Thursday, 20 July 2017

Choosing a Meet Venue

I am reeling from a bit of sad new today. The Mitre, as the Oxfordshire community knew it, is no more. I don't know if it still operates as a restaurant, but it has left the chain that it has been a part of ever since I first discovered the place. Although there were a very questionable times there, overall it was a good venue to hold a meet at. It was low fuss and you could casually drop in without much need for reservation.

The first meet the Oxfordshire Lolitas had at The Mitre

Activity in the Oxfordshire Lolitas had winded down, but it still makes me feel sad to see The Mitre wont be what it once was. I went there not just with the community, but with friends and sometimes even just with James. Most of the staff knew who we were. So I feel as though there is now a hole which I need to fill. But here I will talk specifically about what I look for in a lolita meet venue. Although I doubt I will be doing much hosting in the near future, I hope I can find a new place to fill the void that the Mitre has left.

Firstly, is it big enough? If you are a member of a community then it is a good idea to get a rough idea of how many 'regulars' actually attend meets. Don't be out off by community groups that have multiple hundreds of members! Meets rarely get that big and when they do, people tend to break off in to little groups to do their own thing anyway. Sometimes it is good to casually pop in to a venue beforehand to get a feel of how busy the place gets. Even though a venue may seem like a suitable size, a more busy venue is less likely to be relaxing. Also, the staff will be more stretched which could potentially lower the quality of your experience. Are you likely to need to make a reservation? Although I say that you could casually go to the Mitre, this was not true around any big holidays or during big promotions. There is nothing worse than turning up somewhere only to find that it wont work out and you are going to have to find somewhere for a bunch of hungry lolitas to go to.

Another issue with business and venue size would be how easy it is to navigate the venue whilst wearing lolita. It is easy to forget just how big our petticoats can be sometimes! If you are having to squeeze past a load of narrowly spaced out tables, it can get a bit uncomfortable. Also, some toilet cubicles I have experienced whilst wearing lolita have been anything but roomy.

Is the venue easy to access? Can you easily get there from the location where your group is intending to meet up? Sometimes you may find that people are put off attending a meet if they know they are going to have to walk a long distance in their shoes (let's face it, some lolita footwear can be really uncomfortable) or if they will have to pay out for additional public transport on top of other meet expenses. If you have a disabled or less able-bodied member in your community please bear in mind how easy it is for them to access. Here in the UK we had a law passed years ago which means that all venues have to have wheelchair access. However, sometimes this 'access' is a bit questionable. You sometimes find yourself having to wait for a ramp, only for no member of staff to come along and help you.

Cleanliness is obviously another important factor. I wont name the venue, but I was once at a really nice place and needed the bathroom, only to find that the bathroom was absolutely disgusting. Sometimes scores on doors (another thing we have here in the UK) don't tell you the full story on how clean a place really is. Use a bit of common sense. Look around you. Are there any areas which look a bit abandoned? Can you see any staff members going around and cleaning tables? Sometimes in the bathroom you can see a cleaning rota which tells you when the bathroom was last cleaned, although if only a signature on a sheet is required, you can't guarantee that it was properly cleaned at the time stated. This is another reason why it is good to check out a venue beforehand if possible. At least in 'normie' clothing there is less hassle with having to hold up your many frilly layers to use the bathroom!

What sort of people go to this place? You can tell a lot about the venue by the other customers who are there. I know you shouldn't judge people by appearances, but in this instance it can give vital clues. This is especially important in venues that serve alcohol. I have lost count of the times I have been propositioned by drunk guys whilst wearing lolita. This is definitely something to avoid if you have a lot of younger members in your community. You may find some places that seem good actually have a bad reputation as well. Also look to see if the people there look like tourists or people who are local to the area. I generally like to try and find places that I know a lot of local people go to. My theory is that they know the area better than me and are more likely to know the best places to go to. As great as some websites like Tripadvisor can be, it can be a relief to get some verification from real life people, and not a computer screen, that a place is good.

You will also need to cater for any attendees who have special diets or allergies. A lot of places have menus online which are easy to access. But as an example, just because a place may seem vegetarian friendly, it doesn't mean it is any good. They may have a very limited selection available. As many of my vegetarian friends tell me, there is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere where your only dinner option is risotto! I once saw a place which labelled fish and chips as vegetarian as well, which raised a few eyebrows in my group.

How do the staff seem? Is there anything worse than getting served by a grumpy person who clearly doesn't want to be there? I know I have meant some interesting characters over the years! Working in these kind of places can be a very stressful experience and sometimes it unfortunately impacts the customer. But do try to be reasonable. We all have bad days from time to time. So unless the server does something absolutely inexcusable, I tend to turn a blind eye if somebody just looks a bit tired or bored.

Finally, is the place exciting and interesting enough? A lolita meet is supposed to be a social occasion. Sometimes this may mean going somewhere which will get the conversation started and help break the ice. Listen to the kind of music being played. Is it slow or upbeat? You may find that some lolitas want something more to a meet than simply going out and having a meal. How can you make a meet more exciting and use a venue to its full potential?

