Monday, 31 October 2016

A Snowy Christmas Eve Mysterious Gift by Alice and the Pirates

Happy Halloween! Let's talk about a Christmas print! My least favourite holiday of the year is sadly fast approaching, so let's talk about A Snowy Christmas Eve Mysterious Gift by Alice and the Pirates. This series includes 2 dresses, a skirt, 2 hair accessories, 2 blouses, a rosette, a necklace and socks.

First up is the Ribbon JSK. The bodice seems reasonably well fitted but the overall shape is a bit simple. Despite there being lace on the outsides of the straps and along the neckline, it doesn't really draw you in or look that exciting. The straps are an okay width and look quite supportive. The bodice features a gift ribbon design, with ribbon going across and down the bodice to make it look gift wrapped. This works really nicely, even though the ribbon is a bit shiny. These lines of ribbon are lined neatly with lace. The bow that tops the ribbon has an interesting shape and I think it looks really pretty. So it is a shame that the rest of the dress looks so plain in comparison. I feel that more could have been done to this dress, without it looking overwhelming. Some simple changes, like a different lace choice, could have really helped. The back is fully shirred, which means lots of size flexibility, but also means the shirring has nothing covering it. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full and it flares outwards a lot. There is the potential to create a great shape. The simple skirt design means the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off with a line of ribbon and a thin line of lace. This bottom hem does at least match the ribbon on the bodice, but I still feel more could have been done with this dress design overall.

This is the Napoleon JSK. The bodice seems very well fitted and the shape is interesting, although I think the scoop neckline sits a little too low for my personal tastes. The straps look a good width. There is no lace at all lining the straps or the neckline. I do get that this is meant to be a military inspired design (perhaps AatP felt that lace was too frilly) but I feel some sort of trim is needed. If the right choice of lace had been used, it wouldn't have detracted from the military style. The bodice features 3 double lines of braid, which have fancy swirly bits going around the buttons at the ends. The braid has been used quite well and the details look well spaced out. I like that the buttons have a nice emblem design to them. 

And just when you think AatP have made this dress all about the sharp military details, there is a secret bow on the back! I am not a fan of this bow to be honest, as I feel the design looks too cutesy. It looks really out of place and I am glad that it is hidden away at the back. Trouble is, I worry that bow it going to look a bit bumpy hidden underneath a bolero. As we can see, this dress offers a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset.

The stock photos show that the skirt is very plump and rounded. I think the skirt shape looks a bit ridiculous (and photoshopped) in the photos, but it is good to know that you can potentially create a very full shape, and that it should hold lots of petticoat. The skirt is again kept simple in design, so the print is displayed brilliantly. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a pleated trim, so at least some effort was made with the trim here.

Finally, here is the print. This series comes in ivory, bordeaux, green and black. I think the gold looks a bit too bright and gaudy on the bordeaux version, but otherwise the colour choices are pretty good and work nicely. As for the print itself, I like how having a slight Christmas theme to it, it doesn't scream 'Christmas Print'. The theater seating and stages are set out beautifully. I especially like the detailing on the gold bits of the curtains. There is the odd snowflake, nutcracker and gingerbread man flying around, but the Christmas theme is mostly kept to the scenery in the back of the stages. The scenes on the stages are interesting and drawn well, with lots of little details to them. I really like the sweet, gingerbread props hiding away in the background. 

I feel this print could have a lot of potential, but I am not sold on the dress designs. They are not bad dresses, but they could have been better. Overall, they are just a bit underwhelming. I am at least impressed with the balance of the Christmas theme though. I would say this was more of a Winter time print, rather than specifically Christmas, which makes it a bit easier to wear. Sadly though, I would not buy this series. If I did, I think I would choose the Ribbon JSK in green. I would just have to liven it up a bit with my accessory choices.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Dark Inspiration- Salem

So here is a little random fact about me- I am a fan of the TV series Charmed. Well, mostly the first few series, as it got incredibly silly towards the end. James and I had only seen up to the end of series 5 previously and earlier this year, we decided to go through the entire 8 series. Sadly, the last few series has ruined it a bit for me, but I will always have a place in my hearts for the first few series. As we were looking for a Charmed replacement to fill our desire for 'witchy' TV shows, we got searching online and came across another series called Salem.

Far from being a cheesy but lovable monster-of-the-week format, Salem is based on the 17th century witch trials and how the witches remain hidden in their small puritan town. I am not going to lie- there are things about Salem which definitely could have been done better and there are times when the script makes me cringe a bit. But after watching the first few episodes, I found enough that I liked about Salem to keep me going. The plot is a lot darker and the scenery is very atmospheric. 

Although the characters are not always that likable, I loved how the series has a lot of strong female characters. In a time when a man's word holds far more power than a female's word ever could, the witches are ruthless and able to get their own way far more than you would expect. Initially the character of Mary Sibley seems weak, and she ends up marrying the head councilor of the selectmen board, after her true love John fails to return when promised. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Mary is well and truly calling the shots, and without giving away any spoilers she soon finds herself in a position of power within the town.

But another thing I love about Salem is the costumes. As Mary takes on the role of head councilor's wife, she is dressed in a way you would not expect somebody from a puritan town to dress. To reflect her new wealth and power, her clothing becomes more extravagant. We start to see her in more luxurious fabrics, such as furs. Although Mary favours dark colours, as do most of the residents, there is a lot of gold and jewels. As a lover of all 3 of the main lolita sub-styles, the gothic and dark classic lolita in me can't help but admire Mary's beautiful outfits. In fact, a lot of the wealthier characters in the show have very inspirational wardrobes. I do know that the costume department for Salem has been receiving a great deal of praise. There are so many ornate and delicate little details. 

