Monday, 30 January 2017

Fortune Teller by Alice and the Pirates

Today I am looking at Fortune Teller by Alice and the Pirates. This series includes 2 dresses, a skirt, a veil, socks and a cuff with a chain and ring.

First up is JSK I. The bodice looks very well fitted and the shape is interesting. The shape sort of reminds me of JSK I from their Midsummer series. I think the straps look a suitable width and very supportive. They are kept very plain though, with not even a thin line of lace lining them. There is a subtle thin line of lace going along the neckline, but it is not that noticeable. There is a high waist with a ribbon belt. I think it looks far enough down that it shouldn't hit the wearer's bust area, but this style of dress wont suit everybody. The ribbon used has a beautiful design to it, which is very bold. It gives the ribbon a really luxurious feel. The bow finishing the belt is well formed and I like the size. There is then a triangular shaped panel, which has a lace overlay. This looks fairly neatly done. I especially like the gorgeous looking lace lining this panel. It really stands out and is of a high quality too. The back offers a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt has a good amount of volume to it and flares outwards generously. It should hold a good amount of 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. This lace looks quite elaborate in comparison to a lot of the lace AatP usually uses. I think it is lovely.

Here we have JSK II. The bodice looks a bit loose and baggy, but it may just be the way the material has been gathered near the waist. The overall bodice shape is a bit basic and if it wasn't for the detachable ruffles, it would look like a basic sundress. I think the straps are way too thin and look very flimsy. There is also the detachable ruffles, which can be used as an additional set of straps, or dangling under the arms, as shown in the photo above. I personally prefer the look of the ruffles worn as straps, as it makes the bodice look a bit more elaborate. But I don't know why they didn't just add ruffles to the straps anyway, without having to bother with these detachable bits. There is a line of lace going along the waistline, which draws attention to the waist. There is then an elaborate line of gold braid, which is carefully looped, and then has a pearl chain design dangling from the braid. I am really impressed with how well this has been executed. The braid has been well positioned and the way it has been shaped really works with the pearl chains. I think the pearl chains are the perfect lengths. Even though the pearl chains are detachable, I would leave them attached. I think they are beautiful. There is also a ribbon bow on the neckline. The ribbon used has a pretty design to it and the bow is a lovely shape. I only wish it was just a little bit smaller in size. The back is fully shirred, so there is plenty of size flexibility. It does also mean the unattractive shirring has nothing concealing it though. The stock photos show that the skirt appears to be very full with plenty of volume. I think the skirt shape created in the stock photos goes well with the bodice. The skirt is again kept simple in design, so the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of pretty lace.

Finally, this is what the print looks like. This series comes in beige, emerald, blue and black. There has been a bit of talk about how unusual the colours for this series are. Some of them are certainly a bit 'out there'. I think my main concern would be trying to colour co-ordinate some of the colourways offered. There are one or two colours which may be a bit easier to co-ordinate though. As for the print itself, the fortune telling tables are pretty with lovely drapes over them. There is lots of little details. I think this is also a brilliant idea for a print. Although similar sort of prints have been done before, I think it is not an overdone idea. The background behind the tables in stunning too. I am a bit unsure about the text floating around the tables. I am not sure if it is really needed. But it is really lovely to see a print that isn't too overcrowded. I really like the spacing in the border print, although I know it wont appeal to everybody. The non-border part of the print is pretty too. I like that the cards have a bit of detail to them, but are not too attention grabbing, so your eyes are drawn to the border part of the print.

So I think this is a series which is possibly going to get a mixed reception. I personally really love the print, but I admit I would struggle to wear some of the colours confidently. There are some interesting elements to the dress designs too. I think there are things I would tweak about both dresses, but there are some good ideas. Would I buy this series? Possibly not. I want to love it, but I feel very unsure about it. My top choice would be JSK II. It is difficult to pick a favourite colour, but for me it is between the emerald and the blue. I like both colours for different reasons. 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Collections Lolitas Accumulate

January is typically "Wardrobe Month" in the online lolita community. Suddenly we all remember that the LiveJournal community still exists, and hurry to post our wardrobes on EGL before the end of the month. As with previous years, I am not intending to do a wardrobe post. I simply don't have the motivation to spend hours taking decent pictures of everything, especially given recent circumstances. Maybe I will do it one year, but it wont be this year! But my wardrobe has still been on my mind a lot recently anyway. I think seeing what other lolitas have naturally makes you focus on what you have more. But I have mostly been having a bit of a think about what I may potentially want to sell in the near future and having a general tidy. It was whilst I was having this cleaning session that I noticed I had piles of stuff which appear to have accumulated. It is not clothing, but other stuff that naturally comes as part of following any fashion. I simply don't have the heart to throw them out. They feel really personal to me and they tell the story of my journey in lolita fashion throughout the years. And yet, wardrobe posts are so focused on the dresses and clothing that these little mementos tend to get ignored. I wanted to focus on them today, because they really mean a lot to me.