Well hopefully at some point I will be able to find the new equivalent of the Mitre in Oxford. I went to an interesting pub there recently and had a good time, so I have not completely lost hope. It is a shame that a lot of the better places are not located in the city center. Not all lolitas are lucky enough to live near 'lolita friendly' establishments and sometimes you have to get a bit inventive. Although if a community has good, strong and healthy friendships within it hopefully that can overcome a venue which didn't turn out to be all that was expected. I know there have been places I have gone to which I know I will never go back to, but the conversation was fun and we were still able to have a good time. Good company can make a bad situation a lot better.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Cream Cookie Parade by Angelic Pretty

Today I am looking at Cream Cookie Parade by Angelic Pretty. This series includes 2 dresses, a skirt, a head bow, socks, a blouse and a bag.

First is the OP. The bodice seems a bit loose and baggy in some of the close ups. It could just be the material it is made from I suppose. But the overall bodice shape is quite nice and smart looking. I like the arm length, which is very mature. They have a suitable amount of puffiness to them and the cuffs are kept neat and simple. There is a belt, but it doesn't seem to add much to the design. It is a bit concealed by the other bodice details. I am not fond of the material used for this belt. It is so thin that if you look closely you can see the print through it. There is then a solid coloured panel in the middle of the bodice. The square shape is a bit dull and I don't like how it looks paired with that collar shape. To add insult to injury, this panel is lined with ric rac trim, which looks awful. I think it is really cheap looking and it saddens me how many recent AP releases have used it. This panel is also kept quite flat. Maybe some pleats could have livened things up? There is a line of buttons, and I really like the choice of buttons. They are shaped liked chocolates, which look really cute. Sadly, I think the positioning of these buttons is a bit off. They could have been spread out a whole lot better than this. The collar shape is okay, but a bit boring. The lace along the edges of the collar help to make it a bit softer, but overall the collar shape is a bit harsh. This collar also uses the dreaded ric rac. There is then a small ribbon bow, which is detachable. I think this bow is actually really cute and I like the stripy ribbon chosen for it. If it was me, I would leave it attached. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is very limited. The stock photos show that the skirt seems to have ample volume and can flare outwards a lot. There is a lot of space to create a full shape. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off with a line of ric rac (argh!) and some cutlery themed lace. At least the lace is really pretty.

Next we have the JSK. The bodice seems quite well fitted and the overall bodice shape is... interesting. Whilst I think it looks cute, I also feel it exaggerates the width of the shoulder area, so if you are broad shouldered then this cut may not be the most flattering. It is a shame, because I think the gathered ruffles on the straps are really cute! They are nicely shaped and the layering of lace over the top looks lovely. The straps themselves also look a very supportive width. These straps have a line of lace and ric rac running on the insides, which continues down the bodice to the waistline. I am a fan of the lace and think it would have looked really great if the ric rac hadn't been there. There is a belt, which uses the nice stripy ribbon again. It helps to define the waistline quite well, which could have gotten lost with all those ruffly details going on. The belt seems to be a good length and I like that the ribbon is matte as well. The main bodice is mostly kept plain, although the lines of lace are more than enough detail. There is a further line of lace going along the neckline, which has ribbon threaded through it. There is also a ruffle going along the neckline, which has been gathered neatly. This is all finished off with a stripy ribbon bow. This bow is a decent size and compliments the belt. The back is fully shirred, which means loads of size flexibility but also that the shirring is left exposed. However, due to the style of print I don't think the shirring really stands out that much, especially on the darker colours. The skirt appears to have a good amount of volume and it flares out well. I think there is a lot of potential to create a very sweet looking shape. The skirt is mostly kept simple, so the print is displayed brilliantly. The bottom is then finished off with another line of ric rac and then 2 wide ruffles lined with lace. I think the ruffles look well gathered and have a lot of 'movement' to them. For some reason, this dress is giving me a bit of a 'Metamorphose' vibe. It just has that sort of look to it, I guess.

Finally, we have the print. This series comes in pink, blue and wine. It is a bit disappointing there are only 3 colour options. Maybe AP are planning to release some special sets in the future or something. The colour choices are quite bold and vibrant. I like how, apart from the pink, the colour choices are a bit more unusual for a chocolate print. As for the print itself, it is pretty cute and well set out. It is giving me a slightly 'older' AP vibe. There are lots of interesting chocolate themed desserts in the print. As the print name suggests, there are cookies in the print, but I wouldn't say they are the most dominant part of the print! I like all the little details that have gone in to decorating the cakes. I even spy some familiar looking biscuits in there *cough*Oreos*cough*. The crockery and cutlery in the print at least make the choice of cutlery themed lace on the dresses a bit more appropriate. I think my favourite bit is the cookies spelling out the brand name. It reminds me a lot of their Assorted Cookie print, but a chocolaty version.

So I think this is a print which has a lot of potential, but the dress designs are a bit 'meh'. There are things I would change about both dress designs. The biggest change would have to be the removal of that ric rac. I am not 100% against ric rac, but the majority of the time it looks awful. Sadly that is enough to not make me want this series. My top choice would have been the JSK in red, although I prefer the skirt over both dress cuts. But at least this release has seen some old jewelry get re-released, so that is worth picking up if you want another chance to get the French Biscuit accessories. The series hasn't been an instant sell-out, but it appears to have sold fairly well at least. It is just a shame that one risky trim choice can make or break a series so easily.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A Letter To My Former Self

Ah Facebook... it has this delightful way of reminding you of things long forgotten. Some of it brings up happy memories and others... not so much. The other day on my feed I got a memory which came up from many years ago when I was still a hopeless newbie to lolita. Aside from making me cringe a little, it made me realise that actually, I have been doing this for quite a long time now. I have changed so much since then. As I looked at that old picture of me I wondered what I would tell my old self about what I know. So I decided to write a letter to the me of 2009 and I thought I would share it with you all today.