With this is mind, and with Halloween fast approaching, I decided to come up with a Salem and Mary inspired lolita mood board. I think Mary would be very enamored with the indie brand VooDoooDolly and would also be a fan of a lot of the darker Alice and the Pirates pieces. Making this collage threw up a lot of interesting thoughts about 'witch lolita' and how they almost always feature a pointy witch hat. But what if you are unable to reveal your witch identity? So I wanted my mood board to focus on a more 'luxurious' dark lolita look rather than a specific witch lolita look. I made sure to include gold details, as well as some fur trim and a hat similar to the one in the screen shot Mary is wearing above. I also wanted to include a corset (as they feature heavily in the show) but unfortunately I could not find one which didn't look cheap or fitted the image I was going for. I settled on a corset style choker instead.

Series 3 of Salem starts early November and I am hoping I will be able to find a way to watch it. I am a bit lover of all these witchy dramas and movies. I love Hocus Pocus and The Craft. It always feels like this is a good time of the year to curl up on the sofa and enjoy these classics and I hope I am able to do so over the Halloween weekend. Do you know of any good witch themed or gothic style shows and movies? Feel free to comment with your favourites. And I hope you all have a Happy Halloween!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Heavenly Cross by Angelic Pretty

Today I am looking at Heavenly Cross by Angelic Pretty. This series includes 2 dresses, a skirt, a head bow, tights, an umbrella and a cardigan. Additionally, a lot of other cross themed items have also been released under the name Brilliant Cross.

First up is the OP. The bodice seems well fitted for chiffon, and the shape is pretty. I especially like the sleeve shape, with the lovely bell sleeves. The sleeves look a decent length and have plenty of stretch in the cuffs. The lace on the cuffs sits so neatly and it has a pretty cross pattern on it. I think the ribbon used for the bows on the cuffs is a bit too shiny though. There is a waist bow, which is equally shiny. It is an okay shape and size. I actually think they could have gotten away with making this waist bow a bit bigger. This waist bow is detachable, and I probably would detach it, so that all attention was on the bodice lace. The bodice has some small thin lines of lace running up it, which are kept subtle, to make way for the more detailed lace on the chest area. The lace on the bodice really matches the print. I don't even mind the little lace cross just beneath the choker, as with this series it feels quite appropriate. My only concern is that the lace cuts across the shoulders, and I would worry that would draw attention to wide shoulders. The lace neck details look nice and match the lace used on the bodice, but I don't like the ribbon details on the collar. The ribbon looks cheap and tacky. The back offers no shirring, so there is limited size flexibility. It at least looks as though the print lines up fairly well along the zip line, but in the stock photos there is an obvious crinkle in the chiffon material where the zip is. The stock photos show that the skirt has loads of volume and it flares outwards generously. There is plenty of room for petticoat. The skirt design is kept simple, so the print is displayed fairly well. However, I really hate how the printed chiffon overlay is a great deal longer than the base dress underneath. I personally think it looks really strange having a load of chiffon material at the bottom like that and I think it looks messy. Also, where the base dress ends happens to be right in the middle of the crosses making the border part of the print. So you have part of the big crosses set against the dress underneath, which stand out perfectly and then the bottom half of these crosses has no solid background to really make the print 'pop' and stand out. Both the overlay and the dress underneath are finished neatly with lace going along the bottom hem. This lace is kept quite simple, but it looks neater with this more subtle lace choice.

Next is the JSK. The bodice seems reasonably well fitted and is overall a pretty shape. I think the straps are a bit on the thin side and risk slipping down, but I adore the lace on the outsides of the straps. This wide lace has been layered, and the result is very frilly looking. It almost mimics the appearance of short sleeves and I would almost be tempted to wear this JSK without a blouse. However, again it may not be the best design f you feel self-conscious about having wide shoulders. The waist bow is a bit big but it has a firm, well defined shape to it. It sits well on the dress with no signs of any drooping. It doesn't appear to be detachable though, and the style of the waist bow may be a bit too sweet for some. The bodice features a ribbon corset, with many lines of lace on either side. The ribbon is well spaced out and the choice of ribbon doesn't look as shiny as the ribbon used on the OP. Although the lace along the neckline has a lovely design to it, I think it looks a bit messy. I feel a thinner, less ruffly lace choice would have looked smarter. The back has a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full and it flares outwards loads. There is the potential to create a very rounded and voluminous shape. The skirt design is pretty much the same a the OP skirt design, and it suffers the same problem with the overlay length. It does at least look as though the base dress reaches more of the border print crosses on the JSK though.

Finally, here is the print. This series comes in white, pink, lavender and black. I find myself being really drawn to the white version of this print, which is weird because the print doesn't really show up on the white version! But maybe this more subtle take is pretty in a different way compared to the other colours which show the print more. I would have actually liked it if the crosses on the black version had been black. Otherwise, the colour options seem okay, although I find the pink version a little underwhelming. As for the print itself, for once I find myself not hating all these AP crosses, but maybe that is because the print is almost all crosses and they don't look completely out of place. I quite like the lacy take on the crosses, which is a good match for the heavy use of lace on the dresses. I especially like the detailed lacy border at the bottom. I also noticed that one of the crosses seems to have a crescent moon hidden in the design, which is a nice touch.

Maybe this cross-heavy series will help Angelic Pretty to get over their current obsession with crosses, and for once I am actually in favour of the crosses. I think the cross print fits well with the dress designs and the lacy crosses were a good idea. Although there is the odd thing I would tweak with both dresses, especially with the length of the skirt overlays. Would I buy this series? No, I would not because this AP take on 'gothic' has never really been my thing anyway. If I did, my top choice would be the JSK in white. I really love how toned down the white version of this series looks and think it looks positively angelic (sorry...). I did briefly consider getting the tights and umbrella though, before deciding against it.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Supply Versus Demand

Like many people, I was really looking forward to the Automatic Honey Halloween release when it came out last Friday. I especially loved the tarot card necklace in black. However, as this release came out at 4 A.M UK time and I knew it was going to sell out fast, I didn't even bother attempting to go for it. What I wasn't expecting, was for it to sell out quite as fast as it did. People furiously refreshing their screens at 4 A.M on the dot, unable to get on the site, let alone get things in to their cart... it was a good old-fashioned lolita bloodbath. 

