Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Pause By The Riverside

I have been having a bit of a tough time lately, with a family illness causing me a lot of upset. A couple of months ago James and I booked an afternoon tea and after a discussion with my sister, we decided not to cancel it. It turned out to be exactly what I needed. After writing a blog post about afternoon tea back in January, I had really been craving a new food adventure! So I had a look at what we could try within a reasonable driving distance. We ended up in Henley at a hotel called Hotel du Vin.

I was having a bit of a dilemma about whether I wanted to wear lolita or not. On the one hand, I have gotten my groove back and am dressing in lolita regularly again (I do keep meaning to share my outfits. Maybe I will compile them for a blog post soon...) but on the other hand, I wasn't in the mood to attract a lot of attention. I guess I have been feeling a bit vulnerable with everything that has been going on. In the end, I compromised. I wore the Primark dress that years ago a lot of UK lolitas went out and brought. Obviously it is not a lolita dress, but I tried to style it in a laid-back lolita outfit. I added an under-skirt and matching red blouse. For some reason, I really love wearing the colour red with this dress. I tried to keep things looking a bit mature and I even ditched my petticoat later on in the day. It worked- nobody bothered me, but I still felt as though I had made a bit of an effort. After all, as I mentioned in my afternoon tea blog post, part of the fun of the experience is dressing up.

We went to Hotel du Vin. Pictured is the sweet half. The savoury half was really impressive. Rather than doing sandwiches there was a tart, a quiche, a croissant, brioche bun and bagel. There was quite a bit of food for our money! This afternoon tea is actually done in a few branches of the same hotel, but the chain is very small and there were some interesting inclusions which made it a bit more original. I especially loved the inclusion of a gin and tonic sundae and a rhubarb and custard doughnut. Candy floss seems to be increasingly popular as well! This candy floss was meant to be apple flavoured, but it tasted like standard candy floss to me. My favourite bit though, was actually the scones. They were still warm from the oven (a big bonus, in my opinion) and were really soft. The strawberry jam and clotted cream complimented them perfectly.

The raspberry and chocolate teacake looked like the Pokemon Pyukumuku! I was seriously tempted to draw a face on this picture! Pyukumuku is one of my favourites from the latest generation. After taking a bit of a break, I am getting back in to playing Pokemon Moon again. At the moment I am trying to breed a shiny Alolan Vulpix (another favourite of mine).

Afterwards we went around the town centre for a little while. Henley is quite a small town, so there isn't really many decent shops to browse in. There are a lot of "boutique" clothing stores which are typically aimed at woman of a certain age and wage bracket, if you get what I mean. There was however, a gift store selling a lot of Pusheen merchandise! We went inside to check them out and I was so tempted buy the fuzzy notebook. My favourite was the mermaid Pusheen, but James likes the one holding the slice of pizza. 

There was this random contraption being pushed around the town centre. I had earlier spotted signs saying "fun this way!" and naturally, I followed them. It led us to a bunch of kids playing with these small steampunk-like sculptures. I decided not to join in, but it was amusing watching this bicycle-thing getting pushed around.

I spotted these beautiful flowers in the town centre. At this early stage of Spring it is unusual to see such pretty flowers in bloom in town centres. The blossom is coming in nicely though and we spotted several beautiful trees with pink blossom. It is a bit of a double-edged sword for me though, as blossom gives me hay fever symptoms!

We finished our afternoon by going for a stroll along the riverside. Henley is famous for its annual regatta, so the river has a lot of beautiful bridges, tourist attractions and unusual boats. I even saw a boat with some solar panels on it, which I think is cool. Henley is definitely a good place to come for peaceful outings and quiet contemplation. I really enjoyed strolling hand-in-hand along the river.

After initially floating on the other side of the river, this pretty crested bird came a bit closer, so I got several photos of it. I have no idea what kind of bird this is, but I became very enamored with it. It is so pretty!