Notes from other lolitas- Whenever I buy anything, I always love seeing the little notes that people include. Sometimes it could just be a simple thank you, or perhaps it may include something that references what you have purchased or a private joke. I love all the different cute paper and stationary I get. This may sound weird, but I also like looking at other people's handwriting. There is just something really pleasing to the eye about good handwriting! Adding notes adds an element of caring to a purchase. It makes you feel that as a buyer, the seller didn't simply chuck your item in a box and then forget about it the second they get their money.

Brand Tags- They usually include Japanese washing instructions that I can't read anyway, but for some reason I have this weird compulsion to never throw out my brand tags. A lot of the logos look cute anyway. I think as well that sometimes when you are selling things on, there is an emphasis on how new things are. You will often see in the description whether the item you are buying comes with tags or not.

Stickers- I absolutely love getting stickers! I never want to use them, because I want to keep them looking new and pretty (one of the reasons why I never go out of my way to specifically buy brand novelties). Some of my stickers have memories attached to them too. The Baby ones in the picture for example, are ones that I got from Hyper Japan. I had just brought my mini Usakumya, which is quite an iconic lolita brand item. The lady in the store looked amazing in head-to-toe Baby, was happy to demonstrate how to properly tie waist ties and did this whole gesture of sealing up my bag and handing it over in this obvious 'presenting' gesture. The Pixie Bunny one is from where I won her competition, so that has happy memories attached to it too.

Postcards- These are an easy way to get hold of some Imai Kira artwork, as she works with Angelic Pretty a lot. It is really exciting when you get artwork of a print that you may own. Like notes, sometimes the postcard may have personal messages on them. One of my postcards from when Angelic Pretty Paris was Boddywood included a note to say I had been entered in to their contest for a place at their tea party (I won, but was unable to attend unfortunately...). There are also a great number of talented artists in the lolita community who really love to have the chance to showcase their artwork. I completely forgot to photograph the postcards that came in my Tea Party Club event goody bags. Some of the free postcards are super cute!

Catalogues- Physical printed catalogues don't seem to get printed as often as they used to be. Or sometimes you will find the art used for special "art books" instead (typically these art books are a novelty item with a small leaflet, which has a few pictures of a new release). Metamorphose gave me a catalogue when I ordered Magical Moonlight, which I thought was a really nice touch. It meant I could see how the dress looked on a model and how the whole series looked. I know some lolita like to cut these up and frame the artwork as well, a bit like with the postcards.

Novelty fair items- I have only ever been lucky to receive a special novelty item, given away during a brand's promotional fairs, once. It was a Metamorphose drink flask, which I got with my Meta lucky pack all the way back in 2010. They held a Winter Novelty Fair at the same time as their lucky packs came out. These items are only available for as long as stock lasts and some of them can be hard to locate. Sometimes you will get novelties that are designed exclusively for events, which provides a long-lasting memento to a fun day you had. Badges and hand mirrors are quite easy to make, and are another way to show off a print that you love.

Fabric Swatches and spare buttons- Do Angelic Pretty do fabric swatches anymore? It has been ages since I have received one with anything I have brought. It does mostly seem to be AP who do the fabric swatches, but most brands will often provide a spare button. Given how fragile some of the buttons can be, it is obviously a very good idea to keep hold of these spares! I have a drawer in my sewing box stuffed full of spare buttons. I don't think I even own some of the items the buttons go with anymore.

Shopping bags- I actually had to throw out a load of Bodyline bags once because they wouldn't fit in my "Bag of Bags". I have a big Metamorphose shopping bag which I use to keep hold of all of my plastic shopping bags. I really love how when you buy from brand stores they will provide you with a spare shopping bag, even if you haven't attended the physical store. It is nice how they know how much their fans appreciate these bags! A lot of the time the bags are cute and colourful. If you have too much stuff to fit in your actual bag (which happens a lot with a lot of tiny lolita bags) these brand shopping bags are a cute and cheap way to 'remain lolita' instead of carrying a bag from a high street store.

Clothes hangers- I didn't take a photo of mine, because they are not always that exciting to look at. Sometimes when you order bigger items from brands you will find that they throw in a clothes hanger for free. They are often just bog-standard hangers with no indication that they came from a lolita brand, but on rare occasions brands have put out branded hangers. Knowing how much clothing I have, I simply am unable to throw out a clothes hanger, because you never know when you are going to need it.

GLBs and other Japanese fashion magazines- Unlike the glossy 'weekly' magazines which typically get thrown out after being read, Japanese fashion magazines are more like books. Sometimes when I am feeling ill or a bit bored, I will sit and look through all of the street snaps. There is something really satisfying about sitting down in a comfortable seat, all snuggled up, with a physical magazine in hand. It feels a lot more personal than finding content online, as you can hold it in your hands and you have the physical reminder to keep. And as embarrassing as this sounds, I did go out and buy the Japanese Gothic Lolita Bible when I saw I had been featured in it! For me personally, that was a really special moment and I wanted something to remember it.