Dear Luna,

You are about to embark on what is going to be one of the most colourful periods of your life. It is going to take you in directions which you didn't think were possible, but believe me, you are in for a wild ride! At the moment everything is still so new an exciting. Remember how you recently picked up that English Gothic and Lolita Bible? It was like the floodgates had opened. You have a way to express yourself again. I know that for a while you have been feeling a bit 'lost' and jaded. Getting married has seen you settle down a bit, but now you are wondering what to do next. Wearing lolita is going to make you feel as though you have discovered a hidden part of yourself.

You are going to want to scream from the rooftops and show the world 'the true you' but now is not the time to be reckless. You are out of work right now (you wont be for long, but you still need to be sensible) and years of letting your anxiety fester without much in the way of medical help are at times going to make you feel overwhelmed. So now is not the time to go crazy and just let your excitement run away with you. Yes, it is great that you have discovered that GLP shop in London. But take your time to think about the whole picture. There is more to a lolita outfit than the dress, that Ebay tutu is NOT a suitable petticoat replacement and there is more to 'kawaii' accessories than simply raiding Claire's Accessories. Look at the quality of the items. Don't buy accessories just because they are cute without thinking about whether they actually match anything you own. Wear bloomers. Lolita is more than just buying cute dresses- it is a whole aesthetic. It is okay to take the time to learn more about the fashion. Don't worry if you don't own too many pieces at first. Just work on trying to make the best of what you have. Lolita may not just be about the big brand names, but it also isn't about buying all the cheapest Bodyline in the sale just for the sake of having a new dress. So what if you wear the same outfit more than once? Please take the time to think about what you really love. Is there a certain colour or motif perhaps? Don't go rushing in.

Next year you are going to start writing a blog about lolita fashion. It is not going to be easy and it maybe isn't the casual side project that you think it is going to be! There are a lot of other lolitas out there who are just like you and others who are going to completely disagree with you. And I think that is an important thing to bear in mind. You are not going to be friends with everybody, just because you happen to like the same clothing. Some relationships are never going to go beyond the 'Oh, I like your head bow' stage. Also be aware that not everybody you let get close to you has good intentions. As immature and pointless as it may seem, sometimes drama has this nasty habit of creeping up on you, no matter how much you may try to avoid it. Try not to be disheartened. There is drama in practically every hobby. You know those train spotters you see sometimes on the way to the train station? Chances are, they probably get in to bitchy gossip themselves. Sure, it may not be over the same stuff, but I think you get the idea! The important thing is to not let these people drag you down. Don't post bitchy comments on anonymous gossip boards, don't spread rumours and don't let these people drag you down to their level. Look at yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself you are better than that. You know why? Because you are.

Soon you are going to find yourself going from being a convention lolita to a member of a local lolita community. That is going to present a lot of rewards, but also a lot of challenges. But if you start to feel disheartened, I want you to think about how you were before. You were an anti-social self-pitying loner. Now look at you! You may still be socially awkward, but you are going to go so far. You are not only going out and meeting new people, but you are also hosting meets and contributing something to a community. Could you picture yourself doing stuff like this just a few years ago? You are achieving so much. Celebrate those achievements! One day you are even going to find yourself getting up on stage and modelling for both indie brands and one of your favourite Japanese brands. Crazy right? But you are going to do it! Future You is very proud of what you are going to achieve. Your blog is also going to mean that people want to come up to you and talk to you. They may be a reader or perhaps they will have heard about you through the grapevine. This is an opportunity to practice your social skills. You may not always get it right, but don't be too hard on yourself. These things take time and effort to improve. Those who stick around probably believe that you are a good person. So believe in yourself.

Believe it or not, but the things you love are going to change a huge deal! You know all those cutesy sweet prints that you love to pieces? One day you may find yourself shying away from them. This is okay. Tastes change. Right now I am in love with a more mature sweet look and also wear classic lolita a fair bit. But for now I want you to embrace your sweet loving self. If it makes you happy, then wear it. Don't worry about what other people think. You are going to hear a lot of people tell you that you look amazing in classic, but think about what you want. Although you are one day going to embrace classic lolita, for now it doesn't appeal to you. You should enjoy your hobbies. You may get a lot of odd looks when you wear sweet, but eventually you will learn to ignore those odd looks a lot more. It takes a lot of courage to wear lolita. Every time you go out all dolled up I want you to think about how you have been brave enough to be true to yourself. You don't need to hide your lolita away from the world. You are very fortunate to live in an alright neighbourhood. Actually, your neighbours are going to remark about how fun and pretty your outfits are quite a bit! Their reactions could have been a whole lot more negative. You are very lucky and fortunate.

But that doesn't mean that you are not going to come across the odd idiot. Drunks are going to try and chat you up, you will be laughed at and people will invade your personal space to try and sneakily take photos of you. Please try not to focus on these negative moments. In comparison to all the positive experiences you feel, these negative experiences are a lot less frequent. And most of these people are barely worth thinking about. That stranger you passed on the street is somebody who you will probably never see ever again. Why do you care so much about what they think? Also, do not make assumptions. Somebody may appear grumpy or rude, but it may not be anything to do with you. Perhaps they are having a bad day. Don't focus on the small petty things which do not matter.

