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6 Tips for Shopping Lolita Overseas (Japan)

As a disclaimer; I am an American living on the west coast so the information below is "centric" to my personal experiences but likely applies to many other situations. I really advise that after reading this that you might want to web search for more information about your specific country.

1. Get a Paypal Account
The first step you should do for shopping overseas is set up a paypal account; paypal is accepted by most stores in Japan that are willing to ship overseas. I do not fully understand why but many Japan companies prefer not to ship internationally and in those cases another step will be necessary. In either case most Japanese Businesses will prefer to be paid through paypal then with your credit or debit card. To make things simpler you can tie your debit card to your paypal so it can draw money for online purchases directly from your account. Every payment needs to be approve by you, the paypal account holder, so sometimes you will find situations where the seller will ask that you keep an eye out for a bill to be sent to your paypal account sometime after you have sent in an order. Traditionally you need to make this payment before they will place the package in the mail.
Important note about paypal claims; Paypal allows you to file a claim to be refunded (through Paypal; not the seller) if something goes horribly wrong. There is a time-window in which a claim can be filed in order to get a refund so it is important to stay on top of the status of your order. If the problem happens outside of the time window and the seller simply refuses to refund you then there is often no way to get your money back.

2. Save up $20 to $40 USD for Shipping & Handling
Japan, perhaps because it is an island, has very expensive shipping rates and it is often determined by the weight of the package being sent out. Setting aside money separately from what you can spend on the actual items is important to do in advance because sometimes you might want to buy something, might have the money to purchase it, but then you may not have the $20 to ??? dollars to have it actually sent out to you. By saving up a head of time you are giving yourself the freedom to not worry about shipping costs and instead you can then simply focus on the price of items you want to buy.
Important note about the rising cost in imports from Japan; Due to a recent change in Japanese law, consumer tax has risen (as of April 1st 2014) to 8% from 5% which means that Japanese businesses have adjusted their pricing to compensate. On January 1st 2015 the consumer tax will rise again to 10%. This change is going to be reflected in how much products either cost or how much sellers charge for shipping. (It's up to each company how they want to "express" the rise in cost)

3. Know the differences between EMS shipping and Air Mail
It is very important to understand the differences between these two services because while many stores only use one, some businesses may offer you the choice of either of these shipping methods. Two key differences are the price and delivery time.
Air Mail is much cheaper (Bodyline has a flat shipping rate for Air Mail) and EMS can vary based on Weight ($15 to $20 minimum).
In terms of delivery time Air is shipped through a bulk method which means factors not related to when you ordered the item determine when it will ship out. Air Mail can take up to 40 days to arrive due to this so time-sensitive objects are a bad idea for this method. By comparison EMS usually takes under two weeks. My personal advice for this difference is that Air is a good option if you want something eventually but do not need it in the immediate future; while EMS guarantees a smaller time window and allows for easier tracking of the package; in case you need to know exactly when it will be arriving.
The other major difference between EMS and Air Mail is the issue of security; EMS insures the packages and will compensate if the package is lost (it is important to make sure the package is listed at it's correct value in order to do this) while Air Mail guarantees nothing. Depending on what region of the world you live in the issue of making sure you package is insured differs. If you are pretty sure your region is "safe" and has a low theft rate (some countries have low theft rates in their suburban neighborhoods but high theft rates within the postal system) then the likely hood of needing to re-coop from a lost package is low and you might not need to worry about insurance; but if you are in a "high risk" area then insurance might protect you from a long financial recovery.

