One of the most common concerns about Lolita Fashion is the cost. Justifiably, Lolita Fashion has the reputation of being an expensive hobby. All hobbies place a lot of financial investment on thoroughly enjoying and engaging in the culture surrounding it. Lolita Fashion is no different. Japanese brands produce dresses that are priced upwards of $300 so it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and assume that it’s impossible to build a flexible wardrobe on any budget. But there is good news! Lolita Fashion is one that prides itself with a voluminous secondhand market and with newer indie Western & Chinese brands popping up, as well as the international popularity of Japanese brands, more Lolita Fashion is being produced and more secondhand goods are making its way into availability. In this guide, I will explain some shopping techniques to begin and build a financially sensible Lolita wardrobe.
Buying secondhand is the most effective way of entering Lolita Fashion without spending a lot of money. Due to the intricate designs of Lolita dresses, expensive retail cost, long clothing lifespan, and fan devotion, Lolita Fashion has a massive secondhand market in which gently loved (and even not-so-gently loved) pieces travel from person to person. Whether it’s due to “graduating” away from the fashion, changing sub-styles, or just losing interest in a specific item, there’s the hope that someone new is waiting to love an item once more. Buying secondhand is not only good for your wallet but also environmentally friendly. We live in an era of fast fashion and wide-scale clothing waste. Actively engaging in a secondhand market helps counter the attitude of non-permanence with clothing while keeping the spirit of certain trends alive.
Some great websites for buying secondhand Lolita Fashion direct include:
An important shopping tip is realizing that now might not be the right time. Sometimes you just have to collect things at a slower pace but ultimately it’ll end up paying off! It can be frustrating to wait for something to appear cheaper secondhand or to put off a lovely coordinate you’re dying to make but with all things, patience is a great virtue to have and you’ll be surprised at how bulked out your wardrobe will get when you focus on the smaller things. Missed opportunities may not always remain missed opportunities.
I know this one can be very difficult to follow but it’s necessary! A 10%, 15%, 20% coupon sale may not seem like a lot but it can be a large cut in the cost you spend. An $80 item that is 20% off becomes a $64 item. Websites will often even have sales based around the type of article of clothing or the Lolita brand. Even major Japanese brands, such as Angelic Pretty, have regular sales sometimes up to 50% off so make sure to keep an eye out for new updates. Season can also play a part on sales. Buying coats in the summer will always be cheaper than in the winter. Halloween prints will be cheaper to buy outside of autumn. Keeping in mind when a particular piece of clothing will fall out of seasonal style is great for building a wardrobe slowly.
Various websites regularly have shipping discounts depending on how much you spend or during temporary shipping promotions. Group orders also help with shipping costs. If there’s something you can buy in a group, find out if others in your local community are willing to join in for a group order to split shipping costs. Likewise, opting for slower shipping times will help with a lower overhead cost. I know it can be fun to get an item immediately but sometimes waiting a few extra days can really save money. Waiting for the mail to travel can make receiving the item more exciting once it actually arrives. Additionally, buying locally is a great way to save on overall shipping costs. It’s financially convenient to purchase from sellers in your own country or even same state. When buying overseas, the money conversion, as well as potential customs or shopping service fees, can make an initial steal feel like wallet theft instead!
If there’s an item that you can buy from an individual rather than a company, don’t be afraid to ask for payment plans or holds! A lot of Lolitas are generally more considerate to the idea due to understanding cost and desire. This is something I regularly utilize myself, especially for larger purchases or items that appear at inconvenient times. Additionally, some companies are actually receptive to doing payment plans depending on the company so make sure to check FAQs to see if it’s possible! One of the mentioned secondhand websites Takoyaki Co does do payment plans so it’s always worth looking into. $25 a week is a few cups of coffee but also the potential down payment for a dream dress!
Sometimes the easiest money saver is staying focused. Find a main piece and then limit your shopping exclusively to items that will fit that piece. It’s not an uncommon thing to hear of Lolitas who buy main pieces but completely forget about the essentials like blouses, tights, shoes, and accessories. Likewise, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of people who buy items that ultimately end up not suiting their tastes. Keeping focused will help circumvent impulse spending while also making sure you purchase things you will actually wear.
There’s lots of “loli-able” items that you can find in local thrift shops & antique stores. Antique brooches, nice blouses, simple tights, purses, or even heels can help bulk out your wardrobe for significantly less. In fact, before international shipping and variations in sizing became more common, beginning Western Lolitas could often only rely on thrifting, handmade, and secondhand vintage goods to imitate the Lolita look.
The holidays are a great time for receiving gifts. If there’s a Lolita item just out of reach, include it on your holiday or birthday wishlist! A family member or friend might surprise you with the item or possibly the funds towards it.
At the end of the day, Lolita Fashion is a hobby. It’s important to determine what you’re able to achieve with your current living & financial situation. If you’re not able to have fun because you’re stressed due to other more serious financial pressures, it’s okay to take a break and wait for circumstances to improve. When I first thought about starting Lolita Fashion, I was still in college and unable to schedule the time or money. I put it on hold and it would be over two years before circumstances changed. And that’s okay! I’m glad I waited because now I can more readily enjoy the fashion without feeling stressed. It’s important to create a realistic budget and be aware of potential opportunities. Don’t feel pressured to compulsively buy a lot because it’s perfectly healthy to go at your own pace. Lolita Fashion will continue to exist and flourish, and while now may not be the right time to enter, it’ll always be waiting for you!
Hopefully these tips will help you develop habits and methods for building an affordable Lolita wardrobe within your own budget. Whether it’s $20 or $200, supporting brands and the services around them is crucial to keeping Lolita alive and active.
Thanks for reading and happy shopping!
I also have a series of blog posts called Carousel! where I post about cheap Lolita deals I’ve found recently!