Frilly Fashion 101: Deciding on a Substyle

If you want to start wearing lolita fashion, you’ll need to pick a substyle, at least when starting out. Let’s do a little bit of an exploration.

Lolita fashion has many substyles, from sweet, classic, gothic, ero, pirate, punk, country, and many more. But the three major substyles are Sweet, Gothic, and Classic. I wish I had better photos of each substyle, but I don’t want to post photos from others without permission. Considering how bad art/photo theft is(more on that in another post).

An attempt I did at gothic lolita. You’ll have better examples if you image search for “gothic lolita fashion”

If you’re just starting out, I must emphasize that there are no rules in the fashion that say you must wear only one of the major substyles. But I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize how much easier it is to start off in one of the three main substyles.

Me in sweet, my main substyle.

While it’s possible to build a versatile capsule wardrobe with all three substyles, it’s not a 101 level project. It is usually better to build a wardrobe with one substyle of lolita fashion in mind, at first. That’s because it makes your wardrobe more easily cohesive to push you through the ita phase faster. You might be special enough to pull it off as a beginner, but if you’re also coming from a very basic fashion style(jeans and tshirts) odds are you are not in that category.

An attempt I did at classic lolita. You’ll have better examples if you image search for “classic lolita fashion”

A note on switching substyles: I wear sweet but initially bought a JSK because I wanted to wear classic lolita. I loved how much more the looks were toned down. Thankfully, as the JSK is all cream and the flowers are detachable, it can be coordinated in both sweet and classic, perhaps even gothic if I get really creative. How can it be classic with the heart shaped eyelet lace? With some vintage heart pins come to mind first of all. The lace isn’t terribly loud so it could potentially be overlooked, depending on the entirety of the look.

My first JSK. Bought through Bodyline in 2015.

From my own experience and and from talking with other lolitas about their experiences, I found classic and gothic are gateways to getting a lolita in the door. Despite the very specific aesthetics of each, many become sweet converts, perhaps after discovering a lovely print by a brand like Angelic Pretty or Baby the Stars Shine Bright. I know I’m certainly in that camp. My holy grail dress is AP’s Moon Night Theater in black or white.

This could potentially be coorded in any of the main 3 as well, but more on that in an advanced post

So pick a style to start with, play around with it! Maybe opt for a JSK that can work between a substyle or two. This will help you figure out the direction you want to take your coordinates.