Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Few Hints About Taobao

Something I frequently get asked about in emails and on places like Facebook is about how I get my head around Taobao. To a beginner, Taobao can be a very daunting place. There are so many different shops and guides, and then you have to learn how to use shopping services. So I decided today that I would share a bit about how I got in to Taobao ordering and where to go for the right advice.



Firstly, you should really check out 4chan. I appreciate that 4chan and the cgl board are seen as quite 'dirty' words in the lolita community and nobody likes to admit that they go on there, but it is possible to go on there without getting dragged in to any drama. Use the catalog to find the latest Taobao thread and you will find in the OP post an extensive guide. It really is the most reliable Taobao guide that I have come across. It has a load of lists for shops, shopping services, FAQs and even a dictionary so that you can search Taobao using Chinese instead of English by simply copying and pasting from the spreadsheet. If you want, you can also read the rest of the Taobao thread, although the guide is usually pinned to the OP post. A lot of people post their hauls in these threads and sometimes you stumble across some really cute stuff which you may have missed. You may even be able to ask the haul buyer where they got their stuff from. Sometimes people place reviews in these threads as well or offer updated advice on how reliable certain shopping services are.

There are a couple of points that sometimes get missed in the threads if you don't check them regularly. So I decided to include a list of pointers that I have learnt from my own experiences of placing Taobao orders.

Make sure to order items such as wrist cuffs in pairs- In the lolita community it probably seems like a bit of a no-brainer that wrist cuffs always come in pairs. But sometimes you will find that some stores only send out one wrist cuff and you don't find out until they have arrived at your shopping service. Look at the price. Does it seem realistic for a pair? Perhaps try emphasizing to your shopping service that you require 1 pair of cuffs so that there isn't any miscommunication. I have actually had an experience where a store ran out of stock of wrist cuffs, and I ended up with just one cuff even though I ordered 2. If you are able to, stick a note when you place your order to make sure your shopping service knows that you want 2 or you wish to cancel this item if they don't have enough stock.

Some stores use real animal fur- This is obviously a huge issue and something you need to be aware of. If you can't tell from the item description that something is definitely made of fake fur, then don't risk ordering it. Real fur tends to feel softer than fake fur.

Sometimes wigs come in multiple sizes- This is something I only discovered very recently myself, and I had no idea! I am yet to stumble across a wig store that offers more than one size. If you do, then either ask your shopping service a question about the sizing or post in the cgl Taobao thread for further advice. This is very confusing and I will edit this post with further information if I discover anything more.

Sometimes shoe sizing charts are incorrect- I have noticed that I have had to go a size up every single time I have ordered shoes from Taobao. Even then they have sometimes been a bit small. According to a lot of size charts, I should be ordering a 39 but instead I have learnt to ignore the charts and order a 41. The shoes can sometimes be a bit narrow too. Proceed with caution, especially if you are new to Taobao.

Lots of Taobao stores will hold sales throughout the year- The biggest sale of the year is usually the one for 11/11 held on the 11th of November. This is a good time to get Taobao items for even cheaper. However, be aware that more people are realising about these sales and because of this, sometimes shopping services get a bit clogged up with all the orders.

Aliexpress can be good for smaller orders- Shopping service fees can add up, and to make the most of this you should generally try to place bigger orders to make the fees more 'worth it'. But if you only want one or two items, I would suggest trying to locate them on Aliexpress. A lot of Taobao stores also have stores on Aliexpress and generally it is cheaper to place smaller orders here. Using Aliexpress basically means you don't need a shopping service, so you don't need to take their fees in to consideration.

A lot of listings will be full of Chinese slang- Google Translate has thrown up some very weird phrases on Taobao! The most common example I have found is "fried chicken". If you see a listing that mentions "fried chicken", don't panic! You are not going to be sent a bucket of KFC. It is simply slang, which means that an item is very good.

Sometimes the colour listings can be confusing- I have seen that a lot of Taobao stores class navy blue as some shade of purple. Another common example is sax blue and mint. It can be very difficult to tell which colour you are getting sometimes.

Don't place orders around Chinese holidays- Placing orders around the time of a national Chinese holiday can be a very painful experience. Everything is slow because all of the stores close, and you wont be able to contact your shopping service when they take time off either. Be aware of placing orders around times such as Chinese New Year. Even when stores start to re-open, it can take a bit of time for service speed to pick up. Weirdly though, there are some Western holidays where you may find your shopping service is working. I remember on one Christmas morning I was messaging Ray from Taobao Spree, who had shipped out my order on Christmas Day. We wished each other a Merry Christmas!