4. Be aware of Shopping Service Fees
Stores in Japan that refuse to ship internationally can still be accessible through a shopping service or an "ss". A shopping service is an individual or a group of individuals working together who can physically get to the store you want to buy from and purchase the items in person to then ship out to you. There will be a fee and it's usually based on a flat "travel fee"; the cost of transportation (gas for car or bus ticket) and time PLUS a certain % of the total purchase cost (starting at 2% of the total cost). There may or may not also be a fee for the shipping, though how a Shopping Service chooses to list and break-down their fees is unique to each of them.
The three most important things to consider when selecting a Shopping Service is;
A) Feedback from past customers,
B) Communication; their ability converse with you and
C) How their fees compare to other competing Shopping Services

The reason why I listed Feedback before communication or fee rates is that there have been many bogus Shopping Services in the past. Because the person lives far away, often in a different country with different consumer laws, there is a lot of room for them to potentially "take the money and run" (stop replying to messages and just ignore any outreach). It can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to get your money back from a corrupt ss so it is best to read as much feedback as possible before even contacting them. It's even best to go with a more expensive Shopping Service that has good to fantastic feedback then an "okay" one that is sluggish and not as reliable. Reliability is also very important because many store in Japan release things in limited number so it is important for the ss to go to the store and pick up your item before it sells out.
In terms of communication it is very important that a shopping service can understand exactly what item you want, in what size and what color. A good idea is to both send your requests in e-mail form and with pictures attached. Try to get some sort of confirmation that you understand each other before any money has exchanged; sometimes shopping services mean very well but because of the language barrier gigantic mistakes can be made (buys wrong color, wrong size, buys multiples, etc).
Regarding the fees for an ss, as stated above, it's really best to pay more for better service. Don't be swayed by a cheap shopping service; if their prices are too low that is often a bad sign that they may be a scam.

5. Always follow website instructions and take a moment to consider each sentence
Web stores based in Japan either have hired someone to translate their web site or have left browsers like Chrome to automatically do the translation for them. Most of the forums you will see when shopping online will have very blunt and clear statements ("address", "state", "country") but sometimes you will run into a field that requires information that... You just can't make sense of. Before panicking and asking the internet for help; take a moment to try and consider the most literal meaning of the text given to you. If you consider this, but still aren't sure, then it's always okay to take a screen cap (if you can; screen captures are very useful) and go to a place on the internet that can help you.

6. Returns are not very Japanese
Most stores from Japan are reluctant to do refunds for customers. Some stores even refuse to acknowledge when something is defective. So please, please; when ordering overseas do not automatically assume you can return what you receive. It is very important to be sure that what you are ordering is what you truly want and that if it doesn't work out you will not be devastated. Try to mentally come up with a back-up measure if it doesn't work; could you resell it or is their a friend that could fit it better that you could gift it to? Considering these options and having a plan can be really helpful in relieving stress as you wait for your package to arrive.

So those are my six tips for shopping Japanese stores as an international (American) customer. Really the most important thing to take from this list is that importing goods is not an impossibility but it will always be more challenging then shopping within your own country. Please don't feel intimidated to try it out; it's not hard so much as it's just a few more steps.
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Plus Size Bodyline OP List

Plus Size Bodyline OP List LAST UPDATED: 1-12-2014
This is one of a number of lists I am doing of Bodyline's Plus-size or "2L and up" items available on their site. Before we get started; I would like to mention 4 important points...

1. Bodyline is weird about sizing!
Items from Bodyline are idenified as "s" (small?) "m" (medium?) "l" (large?) and... 2L? 3L? 4L? It can get confusing and sometimes the measurements don't match the tag size or any other outfit with that same tag size. That said; it is very important to check the measurements given for EACH and EVERY items on their website before buying it.

2. Don't go for the Max Measurement!
If it turns out that you are at the maximum of one size measurement given but are on the smaller end of the next size up, always buy the garment where your measurement is somewhere between the minimum or maximum measurement given. If you buy the item that mentions your measurement as the absolute max number then there is a chance it might be too uncomfortable to wear. Also, if you are the absolute minimum number given it will likely be way, way too big. Most Bodyline size options have an area of overlap so it's unlikely you will be "between sizes" and unable to find something.

3. Search for Reviews!
Look for reviews by other Lolitas of the item you are considering buying. Sometimes the numbers on the website are conservative and a dress may be able to fit bigger measurements then listed. Also, sometimes you will find certain body types fit certain cuts better or worse. So always do some research before ordering; this list is intended to narrow down the most likely to fit for plus size and to save you time on Bodyline's site.

