Last week I saw Angelic Pretty’s British Bear special set for the first time and thought “wow, that’s an ugly dress.” I think the combination of bright yellow, wine red, navy blue, tartan, ribbon and bears in those proportions is a visual assault. The yellow is particularly offensive, and reminds me of really cheap American mustard or squeeze cheese. You don’t really want to think of condiments when your aims are cuteness and elegance.
However, as a hardcore fan of metamorphose and a general worshipper at the altar of ugliness I have a little soft spot for the dress and set about to make myself immune to it’s eye-burning qualities by putting together a cute outfit around it. My original aim was to integrate the yellow, but as you can see that didn’t happen. I went for just j-fashion brand items for this little self imposed challenge, but you could totally do this with high Street clothes and a few lolita specific items. I’m going to refer to this ugly dress throughout, so bear it in mind. Get it, BEAR it in mind?!
I want to say up front that I am really not a master of this fashion, this is not necessarily a “good” outfit by everyone’s tastes and standards, and these are just tips I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me. They might not be helpful for you, but hopefully it’ll be an enjoyable read and give you something to think about when putting together your outfits.
Tip 1. Pick your feature colours
For this outfit I decided to pick the blue from the ribbon and beige from the bears in the print. In this case, I also added a bit of white because it’s neutral, it’s slightly featured in the print and I felt that if I didn’t use it the whole outfit would be way too saturated with colour and look gaudy. When thinking about your outfit consider which colours are more prominent than others in the dress, if one colour is really overpowering in the dress, consider featuring other colours so your outfit doesn’t become visually dull.
Colour theory is probably not too important in Lolita fashion in general, but it might help you when you’re trying to pick which colours to feature in your outfit. Colour theory dictates you should either choose colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel or directly next to the colour you’re trying to use. In this case the blue looks way more complimentary to the yellow than red might because there is more contrast. Red is on the same part of the wheel, so an outfit of red, orange and yellow might look a bit dull, but blue on the opposite side brings out the yellow so the outfit is more striking. Plus, red and yellow together is McDonald’s colours.
In the case of this Innocent World dress, the natural choice for me seems to be beige because it’s featured strongly in the back of the panels on the border print – but there is dusty pink in the roses which would also make a great choice and stick to our colour theory rules because pink is next to red on the wheel.
Tip 2. Choose your motifs and theme
So in the case of our British Bear outfit the motifs are regal/military and bears. Breaking it down loosely by item looks kind of like this:
Not all the items fit exactly into the categories but you get the point, the motifs are spread around the outfit, with some falling into multiple categories. To me, bows are a neutral item in Lolita whereas other accessories might not be. For example, with the Innocent World dress, I’d definitely use bows and flowers as accessories but I probably wouldn’t use stars because the idea of stars and flowers together just doesn’t work in my head.
Think about the overall theme you’re going for and if the items you’ve put together match that theme and whether they’re well distributed around the outfit. If you’ve got a big, heavy headpiece up top, you’re going to need to balance that out somewhere around the bottom, so consider a fancy underskirt, leg wear or shoes so you don’t look like you’re about to topple over.
You can see on this Angelic Pretty mannequin, they have also chosen the dark blue from the ribbon as the feature colour, with little hints of red. This outfit is much simpler than the one I’ve put together and they have created balance in the outfit by pulling the blue from the bottom of the dress up to the top of. They also added another ribbon to the headpiece to bring more blue up there. I’d love to know what they did for leg wear! As far as theme goes, I think they have decided to take up a more traditional cute outfit, rather than pulling any royal or teddy bear themes into the outfit.
Tip 3. Consider the “mood” of the items
I think this is a mistake that a lot of people, including myself, often make. I regularly see very elegant outfits with really cutesy shoes? Obviously, we can’t all afford to buy a new pair of shoes for every outfit, so I don’t think it’s such a big deal, and mixing genre is more common these days, but I feel like you have to mix them proportionally or else things just look a little bit off. Here’s how the breakdown looks for our ugly bears outfit…
So, some items are just cute or elegant, but most of them fall into both. With this outfit we’ve also gone for a winter theme – hence why cotton and wool are our go-to fabrics, with a bit of fur because it’s appropriate for the outfit. Seasonality can also be important to consider, especially if you live somewhere where there are very extreme seasons and temperatures.
This AP dress would be a great dress to use to play with fabrics, textures and the idea of seasonality – it has cotton, lace, fur and a strong winter theme. You could go crazy on the cute and wintery side and wear a muff, a fur capelet, a big wool coat, fur lined boots or any other cute fuzzy item. It also crowns features in the print so you could go elegant and pull of a snow queen theme with a gold crown, lace gloves, snowflake accessories and gold heels. It even has little pearls, so a Vivienne Westwood pearl necklace with her signature gold charm could look really cool!
However, out Innocent World floral dress doesn’t immediately scream “cute” so a pair of tea parties might not be a good idea for this outfit. I would say this dress falls more into the “elegant” side of things so I would probably be looking to put together a really elegant outfit with heels and a lovely chiffon pussy bow blouse. However, if cute is more your style, then I would suggest you need to add a consideration for “character” into your outfit building process.
To me, this dress has the vague mood of a traditional alpine dirndl with a similar cut and floral detailing. When I think about styling the hair in a traditional braid over the head and threading in ribbon and flowers to the hair, the overall mood suddenly becomes much cuter, to a point where tea parties probably wouldn’t look out of place. The character of the Alpine girl also brings to mind images of spring to me, which makes me want to pull spring green into the outfit too. Going back to our colour wheel, green is on the opposite side from red, so we could probably work it out.
I am definitely not saying “dress up as a character” but sometimes I find it really helpful to think something like “I want to express an elegant Victorian lady visiting the fair” or “I want to express a cute shepherdess” or “I want people to be intimidated by my moody look” when I am putting together my outfits. It’s also good to think about the overall character of your outfit, and where the influence and inspiration of each item in your outfit comes from. Your outfit might look odd because there’s one fancy Rococo item mixed in with lots of much plainer, Victorian themed items – in which case it’s time to take away the fancy piece or balance it out around the outfit.
This post is getting on a little bit now, and I feel like I’ve expressed the key points that I follow when putting outfits together. Hopefully I’ve guided you through the process of outfit making in a way that is easy to follow and you are now feeling inspired. For more guidance about particular items that a Lolita outfit should contain, please click here.
COLOURS – Which colours are you choosing to emphasise? Are they balanced throughout, do they work well together?
THEMES – Which themes are you going to play with for this outfit? How are you going to express them? Do your chosen items fit the theme, could a stranger tell the theme if they looked at it?
MOOD – What kind of mood would you like to convey? Try and keyword how your items fit into this mood and check they are balanced. Is your outfit suitable for the season? Do you want to express some element of the season in your outfit?
CHARACTER – Are you trying to convey a character or emotion? How does that character fit in with your colour, themes and mood? Can you summarise your character in a few words?
Let me know if this quasi-tutorial was helpful and definitely post any outfits you’ve made in the comments if you use any of these tips! Or, if you don’t find them useful let me know in the comments what inspires you when you’re putting outfits together. Fashion is fun, so enjoy it!