Believe it or not, these houses are not on the other side of the river, but floating on an island in the middle of the river! As I was saying to James, could you imagine needing to pop out for a pint of milk and having to take a boat? But most of the houses looked empty, so I assume they are Summer houses. I daydreamed a little, with this romantic idea of being well and truly cut off from the outside world by a wide span of river but realistically, I don't think I could live in a place like this!

We stopped in a cafe for a drink before heading home. I felt rejuvenated and a bit more at peace with my current situation. The coming weeks are going to be hard for me, but I will always be grateful that James and I experienced this quiet day together. This actually wasn't our first choice for afternoon tea, but I am so glad we came here. And we now have another afternoon tea experience to look forward to, hopefully in the near future.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Alice Wonder Car Chase by Alice and the Pirates

Today I am looking at Alice Wonder Car Chase by Alice and the Pirates. This series includes 5 dresses (2 non-print), a skirt, 5 hair accessories, a tote bag, an apron, a cutsew and a parachute shirt.

First up is JSK I. The bodice is well fitted, although the overall shape is a bit simple. I am also not keen on the neckline shape. The straps are a suitable with and look quite supportive. They are lined neatly with thin lace, which stops them looking too plain. There is a waist bow, which is an okay size. The shape is pretty and well formed. It sits well on the dress. It is neatly lined with lace too. The bodice features a raised panel with a scalloped edge. It will be interesting to see how this bodice detail will sit on bustier wearers. I really like how the edge of this panel is lined with lace. I think this looks really smart. The line of trim used to create the love hearts is an interesting idea, but I am not sure I like the way it looks. It is hard to say exactly why, but something about this design just doesn't quite work. I do appreciate AatP trying to do something a bit inventive with their dress details though. The chest area is further topped with 2 ribbon bows. These bows are a cute shape and a good size, but the ribbon used is too shiny. The same can be said for the gathered ruffle of ribbon going along the neckline. I do like the card suit shaped lace also going along the neckline. This particular detail has been well executed. It's just a shame the ribbon is so shiny. The back features a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt has a lot of volume and it flares outwards plenty. I really like the shape depicted in the stock photos. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off with the card suit lace and a gathered ribbon ruffle. Once again, the ribbon is too shiny, but at least this bottom hem is consistent design-wise with the neckline.

Here we have JSK II. The bodice looks well fitted, but the bodice shape is just bizarre. I really hate the little panel inside the lacy straps. This is another bodice design where it is questionable how good it will look on larger busted wearers. The straps at least are a good, solid width. I really like the ladder lace with ribbon threaded through it layered over the straps as well. On a different bodice shape, this strap detail could have looked really pretty. It doesn't work having the strap details finish halfway down the bodice in this way. There is then a line of lace running from where the straps finish to the waistline, which is topped with some small bows and a bow. These details feel a bit 'forced' and I don't think they are needed at all. I think the bows look cheap too. The back is fully shirred, which means lots of size flexibility, but also that the unattractive looking shirring has nothing covering it. I am also not a fan of the way the straps cross on the back and how the lace abruptly ends. The stock photos show that the skirt has a good amount of volume and it flares outwards lots. It should hold plenty of petticoat. The skirt is again kept simple, so the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with the same style of ribbon threaded lace as the straps. So again the design features a lot of continuity.

This is the OP. The bodice looks quite well fitted, but the overall bodice shape is a bit frumpy. I think the sleeves are too long and lack shape. They look really flat and lifeless. I also don't like the dropped waistline. The lace topping the waistline only makes the dropped waist look worse, because it emphasises it. I think the sailor cuffs and collar are a cute idea, but it would have looked better on a simpler dress rather than with this busy print. The bow is cute though, and I like the size and shape. There are also some emblem themed buttons on the bodice. They are set out quite neatly and well spaced for this style of bodice. I think some thin lines of lace could have helped to break up the bodice and make it look a bit less flat though. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is very limited. I don't think the print lines up that well along the zip line. The stock photos show that the skirt has a decent amount of volume. Despite the dropped waistline, I feel the stock photos show that it is possible to create a really cute shape with the skirt. It is such a shame that the waistline lace spoils it, in my opinion. The skirt is again kept quite simple, so the print is displayed really well. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of thin lace.