4. Out of stock? Don't Panic!
If the color or size you were interested in has sold out; don't panic! Unless an item becomes listed on Bodyline's "Last One" page, it will likely be restocked sometime in the future. Keep checking back about once or twice a week and you will most likely find it back in stock eventually. Sometimes they will restock every color in one size; sometimes they will restock one color in every size... It's very mysterious!

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Lolita Desu Review - Angelic Pretty e-Mook, Tote and Bows!

(Disclaimer: My video camera / iPhone isn't working very well right now and is generating corrupted chunks in the middle of video files; so youtube product review videos and all videos in general are going to be delayed due to extra-editing and re-filming that has to occur)

First Lolita Desu Purchase!



Transaction / Company Overview: Lolita Desu is a simple, clean and straight-forward Japanese-based online Lolita store that sells both used and new Lolita items. They range from "brand" names (Such as Angelic Pretty, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Innocent World and Metamorphose) to "off-brand" (Liz Lisa, Swimmer and Chocomint) to no-brand-or-company-name-mentioned. They provide both stock photos of items from the original designer as well as their own pictures of every item, along with measurements and other useful information. I had a really good experience with them basically because it was simple and hassle-free. A lot of Lolita will work through independent shopping services in Japan to obtain goods but I keep hearing horror stories about that. In contrast Lolita Desu has an online store with items in stock on display, a very simple shopping cart system and a comment box provided for any special requests or instructions. Having a tracking number attached to your purchase is an additional purchase you must add to your cart before check-out; otherwise Lolita Desu will keep you updated about your package up until they drop it off at the post office where at which point it is un-track-able. I chose not to buy tracking this time because I was already waiting on an un-track-able package so waiting for two within the same week was a reasonable option for me.

Packing: I had heard that Lolita Desu tends to use candy in place of packing material and this was the case with my package. There was a small space that, if left unfilled, would have left too much room for my items to jiggle around and bump into each other. This gap was filled with a plastic-sealed three-pack of small color Mochi, or rice gluten candy, that cushioned everything nicely. I also found the free candy heart-warming in that even when buying used, Lolita clothing can be very expensive and it's nice to get a tiny freebie gift to soften the finacial blow.

Item #1 - Angelic Pretty Pair of Lavender Hair Bows;
Fantastic condition for used; only a slight hint of aging existed, though it was simply because both bows aren't exactly "factory fresh". No damage, no stains, no discoloration beyond a the lace being simply white instead of a crisp bleached white. They were exactly as advertised. The material really surprised me as I have never owned brand before; the ribbon was extremely soft and finer in quality then any I have run into at the craft store or on vintage clothing. Both bows have a yellow-gold metal comb in the back to fasten to your head and were hand-stitched very securely to the ribbon. The lace is equally as soft while also being very well constructed and sturdy in nature. Overall I was most excited when I realized that the bows perfectly matched my vintage 1970s lavender jumper. I had suspected they may match but I was holding off on building up too much hope, but now that it's confirmed I'm really super happy.

Item #2 / 1 of 2 - Angelic Pretty e-Mook;
Brand new soft-cover art / photo book of most of Angelic Pretty's collection from the last several years. Most of all of it is in Japanese and I am unsure about how much of the total collection it represents. The cover is made of card-stock and has a satin-soft finish to it while the interior pages are very thick and hearty for book pages. The images are crisp and the swatches of each print are large enough that you can see all the details. I would really recommend this book to Fans of the brand, Crafty Lolita and Lolita who collect AP and would like an easy-to-carry reference to bring along when shopping for coordinating accessories. I personally am going to use it mostly as a guide for future projects and as a way of easily introducing people to Lolita fashion with a visual aid instead of trying to verbally describe it.