What else can I tell you about the future... Well, the shopaholic in you is going to be thrilled to know that in the future you are going to have a lot of brand dresses! In fact, you are going to think that you have too many of them (I know, right!? The idea of having too much lolita just seems crazy to you right now!). You are going to learn a lot about society and human interaction. Keep pushing yourself to achieve more. Your social life and mental health will thank you for it one day. Always remember that lolita is not a competition and always wear the clothing for you, not anybody else. You have a long way to go Luna, but I want you to know that I am so proud of what you are going to achieve. Don't let anybody else belittle those achievements.

Take care of yourself,

Luna in 2017

P.S- Sax blue is really not your colour. Stop trying to make it happen.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Pomme Rouge by Baby the Stars Shine Bright

Today I am looking at Pomme Rouge by Baby the Stars Shine Bright. This series includes 2 dresses, 2 skirts, 3 hair accessories, a blouse, socks and a choker.

First is JSK I. The bodice seems well fitted and the shape is pretty. I think the straps look a decent, supportive width. They are lined really neatly with lace on the outsides. This same lace is also used along the neckline, which is a good bit of continuity. The bodice features 2 ribbon corsets. The ribbon is really well spaced out and the lace lining these details keeps it looking really neat as well. I am really pleased to see that a non-shiny ribbon has been used as well! It looks like it is of a fairly good quality. The chest area features some raised panels, which form a bow shape. This is then topped with an apple shaped brooch with bow. I like how the different layers are lined with thin lines of lace. It helps to define the shapes and emphasises the multiple layers. The apple brooch is very cute too, although I am not so keen on the fake leaf. I think the leaf looks a bit cheap and maybe a fabric leaf would have worked better. The back offers a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt is full with volume and it flares outwards a lot. I really like the worn photos of this dress, which shows a cute skirt shape with lots of volume. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed wonderfully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of lace. Although the lace used is of a good quality, I do wonder if Baby could have picked a more interesting looking lace choice. But the lace used looks okay.

This is JSK II. The bodice looks well fitted, but I am a little unsure of the overall bodice shape. It is quite a simple shape, which reminds me of a sundress. I was also concerned the neckline scooped too low but after seeing the worn pictures, it looks totally fine. The straps are a nice suitable width. They are lined neatly with lace on both the insides and the outsides. Although the lace sits neatly and looks well executed, I personally would have liked a bit more tapering with this lace. There is a waist bow, which is a reasonable size for the dress. However, the shape of this bow is very basic and it looks a bit too plain. At the very least I think some thin lines of lace could have made it look a bit more interesting. The waist bow does not appear to be detachable, which I think is a shame. The bodice is kept relatively simple, but the neckline details stop it from looking too boring. It features a line of lace with ribbon threaded through it and is then topped with a ribbon bow. I think the lace looks pretty, especially with the bold coloured ribbon peeking through it. As for the bow, it is a good size and shape. It is mostly made from a matte ribbon, although the shiny ribbon layered over it appears to be of a good quality with a pretty design. The back is fully shirred, which means plenty of size flexibility, but also that the shirring is left exposed. However, because of how short the back is, it may not have been viable to put a ribbon corset over the shirring anyway. The stock photos show that the skirt seems to have plenty of volume and it flares outwards loads. It should hold more than enough petticoat. The skirt is again kept simple in design, so the print is displayed fantastically. The bottom hem is then finished off with a line of lace with ribbon threaded through it, with the ribbon tied in to bows at the sides. Not only does this detail look really pretty, it also matches the neckline details perfectly.

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

... and another. This series comes in ivory, pink, green and black. I think the colours generally work very well. The one thing I am not so sure of is the use of mint green on the green version. I personally think this clashes a bit. As for the print itself, I think it looks super cute. The apples, flowers and bows help to frame the forest critters perfectly. I also like the use of highlighting and shading on the apples, to make them look a bit more 3-dimensional. All the little bits among the apples fit in well. Everything works so well together and nothing looks out of place. The animals in the print are absolutely adorable as well. I love how they are shown making a floral chain in one scene and also the scene where they are sleeping. The lines of apples for the non-border part of the print have been well executed too, with good spacing.

I am really impressed with this series. The print is really lovely and I think the dress designs are pretty solid as well. The accessories released with this series are fantastic too and match perfectly. Would I buy this series? No, but only for the simple reason that it doesn't fit my usual style. Otherwise I would buy it in an instant! My top choice would be JSK I in pink. Even though this theme is nothing too original, I can appreciate how well executed this series is. I hope it sells well.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Taobao Haul June 2017

It's been a while, but today I am showing my latest Taobao Haul. There were some bags which I had to wait for, so it took a little longer to receive this order. But I kept an eye on the order and everything arrived promptly. The bags finally arrived on schedule near the middle of June.

First is this bracelet which I got from here. This is something I actually brought on a whim, as I was ordering earrings from the same store anyway (see the earrings below). Although it is meant to be a bracelet, the ribbon is so long that it could easily be worn as a necklace.

The macarons are made from very lightweight material and are a little bit soft. I think I would have preferred something a bit firmer, but I guess that would have made the bracelet heavier. Given how large the macarons are, weight is important to factor in. The star beads in between are cute, but they are your bog-standard beads. I really like the colours of the whole bracelet. They would fit in really well with a lot of well-known sweet AP prints.

This is how the bracelet looks when worn. I think the macarons could do with being a bit smaller. They look a bit bulky in comparison to my wrist. A thinner ribbon could have been nice too, although I am pleased that the ribbon chosen is not shiny.