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

... and another part. This series comes in ivory, sax blue, red and black. The colours generally work well with the print. However, I think the red version looks a bit dull and almost brown in colour. A richer red would have possibly worked better. As for the print itself, the first thing that came to my mind when I saw it was the cartoon Wacky Races. It is certainly a unique idea for a print, but as I am writing this, I have the Wacky Races music going around my head! There are a couple of ideas in the print which I think are really cute. I like the fact that the 'track' is in fact a ribbon. It is also interesting how the Lewis Caroll imagery has been incorporated in to the print. Even slightly more minor characters like the Dodo get featured. This is quite rare for an Alice themed print, which will typically feature Alice, the Red Queen and the White Rabbit at most. I am not really sure how the sweets fit in with the print though.

So overall I think this was a cute idea for a print, but it hasn't been that well executed. At times, the dress cuts are very strange. I don't feel they will look that flattering when worn either. I think the main problem is that this is a busy print and there are lots of details going on in the dress designs. It is good to experiment with new ideas, but I am not sure this was the best place to try out some of them and definitely not all at the same time. I can't see this series doing that well unfortunately. My top pick would be JSK I in black, but I think it is safe to say I wont be buying this series at all. I don't even like the print enough to consider the simple skirt.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Unusual Meet Ideas

As I mentioned in my post about making a comeback to lolita, I have recently been going through my lolita scrapbook a lot. Something I stumbled across was a list I made years ago about some ideas I had for meets. This list was a little bit different though, as I was looking at ideas away from the 'usual' lolita meet activities. I was inspired by meets that I was very fortunate to be a part of. Over the years I have done a lot of the lolita meet staples such as picnics, afternoon tea, swap meets and crafting accessories to go with lolita outfits. But I have also done some more unusual things such as visiting a horror house, game board cafes and making fudge at our local branch of the Fudge Kitchen. I love a picnic meet, but sometimes I think it can be fun to think outside of the box too. It can encourage you to try new things or discover something which you may have previously dismissed. Of course, a lot depends on your location and the mentality of your local community. You may think something sounds like a really good meet idea, only to be greeted with a lack of enthusiasm. I admit that this has happened to me several times. A lot of the problem with more unusual meets is that sometimes they can cost more money or they may involve additional travel.

But I kind of felt as though my list shouldn't go to waste. So today I am sharing some ideas that I came up with. They may pique your interest, they may not. If nothing else, I hope that it will serve as inspiration to have a think about whether you could be doing more with your local community.

Pick Your Own Fruit- You not only get to do something a bit different, but you also get to take home the fruit afterwards. Maybe you could brainstorm some ideas about what you could use the fruit for. I feel that a pick your own place is also a good place to go if you want to get to know your community a bit better. They generally tend to be quiet places and as the picking action is quite repetitive, you can still hold a conversation easily.

Falconry session- I have done this before a couple of times (not in lolita) so I have a good idea of what these falconry displays involve. Typically you will be given a glove to protect your arm as you handle the birds. You don't really get messy and most of the time the birds are more interested in the food on your glove than they are with you. Obviously you should check beforehand to check that lolita is in fact suitable. You will probably have to wear sensible shoes. This idea came to me because I saw another community did a 'llama walk' where they walked llamas through a wooded area. I thought this was such a fun idea. Alternatively, you could see if a local farm or zoo holds events where you can get close to the animals.

Store parties- Certain stores seem quite popular within the lolita community. As you get to know your community better, you may find that you have similar tastes in beauty or make up brands. Sometimes these stores will hold in-store parties or demonstrations. Brands such as Lush, for example, will hold parties after hours where you get to know their products better. You should check beforehand to see if there are any conditions your guests will need to meet. Sometimes you might be encouraged to purchase some stuff.

Murder Mystery Evening- Some people love to dress up for these events, so it is not too much of a stretch to wear lolita to a mystery evening. This is another meet that could encourage more interaction and communication within your community, as you gather evidence against your friends.