So as you are flicking through all of those wardrobe posts or even making your own, take a moment to think about the person behind the clothing. Some of the items I mentioned in this post are highly sentimental to me. They have memories attached to them and some are unique to me. They document my lolita story through the years. I keep a lot of the personal stuff, such as the notes, with my lolita scrapbook so that I see them frequently when I need some inspiration. Do you have any 'collections' outside of your lolita wardrobe? I am curious to know what other lolitas think of these little mementos and if you cherish them, like I do.

Monday, 23 January 2017

British Crown by Angelic Pretty

Today I am looking at British Crown by Angelic Pretty. This series includes 2 dresses, a head bow and socks.

First up is the OP. The bodice seems quite well fitted and the shape is adorable, but elegant. I think the sleeves have a great amount of puff to them, which looks cute with the fitted cuffs. The cuffs are kept small and finished off neatly with an emblem themed button and some gold lace. I think this more understated cuff style is a good match for this particular dress. There is a ribbon belt, which helps to define the waist area nicely. It helps to break up the print a bit as well. The ribbon used for the belt looks quite matte as well, which is a bonus. The bodice is generally kept simple, which is good with a busy all-over print like this. There is a collar, which is lined neatly with gold braid and lace. I personally would have preferred a more rounded collar shape, but I think the shape chosen is still pretty decent. The collar is a good size as well. There is a detachable bow on the collar, which looks really cute. I would leave the bow attached, as I think it is a lovely finishing touch. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is very limited. If the stock photos are anything to go by, the print lines up neatly along the zipline and the zip itself looks well hidden. The stock photos show that the skirt is generous in volume and flares outwards plenty. It will hold more than enough petticoat. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of crown themed lace- which obviously matches the print theme perfectly!

Here we have the JSK. The bodice looks well fitted, but I am a bit unsure about the bodice shape. I think it may be the folded 'lapels' on the straps which are putting me off? These 'lapels' give off the illusion that the bodice shape is more square and boxy. In the close up the lapel material looked saggy and wrinkled as well, which is not exactly attractive. The buttons and braid on the lapels makes them look too 'over-loaded' as well. It is quite a lot of detail for such a small area. Lapels aside, the straps look a very supportive width. There is a waist bow, which looks an alright size for the dress. The way the bow tails have been folded makes the bow look more interesting and gives it extra depth. I personally think the waist bow looks too fussy though, and that the buttons on top really ruin it. The inclusion of buttons on the bodice feels really forced and OTT. It is a shame the waist bow deson't seem to be detachable. Apart from the lapels, the bodice is generally quite simplistic. There are some lines of lace continuing on down from the lapels to the waistline, which help to break up the empty space. The neckline is finished off with a small bow. I kind of feel this bow looks a bit too cute, if that makes sense. It looks a bit out of place with the more mature looking details. There is a line of gold braid lining the neckline, which keeps things looking neat. The back has a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. I like how the waist ties are lined with gold braid, which is a lovely finishing touch. The stock photos show that the skirt is really full with lots of volume. I love the rounded shape created in the stock photos and think there is a lot of potential there. The skirt is again kept simple in design, so the print is displayed wonderfully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with the same crown lace.

Finally, this is the print. This series comes in ivory, wine, navy blue and black. These colours are quite typical 'regal print' options. The ivory offers a lighter alternative, which makes a nice change. I was surprised AP didn't offer a green colour as well though. That could have looked amazing. As for the print itself, it looks very 'Innocent World' (or maybe almost Jane Marple like) but this being Angelic Pretty, it is a lot busier. With that in mind, I have to admit that I prefer IW's similar looking Grazia Crown print to this one. But despite that, I still think this is a pretty print. The crowns are beautiful, with lots of pretty and interesting details. My only complaint is that some of the crowns are upside down. In my opinion, this just looks a bit odd. 

So overall, I am quite impressed with the print. Both dress designs look good, although I think it is safe to say that I prefer the OP. The use of buttons on the JSK are not to my personal taste. Would I buy this series? Absolutely, although as I already have Grazia Crown, it is unlikely I will actually be going ahead and trying to get a hold of this series. My top choice would be the OP in either ivory or navy blue. I can't decide which colour I like better! If nothing else, I am hoping to get hold of the socks from this series.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Why I Love Afternoon Tea

I promise there will be some more lolita specific content on this blog soon. I was unable to put together the post I wanted to do today in time, so I have had to dig up a post from the drafts.

Afternoon tea is one of those things that seems to divide people. I can understand why it may not be to everybody's taste. It is fair to say  that you could do your own afternoon tea at home for a lot less money. You could even buy shop brought stuff and pay a lot less. But for me, there is so much more to afternoon tea than the food itself. I admit that I have an upper spending limit, just making the odd exception if I think a particular afternoon tea looks outstanding (even then I will look up the menu beforehand and see if I can find any reviews).

