To start, we should clear up any prior misconceptions you may have about the fashion.
- First off, it has nothing to do with the book, Lolita.
- Secondly, it is not a cosplay, or anime-related style. Characters in anime may wear things that look like Lolita clothing, but more often than not, they are ita (Ita is Lolita slang, meaning 'doing it wrong', or more directly, 'painful to look at'). Some cosplayers may cosplay a character that wears Lolita-esque clothing, only to be ridiculed by Lolitas who don't realize that the cosplayer is doing what they do: Cosplaying.
- Lastly, Lolita fashion as a whole is not meant to emulate children's clothing. There may be a few dresses out there that look undoubtedly childish to you, but they do not represent the entire fashion movement. More than likely, the dress you saw was some form of Sweet Lolita, or more likely OTT Sweet Deco (OTT means Over-the-top).
Now that these things are out of the way, we can move on to the next section, that is Substyles. There are quite a few substyles to choose from, and you are not limited to any one of them, though it would be easier on the budget to choose only one to start with.
Gothic Lolitas do not wear black lipstick, as it is tacky even to your average western goth. Black lipstick is out of style, and not very flattering on most girls. Red is a good lipstick option, but not necessary. It's very important to have elegance in mind when doing your makeup for this style.
The shoes most commonly found in Gothic Lolita tend to be taller platform shoes, whether heels or flat. Also, many girls wear normal heels with Gothic Lolita, so long as the colors match. Bows and frills are not as popular on Gothic Lolita shoes, as it is more tuned to sweet. Platform boots from Hot Topic don't tend to match well with Gothic Lolita as they are not often elegant enough.
Headdress choice of a Gothic lolita varies a small bit. Old style headdresses are still very prominent in gothic, but the circle headdresses and any other sort of elegant hair accessories are good. Bows are not very popular, as they are more for sweet.
Common mistake within this style: Black does not always make it gothic, striped socks are too cutesy.
Sweet Lolita looks best with a more natural color makeup scheme, though with added blush and perhaps fake eyelashes, for a more doll-like look. Some girls opt to get circle lenses, which make the eyes look bigger and more doll-like as well. Also, wigs are very popular with Sweet Lolita, especially OTT Sweet, as bigger, curly hair with lots of volume is a big plus to the style. It's very rare for a girl to have as much hair in such a thickness as a good wig, as well as the fact that split-color wigs are getting popular these days and many girls don't want to dye their hair for proffessional reasons as well as not wanting to risk damage to their hair. Sweet Lolita also focuses the most on accessories compared to the other substyles, so it can be a bit expensive to get into right away.
Sweet Lolita's choice of shoes ranges by the preference of the wearer. Many like clunky round-toed shoes with taller platforms, while others prefer flatter shoes with lots of buckles (known as Tea Parties). The most common detail about Sweet Lolita shoes is that they are decorated. Bows, lace, lacing, buckles, and scallopped edges, are all very popular decorations on the shoes for this style.
Also it should be noted that Sweet Lolita things come in many colors, so long as they are eye-catching without being eye-burning. Pink, blue, yellow, mint, red, and even black are the most common colors with Sweet Lolita.
Choice of headdress for Sweet is usually a giant headbow, but the old style headdresses are still acceptable and even popular. Also, anything else that looks cute and matches your outfit is go. If you're doing OTT Sweets Deco, try to have alot of accessories on your head and in your hair - Just be sure that they match!
Common mistake within this style: Color matching, accessory matching (many girls don't seem to take colors into account when attempting Sweet/OTT Sweet).
Classic Lolita's general makeup scheme is the most natural looking of the substyles. It is more focused on having a natural glow, while still enhancing your face's features and looking mature and elegant.
Classic Lolita is also one of the Lolita styles that works best with normal heels (the kind you can find at your local department store). Clunky platforms look very out of place with this style, as well as super-high heels. Low heels and a simple look are the most popular. Some bows may be found on a Classic Lolita's shoes, but not too many.
Common headdresses tend to be more toned down than other styles. Circle headdresses are more popular, but nice flower accessories are easier to coordinate and tend to be more unique. Old style headdresses are acceptable, but do not enhance the style much. Headbows are too much.
Common mistake within this style: Uninteresting/boring/lack of accessories.
There are also even smaller substyles than these, but they are typically mixed in with the aforementioned substyles.
- Kuro Lolita: Is any Lolita outfit where everything being worn is black, even down to shoes and accessories (and even hair).
- Shiro Lolita: Is any Lolita outfit where everything being worn is white, even down to shoes and accessories (and even hair).
- Pirate Lolita: Most anything you can find by Alice and the Pirates, it is every bit as piratey as the name suggests.
- Sailor Lolita: It is generally thought to be a form of Sweet Lolita, this is a style that mimics sailor uniforms, but with the lolita silhouette, and sometimes added bows and ruffles. Add a sailor hat with a bow for extra cuteness.
- Wa Lolita: It's a lolita style based on traditional japanese kimono. It's not a very popular style as it can be seen as even more "out there" than Lolita already is.
- Qi Lolita: It's like Wa Lolita, but based on Chinese Qipao. Also seen as more "out there" than usual Lolita styles.
- Casual Lolita: As the name suggests, it's Lolita worn in a more casual style, such as wearing a cotton shirt, not wearing a shirt under a jumperskirt, wearing easier-to-wear socks, wearing less accessories, and either wearing a light petticoat or not wearing a petticoat at all. That being said it's generally hard to pull off without losing alot of what makes Lolita what it is.