Be careful when ordering homewares- This especially applies to kitchenware and any non clothing that comes in contact with the body *cough*sextoys*cough*. China does not have the same safety regulations as other countries and as a result, sometimes those cute little homewares can actually be quite dangerous. Besides, cute homeware is becoming more popular and although it will probably be more expensive, there are more choices available elsewhere.

Those are just a few hints that I could think of. If I think of any more I will try to add them to this list before I publish it, or I will edit the post at a later date. But chances are, you will find the answer to any questions you may have in the cgl guide or in the cgl Taobao thread. I appreciate that sometimes anonymous people can get a bit snarky if the same questions get asked over and over again, but if you genuinely can't find an answer after a bit of searching then please don't hesitate to ask.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Why Lolita Has Ruined Everyday Shopping For Me

There is nothing I love more than doing a bit of lolita-related shopping online and it's something that takes up a good chunk of my free time. There are just so many auctions and new releases to check out! But before I got in to lolita, I used to love going shopping anyway. Clothes, hobbies, some new cosmetic line... I loved going out and having a good, long shopping session. Eventually, as lolita seeped more and more in to my everyday life, my feelings towards any non-lolita related shopping changed. It no longer feels like a pleasurable experience and if I need to go out and buy something, it fills my heart with dread! I blame lolita for this, as I have found that it has completely changed my views on so many things. I have picked up these little habits and thoughts which I cannot shake off. So here is a list of the ways that lolita has destroyed everyday shopping for me!




Any concept of pricing has gone- See a nice looking blouse in town for £30? In my head that seems expensive. See an auction for a lolita brand blouse for £40 before shipping, service fees and customs? Bargain! I pay loads more for my lolita purchases but when it comes to justifying buying something for my everyday wardrobe, I find myself dithering and wondering if it is really worth it. The crazy thing about this is, I probably wear lolita about 10% of the time and yet when it comes to that other 90% I just can't seem to part with the cash so easily.

I can't buy anything with cheap looking details- Low quality lace, shiny ribbon and other things that tend to make a garment look cheap are something I actively look out for in lolita. The trouble is, I am now doing it with my everyday clothes as well. Although this may sound like a good habit, sometimes I wonder if it really matters. For example, if I wanted to buy some underwear and it had cheap lace on it, who is going to see it? Probably just myself and my husband! And I can tell you with confidence that my husband has never once looked at me and called me out for wearing cheap lace! And yet, I still can't bring myself to buy those cheap lacy undies... There is always that voice in my head telling me that lace wouldn't look out of place on the most hideous ita dress. Oh well, those cheap panties are probably super itchy anyway...

There are no stickers or other cute freebies- Anybody else like collecting those little freebies that come with their Japanese fashion purchases? Stickers, maybe postcards and even a cute shopping bag- I have loads of little collections that I have gathered from buying lolita over the years. Even the price tags are super cute! I also love the experience of visiting a stall at a big lolita event and seeing the stall owners wrap up my items in pastel coloured tissue paper, gently putting them in their cute logo shopping bag and maybe using a cute looking sticker to seal the top of the bag. Do you get that when you go to a bog-standard shop on the high street? No! Here in England you just get asked if you want a plastic carrier bag (and then they inform you that will be an extra 5 pence) and they just shove your stuff in the bag with little care or attention. There are no cute little extras here. Although you can't really blame the retail staff on the high street, as a lot of them are working long hours for a paltry wage and usually there is a big queue of people to deal with. On the rare occasions where you do get exceptional treatment, it makes me appreciate the extra effort that little bit more.

I actually have to try stuff on to check it fits- Usually with lolita clothing I have a pretty good idea if something will fit or not before it has even arrived. And there is always the shirring and waist ties as well. If something really doesn't fit, I have the confidence of knowing I can probably sell it on and get most of my money back. When I go out shopping for stuff like jeans, for example, I have to try them on in the store with no exceptions. I am not sure what clothes stores are like in other countries, but here in the UK we have a big problem with 'vanity sizing'. So you could be a size 8 in one store but a size 10 or 12 in another. And in the cheaper places like Primark, 2 items that are supposedly the same size could in fact be completely different sizes. So it is vital to try things on. That means queuing for ages for an available cubicle, and sometimes the cubicles are not the most clean of places. It all feels like a complete hassle. And the only reason I do it is that I know that if I walk out the store with something that doesn't fit, I will then have the hassle of queuing at the returns counter and wasting more time. Even then, I may get store credit instead of getting my money back.