My Facebook wall soon flooded with people updating on whether they had managed to get hold of anything (most had not). Suddenly, there were calls for a Made-to-Order and rumours going around that AH had only made 20 of each piece. So if 20 was made for all 4 colours, there would have been 80 of each piece in total. Whilst 80 may seem like a lot, that number pales in comparison to the number of people who liked AH's post when they announced this collection. Which brings us on to the issue of supply versus demand.

I am going to use Angelic Pretty as the example here, as I am sure that is the example that most of you will be familiar with. It is funny to think that this time last year, we were still talking about Angelic Pretty's bloodbath releases. Every time a hyped series came out (which at the time felt like almost every single one of them, with only the odd flop here and there) stories would come out about how quickly the series sold out, how quickly people were scalping stuff on the auctions and about the ticket system AP used for the queues at their physical stores. Then something changed. Angelic Pretty decided to increase the amount of stock they put out. Now when an Angelic Pretty series comes out, it is a lot easier to get hold of it. In fact, when was the last time an Angelic Pretty series sold out as quickly as they did in the old days? This will be partly down to the recent series not being as popular, but also because AP simply has more stock to shift. It is interesting to see that on places such as cgl (yes, I do go on there and browse the Lolita General threads from time to time) you get people from time to time asking how popular a series is going to be, so that they can gauge how likely it is that a series will go on sale later. It is interesting to see it swing from people desperately trying to grab a shopping service slot, to a series selling so slow that people are questioning how long they can hold out and potentially get a bargain. In the Summer Sale this year, some dresses went down to roughly £60. At that price, even I was tempted to grab that lesser loved series. 

These bargains are great news for us, but I can't help but wonder what is going through the AP manager's minds at the moment. If these dresses are going to be so hard to shift, will they consider reducing the stock amount again in the future? Already we are seeing a lot more special sets coming out, which are cheaper to make and have fewer details, and those cheaply priced sets are selling far better than the big releases. And there are other areas where I think AP have been cutting corners as well. When I got hold of that Little Bird's Symphonia skirt recently (which originally came out in 2012) I looked at the cute bird lace at the bottom and thought about how AP don't really go all-out with their custom lace now in comparison to the 2012 era. We are seeing a lot of the same lace used over and over again, which often has a simpler design. There is also the odd comment here and there that the quality of the materials seems to have dipped just slightly. But if the series are not selling as well, it makes sense to look at ways of making the releases cheaper.

Another thing to consider is re-releases. When it comes to Angelic Pretty, the series which I frequently see mentioned as desired re-releases are Honey Cake, Cinema Doll and Cat's Tea Party. But with Honey Cake, it was initially an unpopular series. When it originally came out, it ended up in the sale. It was only afterwards that we saw this increase of interest in the series. Even then, just because it gained more popularity over here in the West, it doesn't mean it is as popular in Japan or the rest of Asia. If I was Angelic Pretty, I would be hesitant to re-release Honey Cake, as the market is giving out some very mixed messages. Take a look at the Melty Cream Donuts re-release, which at the time of writing this post has been available for a week and a half. I know a lot of people who were excited about this series coming out again, but only the OP is sold out. Both the JSKs and the skirt are available on their website in every colour still. Maybe Angelic Pretty would have been better off just releasing the OP instead of the whole series, seeing as that is obviously the cut that everybody was after.

My point is, stock levels are always hard to judge, no matter how big or small your brand is. As popular as they may be right now, Automatic Honey is a small indie brand, who probably don't have that many staff. I would absolutely love it if AH did a Made-to-Order of their Halloween stuff, but it may be beyond their means right now. Yes, they could have seen the number of likes they attracted and considered if their stock amount was adequate, but there would have been too little time to potentially make more. Sometimes brands really misjudge how much stock is needed, but lolita fashion is not always the most stable of markets. I know a few people who run indie brands with varying levels of success and I have learnt that setting up a small business like this can be absolutely terrifying. You may think you have come up with a great idea, only for it to not sell well. It is a lot of time and money to invest. If nothing else, hopefully Automatic Honey will see how well this Halloween stock did and will consider making changes in the future. In the mean time, I guess I will be seeing you all in the sales groups if somebody decides to sell that necklace!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Dreaming of Little Lover by Baby the Stars Shine Bright

Today I shall be taking a look at Dreaming of Little Lover by Baby the Stars Shine Bright. This series includes 2 dresses, a skirt, 2 hair accessories, a blouse and socks.

First up is JSK I. The bodice seems well fitted and the shape is lovely. I was initially unsure about the pointed waistline, but it has grown on me. The straps look a very supportive width and I like that they have been lined neatly with lace on the outsides. I am not overly wowed by the choice of lace, which appears on the straps, neckline and on the bodice, but it is at least of a fairly good quality. It is a lace that Baby likes to use quite a lot, so I guess it always feels a bit nostalgic if nothing else. The bodice features a ribbon corset which is lined neatly on either side with some similar lace, but this lace has golden lines threaded through it, which looks really pretty. It also keeps the sides of the ribbon corset looking tidy. I am not fond of the choice of ribbon for the ribbon corset though. It feels too light and wispy, which results in you not being able to make out the criss-crossed ribbon pattern that easily. Something a bit less transparent could have possibly worked better. Above the ribbon corset there is a semi-circle of lace which is topped with a generously sized bow. The lace is layered well and all the details appear to sit nicely on top of each other. I think the bow is a bit big, but it has a cute shape to it and it holds its shape brilliantly. It is nice having the Baby charm dangling from the centre of the bow as well. The back has a panel of shirring which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt looks very full and nicely rounded. It flares outwards generously and I think there is a lot of potential to create a lovely sweet shape. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed perfectly. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a double ruffle of glittery tulle, which looks very soft and floaty. 