Item #2 / 2 of 2 - Angelic Pretty Sugary Carnival Tote Bag;
This is marketed as the "free" bag that comes with the e-Mook but I would say it's so well made that it counts as half the value of the $30 total price tag for both items. What is really useful is that the bag is packaged in it's own individual plastic bag that is glued to the inside of one of the e-Mook's pages. This means you can separate it from the e-Mook without actually opening the tote bag's packaging. Lolita Desu offers the option to not have the tote shipped with the e-Mook or to not that the e-Mook shipped with the tote. Either way the total cost will remain at $30 so I would recommend, no matter which you really want, to have both items shipped out together as is. If you do not want the tote, you can leave it in it's own packaging and save it as a future gift to give to a Lolita friend. What could feel cooler then giving a friend a brand item as gift and you, technically, got it for free in the first place? Anyway, back to the tote; good-quality fake-leather straps and very roomy. You could fit a few books, a moderate shopping spree or even a laptop in it. I've already used it quite a bit and it seems to be pretty tough for a tote. The print on mine is very crisp and bright, though I have hard conflicting reports about the print sometimes being faded. Mine has a hint, or "shadow" of some other type of print barely noticeable on it but you would never notice unless carefully examining it with reading glasses. Overall I am extremely pleased with my free Angelic Pretty bag.

In conclusion I would really advise anyone and everyone to check out Lolita Desu for a simple, stream-line international shopping experience. I was timid about buying too much the first time around but now I can say with confidence that it's a good, trustworthy business that's totally worth every cent.
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Upcoming Videos and Future Plans

So I've come to the end of my Lolita shopping spree over the last few months, leading to a steady change in the future content of my Lolita-themed videos on youtube.
I don't think that I have mentioned it before but I saved up a lot of money to start my Lolita wardrobe with staples to then build upon. Over the next few videos you will see my Lolita Desu, Bodyline and April Cornell hauls followed by an abrupt shift to handmade-Lolita showcases and walk-throughs of projects I am working on.

I am not a professional seamstress and only have a background in quilting so many of my future pieces are going to feature patchwork elements. On the EGL livejournal Group I asked fellow Lolitas for their thoughts on patchwork and was very impressed by the diversity of reactions and opinions on the subject (Topic - Style discussion: Raggedly Lolita?). While some felt very against the notion, others embraced it but ultimately time will tell who was right once I get a few pieces done.
I am very open and receptive of other people's viewpoint even when it is in direct contrast with my own as it helps my own perspective stay flexible and aware of how no one person always knows best.
Also recently I posted images of two projects I'm currently planning out (Topic - How should I CUT them?) on EGL for the community's opinion once again. This entire thread I found even more interesting then the patchwork discussion as this project revolves around turning two "almost" Lolita dresses into "proper" Lolita dresses. Many of the ideas and suggestions will become part of both pieces and I truly feel grateful for the guidance.

In the upcoming future I will post images of all of the above projects to that you can see step by step how a budget Lolita can take meek resources and make the very best of them. Also I will continue to suggest off-brand alternative fashion labels that can work with Lolita and even surpass a lot of brand expectations for a lot less money.
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Ramble: Utility vs. Lolita

(There's no real "point" or conclusion to the questions raised here; I'm just pondering a daily confronted situation aloud)

One can easily say that Lolita fashion was first formed and expanded upon by a section of society that, within the greater whole of Japanese society, didn't have to worry too much about the idea of running into used hypodermic needles on the side walk.
Now, the neighborhood I live in isn't "so bad", but the greater city it is incorporated into, I feel, presents some logistical challenges to being an Elegant Lolita. How is one suppose to be frilly and bell-shaped on a public bus with tweekers and odd stains on the seat next to you? The seat next to you, I would add, that your ruffled skirt hem will end up over-flowing onto.
This is, I believe, an issue many alternative fashion people face. While no one likes the thought of wasting money; there is a certain additional emotional loss that occurs when a garment you bought overseas from a brand designer, or a piece you made yourself, becomes ruined through a chance event in public.
So how can we find a middle ground for both self expression and urban adaption? I'm not completely certain; but this is a challenge I now face in becoming a purposeful Lolita. While, as mentioned before, I have been mistaken for one while not actually wearing Lolita pieces; the act of now considering which Lolita pieces to buy has made me stare reality in the face.
If you own a car or have a committed driver (Parents, Spouse, Lover or good friend) there is no transportation reason to alter your look. But if, say, you are a non-driver -and- you use public transport; there is a certain duty to not get in other people's way that needs to be taken into account.
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Icing Haul June 2013

- youtube video of a "Budget Lolita"-theme Icing Haul; http://youtu.be/20MUvAWVPH4 -

Icing Haul June 2013

I am really content and proud with what I got; everything is kinda Sweet Lolita or kinda Classic. It's just the right mix with the pastels mostly all being a little more subtle then usual and the fabric textures being enriching to the mono-tonality.

