I was amazed at the great turnout for this panel…despite the early morning time slot. A great big thanks to everybody who attended!! I know several people mentioned that they couldn’t make it, and its hard to remember everything in panels, so here’s what was covered. If I’ve forgotten to include something or if you have more questions, leave a comment or email me at email@example.com.
What is Lolita?
If you don’t know a lot about Elegant Gothic Lolita, I recommend that you browse the categories here. Even if you’re familiar with the fashion, its a good site to get some ideas for your own clothes. Other places to get ideas…Gothic and Lolita Bible. There are myriad Japanese editions available on Ebay and other online sites. There are only 5 G & L Bibles printed in English, which are currently out of print. They were distributed by Tokyo Pop which has been defunct but are still available in various online places. Even if you can only get your hands on one edition it’s well worth it. And another good place to get ideas for inspiration is from the websites of the Japanese brands themselves. (See the sidebar on this blog for links to brand sites.)
Now a word about the Aristocrat and Kodona(boy lolita) styles…I’ll give just a couple of references in this post. If you’d like more clothing ideas, see my Steampunk 101 post below. There are links to clothing sites with a lot of pieces that would work well. All the major pattern brands have more wonderful patterns in their costume sections that are suitable too.
Terms to know:
OP…one piece dress with sleeves
JSK…jumper skirt, basically a dress without sleeves
bodice...the top of an op or jsk that attaches to the skirt.
muslin…a preliminary garment used to perfect the fit of a pattern before cutting expensive fashion fabric.
baste…use a long loose stitch to hold pieces together to get the fit right.
finished seam…a finished seam refers to any seam that is finished by one of three methods. Zig zagging the edges of a seam is easily achieved using any standard sewing machine. Serging the edges is only possible with a serger machine. French seams take a little more effort, can be done with a standard sewing machine, and only work on straight seams. Finished seams make your garment last 10 times longer, look more professional, and help the garment retain its shape.
french seam…a finished seam in which the raw edges are encased in the fabric. This is accomplished by stitching a narrow seam with wrong sides of the fabric facing each other. Then turning the fabric so right sides face each other and stitching another seam, encasing the raw edges. This type of seam is perfect for delicate fabrics like silk and lace that fray easily, but works on just about any light to medium weight fabric. It also makes the garment more heirloom quality. French seams do not work on curves. (This picture shows the underside of a skirt with a french seam.)Where to start?
I reference several patterns for the same things. Choose the ones that suit you best. Get the basic skirt pattern…Simplicity 2827 to start with. You can actually turn that pattern into a JSK by leaving off the sleeves and lining the bodice, or you could go ahead and make the whole dress. I use the same skirt pattern for everything. I recommend starting with skirts. Then move to JSK’s and dresses.
While it is entirely possible to sew a dress by hand, it takes a very long time and a lot of patience! You can buy a basic sewing machine for around $100 at any fabric store. Better yet, ask a relative, neighbor, or friend if they have one laying around they’d like to sell, or let you borrow. Most people buy sewing machines with good intentions but end up using them once or twice before they collect dust. Look for machines on freecycle.org, craigslist, thrift stores, and yard sales. Always ask to test the machine if you’re spending more than $20 on it. I own a Singer Touch and Sew 600E model from the 1950’s that was given to me. Its all metal, very heavy duty, and I’ve been using it for over 15 years without any problems. A basic used machine should cost around $50 if its in good condition. You should get and read the instruction book. If it doesn’t come with one, you can usually get one online at the company’s website.
Buying Patterns and Fabrics:
Vests, sleeveless dresses, and dress patterns can all be converted to JSK’s or OP’s. The key is to look for a pattern with these attributes…
1. The waist and bodice are separate.
2. The division between waist and bodice sits at the natural waist. Many patterns have a higher “empire” or baby doll waistline.
Never pay more than $3.99 for a mainstream commercial pattern. Vogue patterns go on sale for $3.99. Simplicity, Butterick, and McCalls will go on sale for $1 or $1.99. Occasionally, Burda patterns will go on sale too.
Make sure you take your bust, waist, and hip measurements before buying a pattern. Look at the back of the envelope and find the size that matches your measurements the closest. Then, make sure you buy a pattern in that size. Pattern sizes NEVER correspond with off the rack sizes.
Draft your own skirt(good for those who don’t fit commercial patterns).
Skirt, and JSK or OP…Simplicity 2827
Sign up online or in the store for craft and fabric stores in your area. I shop mostly at JoAnn Fabrics….just because it’s close to me. You can also get fabric at Hobby Lobby, Hancock Fabrics, and specialty quilting stores. You’ll get fliers in the mail with coupons before the sales begin, and email coupons as well. I rarely ever buy anything that isn’t on sale or with a coupon. It pays to spend a couple of hours looking around the fabric store.
Don’t forget to look online too. Check ebay and etsy for beautiful new and vintage fabrics. The now out of print Daisy Kingdom prints have a lot of Lolita-esque patterns and aren’t that expensive online. Spoonflower has very nice prints too.
Lolita clothing uses primarily cotton fabric. Velvet, silk, and brocades are acceptable too. I like the weight of cotton home dec fabrics, polished cotton, calico, premium quilting cotton, and novelty print cottons. Never use satin, halloween grade fabric, or broadcloth. If its thin or shiny put it back!