Here we have JSK II. The bodice seems reasonably well fitted, although I think the bodice shape is a bit dull. I am not that keen on the square neckline. The straps look a very supportive width though. The straps are topped with lace, which then continues down on to the bodice to line a yoke. Again, I think the lace choice is okay, but honestly I think a prettier choice of lace could have been used. I also feel the gathering of the yoke material could have been done neater, or maybe the fabric could have been pleated instead. The bow topping the yoke is a cute shape and sits firmly in place, but I feel this chest bow could be just slightly smaller, especially if the waist bow is left attached. As for the waist bow, it is a bit big and I think the shape of this bow is a bit basic. As mentioned, this waist bow is detachable, and I think I would detach it. I think the dress looks better balanced out when the waist bow is detached. Underneath the yoke, the bodice features 2 small ribbon corsets. These ribbon corsets feature some well spaced out ribbon and more importantly, the choice of ribbon feels more suitable than the ribbon used on the other JSK. These ribbon corsets are also lined very neatly with lace. I really like how these ribbon corsets are very simplistic and subtle in design, so it doesn't overwhelm the yoke. My only complaint is I think the ribbon corsets could do with being placed a bit further apart from each other. The back has a panel of shirring which is once again topped very neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt seems to have loads of volume and flares outwards generously. It should hold plenty of petticoat underneath it. This skirt features a bustle on the front, which has well proportioned tiers. The tiers are well layered and sit well on top of each other. I like that each tier is neatly lined with a thin line of lace as well, which is a lovely finishing touch. It stops the tiers bottom hems looking too plain. The overall size and shape of the whole bustle is pretty good as well. Despite the bustle, the print is still displayed beautifully at the sides. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of boring looking, but good quality lace.

Finally, here is one part of the print...

... and another part. This series comes in pink, sax blue, green and red. The colour choices have that typical Baby look to them and I think they all suit the print very well. As for the print itself, I feel it captures a lot of the sweet sentimental moments of being a lolita. We see the lolita dressing up, displaying what is maybe one of her favourite dresses, a nice afternoon tea scene and holding on to her beloved Usakumya doll. It is all very sweet and done in that typical Baby style. The house almost looks like a dollhouse, and it looks very apt for the lolita we can see inside the house. It is all set out very neatly. I really like the floral background and the roses at the bottom of the print too. It all feels quite romantic and shows off the best things about being a lolita.

So overall I think the dress designs are quite pleasant and the print is lovely. There are perhaps some things I would tweak about both dresses, but nothing too major. The print is adorable too. This is maybe not a print that I would go out of my way to own, but I appreciate the sentiment behind it. My top choice would be JSK I in green. One thing I will say though, is that I think the series name is a bit weird (maybe that is just me). I really hope this series does well for Baby.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Recent Haul October 2016

Last time I did a haul post I said I probably wouldn't be doing another for a while, as my wardrobe is currently quite full. However, things have not exactly gone according to plan, so here is another haul post! In all fairness, I have sold a few bits and some of these items are technically replacements. Fortunately most of my wishlist is small accessories now, and I don't have to worry too much about those.

My first of my recent purchases is this Baby Double Ribbon Bag in off-white. This is my first ever purchase from Mercari, although I took a chance and used Japonica, hoping the item would still be available when they went to buy it. There are lots of good deals on Mercari, but unless you have the app you can't see if some of the items have sold or not. There are ways of getting around this, but I decided getting this bag wasn't too urgent, so I wasn't too worried if Japonica couldn't get hold of it. I wanted this bag as a replacement to my other white Baby bag, which is very battered and all the coating is flaking off the handles. I would use this bag and then come home to find I had to brush white flecks off everything and the handles also didn't look pleasant to look at. So I purposely went for a different Baby bag design, and as I already own this style of bag in black I decided to give the white a try. Thankfully, the handles on this bag are done a lot differently and I am very confident that they are going to last a long time. The bag is in good condition with only a few small signs of wear. Although the bag has a sweet design, I will probably use it with my more sweet-classic and mature sweet outfits as well, as I think I can just about get away with it.

The only real sign of wear I found was that the layers of the bow tails have separated. A bit of glue will soon fix that up. The bows on my old white Baby bag were showing signs of damage, so I am going to be more careful about storing this bag, as I feel the bows may be a vulnerable area.

The main reason I like this particular bag design is that it actually has enough room to store stuff! I carry so much stuff with me and most lolita bags are ridiculously small, so I love having a cute bag design that can hold all of my junk. There are a couple of pockets inside to look after the small, important things and an additional handle so I can adjust the way I wear the bag. The only trouble is, I haven't figured out what to do with my old bag. I don't know if I can really sell it, given the condition, but at the same time it could still be used if the handles were replaced. The lolita second hand market appears to be quite stagnant right now, especially here in the UK. Perhaps I would be better off just getting rid of it.

Next up are these Angelic Pretty Twinkle Carnival socks in ivory. I own carousel prints and a few pieces I could use these with, which is my justification for getting them. Also... glittery golden ponies. Need I say any more? I got these off Yahoo Auctions and I was surprised to see that they arrived with the original tags and the tiny metal clip that would have originally held the socks together. They definitely have been used, as the AP logo on the heel is a little worn off. I am always fascinated to see how well other lolitas store their items. Some people really do keep every single tag and treat their wardrobe as if it is a museum collection. I think it is an impressive display of care and attention. It is very easy to just chuck the tags in a pile and forget all about them until after you have sold stuff.