There is no fastening, you simply tie the ribbon. This looks a bit messy, although I suppose it does mean that there is a lot of size flexibility. I tied the bracelet as small as possible and found it fitted me okay, but it also meant that there were long dangling bits of ribbon. I think I am going to have to experiment with different ways to tie the ribbon so it looks a bit tidier. But the bracelet was quite cheap anyway, and it meant I had more stuff coming from the same Taobao store, which meant the shipping cost from that store was more worth it.

This necklace came from the same store. It wasn't until after I placed the order that I realised that this might be an Angelic Pretty replica. It looks a lot like the necklace for Cinema Doll. The main difference is that this necklace doesn't have the metal bow charms and the bows on this necklace are bigger. The quality of the pearl chain is very basic. You can tell it is cheap. The necklace is a good length, but there is no metal chain to make the length adjustable. The clasp is simple, but easy to use.

I personally think the bows look a bit too big. They are made of lovely velveteen material though. With a cheap necklace like this, I expected to find flaws (maybe some strands of glue on the back of the bows) but there was none to be found. Overall, this necklace was cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Also from the same store are these cherry earrings which sadly, don't seem to be available anymore. These were my main reason for using this particular Taobao store! I love the design, which reminds me of designs from popular Larme stores.

The cherries are made from clear red beads and also feature a leaf charm. I could see no flaws with the earrings at all. 

They only have cheap plastic backings, which I suppose is to be expected from the price. But they do their job of holding the earrings firmly in place.

Here is a worn photo. The earrings are a good size. Surprisingly for such cheap jewellery, they did not leave a green tinge after being worn for a while. This is fantastic! As these earrings have turned out so well, I have decided I will keep an eye on the store in future. I wasn't overly impressed with the bracelet or the necklace, but these earrings are fantastic. So I would say this store is a bit hit and miss. Also keep an eye out for potential replicas.

Next are these bags from Whale Fall which I had to wait very patiently for the pre-order to close for. Initially you could order certain colours in different materials (I can't remember exactly, but I think the other material was suede) and I went for the cheaper material option. This cheaper material turned out really well though! It has a canvas-like feel to it, which suggests that it may hold up to a light rain shower. I wouldn't want to use it in a really heavy downpour though! It has been quite dry here lately, so I have not had a chance to try out their water resistance. Living in a rainy country, it would not have made much sense for me to go for the suede option anyway. The colours are spot on. I was especially impressed with the size, although I don't think the handles would be strong enough for a exceptionally heavy load. But for everyday essentials it should be fine.

The bow on the front is a little floppy, but I think it looks pretty cute! If I was being nitpicky, then I would say it would have been nice for the material to be less creased. This could have been fixed by putting more care and attention to how the bow has been formed. The pearl and star charm is adorable.

The embroidered logo has been done very neatly. I like that the logo is not too dominant and is just tucked away neatly to one side.

There is a pocket on the back of the bag, which has a WF logo heart charm. I like that they have not just used the cheapest plain heart charm. It shows some effort has gone in to the design.

As you can see, there is lots of room! Although the depth of the bag is not that wide (you can see this in the next photo) the bag can hold a surprising amount of stuff. There are also additional pockets on the inside as well, with one having a zip. This will help to keep your stuff a bit more organised.

The stitching is generally quite neat. There are a few places where I think the ruffles could have been executed better, but overall they have been done well. I am really pleased with how these bags turn out. I don't have any similar bags from Larme brands to compare them to, but I think these Taobao bags are good value for money. I am confident they will hold up fairly well and I can't wait to try them out.

Next we go to a favourite Taobao store of mine and this hat from Haruhi Clover. Amazingly, there was only a tiny bit of warping to the hat brim during shipping. I did notice a few flakes of straw coming off the hat though. I went for the ivory colour (known as 'generate') and was very pleased with the soft, ivory shade of the ribbon. Although the lace is a bit whiter, the colours don't clash too much.

The ribbon used is matte in texture. I like the simple, yet well formed shape of the bow. 

I really love the floral lace used. It has a pretty pattern and it also feels soft to the touch. This is quite good quality for Taobao. Some of the lace did get a bit folded during shipping though, so I am going to have to see if I can find a way to flatten it.

The bow at the back has a pretty key charm. I think the bow could have been tied a little bit better, as the tails look as though they are fighting for space! This bow is detachable and is removed by undoing a simple pin style clip. I am going to leave the bow on, but it is always good to have the option to take it off.

Here is the hat worn. The hat fitted comfortably on my head. There was a fabric band inside the hat to help it fit better. It also means there is a slight barrier between your head and the potentially itchy straw. I still prefer my Haruhi Clover bowler hats, but this straw hat is a really decent offering. I can't wait to try it out. I need to shake up my headwear a bit and try new things!

Also from Haruhi Clover is this double star brooch and chain. The stars are those same puffy stars that you see used a lot in J-fashion accessories. They are cheap, but they have neatly stitched edges and the end result is pretty cute. The chain is a good length and I think the charms are well spaced out. However, I do think it looks a bit messy having a random bit of chain dangling down on one side.

The star charms are really cute! They break up the pearls nicely.

I was very pleased to see that the back had both a clip and a pin. This makes the clip a whole lot more versatile. The listing suggests wearing it as a hair accessory, but it could easily be worn in other ways, such as attached to a dress or blouse as a brooch. I do worry that maybe the clips are a little bit too big for the stars though and that they might show when worn. There was also a few strands of glue which I needed to pick off the backs. You might be able to see one of these strands in the photo, just below the clip on the left hand side of the photo.