I simply love the entire process, and I feel that wearing lolita fits with the whole afternoon tea aesthetic. I am not usually one for the whole "when I wear lolita, it is like I am a whole other person!" stuff, but in the past I have felt at my "most" lolita when I have been at afternoon teas. I guess it is the whole idea of afternoon tea being seen as 'elegant'. A lot of the time you have to adhere to a dress code of some description (some are not so strict, but you sort of feel the need to turn up in something other than jeans and sneakers). The food is usually small and dainty, encouraging you to take smaller mouthfuls. Afternoon tea is usually served in fancier locations by smartly dressed members of staff. Overall, it feels like an experience, rather than simply sitting in a cafe and eating a slice of cake. I find as well that you tend to alter your behaviour accordingly as well, being polite and fitting in with the scene. I always feel as though I need to put my phone away during afternoon tea, as it seems rude to be on your phone instead of talking to the people you are with. But that is something I see as a good thing. It encourages you to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern day life and actually step back in time. For me, afternoon tea is escapism. I get to dress up (often in lolita), eat food that I wouldn't usually have at home and get away from the outside world.

There are a couple of things that attract me to particular afternoon teas. Firstly, I like places where you can tell the food on the menu has been especially prepared for that location and food you would not find on other afternoon tea menus elsewhere. You do get what I would almost describe as "chain" afternoon teas, usually at places such as hotel or restaurant chains. These can still be pleasant, but it lacks that more personal touch. A place gets bonus points if they have a particularly unusual menu. My favourite afternoon tea to date is still the Willy Wonka afternoon tea I had for my birthday last year. I still think about that rhubarb and custard candy floss and the unlimited extra portions... A theme can add a bit of money on to the price, but if it is executed especially well it can still be worth considering. Location is another factor. I would much rather go to a stately home in the middle of nowhere than a budget hotel right by a busy road. You can even find afternoon teas that use specific crockery, such as Wedgwood. Another thing to consider is the online reviews. Rude staff, poor hygiene ratings and other unfortunate issues can usually be uncovered by checking out review sites first (although you should always consider how old the review is as well and bare in mind that some 'reviews' are actually fake).

For those of you in the UK, I would highly recommend taking a look at this site. I am always using that site to find fun and quirky afternoon tea experiences. Although sometimes you have to look up afternoon teas on google with the choice of town/city as well. I found out about a 1940s themed cafe that does afternoon tea purely by chance because I was on a website for a tourist location which recommended it. For those of you outside of the UK as well, maybe just try asking around or do a bit of online digging. You can find some real hidden gems out there. 

Monday, 16 January 2017

Alice and the Secret of the Dressmaker by Alice and the Pirates

Today I am looking at Alice and the Secret of the Dressmaker by Alice and the Pirates. This series includes 4 dresses (one non-print), a skirt, socks, a maid cap and a ring.

First up is JSK I. The bodice seems very well fitted, although I am not fond of the rounded neckline shape. The straps look a fair width and quite supportive. I don't like the way the straps have been left bare though, without even a thin line of lace to line them. The bodice features a small solid coloured yoke with a rosette detail. Although the rosette is really pretty, I am a bit unsure about the placement. It looks as though it will sit awkwardly on those who have a larger bust. Maybe it should have been placed on the neckline instead. The dress listing would suggest that the metal pin in the middle of the rosette is detachable, but the ribbon underneath is not. It would have been better to have the option to detach, and maybe simply reposition, the entire rosette. The yoke is on the small side and I don't find it particularly interesting. It has a few neat pleats and some rose themed lace. At least what is there is well presented. The neckline then features a line of ladder lace with ribbon threaded through it. I like this choice of lace and feel the ribbon used here goes well with the rosette. The back has a panel of shirring, which is topped very neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full with plenty of volume. It should hold a good amount of petticoat. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of thin lace. I personally think AatP should have made even more of a feature of the ribbon by having the ribbon threaded ladder lace on the bottom hem as well, to match the neckline.

Next we have JSK II. The bodice looks quite well fitted and the shape is interesting. I personally think the V-neck neckline goes too low down. It would have been a good opportunity to wear a blouse with a fancy neckline, but the wide lace lining the neckline might make that a bit awkward. At least the straps are generous in width and look really supportive. This neckline lace is very well gathered, but I don't think it is the prettiest of lace choices. Overall, I am not a fan of this lace and how it looks on this particular dress. The rose lace just inside the neckline is lovely though. The waist has a "belt" made of solid coloured ribbon. This really helps to define the waistline and I especially appreciate the non-shiny choice of ribbon. The lace lining this ribbon belt is pretty and sits well, but I would have liked it to be a bit narrower. The bodice is finished off with a ribbon bow, which is a cute shape and size. It sits well on the dress too, with no signs of drooping. I am also pleased to see the non-shiny ribbon has been used for this bow as well. The back offers a panel of shirring, which is again neatly topped with a ribbon corset. I do feel the way the ribbon belt abruptly ends at the sides of the shirring panel does draw attention to the shirring though. The stock photos suggest that the skirt has plenty of volume and flares outwards well. I really like the rounded shape created in some of the stock photos. The skirt is again kept simple in design, so the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of good quality lace.