I tried to get a close up of the ponies but it didn't come out very clear! I can just about read the AP logo in person, but in photographs it looks so blurry. The glitter on the socks is perfect.

Finally, I have a new skirt! This is Angelic Pretty's Little Birds Symphonia in ivory. I was going to get the dress, but somebody got to it before me when it popped up on Wunderwelt recently. But this is a print that I have wanted ever since it first came out and I am still very happy to get the skirt. I was initially concerned that the skirt may be a bit short, and it does sit a few inches above my knees, but AP skirts from that particular time did tend to be a bit on the shorter side. The waist measurements on Lolibrary do seem accurate as well.

A close up of the print. I remember when I first saw this series and fell in love with the combination of the bird cages and the roses. I initially wanted the sax blue, but I have since completely fallen out of love with the colour sax blue as a whole, so I found myself looking for the ivory for this series. I really miss this era of Angelic Pretty and I wish they would go back to releasing more prints like this. And I know that if Sammi and Shalisa are reading this they are going to be saying "oh look, the crazy bird lady has yet another bird themed print"! Well I have decided to embrace my love of all things bird-related!

Look at the birdy lace! I really love it when AP go all out with the lace.

I had completely forgotten that this skirt had a bustle on the back. This is my very first bustle, as I am bottom-heavy and have always worried bustles would make me look too big at the back. Thankfully, this bustle doesn't sit too badly on me! I think the bustle is a good size and shape. I like the each tier is lined with the bird lace. I sold 2 skirts so that I could buy this skirt and I am really pleased that I did. I was a bit worried it would be a bit too custesy for my style now compared to 2012, but I am so glad I took a chance on it. I really like this skirt and could not be happier.

So that is my latest haul. Funnily enough, a lot of my wishlist items decided to make an appearance all at once, so it may not be too long before I next do a haul post. I am at least selling stuff and trying to think carefully about my purchases, so I think I am being reasonably sensible. The 2016 me is at least aware that maybe there is such a thing as a too big lolita wardrobe after all!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Cirque du L'Etoile by Angelic Pretty

Today I am looking at Cirque du L'Etoile by Angelic Pretty. This series includes 3 dresses, a head bow, socks, a parka, a cardigan, a massive horse shaped bag, gloves and a brooch.

First up is the OP. The bodice looks well fitted and the shape is very smart. I think the arms seem to be a decent length, although maybe the cuffs are a bit too big. I do like the way the cuffs have been set out though, with the gold braid boldly lining them. The additional swirls of gold braid on the arms are a bit too much for me personally. There are also some really pretty epaulettes on the shoulders, which is a nice finishing touch. There is a waist bow, which looks a suitable size for the dress, and it has a nice firm shape to it. It sits really well on the dress. This bow is detachable but I don't think it makes too much difference having the bow attached or not. Both ways look okay. The bodice has a solid coloured panel with tartan on either side, which is separated with a swirly line of gold braid. Whilst I appreciate the use of solid colour to break up the tartan, I can't say I am a massive fan of the swirls in the gold braid lines. I think it looks a bit too fussy, and I would have preferred straight lines. There are quite a few emblem design buttons on the bodice, but I am not overly convinced by where they have been placed. I don't know if it is just the braid swirls distracting me, but I personally don't think the buttons look well positioned. Also, maybe there are a bit too many buttons. I definitely don't feel the 2 buttons on the collar are needed. I am pleased to see that the collar doesn't look too stiff and uncomfortable to wear. There is some lace finishing off the collar, which might tickle a bit, and I do wonder if this lace is necessary. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is unfortunately very limited. The zip is at least well concealed with the print lining up nicely along the zip line, but with a tartan style print getting the print to line up is not exactly a massive challenge. The stock photos show that the skirt is bursting with volume and will accommodate lots of petticoat underneath. It is full, rounded and beautiful. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of tassel trim. Given the lack of lace on the dress, I think tassel trim is probably a better option than lace here.

Here we have the Standard JSK. The bodice looks well fitted and the shape is very interesting. Yes, it is a bit low-cut at the front, but at least it is a good excuse to bring out a heavily detailed blouse. The straps look quite supportive for this sort of design, and there is actually a pair of straps concealed underneath the solid coloured halter straps. I really like the lapel-like straps on this dress. Perhaps AP could have gotten away with making them a bit wider, but I think they look fine as they are. The gold braid lining them really helps to emphasise their quirky shape. I am once again a bit unsure about the positioning of the buttons though, which are star shaped this time. I feel that some of the buttons are a bit too close to the gold braid edge. The waist bow is once again a lovely shape and a suitable size. This time the bow does not seem to be detachable, which is a shame. It is always good to have that as an option. The little panel in between the straps is set out very neatly. I really like the pleats and the lace sits nicely too. The emblem buttons make a return here. I would maybe have gone for 3 buttons instead of 4, and not had that bow at the top, which looks a bit too cutesy for my liking. The back has a panel of shirring, which has been topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full and it flares outwards plenty. It has a lovely shape to it in the stock photos and has a lot of potential. The skirt is again kept simple in design, so the print is displayed perfectly. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a pleated chiffon ruffle.