Baking- Crafting meets seem quite popular, but baking seems to be less so. I guess it is because of the fear of accidents. I have to admit that when I attended that fudge making meet I purposely wore cheaper lolita clothing rather than my best brand! Baking can be quite a relaxing activity and can be done in your own home (provided you are happy to invite your comm over).

Art meet- Take it in turns to draw each other. There are so many talented artists that I know in the lolita community. Drawing is quite a popular activity and I know that 'Draw Threads' are popular online. You don't have to be particularly talented, as the aim is to have fun. For the more serious artists in your community, it can offer some valuable practice. Plus you get some free art work of your co-ordinate!

Volunteering- You could try running a stall at a charity fair, or do something like visiting the elderly. The general public can take quite a lot of interest in seeing a group of lolitas out and about (I have even been mistaken as a member of staff at events like Alice Day), so maybe this is a way for us to use this to our advantage and help others out at the same time.

Wine Tasting- Obviously, this would be one for the older community members! Local vineyards often offer tours. But if wine does not take your fancy, perhaps there is another food or drink that you could sample. I think chocolate tasting could be very popular!

Makeover sessions- You could try an activity such as nail art or trying out different hair styles. This has the added bonus that you may learn a new technique that you could use with your lolita outfits.

Take a community class- You could try a singing lesson, acting, learn a new musical instrument together... I suppose a lot depends on what is on offer in your local area. Local interest groups sometimes offer demonstrations. I personally have been considering taking a photography course. I am also very fortunate to know somebody who runs a craft shop nearby, who do workshops and often provide tea and cake.

Do an 'Escape Room' Challenge- This is not one for claustrophobics! You get locked in a room and given a set amount of time to 'break out'. This usually involves fun puzzles and riddles to solve. One has opened locally to me, and I am tempted to at least give it a try,

Do an alternative take on the 'usual' lolita meet ideas- You could have a meet based around something like afternoon tea, but what about doing it in an unusual location? There are some really fun ideas and themes out there. Rooftops, riverboats, on a steam train... these are just some of the places I have found. Or you could do something like hire a boat and have a picnic whilst floating on a river.

Monday, 13 March 2017

A Print Double

Today I am looking at 2 different series. So scroll down further for Meta's Grapy Sweetie Fox Cub.

First up though, is Sweet Cream Princess by Angelic Pretty. This series includes 2 dresses, a blouse, a headdress, wrist cuffs and tights.

First up is the OP. The bodice material looks a bit loose and baggy in places. The overall bodice shape is quite cute though. I like that the sleeves are suitably puffy and the neckline shape is softened by the details around it. The lace on the sleeves is pretty, but I think the bows on the sleeves are a bit big, which is kind of distracting. There is a waist bow, which is quite a reasonable size. This bow is only slightly bigger than the row of bows going up the middle of the bodice. I like the stripy material used for all of these bows and how they are lined with gold lace. However, I feel the bodice bows could do with being just a little bit smaller, and I don't like the heart charms that top these bows. I think the hearts look a bit cheap. The bodice bows are detachable, although I can't make up my mind if the dress looks better with them attached or not. The panel underneath the bodice bows is filled with lace, which is layered nicely. I like the bow lace used here, although you could argue that there maybe could have been other lace choices which match the print theme better. The neckline is topped with a line of lace and some material which has been gathered to look like a row of sweets. I feel these 'sweets' look a bit shapeless and are not well defined. It could have been a suitable detail, but AP don't quite pull it off in my opinion. The back offers no shirring, so size flexibility is very limited. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full with plenty of volume. It will hold lots of petticoat. The front of the skirt is opened up, revealing a solid coloured panel. This panel features some lines of lace shaped in a scalloped pattern. I admit that it does mimic the appearance of the icing in the print, but I am really not a fan of this detail! It feels a bit too OTT for me, but I can imagine there are some who probably really love this design detail. Panel aside, the print is displayed really well. The bottom hem is then finished off with a line of bow themed lace layered over a tulle ruffle. This bottom hem looks soft and fluffy, although again I think a more suitable on-theme lace design could have been used. There are also a couple of bows at the bottom of the panel, which finishes off the sides nicely.