Here is a very quick worn photo, just to try it on. This is not how I intend to wear it. I found the clips a bit fiddly to position at first and it took me a few attempts to get it to look right, which resulted in my hair getting messy in the process. With a bit of practice it will hopefully get easier to simply put them on and get it right first time. I am still really glad that I got this accessory though because as I already mentioned, it is very versatile. I think it has a lot of potential.

Also from Haruhi Clover are these shoe clips, which I have previously purchased in white. I wont do a full review of these, as I have previously reviewed the white ones on here. So I will just comment to say that I really like the navy colour. I wont be buying any more colours though because despite the cheap price, I still feel the bows are a bit big and the clips on the back could have been better hidden.

Finally, I got this skirt from here. This purchase was a bit of a gamble, but I got it because... rainbows. If I am being honest, I don't think the skirt looks as pretty in person as it does on the item listing. You can judge for yourself in the worn photo below.

The skirt is made up of purple, peach and sax blue fabric underneath and a peachy tulle overlay. The materials were quite disappointing. Not only is the fabric thin, it looks really cheap. I have seen t-shirts in budget stores with better quality than this. It also wrinkles very easily.

The stitching was surprisingly well done though. The hems and seams were all very neat on the inside. I couldn't spot any obvious flaws anywhere. The waistband was fully elasticated. I was a bit wary of buying a 'one-size' skirt but this skirt really does have a lot of stretch to it. When I tried the skirt on I was able to stretch the waistband out so far that you would be able to fit more than one person my size in to it! The waistband also felt very comfortable and put very little pressure on my stomach.

With the tulle overlay, the stitching down the sides is obviously going to stand out more, but it has been done quite neatly. The bottom hem was left plain though, which is a bit messy and could easily be damaged.

Here is the skirt worn. I am really not sure if I like it or not... I don't think it looks too bad in this photo, but when you see the skirt in person I don't think it looks as good. Also, the material seems to stick out a lot at the waistline, making me appear bigger than I actually am. The skirt was a good length on me though (I am about 5'3'' and a half). I think the skirt looks a lot better on the listing. If the tulle overlay had been white instead, I reckon that could have possibly looked better maybe? Or possibly pink? The skirt reminds me a little of the skirts you get as part of cheap fairy dressing up costumes. There was a fairy related event coming up which I was interested in, so maybe I will wear it there! It looks as though my gamble didn't pay off though. Thankfully my parcel miraculously escaped getting hit by customs fees, saving me roughly £35, so I am not too bitter about this slight disappointment.

So this order has had a couple of hits and a few misses. My favourite items from this order are the cherry earrings, the bags and the straw hat. I can't wait to try out the bags properly. I really hope they are as good as they seem. Ordering the skirt didn't turn out so great but I think it is still wearable. I am not entirely convinced though! Feel free to leave your thoughts on it, or anything else in the order.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Magical Popping Fantasy by Alice and the Pirates

Today I am looking at Magical Popping Fantasy by Alice and the Pirates. This series includes 3 dresses, a skirt, 3 hair accessories, a necklace and a blouse.

First is JSK I. The bodice looks fairly well fitted and the bodice shape is simple, but lovely. I think the straps look a reasonable width. They are lined neatly with lace on the outsides which stops them from looking too plain. There is a waist bow, which is a good size. It doesn't look too big or too small. It looks a lovely shape and sits well on the dress. I was initially skeptical of the use of the stripy fabric in the print being used for the bow, but I now think it helps to balance out the stripes throughout the dress. However, if you are not a fan, it is detachable. The bodice features a line of buttons with a ruffle on either side, before meeting a slightly raised chest panel. Despite the button design being very simple, it works well. The buttons are well spaced out and the ruffles really help to stop the bodice from looking too flat and lifeless. I think the only thing I would have liked to have seen is some thin lines of lace going up the sides of the bodice, just to help break up this empty area a bit more. The chest panel features a scalloped edge, which has been well shaped. This panel also features the stripy part of the print, which is good continuity. There is also a bold line of trim and a small bow on the panel, which makes it look a bit more interesting. I like that matte choices have been used for both these details. The back has a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt is full with a decent amount of flare. There is the potential to create a wonderful shape. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed perfectly. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a thin line of lace, which matches the lace used on the straps.

Here we have JSK II. The bodice looks very well fitted, but I feel a bit unsure about the overall bodice shape. It generally looks okay, but I thought the neckline looked a bit low down? But it looks fine in the photos of this dress worn by a model. The straps are a suitable width. I love how the straps are lined with a layer of lace on top, which has ribbon threaded through it and the further ruffle of lace on the outsides of the straps. The final effect is really stunning but it doesn't look too OTT. The lace is of a good quality as well. There is a yoke on the bodice, which appears to be layered. Underneath there is lace and on top there is chiffon. I really want to like these details, but there is something about it which doesn't quite look right to me. I think it might be the way the chiffon has been gathered and sits on the dress. There is also a line of ribbon and a bow on top, which unfortunately uses very shiny ribbon. I feel this cheapens the design. It is a shame, because the bow is a really nice shape. The back is fully shirred, which means lots of size flexibility but also that the unattractive shirring is very exposed. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full and it flares outwards loads. I really love the shape created in the stock photos and have high hopes. The skirt is kept simple again, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of lovely rose themed lace.