Next we have the Napoleon JSK. The bodice seems quite well fitted, but I feel the bodice shape is a bit simplistic. I also feel the straps could have done with being a bit wider, as they look a bit flimsy. Whilst the epaulettes work well with the OP design, I don't feel they look right with JSK straps. Something about them just looks a bit awkward here. The bodice features an interestingly shaped solid coloured panel, which is lined neatly with gold braid. Inside the panel there are more lines of gold braid with buttons on either end. This design is done very boldly and neatly. However, what I feel spoils this design is the way this panel does not stop at the waist and continues on down on to the top of the skirt. I don't think these details are going to sit that well when worn. It would have been so much better if it had just ended at the waist instead. There is a bow on the chest area, which is very similar in design to the waist bows on the other 2 dresses. It generally works quite well as a chest bow but could perhaps be a little bit smaller. It does sit very proudly on the dress though, and it holds its shape brilliantly. What I am not so fond of is the tassels which have been added to the ends of the bow. I think the tassels stick out at a weird angle and just look a bit silly. I feel there are a lot of details on this dress which had potential, but AP then pushed it too far. The back offers a panel of shirring, which is then neatly concealed with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt is plump and flares out wonderfully. It will hold more than enough petticoat. Yet again, the skirt is kept simple in design and the print is displayed fantastically. The bottom hem is then finished off with a pleated chiffon ruffle again.

Finally, this is what the print looks like. This series comes in ivory, pink, green and red. The colour options are generally really great, although the pink is probably the weakest of the 4 colours offered. I like that the ivory offers a decent lighter coloured option, but it is the green and red that really stand out in my opinion. As for the print itself, it is bold and heavy with detail. It is a bit overwhelming for my personal tastes with having the tartan and busy border, but I can see why some people like it. The legs on the horses look a bit oddly drawn to me (I actually had to google images of horses and I think the horse anatomy in the print is a bit off) but legs aside, I like how they look. Their manes look pretty and I like the coats they are wearing. The small hints of circus themes in the print are interesting too. I think that maybe the reason why I personally am not madly in love with the print myself. With the military styling, circus theme and tartan it feels like there is a lot of different themes going on here. I do love the tartan background though, and I think the dress designs could have quite feasibly worked with just this tartan background and maybe some small details on the border.

So personally, there are bits of this series that I like, but I think it is safe to say I will be giving this series a miss. With its busy print and heavily detailed dresses, I feel this is a "go big, or go home" kind of series. I think it would take a lot to tone this series down for more casual wear. I am quite impressed with some of the dress designs however, and there are parts of the print that I like. But all together, it is a bit too much for me! My top choice would be the Standard JSK in red. I feel this dress was generally quite well thought out and a much stronger design than the Napoleon JSK. And whilst I may not be interested by the dresses, I have to admit that I thought the cardigan with the horse design on it is pretty cute!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

It Doesn't Hurt to Stay Alert

I don't know if this post really requires a trigger warning or not, but there is a brief mention of rape.

"He is coming back this way again..."

What should have been a lovely day out just chilling with my best friends, was gradually turning in to some creepy nightmare that was defined by the actions of a few selfish idiots. I started the day in high spirits with some outfit shots and then James and I met up with Sammi for a meal in Oxford. Later, Shalisa joined us with the exciting news that she had her first car after going for a viewing that morning (and from the pictures I can tell it is a really cool car). We sat in the Mitre, ate cake and were chatting and joking like usual. Sure, earlier in the day Sammi and I had to deal with this group of girls wanting to take an ironic selfie with the weirdos in frilly dresses, but the mood was lifted. And after the week I had, all I wanted to do was spend some time with my friends and catch up. I wont go in to too many details on here, but I have been unwell and it has been very difficult to resist the urge to retreat inside myself and not leave the house.

So there we were just chilling in the pub when a guy comes over and sits on the table next to ours. Not a problem, except he is blatantly listening in on our conversation and wont stop looking over at us. After a while he gets up and I assumed he had left. James and I were facing the wall, so I had no idea what was going on behind me. After a while I notice that Sammi and Shalisa are exchanging looks with each other and I ask what is going on. There is this guy who keeps walking over and looking directly at us, then walking off again. Needless to say, this is very unsettling. Even though we had James with us, that has not stopped strange individuals from approaching us before. What if this guy were to follow us? During the week leading up to us meeting, 2 girls had been raped in Oxford, and that was in my mind a fair bit during the day.

As we were wearing lolita, my initial assumption was we had caught this man's attention because of our clothing. It would not be the first time and I doubt it will be the last time. We have had to hastily exit places before because we have become uncomfortable around people. I began to feel incredibly angry. Trying to intimidate a bunch of young women is not acceptable. Feeling fed up with what was happening, I turned around and deliberately locked eyes with this guy for a few seconds. The pub was super busy, we were in a group and I was not doing anything out of order. I wanted to make a point of looking him right in the eye and letting him know that we were aware of him and I was not going to be bullied by him. We left a bit later and as it turns out, the man wanted us to leave so that his group who had by that point had arrived could spread out over the 2 connecting tables. As we walked out, I could feel his eyes looking me up and down. Wearing lolita or not, it was so out of order for this guy to go out of his way to intimidate us in to leaving, just so his group could have a table.

Feeling incredibly wound up, we headed over to the Slug for a cocktail, only for a guy walking past to lean towards me and say "Hey kiddo" at me as I walked past him. Oxford has a busy city centre anyway, but he went out of his way to invade my personal space, albeit very briefly. As we were walking and wanting to get back in the warm, we walked on without saying anything. But after the pub encounter, I had become this little ball of walking anxiety. I didn't understand what this man was hoping to achieve with his comment, but by the time we made it to the Slug I was emotionally exhausted. I was regretting coming out to see my friends and also coming to Oxford, a city which truth be told has never felt a particularly pleasant place to wear lolita. I have noticed we seem to get more hassle in Oxford than anywhere else. I have no idea why that is, but I would be lying if I said it hasn't put me off going there a few times in the past.

