bow bag with rhinestones adds a little sparkle and is perfect for storing gloves and a scarf in for the evening.
So with that, you're all set to take on the cool months! Stay warm!