This is the OP. The bodice looks reasonably well fitted, but something about the bodice shape just looks a bit awkward to me. Maybe it is just the way the photo has been taken, but the way the arms attach to the dress feels a bit off. The arms are randomly split in two with a seam halfway down them, which doesn't seem to need to be there. The overall arm shape doesn't look very flattering either. I also feel the cuffs are too big, although the lines of ribbon on them are a nice touch. These cuffs are detachable, although the sleeves are very plain underneath. Perhaps the sailor-like collar is also a bit too big, as it reaches the shoulders and emphasises how wide that area is. In fact, I don't really see any need for the collar to be there at all. Thankfully, it is detachable and I think the dress looks much better with it removed. Underneath the detachable collar, there is a solid coloured yoke, which is a good size. I think the collar looks a bit stuffy and uncomfortable though. That lace looks like it could tickle quite a bit. This yoke is topped with 6 buttons. Although I don't think the buttons necessarily look bad, I don't think they have been well positioned. I also feel the yoke needs some pleats to stop it from looking so flat. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is very limited. I think the zip is very well hidden though and the back looks tidy. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full and flares outwards lots. The pictures suggest that the skirt has a lot of potential and a great shape can be created. There is also the detachable apron. I like how the ribbon on the apron matches the cuffs. It also matches the detachable collar if, unlike me, you happen to like that collar. I think the apron is a good size and shape, with it not reaching, and then obscuring, the border part of the print. The lace and ruffle around the edge of the apron is cute too. It matches the lace around the edge of the yoke. Aside from the apron, the skirt design is kept simple, so the print is displayed wonderfully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of good quality lace.

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

... and another bit. This series comes in bordeaux, green, navy blue and black. All the colour options are quite dark, although I don't think lighter colours would have worked as well anyway. I think the colours chosen work very well, especially the green version. As for the print itself, I think it is an interesting concept and it is kept quite mature looking. The store fronts are well set out with elaborate swirls around the signs and the pillars. The displays inside the shop are well drawn too with lots of interesting little details. I don't feel the Alice in Wonderland theme is at all necessary though, and thankfully it is kept very subtle. You may be able to spot the Cheshire Cat in the mirror. I think the non-border part of the print is lovely too, especially the dangling tape measures.

So I think the print is nice enough, but to be honest I feel a bit underwhelmed by the dress designs. There are things that I would really love to change with each dress design. Would I buy this series? Probably not. It is just not something that I would go out of my way to get. My top choice would be JSK I in green, but I would have to take that rosette off if I didn't feel it sat right on me. It is an okay looking series, but in my opinion it lacks the 'wow' factor.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Sitting in the Fig Tree

I have no idea if I am going to end up publishing this or not. I guess I am just going to keep typing and see what comes out. Just be warned that I am talking about quite a sensitive issue, although I think in the end there will definitely be a positive undertone. But if you are sensitive about health talk, especially mental health, then you may want to give this post a miss. Just a quick note to say that I will start publishing and replying to comments soon. I am still easing myself back in to blogging and a routine.

I have not worn lolita properly since last October. This was partly a conscious choice on my part and partly because I had no choice but to stop wearing it for a while. As I briefly mentioned in a post in December, I went to try on a potential outfit that I was working on but I had to stop because it was proving too physically painful. My petticoat was putting too much pressure on my stomach, which when you have a digestive condition is not fun at all. I was also horrified by what I saw in the mirror. Mental and physical illness had been plaguing me for some time, but now my bones jutted out alarmingly from the weight loss. The dark circles around my eyes had worsened from lack of sleep and general worrying. With tears in my eyes, I ended up taking my clothes off in a rage. I shut my wardrobe, knowing I would probably not be opening up my lolita wardrobe for a while. And so my unofficial break from lolita began.

It sounds pretty bleak, and for a while things were. Since that last post I did in December, where I had to take an extended break, my health took a turn for the worse. I was unable to eat anything and just getting myself out of bed suddenly felt like climbing Everest. During this time all I could really do was wrap myself up and curl in to a ball on the living room floor. I had the television on in the background, just so the house wasn't too quiet. James was coming home from work during his lunch break to check on me and see if I had eaten anything. I even had concerned friends sending me gifts such as colouring books in the post, just so I would have a distraction. More than anything else, I needed to get away from all of the negative thoughts. As a result, I stopped going online and would only speak to a select few people. At one point it looked as though I would be spending my Christmas in a hospital bed, and that was the 'turning point' for me. The thought of being taken away from James, my family, my friends and my pets over the festivities upset me so much that I knew things had to change. I had yet another emergency doctor's appointment and got myself some new medication. Thankfully, the medication appears to be working. In the end I had an okay Christmas. It wasn't exactly what I had been expecting, but I got to spend a lot of time with loved ones, which in the end was what mattered the most to me. In fact, I think opening up about my health issues actually strengthened a friendship or two, even though I have unfortunately lost friends as well. One conversation I had in particular with 2 long-term friends of mine was especially morale boosting. We sat in a cafe, where I even managed to eat some cake, and had a massive chat about just about everything. That afternoon was the most 'human' I had felt in such a long time and it really made me re-evaluate some of my life choices.