I have no idea what sort of everyday clothes I even like any more- I know what themes I love in lolita and when I am not wearing lolita I have this sort of casual 'uniform' of jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie. I live in a town where if you wear anything other than jeans, you really look out of place. So a lot of the time when I don't wear lolita, I usually tend to just 'blend in' and I look the same a lot of the time. I work from home too, so I don't usually get much of a chance to dress up usually, because there doesn't seem to be much point. Most of the time, this is fine. However, when a special event comes up, I usually have to go and buy myself a new outfit. And when this happens, I usually don't have a clue what sort of clothing I like. It's been so long that I have brought anything other than casual clothes or lolita, that when I look at all these fancy non-lolita dresses it is a real shock to the system. I had to go outfit shopping for James' work Christmas do last year and I almost had a complete breakdown in the middle of a busy shopping centre! It is because I have become a creature of habit and anything that takes me out of my comfort zone causes panic.

I am always trying to 'lolify' everything- Even when I am trying to switch off the lolita part of my brain, it still has a habit of popping out when I go shopping. I find myself asking if it matches the colours of my lolita wardrobe, even if I have no intention of wearing it as part of a lolita outfit. And accessory shopping is a pain too. I look at stuff and think "If I add a bit of lace to that, it could maybe work for lolita...". As much as I love lolita, I feel the need to take a break from it every now and then and I try not to let it dominate my life. Sadly, I can't always tell my brain to stop thinking as a lolita would!

Even sales don't seem that great any more- Because nothing will ever compare to the Mr Yan Happy Birthday 50% off Everything Sale of September 1st 2011. My friends and I still tell tales of that epic sale to this very day...

"I could be spending this money on brand!"- And finally, what is possibly the most frustrating point on this entire list! I am out shopping and I have finally convinced myself that I really want this item I found... I get to the queue to pay when that voice inevitably creeps in- "What if some amazing bargain has just come up on the Japanese auctions?". And when you are looking for a dream dress there is always the paranoia that as soon as you part with any money, it will suddenly pop up and you no longer have the money for the dress. This feeling of dread has plagued me the entire time I have been in to lolita and to be fair, this fear is well founded. Only a few weeks ago, I was buying something online and something from my wishlist happened to pop up for sale a day later. One of the most important lessons a lolita has to learn is how to get over "the dress that got away".

Something tells me that if or when I leave lolita, these little habits and thoughts are not just going to just go away. To be fair though, lolita has also taught me some really positive things about shopping. I had to teach myself how to budget and be responsible with my money. I take a lot more time to think my purchases through now and if I am having a dilemma about buying something, I will usually ask a friend to talk me through whether I actually want it or not. Well, I hope you enjoyed me sharing my shopping experiences with you all. Maybe you empathised or laughed, or perhaps you completely disagree with me. The important thing is, that despite these little rants in today's post, I still look at my beautiful lolita wardrobe and feel it was all worth it.



Thursday, 9 November 2017

Mollie Makes- Cute Crafting

One of the more interesting aspects of having therapy (which I have now completed! Yay!) is the random discoveries that you make during your journey. A task that I had to complete every single week (and still do now afterwards, because I find it fun) was to do 5 relaxing things every week. Sounds easy, right? Well it can be surprisingly difficult to make time to simply relax and plan what activities you are going to do! As part of this, I decided that I wanted to explore a little bit more the things which I have previously enjoyed, but sort of got pushed aside. A part of this involved going to a store with a huge magazine selection and browsing the general interest section. It was during this time that I stumbled across a magazine called Mollie Makes. The free gift that issue was this cute biscuit keychain. I made a note to myself to buy the magazine the following day when I had more money, but it turned out it was that day that the new issue was coming out. Typical! So I decided to take to Ebay and the like, in search of Mollie Makes issues. I discovered that they could be somewhat relevant to the Japanese Fashion and general Kawaii Community.




So I got this issue of Mollie Makes because the cover photo looked very promising. I was not disappointed. It gives clear instructions on how to make cute stuff, such as the felt macarons you can see here. These would not look too out of place on a lolita accessory. I am having fun coming up with ideas on how I can use this macaron pattern as a base for future crafting projects.




There is also simple embroidery and it talks you through the basic techniques. I think this could be a useful magazine for anybody looking to extend their crafting knowledge or those who dream of selling their own accessories. There is a range of big and small projects- there is a crochet skirt and other clothing as well- and a wide range of variety. Some of the projects will probably not be related to your interests at all, but there is a great deal of potential here as well. There are also interviews with members of the crafting community. It gives a fascinating insight in to the day to day life of your typical crafter. It gives you an idea of where their inspiration comes from.