This is the OP. The bodice looks decently well fitted and the shape is lovely. I really like the chiffon sleeves and the matching yoke. It makes this OP look like a JSK with a blouse! The sleeves look a long, generous length. I really like the cuffs, which feature some threaded ribbon and pretty lace. It looks really smart. There is something I find a bit odd about the bodice. It is basically broken up in to 2 parts, which the top part being slightly gathered. This gives the illusion of a corseted high-waist skirt and there is an obvious divide between the 2 halves. There are several lines of lace going up the bodice, which end at this join. To top things off, there is a stripy bow on top of the area where the bodice is divided. The bow itself is really pretty with a quirky design. The tails have been folded for extra depth and movement. I like the pearls dotted on the bow too. But overall, I feel this divide in the bodice looks a bit mis-proportioned and the placement of the bow emphasizes this. The yoke on the top half of the bodice is lined beautifully with lace, which sits really well on the dress. There is also a line of floral themed buttons, which contributes to that 'blouse layered under a JSK' look. I am not a fan of the collar though. Although the collar design is pretty, I think it is a bit too bulky and the lacy ruffles need to be reined in a bit. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is very limited. The stock photos show that the skirt is plump with volume and it flares outwards generously. It should hold a great amount of petticoat. The skirt is again kept simple, so the print is displayed fantastically. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of good quality lace.

Finally, here we can see a bit of the print. this series comes in ivory, bright green, navy and black. I think all 4 colours look fantastic, but in my opinion the bright green version is the stand-out colour. All the colours work so well together on the bright green version and I think it is stunning. As for the print itself, I am liking this mature take on the carousel print. It is a bit more toned down in comparison to the OTT sweet Angelic Pretty carousel prints and a lot less crowded. Although the horses appear to be floating in mid air, I think AatP get away with it. It just seems to add to the magical feel of the print. There is a Mary Poppins theme to this print, which is evidenced from the items floating around the horses such as her bag and the flying kites. The Mary Poppins theme is not overwhelming though, so it is possible to enjoy the print even if you don't like Mary Poppins. That bird in the print looks a bit more exotic than the pigeons in the film though! I really like how the birds are helping to hold up the drapes and the use of bows. There is a subtle nod to London with the skyline in the background as well. The only thing I am a bit unsure of is the stripy part of the print, but it has grown on me.

So overall I actually think this is a very promising series. The print is lovely. There are a few small changes I think I would make to each dress design, but it is a really strong offering. Would I buy this series? Possibly. It is certainly one of my favourite AatP prints in a long time. My top choice would be JSK II in bright green. Despite being a bit unsure of some of the bodice details on that dress, I still find it the most appealing. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Haul May/June 2017- Oh Look, There is Some Lolita in There Edition

Today I bring you my latest haul and guess what? This one actually has some lolita in it! Although I couldn't resist a couple of Larme inspired and general J-fashion pieces, so they are included too. I also just got my latest Taobao order this morning, so there is a Taobao haul review coming soon.

The first of my recent purchases is the mook that Angelic Pretty recently released. I am going to be completely honest here- I got this purely for the bag. But I am pleased to report that the mook actually has some content to it, unlike previous mooks which were just like small leaflets (My Cinema Doll umbrella 'mook' was just a few pages). There is a Paris photoshoot featuring Risa Nakamura. I was especially impressed that all of the locations were listed. There is a hotel with incredible decor pictured in the mook which I am now keen to stay in! I ordered through Amazon Japan, which is really simple to do if you already have an account. The mook came shrink wrapped. I was a bit sad that the bar code sticker was placed slap bang in the middle of the mook (actually on the mook and not the shrink wrap) but thankfully it peeled off really easily without leaving a mark. Some of the pages of the mook were a little bent because of the way the bag had been inserted inside.

Here is the bag. It is so cute! As is the case with a lot of these cheap gifts in mooks, you should not expect the items to be up to the brand's usual standards. As you can see in the photo, this bag is very small! As a rough estimate, it is only about 15cm tall. But apart from the small size, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. The materials are thick enough to rival my other AP bags. It feels pretty sturdy and I am also confident it will hold up in a typical rain shower. 

The depth of the bag is also very narrow. I found I was able to fit my phone inside with a smaller purse and some room for a few tissues as well. You might be able to cram some small make up bits like lip gloss in as well. So if you are the sort of person who carries a lot of stuff, then this bag is most definitely not for you. For small errands though, the bag could work out well. 

The clasp holding the bag shut is very good. I actually had trouble opening the bag at first! So I think it is quite secure. It has a long strap (not adjustable) which is long enough that most people will be able to comfortably wear this with the strap across their body. The stitching on the bag is pretty neat and I found no flaws anywhere. As you can see in the picture, the AP text is pretty crisp as well and has a nice font. So considering the price, I am really impressed with the bag. I wont be using it at any big lolita meets, but for casual everyday use it is ideal.

Next we go more Larme with this tulle skirt from H&M. It is a simple skirt with a tulle overlay and a ribbon-like waist. I really like the soft blush colour. It is the perfect shade. The skirt also has a good amount of length to it. I think the proportions of under-skirt and longer tulle skirt are spot on. 