There is much discussion about lace in the Lolita communities. I choose lace that feels soft to the skin. Crocheted lace, venice lace, and eyelet lace are all safe bets. If it has metallic threads or is “crunchy” to the touch skip it. Vintage lace is fabulous. If you have just a little snippet it can be highlighted on a bodice, pocket, bow, or sleeves.
Fitting and Sewing Patterns:
First, you can teach yourself to sew quite easily. If you have some sewing skills, but don’t recognize or remember how to do something, look it up on YouTube!
When using a new bodice pattern make a muslin. You’ll save yourself alot of time and money by going the extra mile here. And the beauty of it is that once you make a muslin, you won’t have to mess with refitting that pattern again. I use cotton sheets from the thrift store. They’re durable and easy to work with. (Don’t be confused by the term “muslin”. There is a fabric called muslin that can be used to make a muslin….but why spend $3+/yard for muslin when you can get a cotton sheet for around $1!)
Choose the pattern you want, cut out the pieces using the muslin fabric, transfer the pattern markings to the pieces, and baste together. Try it on inside out(or put it on your sewing dummy if you’re lucky enough to have one) and make adjustments. Baste the new adjustments and try it on again. If the fit is the way you want it, trim the seams so they’re 5/8″, remove the basting stitches, and use the newly fitted muslin pieces as your pattern for cutting out your fancy fabric.
Most costume patterns don’t line the bodice. I always line my bodices as it makes a more durable, modest, and heirloom quality piece. Use lining fabric in a color close to your bodice fabric. (Ask for lining fabric at the fabric store…its just called “lining” fabric. Its usually a silky feeling thin fabric that’s cheaper than fashion fabric, isn’t bulky inside a bodice, and moderately easy to work with.) Cut out the lining using the same bodice pattern and stitch together. Then, stitch right sides together around the neck of the bodice and turn inside. Tack down near the waist.
SHIRRING…I add 1″ to the center fold edge of the bodice back to accommodate shirring. This way, the dress can be pulled on over the head without adding a zipper or buttons. I use a 1/4″ elastic for shirring. On the inside of the garment, after you’ve attached the bodice, mark parallel lines about 2″ apart from the neck to the waist. The elastic rows should stretch across the back from shoulder to shoulder, but not from side seam to side seam. These measurements are pretty arbitrary. You can make adjustments until you like the way it looks. The first picture is the outside of the dress. The second is the inside.
SKIRTS…You can make a skirt with an elasticized back waistband and flat front waistband, but you’ll have to add a zipper and button. The simplest skirt is a fully elasticized waistband. You won’t need a zipper and button for that. Here is a tutorial if you want to make a folded over waistband. This tutorial is a basic one on how to measure for and attach a separate waistband. If you 1″ or 2″ to the width, don’t sew the short ends closed first, and insert elastic, you’ll have a fully elasticized waistband.
RUFFLES...A standard Lolita skirt is 21″ from the waist to the hem….of course, you can adjust this measurement if you have longer legs. Ideally, the skirt will hit just at the middle or bottom of the knee with a regular petticoat on. I use the basic skirt pattern and shorten it according to how wide a ruffle I want on the dress. If you use the same skirt pattern I do, your ruffle will be 216″ long and whatever width you choose. Don’t forget to hem your ruffle. You’ll likely need to piece it together by sewing french seams at each of the short ends. I sew mine into a circle and pin it on my skirt.
Here is a nice scalloped edge tutorial.A scalloped edge looks good with a ruffle underneath.
PETTICOATS AND BLOOMERS…Here is a good tutorial on making a simple petticoat, you have to turn on the captions manually. This same person has a bloomer tutorial too…just be aware that it goes very fast. You’ll notice that she uses french seams on the inside of the leg. I wouldn’t bother sewing all the pockets for the various elastic in her waistbands. Its much easier to sew one large pocket and insert a wide piece of elastic. Then go back and sew a couple of lines of stitching, while stretching the elastic, to keep the elastic from rolling. Look through her videos to find a simple lolita skirt too.
Bows, Headdresses, Bonnets, Mini Hats, Crowns, and more…don’t forget to accessorize your outfit. Lolitas always wear something on their head. I’ll post a bow picture tutorial later this weekend.
Here is just one of a million tutorials for a headdress.
Here’s a bonnet tutorial.
This is another great bonnet tutorial.
Here’s a lovely mini top hat tutorial.
And here is a beaded crown tutorial.
MAKING IT YOURS…
This is the really fun part! You can mix and match bodices, sleeves, and collars. Lolita blouses/dresses usually have rounded peter pan collars. Add lace wherever you want it, add ribbon bows, tiny purses, pockets, hearts, rickrack, and more. Appliques are wonderful on Lolita outfits too.
You can modify an existing blouse, t-shirt, skirt, or sundress to look Lolita. Here are a couple of examples and tutorials…
This is a great overview for ideas and simple instructions.
Here’s a cutsew tutorial.
And another cutsew tutorial.
WOW! You made it through that monster post!!! Congratulations. I’ve posted most of the Lolita clothes I’ve made on here already. If you’re interested in seeing how I mixed and matched patterns, just click the Lolita tag on the side bar to bring up all the Lolita related posts. Many of them are just fun gatherings, but a lot will talk about materials/patterns used to make a piece. Thanks for visiting!
P.S…I love to get comments and answer questions, so don’t be shy! Let me know you stopped in for a visit. 🙂