So you are probably wondering why I decided to share this experience with you. I guess it is because I sort of wonder when does a situation stop being harmless and become something more serious that may require action? It is an unfortunate fact that if you wear lolita in public, you will draw attention to yourself, as you are going to stand out in a sea of high street clothing and suits. Sadly this is one occasion where I actually did regret wearing lolita, even though I feel angry with myself for feeling that way. I suppose I feel that after the bad week I had and the stories in the news, my emotional well-being became compromised. Perhaps I was a bit more aware of the negativity going on around me that was being aimed at us. Looking back now, I do see that the "Hey kiddo" comment was just some silly guy being an idiot and I can just shrug it off. The man in the pub however... I feel like he was going out of his way to make us feel uncomfortable. Even though it turned out to have nothing to do with us wearing lolita, we didn't know that at the time.

So I guess what I really want to say with this post is to always be prepared. If somebody is making you feel uncomfortable, then speak up. Talk it through with your friends. I was having the most expletive-filled anti-men rant after this day and as it was in private, I didn't feel too bad about the things I was saying. Write an email, then don't send it and delete it. Always try to stay in groups and take precautions to stay safe. Finally, try to keep in mind that you are not alone. I know a lot of lolitas who have had these bad experiences and some of the stories you hear are shocking. We shouldn't have to go through this, but sadly these things do happen.

Here is an outfit shot for those who were wondering what I was wearing. I really wish I could have just written a happy blog post about the fun I had with my friends in Oxford, but this experience has been preying on my mind quite a bit and I felt compelled to write about it. I feel it would be wrong to only portray the positive aspects of wearing lolita fashion, as it can sometimes be a very mixed bag and awareness is vital. Sorry for ranting and rest assured that I am taking the time to look after myself both mentally and physically offline. I am very fortunate to have some very supportive loved ones. I hope I will be back with some more positive content very soon.

Monday, 3 October 2016

A Print Double

Today I am looking at 2 prints. Scroll down further for a recent AatP release.

First up today though, is Magic Amulet by Angelic Pretty. This series includes 3 dresses, a headdress and socks.

First up is the OP. The bodice looks a bit baggy and slouchy, but that may be because AP have gone with chiffon for the main fabric. The overall bodice shape is cute and I think the arms look a decent length. Despite the fancy buttons and lace, for some reason I find the cuffs a bit plain. I think maybe they remind me a bit of shirt sleeves. Perhaps the sleeves need to be a bit puffier and the cuffs a bit more gathered? The bodice doesn't really have that many details to it, because of the massive collar. There are at least some subtle lines of lace to break up the plain areas on the bodice. I personally am not fond of the collar. I think the shape is weird and it looks too big. There are so many ways that AP could have gone with the shape of the collar, and I am not impressed with the shape they have gone with. It is at least very neatly lined by the metallic lace though. There is a velvet bow attached to the collar, which is detachable. It is a cute size and shape, but it doesn't really stand out that much. I could take or leave it. The bottom part of the collar is detachable, and the collar shape looks a whole lot better with it removed. I would even be tempted to leave the bow on if this collar part was detached. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is limited. Given how most of the back is taken up by the collar, AP could have quite easily gotten away with adding a shirring panel and it would have mostly been covered up. Or maybe the way the collar has been done would have made it difficult to put shirring in anyway. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full and nicely rounded. It flares outwards loads and will hold more than enough petticoat. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed perfectly. The bottom hem is then finished off with a line of lace layered neatly over a tulle ruffle. I like how soft and wispy the bottom looks.

Here we have the Long JSK. The bodice seems well fitted, but the shape is very basic. I don't like that the straps are very thin too, as they look quite flimsy. There are 2 lines of criss-crossed ribbon on either side of the bodice, which are well spaced out and positioned. I think the use of velvet ribbon is great too, as it adds an interesting texture. There is a line of wide lace going along the neckline, which has a gorgeous design to it. I don't feel the stock photos do it justice, as it is heavily detailed when you look closely at it. The back has a panel of shirring, which is topped very neatly with a ribbon corset. It is a bit hard to tell what the skirt is like with the built-in over-skirt obscuring it, but it looks quite full and that it flares outwards a lot. I absolutely hate the over-skirt. Not only is it too long, it is too basic in design. Even though you can still see the print a bit through the fabric, I feel at the very least there should have been an opening at the front (a bit like the Milky Swan JSK) and some more interesting lace. There is some wide lace lining the main dress underneath, but it is scratchy and cheap looking. Maybe AP used this lace because they knew it wouldn't really be seen, but I feel this is a bit lazy.

Next up is the Standard JSK. The bodice fabric again looks a bit baggy in places, but the overall bodice shape looks quite reasonable. The main set of straps looks an okay width, and I love the use of tulle to line the outsides of these straps. The tulle has been well shaped, and it matches the use of tulle on the bottom hem. I think the cross-over straps are a nice addition too, although they are detachable if you don't like them. The bodice features some lines of thin lace running vertically, which breaks up the bodice and gives it a paneled look. Then we come to the lace cross in the middle. I personally am not a fan of the lace cross, but I will admit that I think the choice of lace for this cross is really good. For once, I am actually a fan of the matching choker! The star lace design is a suitable match for the print and the cross charm finishes it off nicely. I was a bit surprised that AP didn't do a strap design on the back in the shape of a star, but there are some crossed over straps if you leave the detachable straps on. The back is fully shirred, so there is plenty of stretch, but it also means there is nothing covering the shirring. The stock photos show that the skirt is plump and full of volume. There is lots of room to create a voluminous shape. The skirt is kept simple in design, so once again the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off with a thin line of lace, which keeps things neat, and a tulle ruffle.