Here we have the JSK. The bodice looks well fitted and the overall shape is interesting. I think the scalloped edges of the straps is interesting. It is a very bold design choice. I don't think I like it, but I can appreciate it matches the scalloping used elsewhere in the design. There is a waist bow, which is massive. I don't think the shape is particularly cute either. In my opinion, something about the waist bow shape looks a bit 'flat' and basic. The bodice is simply broken up with a few thin lines of lace, which gives the bodice a nice paneled appearance. These simple bodice details means that the attention is on the raised scalloped panel on the chest area. The scallops are well shaped and overall I think the panel looks really cute. This panel is finished with a line of ribbon threaded ladder lace and a couple of pearls. I don't think these details add much to the design, but they are a nice little finishing touch. This panel is topped with a stripy ribbon bow. This bow is at least a bit more reasonable in size, but I don't think the stripy material works quite as well this time. Maybe it is because there is less of this stripy material on the JSK, so it looks a bit less balanced? The back offers a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt is very full with a lovely rounded shape. I think the skirt looks like it has a lot of potential. The skirt is generally kept simple in design, so the print is displayed beautifully. The bottom hem is then finished off with a scalloped hemline, which works amazingly well with the print. This is then finished off with a line of wide lace layered over a tulle ruffle. I think this lace choice is quite appropriate for the print.

Finally, this is the print. This series comes in beige, pink, mint and brown. These are pretty standard colour choices for a patisserie themed print, so they all work well, although there isn't much originality. I am a bit disappointed with the shade of brown used in the print behind the cakes though. I think a darker, richer brown would have looked better here. As for the print, it is very cute and nicely set out. The cakes and macarons are drawn beautifully. I especially love that macaron dessert. It looks delicious! The background with the smaller cakes is a bit busy though. I kind of feel as though this print lacks originality. There are some interesting points to the dress designs, but the print is giving me a bit of a deja-vu feel. It reminds me of a lot of past prints.

So I think with this series that AP are trying to recapture the glory of previous similar prints. But this could work against them and I can't see this series being a big seller. It is a shame because the print is really pretty, but there is nothing new or exciting about it. If you love these kind of prints, then you will probably love this series as well. I think the dress designs are more interesting, although these experimental designs are not going to appeal to everybody. Would I buy this series? No, but I would love it if AP did some home wares, like cushions, with the print! My top choice would be the JSK in mint.

Today I am also looking at Grapy Sweetie Fox Cub by Metamorphose. This series includes 3 dresses, 2 hair accessories, tights and a few pieces of jewelry.

First up is the Babydoll JSK. The bodice looks quite well fitted, although the bodice shape is a bit simple. It looks like a basic sundress. The straps are a bit on the thin side, but suit the style of bodice. They are topped with some shiny ribbon bows, which look a bit fussy. I would have left the bows off the straps. The bodice is shaped in a way that lives up to its babydoll name. The bust-hugging 'waistline' and neckline are lined neatly with metallic lace. I am not really sure that metallic was a good choice here. It doesn't really seem to fit in with the overall 'fell' of the series. The bodice is then finished off with a large ribbon bow. This bow is very basic in shape and the ribbon used is too shiny for my liking. However, the folded ends and teardrop beads adds a bit of interest to it. There is also a pretty grape charm dangling from the middle. The back is fully shirred, which means lots of size flexibility, but also that the unattractive looking shirring has nothing covering it. The stock photos show that the skirt is really full and flares outwards plenty. I would be careful about over-stuffing the skirt, as I think that makes the waistline look a bit strange, but it is good to know the skirt has more than enough volume. The skirt is kept very simple in design, so the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off with a neat line of metallic lace and a simple ruffle.