I am really looking forward to buying further editions of Mollie Makes in the future. In fact, I may delay publishing this so I have a chance to get all the past issues I want! But there are also online patterns and projects if you do not wish to commit and buy a physical copy. I just wanted to give the magazine a bit of a signal boost because I think it could be a useful tool. Out of all the craft magazines I have come across this is one of the best ones I have discovered. I can't wait to make the macarons!

Monday, 6 November 2017

Zodiac Lolita- The Water Signs

Time for another Zodiac Lolita post! Today's post is about the water signs.

Cancer



My star sign! Cancers are soft and put on a hard shell to protect themselves from the big bad world. I feel a bonnet would be a good hair accessory to act as Cancer's shell, as well as long, flowing hair. Cancers tend to have a hard time parting from their favourite items and will hang on to them for ages and wear them lots. With this in mind, vintage pieces and pieces passed down the family are good choices for Cancer Lolitas. They are likely to love pearls or silver jewellery. Seafoam green is a colour often associated with Cancer, so I feel this Pina Sweet Collection dress was a suitable choice, with its soft, feminine layers.


Pisces



Pisces loves to daydream and love romantic touches, such as chiffon and shimmer. They are incredibly affected by water, and tend to be very laid-back and go with the flow. So I decided for my Pisces outfit to go a bit more casual, but with a few bright, glittery pieces. People born under Pisces can be quite secretive and like to keep the dark inside, so they tend to go for pastel colours. Greenish blue and pastel colours tend to be favoured. Pisces is also a big jewellery fan and they can sometimes wear a bit too much. For some bizarre reason, Pisces rules the feet, so they usually love footwear. They are likely to have many different pairs of shoes and will go for bold shoe choices.

Scorpio


Scorpio is a very sexy sign but at the same time, they like to leave something to the imagination. Who knows what lurks underneath Scorpio's clothing? Scorpio is enticing and mysterious. It was a bit difficult to balance the sexiness with the typical lolita aesthetic, so I decided to go for some slight ero elements, rather than full-on ero. Scorpios love lace and the colour black. They would perhaps like burgandy as well, but I decided to go for all-black here. Sexy high heels and boots are popular Scorpio choices. They are also more likely to go for solid coloured pieces which make a statement over prints.

So those are today's zodiac outfits. Please do remember that zodiac signs are not always so clearly defined. These outfit choices could be the complete opposite of your own wardrobe. I had no idea just how difficult it would be to do my own star sign. I kept wanting to pick pieces I liked over what a typical Cancer would pick! Although I admit there are parts of my Cancer outfit that I would definitely wear, so I don't think it was a complete disaster!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Zodiac Lolita- The Air Signs

Today's zodiac lolita post will be focusing on the air signs. I hope people have been liking my choices so far. I have really enjoyed putting these zodiac collages together.


Aquarius



Out of all 12 outfit collages, this one was by far the most difficult! Aquarians tend to be individuals and are very difficult to define. So this collage may not represent the typical Aquarius lolita at all. Aquarius hates boredom and likes to be original and break the rules. They will wear what they want and believe their clothing is a statement as to who they really are. I felt light grey would be an interesting choice for Aquarius, as it is a colour that is not often seen in lolita. So by my reasoning, for lolita this is a colour that makes a statement! Aquarius has a passion for history, so they are likely to go for classic lolita. Remember, Aquarius is the water-bearer with a very close association with water. Just like water, Aquarius is ever-moving and ever-evolving.

Gemini


Gemini is very child-like and love styles that are funky and youth-orientated. With their dual personalities, they tend to favour more than one style and are likely to have closets brimming with clothing for any occasion. Colour and frivolity are good words to describe the Gemini wardrobe. To me, Gemini is about sweet lolita, but they could also possibly be in to fairy-kei. I kept my Gemini choices bright and eye-catching. If they can fit neon elements in to their outfits, they will. The part of the body that gemini rules is the hands. Bracelets, wrist cuffs and pretty rings are good choices for Gemini.

Libra



Libras are fashion-conscious and always strive to look their best. So whilst they like the big brand names, they are also looking for the perfect fit and good quality. Libra is a very romantic sign and Libra is drawn to lace and texture. I felt AP's Katrina OP with its lovely lacy texture would appeal to Libra! Libra is another sign that loves accessories and jewellery, but would never look over-done. Elegance and luxury is very important. Libra doesn't tend to be a flashy or gaudy dresser. They tend to get noticed because their wardrobe has real style.

So despite the problems I had with the air signs, I finally managed to finish them! Be aware, that these outfits may be completely different to your usual style. Zodiac fashion is not always easy to define!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Zodiac Lolita- the Earth Signs

Today I am back with another zodiac lolita post! This time I will be focusing on the Earth signs. So let's see what I can come up with today.