Here we have the print. This series comes in lavender, green, wine and black. I think all 4 colours are very suitable for the print, although the print details really stand out on the lavender. As for the print itself, it is a bold and interesting design. I really like the stars filled with intricate designs. There are some interesting symbols in the design. I do question whether some of these symbols should actually go together, but in Japan I guess these symbols don't have the same meanings. At first I didn't realise there was a clock in the print. It seems that the more I look at it, the more I discover. I am not overly fond of the Angelic Pretty brand name being in the print though. I feel it looks a bit out of place.

So overall, it is quite a quirky print but I don't think it is really for me. I can see it having quite a large fan base though. It looks fun and magical, but I will be sticking with my Meta Magical Moonlight! As for the dresses, there are things I would change about each design. I think the Long JSK is very unfortunate. It had the potential, but the over-skirt just ruins it in my opinion. So I think my top choice would have to be the Standard JSK in lavender. But looking at the lace cross on the bodice, it kind of makes me wish that AP had done a skirt for this series too.

Today I am also looking at Starlit Sky Tent and the Secret Circus Troupe by Alice and the Pirates. This series includes 3 dresses, a skirt, 2 hair accessories and socks.

First up is JSK I. The bodice seems well fitted and the shape is pretty. I love how the bodice is set out like a waistcoat, but at the same time you have the chest panel so it isn't too low-cut if you are conscious about that sort of thing. The halter-neck straps are a good width and look very supportive. They help to form the lapels of the waistcoat, which are lined with gold braid and filled in beautifully with gold embroidery. I like the way the rest of the bodice is set out, but maybe there are too many buttons. There are 2 rows on either side, and then another row in the middle. The buttons are pretty with a nice design, but it is a bit overwhelming having so many. There is a tiny bow on the neckline too, which looks a bit out of place and isn't really needed. The chest panel is removable, which I feel makes the dress look a lot smarter and sleeker when it is detached. The back has a panel of shirring, which is topped very neatly with a ribbon corset. It looks as though the skirt has plenty of volume and it flares out well. I really like the shape created in the stock photos, and think it is a good match for the bodice. The skirt is kept very simple in design, so the print is displayed brilliantly. The bottom hem is then finished off with a satin ruffle, which looks pretty but is also a bit shiny.

Here we have JSK II. The bodice is fairly well fitted, but could be better, and the overall bodice shape is a bit too simple. The straps look a good width and they are lined very neatly with lace on the outsides. For some reason, I am really put off by the way the waistline looks on this dress. I also feel the bodice needs some thin lines of lace to break it up. The neckline is lined with a line of gold and wide lace, which has a lovely rose pattern to it. I am not really sure roses fit in with the print theme, but it is still nice looking lace. This line of lace is topped with 2 bows. The bows are well formed, with a nice shape. I think the choice of ribbon is pretty too. The back is fully shirred, which means plenty of size flexibility, but also that the unattractive shirring is also exposed. The stock photos show the skirt has a bit of volume to it. I don't think the stock photos really show the skirt to its full potential and it will probably be better in person. It at least looks like the skirt is a good length. The skirt is once again kept simple, so the print is displayed really well. The bottom hem is then finished off with some polka dot lace. There are dots of lights in the print, so I guess this sort of fits the print? It doesn't really explain the rose lace though.

This is the OP. The bodice doesn't look particularly flattering and I don't like the shape. However, the chiffon sleeves are stunning. They have been gathered excellently, so they drape really well and create a great shape. It looks so soft and delicate. The waist area also has a chiffon belt, which provides a nice break in the print and helps to define the waist. There is a waist bow too, which is a good size and also has an interesting shape. The tails of the bow drape really nicely, creating more volume and making it a lot more appealing. My main complaint here is that the rest of the bodice has been left plain. There is no lace along the neckline or on the bodice, no bows or anything remotely interesting. I get that the focus is on the sleeves here, but the contrast between the ruffly sleeves and the stark bodice is harsh. The back has a panel of shirring, which is topped with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt appears to once again have good length. It seems there is a good amount of volume there. I think it should hold enough petticoat to create a shape suitable for the style of bodice. To be honest, I think Baby needs to take better photos. The skirt is once again kept simple, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a wide line of rose themed lace. I still don't get where roses fit in with the print, but at least it is of a good quality and looks pretty.

Finally, a somewhat poor picture of what the print looks like (sorry...). This series comes in pink, green, blue, red and black. The print has some quite dull and dreary colours in it, so I imagine it would be quite hard to pick colours to go with this print. In my opinion, the blue and the red are the only 2 colour ways that really stand out here. As for the print itself, it looks so murky and it is hard to make out the details in the print. This is in part due to Baby not taking great photos (somebody took a photo of the print in the store and it did look a lot better). There is a row of tents at the bottom, which are lined with dots of lights. They look quite pretty. But then we come to this weird, hazy area, which has a load of circus performers mysteriously floating around in the air. There doesn't seem to be much order to this, and the performers seem to be just chucked in to random spaces with not much thought put in to it. If you glance quickly, it looks like a non-distinct blob. The curtains frame this foggy area well, but I can't help but wonder why you would want to frame something that looks like this. I like the idea behind the print, but it could have been executed so much better.

I am of the opinion that if you have to squint super hard just to make out the print, then it probably isn't that great a print. Although the print does look better in person, if you only have Baby's pictures to go on, then it isn't really doing the series justice. Looking at the dress listings, I see that some of the dresses have sold out in certain colours. Interestingly, it is the colours I expected to do well that are selling great, but not the dress cuts I would have chosen. I personally like JSK I the best, although perhaps it is not to everybody's tastes, or maybe it is because it wouldn't suit certain body shapes. As for the colours, I am really pleased to see that people seem to agree with me that the red version is the best! I really like the use of colour on the red version and if the print had been a bit crisper in the middle, I probably would have considered this series, if my wardrobe wasn't already full. I get the feeling my opinions on this series may actually be in the minority here, but do feel free to let me know what you think.

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