I have always been quite a believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason. We may not always understand why, especially at the time, but we can either grow from our experiences or choose to ignore it. A big factor of this period of illness was the fact that I was taken away from lolita fashion for a while. I don't just mean wearing the clothing, but all of the other stuff that comes with being a part of the lolita community. Not going online meant that I couldn't check the second hand sales pages or auctions. There was no Rufflechat or Closet of Frills, or even comments on this blog. I even stopped planning future outfits in my head- something I used to do frequently when I was feeling stressed. It was a complete clean break. Although I have been through a lot of turmoil, I can say with complete honesty that me taking a break from lolita has been one of the best things I have done in a very long time.

I hadn't realised just how much lolita had taken over my life. I was getting up, and if I didn't have much work coming in (my job is very supply and demand which means sometimes I can go from being very busy one day to very quiet the next) the very first thing I would do would be to check all of the second hand sites for any of the remaining items on my wishlist. That would usually take a bit of time, after which I would maybe get to writing a blog post for here or stalk the communities to see if anything interesting was going on. On average, it takes me about an hour to write a post for this blog, but it can be a lot longer, especially when I am not feeling that inspired. I was finding that focusing on lolita would take a large chunk out of the day, and that is without all of my other daily responsibilities on top. Whilst spending a lot of time on lolita is not necessarily a bad thing, it did mean that I wasn't confronting the problems going on elsewhere in my life. By having all that lolita stuff suddenly taken away from me, I was able to focus more on what I had been missing.

With a lot of time on my hands (I was too sick to work) I rediscovered a lot of things that give me a lot of pleasure. I love reading books, art, going for walks, listening to music, playing board games and video games. James and I had a particularly great time at a local food festival recently, which reignited my passion for food. I miss going for afternoon tea, but also discovering fun and quirky snacks imported from all different countries. I had a good talk with the guy who runs our local comic book store because he had gotten a load of the old Pokemon cards in and I wanted to complete certain sets. James and I have been playing the Pokemon TCG as well, even though I primarily collect the cards for the art. We have also been going to the cinema a lot, because we get free tickets through our health insurance, and I love discussing what we have seen. I am even considering taking up an exercise class. But even the simple pleasures, such as going outside, standing still and listening to the bird song have brought me such joy.

To a lot of people I am simply the girl who puts on those frilly dresses. But that is just one part of my life. I have so much I want to share and talk about. Also, being away from lolita has meant that I haven't been spending all my money on clothing. Not having to worry about shopping service fees and customs has been a real revelation. This month I randomly found myself in a position where I can afford to go out more and do new things, but I don't know what to do. I gave a bit of money away to causes I feel passionate about, but I am looking at ideas for new things to try. At times I feel as though I am living Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. There is a quote from this book which has always stuck with me ever since I first read it-

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

I very much feel as though I am sat in that fig tree right now. There are so many opportunities out there waiting for me, but I don't know which fig to pick and I don't want it to wrinkle and turn black. It is scary, but the same time kind of exciting. I feel as though I have learnt a very valuable life lesson recently and also, I am going to stop putting pressure on myself to be and act in a certain way. I am going to try and not put so much emphasis on what other people think of me. I love lolita, but I need to stop using it as a comfort blanket. Being away from it for a while and then slowly coming back has shown me that I need to focus more on wearing lolita for myself and nobody else. It is not the end of the world if I don't post an outfit for a while. Instead of spending my money on new stuff, I should learn to appreciate the stuff I already have. If I miss the odd post on this blog, it is not the end of the world and I am not going to try and 'force' content. But also, I feel as though I have been trying to put too much pressure on myself to make my blog content all about lolita when I could be taking a more broad approach. I wear lolita once a week maximum, but what about the other 6 days? It is this person who I am 6 days of the week that I feel I need to rediscover and nurture. This is still going to be primarily a lolita fashion blog, but from time to time you may see me deviate away from lolita from now on. You probably wont notice a great deal of a difference, but I am trying to learn to embrace the non-lolita inside of me. This is not about me loving lolita any less, but trying to move forward from what has been an eye-opening couple of months. Lessons need to be learnt. I have so much I want to explore and I am going to reach out and take a bite out of that fig.

The next challenge for me will be returning to actually wearing lolita. I have recovered quite well and I have managed to put some weight back on. My abdomen is still sensitive, but I feel as though the possibility of wearing lolita again may be quite realistic in the near future. What will I have learnt? How will it affect me going forward? I don't have the answers right now, but what I do know is the bell jar is slowly starting to rise.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Wonder Memories by Angelic Pretty

Today I am looking at Wonder Memories by Angelic Pretty. This series includes 2 dresses, a skirt, a blouse, a head bow and tights.