Due to the type of material, it does raise a problem with what to do with the ends. Here H&M have decided to just leave the edge of the tulle as it is. I suppose there isn't a great deal they could have done to it without it affecting the soft, free-flowing feel of the skirt. At least the bottom has been cut relatively neatly. It does mean having to be a little bit careful when it comes to washing the skirt though. 

H&M has notoriously dodgy sizing, so I made sure to try the skirt on in store. I tried on my regular clothing size and found that the skirt did fit me correctly. However, if you are considering buying this skirt, or anything else from H&M, then still go and try it on! I found the zip was a little bit stiff, but it has gotten better after undoing the zip a couple of times. Maybe it has loosened up a bit now. It doesn't go all the way to the very top though. If I was being a bit nit-picky then that may have bothered me. I really love the ribbon style waistband. It fits in with the style of the rest of the skirt. Simple, yet effective. I will be keeping an eye on H&M for future Larme style purchases, but will be proceeding with caution.

Next is this bag that I got from DreamV. I had intended to order more stuff with this bag, but I have always been a bit sceptical of DreamV's quality. Some items turn out great, whereas others have the odd flaw or a general 'cheap' feeling. Not wanting to push my luck (I was going to get the bag in pink as well but decided to wait and see how the purple one turned out) I just stuck to the one bag. The purple colour turned out to be lovely. It is a nice, cool lavender shade. I'm not too worried about matching it to anything in my lolita wardrobe, as I loved the bag design anyway and just wanted it for everyday use.

There was a very small bit of damage where the colour had rubbed off a bit. I tried to point it out using my finger in the photograph, but it was very small. You may also have noticed that there is an obvious open end around the edge of the bag, where the white is. I was a bit annoyed that this hadn't been done a bit neater. I ended up painting the damage with some matching nail polish I had to hand.

Aside from that oversight on the front, the rest of the stitching had been done very neatly. I really like the gold heart shaped zip pull too. 

I love how the clear window has glitter in it! The Lovehearts style message is cute too. I am not really in to Ita Bags, but I suppose if you wanted a low-key Ita Bag then this bag could be an interesting option. I think what surprised me the most about this bag was that it didn't have that unpleasant strong plastic smell that you find with a lot of cheaply made bags.

The strap length was very easy to adjust. The length of the strap is reasonably generous too.

The bag has a decent amount of room inside. It certainly will hold the same amount as your typical lolita bag, maybe slightly more. Now that I have painted over the flaws, I am really pleased with my bag. It has put me off going and buying the same bag in pink though. I am just not sure it is really worth me getting it in another colour. Maybe I would consider it if I was placing a DreamV order anyway and the price of the bag dropped.

Finally, I have a new lolita skirt and it is one I am super excited about! I missed the reservation for this Le Miroir print last year by mere hours and have been hopelessly searching for it ever since. Well finally I managed to get the skirt in my top colour choice. I would have preferred the JSK, but I was so desperate for these cute birdies that I was happy to settle for the skirt. If anybody sees the dress for sale though, I may still be interested. 

The print is lovely and crisp. I really love the bold colours. These bright lovebirds are my favourite birds in the print! I am loving the dusky pink too, which I think is a good fit for the print instead of something more sugary pastel.

It has this gorgeous lace on the bottom hem. Considering this is a Taobao brand, I am very impressed with the lace quality. It even has the LM initials for the brand in it, so Le Miroir obviously went to some effort with their lace. The bow design may not be as original as some of AP's custom laces, but it is still pretty decent.

The stitching was generally very neat with the only exception being a lot of loose threads around the buttons. This did make undoing the buttons a bit harder, but I have cut some of the worst threads off now and it hasn't done the skirt any harm. The back of the skirt waistband is shirred. I was worried that the skirt would be too big for me, but the elastic is quite strong, so it hugged my waist okay. In fact, I would recommend being more than a few cm under the suggested measurement because although it will stretch to the given measurement, it might be uncomfortable. My waistline is 7cm under the given garment waist measurement and I found the skirt fitted me well. The one thing I find a little annoying about the skirt design is how the waist ties attach to the skirt. The waist ties do not have their own designated buttons, so the waist ties attach using the same buttons which you use to do up the skirt. So to take the skirt off, you need to take the waist ties off first. It is only a small criticism, I guess. I don't think I will be using the waist ties anyway, so it wont affect me. I was really pleased that my waist ties have the print on both sides. They even managed to fit a bird on to the ends of both ties. The buttons have a pretty pearl design as well.

I was very pleased to see that the skirt came with a lining. Although the printed fabric is opaque, I always feel that having a proper lining is a sign of more quality.

I also got the matching hair clip. The bird cage actually has a mini bird charm inside it! I thought that was pretty cool. The back has a simple alligator clip. An additional badge clip would have made it more versatile (if you wanted to use it as a brooch, for example) but for a hair accessory the simple clip is fine.

Here is a worn photo I took just quickly chucking the skirt on. It holds a fair bit of petticoat and only ends a tiny bit above my knees. It is no worse than some of my shorter AP pieces. The skirt materials felt nice and soft. Overall I found it very comfortable. I am very happy to be able to take another item off my shrinking lolita wishlist!

So this has been a very positive haul, although I have tried to be careful, which may have contributed to my happy vibe. In case you haven't guessed, the bird print skirt is my favourite item from this haul! I was devastated when I missed the reserve, so to get the skirt a year later has been a lovely start to my Summer. I am loving my new bags as well. The quirky designs are going to be fun to wear. And I will have a Taobao haul post on here very soon, so be prepared for more new purchases!

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