Capricorn



Traditional would be a good word to describe Capricorn. They choose to follow all the established rules to the letter. Capricorns like attention but tend to stay away from flashy fashions. So a Capricorn is more likely to go for understated elegance. Capricorns are the most likely to be in to old-school lolita and white/pale pink seemed a good colour choice for this sign. Capricorns desire quality and see brand names as status symbols. However, they are unlikely to go for head-to-toe brand and will choose some good quality off-brand to go with their brand. Capricorns are massive bag fans, and their bags tend to be big status symbols. They would probably go for well-known bags, such as the Milk heart bag (Yes, I know I used a replica in the collage, but I couldn't find a decent picture of the Milk one at the time). 



Taurus



Taurus tends to be lazy and relaxed. They are all about being pretty, but also comfortable. They are likely to go for pieces that are soft and are pleasing to touch. Chiffon seemed a good choice for this Taurus lolita outfit. Taurus is quite nostalgic and tends to favour styles that made them feel comfortable in the past. So they will usually try to build upon the already discovered. Perhaps they have favourite pieces that appear frequently in their outfits. Taureans prefer a softer colour palette, so I went for a sage green and ivory colour scheme. The part of the body that Taurus represents is the neck, so I chose a blouse with an interesting neckline. Scarves and neck ties are also good choices for the Taurus lolita.



Virgo



Observant, reliable and precise are good words to describe Virgo. The Virgo lolita needs to be neat, polished and perfectly "put together". Virgo loves brand, but don't feel the need to plaster themselves with brand logos. They choose pieces where the good quality does the talking. They like tradition, so like pieces that they know are going to last. Virgos pick timeless over trends. They don't need to go too OTT to be noticed. I would say Virgo is definitely likely to go for classic and Innocent World seems a good choice. Virgo is the most likely to choose deep browns and prefer ivory over pure white.

It will be interesting to see what people think of my Earth sign outfits. I already know one or two lolitas who are not going to agree with my choices for their signs! But this is all meant to be a bit of fun. I tried to base it on typical zodiac personalities rather than actual lolitas I know anyway!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Zodiac Lolita- Starting With the Fire Signs!

So today I am pulling another post out of the archives that I created ages ago and never got around to publishing. Hope it is okay and not cringey!

I was going through some of the old lolita blogs I used to read and I remembered a post about zodiac lolitas, where the blog author created lolita outfits based on the personalities of the 12 Western zodiac signs. I thought this was a really fun idea, so I decided to give it a go myself. First up today is my take on the fire signs!

Disclaimer- There isn't a great deal of "zodiac fashion" information out there so there may be similarities to other zodiac fashion style posts. I tried to keep things as original as possible though. Also, I am not a great believer that everybody can be so clearly defined by 12 zodiac signs, so if you are not a fan of the outfit created for your star sign please try not to take it personally!


Aries



Aries tend to be go-getter leaders. They are independent, bold and courageous. Rules are made to be broken (Gasp! No blouse!) and the Aries lolita is not afraid to stand out from the crowd. The Aries lolita is one that is likely to divide opinions and will get loads of supportive comments, but is just as likely to get posted on cgl. They love bold colours, especially red. The part of the body that Aries rules is the head, so I went for a bonnet, as this is a hair accessory that usually stands out. I felt a red and gold palette was a good option for the bold Aries lolita.



Leo



Leo the lion is energetic and loves attention. They tend to go for bright colours, OTT and are likely to love sweet lolita. Leo lolitas love their brand names and if I were to pink a brand, it would definitely have to be Angelic Pretty. They love to have the latest prints and like having an audience. Just like a lion, Leos are very proud of their 'mane' of hair. Expect big hair styles, full of volume. Although Leos like to stand out, they also like praise, so they tend to stick to the rules. Leos are also big lovers of jewellery. Gold tones are a must-have for Leos, so I made sure to include plenty of gold in this outfit.



Sagittarius



Sagittarius lolitas love freedom. They love to explore and hate boredom. Nature is especially appealing to them, so the Sagittarius lolita is probably the most likely to be inspired by mori girl. I originally considered doing an explorer themed pirate lolita for Sagittarius, but in the end nature won out! Purple is the colour associated with Sagittarius, so I knew right away which dress to choose. They also love layers, but they should be soft and comfortable. I felt the soft bustle on the front of the dress and the chiffon blouse would reflect this. Brown is another colour favoured by Sagittarius and I feel these boots were the perfect choice.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the first installment. I will try to get the other 3 installments out as quickly as possible. Although I don't follow horoscopes, I do find the zodiac signs fascinating. I really hope I captured the fire signs well.

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