First up is the OP. The bodice looks quite well fitted and the shape is cute. I think the arms look a good length and are suitably puffy, which gives them a cute appearance. The cuffs are kept nice and simple too, with some pretty heart themed lace and card suit shaped buttons. The bodice features a solid coloured yoke, which has an interesting shape. I especially like the gold braid lining the yoke, as it has been done so neatly. It gives the yoke a nice, solid border and I think the yoke is well executed. The middle of the yoke has a line of card suit shaped buttons and some lace, which sits neatly on the yoke. I think the buttons are well spaced out as well. The collar is adorable too. I think the use of card suit appliques on the collar is quite bold, and maybe some wont like it, but I am a fan. There is also a small detachable bow on the collar. Although the bow is a cute shape and size, I am a bit unsure the colour choices for this bow works in some cases. On the black for example, the bow is wine red, which is not a colour that appears widely on the dress. This bow is detachable and although I am a bit unsure about it, I would leave it attached. I feel the bow really 'ties in' and finishes the look of the bodice. The back of the dress offers no shirring, so size flexibility is very limited. I am pleased that the print appears to be reasonably well lined up along the zip line though. The stock photos show that the skirt has lots of volume to it and it flares outwards generously. It will hold plenty of petticoat. The skirt design is then kept simple, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with tea cup themed lace. Although both lace choices are cute, I think I would have liked it if AP had stuck to either the tea cup or heart lace, but not both.

Here we have the JSK. The bodice seems well fitted, but I find the shape of the bodice a bit dull. It looks quite boxy. The straps are a decent width and look quite supportive. The straps are topped with a wide line of lace and some gold braid, which continues down the bodice to the waist. Although I liked the heart lace on the OP cuffs, I am not sure I like this lace used in this way down the bodice. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but something about its appearance when used in this way doesn't look quite right to me. Maybe it is because the lace is laid flat? There is a waist bow, which is a bit on the big side but has a really cute shape. I love the folds in the bow tails, which give the bow more depth and movement. The thin lace lining the waist bow is well used too. Despite its size, the waist bow appears to hold its shape well with no obvious signs of any drooping. The middle of the bodice has a line of card suit buttons, with lace on either side, which meets a line of rose lace along the neckline and a ribbon bow. The buttons are well spaced out and the lace going up the bodice is nicely gathered. However, I feel the rose themed lace along the neckline is a bit out of place. Roses don't really feature in the print and there are so many more apt designs that could have been used. I think the ribbon bow is a cute shape and size, but the ribbon used is a bit shiny. Also, the colour choices for this bow again work better on some colour ways than others. The back is fully shirred, which means the dress will have plenty of size flexibility but also means the unattractive shirring has nothing covering it. The stock photos show the skirt has loads of volume and it flares outwards lot. I like the full shape created for the stock photo, and think there is a lot of potential to create a fantastic shape. The skirt is again kept simple in design, so the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off with a line of tea cup lace layered really neatly on top of a ruffle of the main dress fabric. I like how the ruffle underneath really makes the lace stand out.

Finally, this is the print. This series comes in pink, sax blue, wine and black. The sax blue is quite a standard choice for an Alice themed print. I also think the wine and black offer some more mature looking options. I am a bit unsure about the pink version though. It is quite a dark pink, which may be difficult to co-ordinate. As for the print itself, it is quite busy, but really well set out. It is very neat and tidy. The gold frames are bold with lots of elaborate swirls to them. The playing cards fly around the frames perfectly. I think the Alice themed pictures inside the frames are well drawn with some interesting details. I especially like the inclusion of tea cups, which matches the lace used on the dresses. The Cheshire Cat is really sweet, although I think it needs a bigger grin!

So overall this is quite a well thought out series with some quite solid designs. There are some aspects of the dress designs which wont appeal to everybody, but I think there will be a good number of people who will like the designs too. The print is pretty and quite mature looking for an Alice print. Would I buy this series? Possibly, although it wont be going on my wishlist. I think my top choice would be the OP in black.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Things I Would Like To See In 2017

Hello everybody. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Years. Despite everything that is going on in my life at the moment, I managed to have a good Christmas. I am still having problems, but I am hopeful that I will be able to go back to my regular posting schedule soon. However, don't be surprised if I still miss the odd post now and then. I am having a lot of ups and downs.

So I guess seeing as this is my first post of 2017 (Bye bye 2016. I wont miss you!) it is time to do that annual tradition of looking to the year ahead and giving my thoughts on what I would like to see happen in the lolita community. I have not had much time to compile this list, but hopefully I have some points on here that a lot of us can agree on. So let's get on with this year's list!