Here we have the Ribbon Shirred JSK. The bodice looks well fitted, but I don't like the simple shape. I think the neckline is far too straight and it makes the bodice look a bit 'boxy'. The straps are an okay width and look quite supportive. They are topped with a ruffle, which continues down the bodice to the waistline. I think this works quite well with the other ruffles on the bodice. In some of the stock photos, the ruffle was sitting a bit strangely on the bodice, but a simple going over with an iron should hopefully fix that. There is a waist bow, which it quite modest in size. I would almost say that it is a bit too small. It is also very plain. The shape is very basic and there are no adornments or trims to decorate it, apart from a small grape shaped charm. It is a shame that this charm doesn't stand out a bit more, as it is the only part of this bow which is remotely interesting. As mentioned, there are more ruffles going up the middle of the bodice. These ruffles sit either side of a line of lace and a set of bows running up the bodice. The details are set out quite nicely, with the lace looking of a fairly good quality and the bows being well spaced out. However, I do again have to question why Meta have chosen a metallic colour for the bows and used a line of metallic line of lace along the neckline. It just doesn't make sense to me! The back is fully shirred, so again there is lots of size flexibility but it also means the shirring is left exposed. The stock photos show that the skirt is really full and flares outwards lots. I really like the full, rounded shape created in the stock photos. The skirt is again kept simple, so the print is displayed perfectly. The bottom hem is finished off with a line of metallic lace and a ruffle, but this time the line of lace is topped with some small ribbon bows. This detail looks really cute.

This is the OP. The bodice looks well fitted, although the overall bodice shape is a bit 'old-school' looking. Maybe that is why Meta decided to bring back the old favourite, the detachable collar, to go with this dress. I really don't like the collar teamed with this dress. It looks really bulky and I don't think it works well paired with this particular neckline shape. It looks like the collar has just been thrown on carelessly, like an after-thought. The bows on the collar make it look very OTT too. So I think it is safe to say I would wear this dress without the collar! Ignoring the collar, the bodice shape is okay, if a bit old-fashioned, like I already mentioned. I do think the neckline shape and sleeve style give the illusion that the shoulder area is wider than it actually is though. As I have wide shoulders myself, this would put me off this dress design. I like how puffy the sleeves are though, and I think they are a good length. It is good how they are kept simple as well, with just a line of lace to finish them off. There is a waist bow, which is an okay size. Once again, the shape of this bow looks a bit simple. There doesn't appear to be a grape charm on this bow either, which is unusual. This waist bow is detachable, but because it isn't absolutely massive, I would probably leave the waist bow attached. The bodice features some cris-crossed ribbon and lines set out in a way which again I feel is a bit of a throw-back to past lolita bodice designs. These details are at least set out neatly, although it is bugging me that the ribbon is shiny again! The back offers a panel of shirring, which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset (hooray! Finally!). The stock photos show that the skirt has a decent amount of volume and it flares outwards generously. If the stock photos are anything to go by, I think the skirt shape has a lot of potential. Once again, the skirt is quite simple in design, so the print is displayed wonderfully. The bottom hem is then finished off with a simple ruffle and some shiny ribbon bows, which feature some lines of pearls. I don't think the pearls really add anything to the bows, but I suppose you could argue they sort of mimic the round grapes in the print. They will also be a good match for the jewelry released as part of this series, which uses a lot of rounded beads.

Finally, here we have the print. I will get a better picture if able. This series comes in deep blue and off-white (sort of grey shade). It is a bit disappointing that this print only comes in 2 colours. I personally think the off-white colour is a bit dull, but the deep blue offers a lovely solid background colour, which really helps to make the print stand out. As for the print itself, the foxes are adorable. I love their bushy tails! It is really sweet how they are frolicking among the grapes too. The use of grapes is also a slightly new take on the overdone fruit prints we see every single Spring. I think a bit of 'shine' could have been added to the grapes to make them look a bit less flat and more realistic. I also think the print is a bit sparse. The completely plain background makes the print look a bit flat too. It is a cute print, but the simplicity makes it almost look as though it is unfinished.