This haul is just a fraction of the very-Lolita accessories available right now at Icing. Given how expensive this fashion style is, I really do intend to save up my money to buy a nice JSK (jumper skirt) or full / bell skirt from Bodyline or another affordable company. The colorways and styles of hair bows and flowers at Icing could really go with a lot of the different sub-styles of Lolita; here are some links below to products that weren't in my haul but that I saw in person and that I think were of very acceptable quality :

- Black Oversized Chiffon Bow Hair Clip (/w long tails); http://www.icing.com/icing/us/goods/icing+commerce+root/cat1860086/barrettes+%26+bobby+pins/p39093/oversized+chiffon+bow+hair+clip/
- Large Acrylic Polka Dot Bow Ring (Reminds me of Angelic Pretty); http://www.icing.com/icing/us/goods/icing+commerce+root/cat1550018/fashion/p2001372/large+acrylic+polka+dot+bow+ring/
- Chiffon Floral Print with Pearl Accents Bow Hair Clip; http://www.icing.com/icing/us/goods/icing+commerce+root/cat1860086/barrettes+%26+bobby+pins/p86551/chiffon+floral+print+with+pearl+accents+bow+hair+clip/
- Carved Flower with Crystals Stretch Ring (Very Sweet / Deco); http://www.icing.com/icing/us/goods/icing+commerce+root/cat1550018/fashion/p91607/carved+flower+with+crystals+stretch+ring/
- Black Lace Trimmed Chiffon Bow Hair Clip; http://www.icing.com/icing/us/goods/icing+commerce+root/cat1860086/barrettes+%26+bobby+pins/p27608/lace+trimmed+chiffon+bow+hair+clip/

As mentioned in the haul vlog; my next haul video will be a review of a group of tops I ordered from Landsend. While Landsend is not by any means a company that designs for Lolita, I did find a selection of school uniform shirts (which come in children's, womans & womans plus sizes) which feature peter pan collar shirts and pastel colorways. I'm ordering them with the logic in mind that Landsend produces clothing products intended to endure heavy use and regular laundrying; the latter being something you are often not suppose to subject Brand items to very much. So I would kinda file the next review under "mainstream alternatives to the cut-sew blouse".
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Broekn, Damaged and Lovely (A first post)

Hello, I am a cracked tea cup who wants to blog and vlog about, among other things, Lolita fashion!

I'm starting this blog to run along side my youtube channel with the only difference being that all entries here will be Lolita-related (to tie in with the egl community here on livejournal) while my youtube channel is going to expand out to include non-Lolita related things such as movie, video game and anime reviews.
(Whenever I make a non-Lolita video I'll link it here in my next post as a footnote to an otherwise Lolita-related post)

So basically I'm a 26-year old fan of Lolita fashion whom has been following the style since the early 2000's. Lolita, mostly Sweet and Classic, has always seemed very appealing to me and often I have described myself in the past as an "admirer" of the fashion; siting that I'm not actually taking part in it but enjoying it from afar much like one enjoys a piece of art in an art gallery.

BUT... This is the year. Everyone always asks if I'm dressing in Lolita, as my daily dress has a very Lolita-vibe, so I've decided to take the plunge and take an intentional step towards Lolita fashion. What I'm going to end up looking like isn't exactly clear but I think it will be something like Casual Lolita with themes from Sweet and colorways from Classic combined to form a toned-down yet very Lolita-y look.

Part of what inspires me to take this clothing journey now is the recent passing of a loved one; I've come to realize that though I might never be a full-blown Lolita, I've always wanted to be more like one. Witnessing mortality and the reality of how fragile we are made me realize that if I want to look like a doll, then dammit, I should just go for it while I still look the part.