Blouse-only Lucky Packs- I made this point on my list last year, and it is back on the list again because I feel it is an important one. Unless you are one of the few lolitas who only sticks to OPs (and I am yet to personally meet a single lolita who does only wear OPs) then blouses are a vital part of a lolita wardrobe. Blouses get a lot of wear, and as far as I am concerned, a lolita can never have enough of them. When you have more blouses, it means you can wear lolita more frequently, as you spend less time waiting for stuff which needs to be washed. I think an ideal blouse lucky pack would have one simpler design, and one more elaborate design. They would probably have to be in a common staple colour, such as white, black or ivory to make it as beneficial as possible to a wider number of lolitas. Out of the brands, I would love it the most if Baby did a blouse lucky pack, as I love their designs.

Angelic Pretty to go back to basics- 2016 was not a great year for AP. Last year saw very few "big hits" when in the past we have been used to seeing AP regularly sell out in minutes. What do I think is the problem? One issue could be that they are rehashing a lot of previous designs and only changing a few details, although this has never been much of a problem for their popular chocolate releases. But I think a big issue could also be that Angelic Pretty released a lot of OTT dress designs with endless details to them and this makes the releases a bit less wearable, as the more OTT dress designs tend to get worn at the bigger lolita events rather than more casual meets. The more details you put on a dress, the more you risk that your audience wont like certain aspects of that dress as well. One person may love an over-skirt (a big feature of AP releases recently), but another may not like the shape, or the material choice or may not like over-skirts at all. I personally don't mind a bit of OTT from time to time, but I feel that a good series should have a mixture of both simple and more dressy designs. And given how busy some prints can be, sometimes it is better to not overload a dress with loads of extra details so that the print has a chance to truly shine.

Tapered lace around the armpit area- Bear with me, this is a personal pet peeve of mine! I really dislike it when you get a dress design with wide neckline lace, which then continues on underneath the arm holes and leaves lace dangling around the armpit area. The lace ends up dangling awkwardly, getting sandwiched in your armpits. I don't think it looks that attractive either. I feel it is better to have the lace gently tapering off as the lace reaches the armpit area. I have noticed that Baby seems to be the main offender for not tapering this lace recently and I really hope this is not a trend that continues.

More good Taobao releases- In a year where I was underwhelmed by a lot of the big brands, I found myself really impressed with some of the Taobao brands and the designs they have put out. Every year Taobao as a whole seems to go from strength to strength, to the point where some Taobao stores are increasingly recommended to newcomers. In fact, sometimes the quality is almost equal to the big Japanese brands. If you have never placed a Taobao order or feel a bit overwhelmed, I would recommend checking the Taobao guide on 4chan's /cgl/ board (yes, I know 4chan has a bad reputation, but cgl's Taobao guide is really useful). Alternatively, you could check out reselling sites such as My Lolita Dress, but be aware that the prices are more expensive than ordering directly from the Taobao stores.

More art books from lolita designers- Shin Haenuli of Korean brand Haenuli recently released an art book, which looks absolutely stunning. She also frequently does little cartoons on Facebook featuring her duck character Nunu, which give a lot of insight in to what she is like as a person. This got me thinking- wouldn't it be amazing if more lolita designers did books like this? Imagine if you could see alternative designs for your favourite prints, or things that never got made in to dress designs? I feel like there is a lot that we don't know about our favourite designers, because at Q&A sessions you tend to see a lot of the same questions getting asked. I would love to get to know more about the designers behind the brands, and artwork could be a good way to get an idea what they are like.

Wider shoe variety for sweet lolita- I have been really impressed with some of the shoe choices I have seen some lolitas wearing with classic. Sometimes you can even find suitable shoes in 'normie' stores. But with sweet lolita it is a bit harder. AP's tea party shoe design has dominated sweet lolita for a very long time. Some people love them, but I know a lot of others hate them too. But it seems as though a lot of other sweet shoe designs follow the tea party shoe template, with the rounded toe and bows placed in similar positions. There have been a couple of different looking designs, but the tea parties continue to dominate sweet. As much as I love my tea party shoes and my Bodyline lookalikes, sometimes I think it would be great to have a bit more variety. Taobao is an option, but their sizes can be very limited. Bodyline often runs out of the popular sizes and the leftovers hang around the site for ages.

More cohesive shades of colours- This seems to be a long-term issue and one I continued to spot last year. It seems as though no 2 colours ever match. Sometimes you even see noticeably different shades of colours within the same series. I wouldn't mind if the colours varied just a little from time to time, but every item I purchase seems to be a different colour! When I brought Milky Swan last year I came very close to picking the pink instead of the lavender, because I knew that I would probably end up needing to buy more lavender items so I would have at least something that matched. It is lucky I got the head bow as well, because as expected the lavender did not match anything I had previously brought. It has gotten to the point where I have become more lenient about colour matching in outfits, as I know how painfully difficult it is to get everything the correct shade.

So that is my list for this year. I apologise if it seems a little rushed. After a long break, it has been difficult getting back in to the blogging mindset again. Do you have anything that you would like to see this year? Feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas.

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