So overall I think there are some cute ideas here, but the print falls a bit flat. I also question the use of metallic details throughout the dress designs. I don't get why they have been used. The dress designs also feel a bit simplistic in places. So I wouldn't buy this series personally. It is a shame, because I think those foxes are so cute! My top choice would be the Ribbon Shirring JSK in deep blue. I am disappointed there are only 2 colour choices. This series could have had a lot of potential, but it fails to meet my expectations.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Taobao Haul Review March 2017- Picture Heavy

It has been a while, but today I have a new Taobao haul to review. I ended up using Taobao Ring again, even though I vowed to try a new shopping service. I just really like how convenient the quick order function is. There doesn't seem to be much point me reviewing Taobao Ring again, so I will just get on to the items I got.

First up today is this hat from Ayl. I am so pleased with the deep red colour of the hat. It is a proper burgandy shade. As you can see the fake flowers and ribbon are a different shade of red, but they compliment the main hat colour. It is a lot more flattering than my photos make it look!

The fake flowers themselves are of a reasonable quality. They could be better, but they are not the absolute cheapest fake flowers either. I was pleased to find no traces of glue anywhere. I really like the crimped edges of the ribbon. It has a slight sheen to it, but it isn't too shiny. I think the ribbon quality is okay.

I was initially a bit confused by the random trails of ribbon coming from inside the hat, but it turns out you can pull them to alter the lining of the hat so that it fits better. I have never seen this detail on a hat before! It does mean that I am going to have to pin this ribbon out of the way when I wear the hat though. I don't think it looks very attractive having this random black ribbon sticking out.

I thought I would include a worn photo (apologies for the blacked-out face. I was really tired). As you can see, the brim of the hat is quite wide. It took me a bit of time to position the hat in a way which I felt looked good. Apart from the slightly too wide brim, I really love this hat. It feels really comfortable. With this in mind, I would consider buying from Ayl again.

Next up are these Sailor Moon inspired charms that I got from here. I got these with the intention of taking the charms off and making some jewellery with them. I actually found that because of the jewellery clasps on the chains, you can sort of join the 2 charms together and make a bracelet anyway. I might still stick with my original plan and take the charms off though. Considering how cheap these charms are, I think they look quite cute.

Despite being such a low price, I feel I do still need to warn you all that the colour of the charm was a bit patchy on the moon. Hopefully you can make it out in the picture. You can see a bit of swirling in the yellow which suggests the colour was not mixed well enough. Overall though, I do think you get what you pay for, and I could find no faults on the cat and moon charm at all.

I got all 3 of these clips from the same Taobao store here. I have ordered from this store previously. It is where my wooden butterfly brooches came from. This store has a lot of interesting and quirky pieces, some of which could work with J-fashion, so they are worth keeping an eye on. The colours on the 2 wooden brooches are lovely and the design is really clear. The fleur de lys charm in the middle could have possibly done with some better definition, but you can still see what it is supposed to be.

The rose and fleur de lys clips have a badge back, whereas the fairy has a stud back. I found the back of the fairy one a bit fiddly at first, but it is still lovely when worn. The backs on the other 2 were easy to use. The pins are generally pretty neat, although if you look at the rose clip on the left, you might be able to make out some small strings of glue. I am not too worried about these, as they are in no way visible when the brooch is worn. It would have been nice if it had been done a bit neater though, like it is on the other 2.

Next we have these over-the-door hooks which I got from here. These hooks allow for a decent door width (they went over my doors with plenty of room to spare). The metal feels strong and sturdy. There is also a small hole in the metal so that you can place a small nail in the top to keep the hook steady. Be careful not to use too big a nail though, otherwise you wont be able to shut your door! 

There was a small mark on one of the hooks but after giving it a quick wipe it is almost completely gone.

The ducks are not actually attached to the hooks. There is a magnet there. Despite being such a small magnet, it was surprisingly strong. This feature means that you can also alter where the duck goes, which I think is a nice touch.

And here is the duck over my door! The ducks are well painted and I think the design is really cute. They feel really sturdy and I think they will be able to hold a good amount of weight. So far, they are doing their job perfectly.

This is my new wig, which I got here. I got the ZH colour, which to be honest looks a lot darker in person than it does on the product listing. I don't think the listing really gives that accurate an idea of what colour you are going to get. Thankfully, I don't mind the colour too much, even if it is darker than the colour I was hoping for. The wig fitted my head okay. I don't have a worn photo just yet, because the fringe was a slightly annoying length and I couldn't get it to sit right for a photo! I need to give it a trim first. Sadly, I don't think the bangs are long enough for me to do proper side bangs, so I am going to have to do straight bangs instead. The wig only needed minimal brushing out of the packet and I like how well formed the curls at the bottom are.

The colour is very multi-tonal and natural looking. This makes it look a bit more realistic. The fibres are soft with only a tiny bit of shine to them. I was pleased with the thickness of the wig too. It doesn't feel too thin at all. Overall, I think it is going to be a nice casual wig once I have sorted the bangs. 

It is pretty standard to get a free wig cap with wigs, but I was surprised to see I got a free brush as well. I thought this was a nice touch.

Finally, I got this top from here. Much to my dismay, this top features some sparkly pink sequin writing which I had not been expecting. If you scroll down the listing, you can see the sequin writing is indeed there, but it is so washed out in the majority of the photos that I somehow managed to miss it. I was not expecting the sequins, so I am now going to have a fun afternoon picking all these sequins off. The top is of a low enough quality, that I really wonder if it is worth it. I am so glad that I brought this top when it was heavily discounted, although that huge discount should have maybe set off some alarm bells.

Here is the sequins in all their glory. Do not be fooled by the listing- these sequins are indeed the bright pink colour that you see in my photo. In their defense, I suppose the sequin writing has been quite neatly done. I just think the overall look is really tacky though. It reminds me of those cheap tops you see flogged on market stalls, which are aimed at little girls.

At least the top came with care instructions and a spare button for the back!

This is the reason why I decided to buy this top. The back of the collar is shaped like angel wings. I was intending to layer this top underneath another top so that just the wing collar is visible (I am not sure how successful I will be, but I am going to give it a go...) so it doesn't bother me too much that the top itself is of a low quality. However, I do feel the need to stress the low quality, just in case somebody reading this thinks the top is cute enough to wear on its own. The material is thin and you can tell just by handling the top that the materials are cheap. The wings however, are a really cute shape. You might be able to see a slightly untidy edge along the top of the wing in my photo though. This little bit is thankfully not too noticeable until it is pointed out. My main grievance with the wings is that they don't hold their shape very well. The material creases really easily and I think the edges of the wings needed to be a done with a firmer material so they are a bit sturdier.

The shirring at the bottom of the top is very stretchy, although I don't think the rest of the top has enough room for a plus-sized wearer to wear it. I guess the shirring does at least make the bottom more comfortable when worn, which is good because unlike in the product listing, this top ends on my waist line instead of the bottom of my torso. It is more like a crop top. The stitching is a bit messy in places and I think better elastic could have been used.

Here is what I mean about the top being more like a crop top. You can quite clearly see a bare strip of midriff.

Here is a shot with the top layered under a t-shirt to show what the wings look like layered over a different coloured background. I think once I have removed the sequins I will hopefully be able to wear the top as I intended. But overall, I am really unimpressed with the quality and I would be wary about buying from this Taobao store again.

Aside from the top, this was a relatively positive Taobao ordering experience. The quality is the level I have come to expect from Taobao. I especially like the brooches and the hat. Apart from the colour being a bit different from the listing, I am impressed with the quality of the wig too. Hopefully I will be able to bring you all another Taobao haul in the near future.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Wonder Fortune by Angelic Pretty

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

First up is the OP. The bodice seems reasonably well fitted and the shape is lovely. I think the neckline shape is lovely and the bell part of the sleeves flares out well. The way the fabric has been folded on the bell shaped sleeves is beautiful. I like the use of tulle to fill out the bell sleeves as well. The sleeves are then finished off with a bow, which is a cute shape, but I wish it was a lot smaller and more subtle. There is a waist bow, which is a bit on the big side, especially when paired with the large chest bow. The waist bow probably would have looked a fair size if the chest ribbon was a lot smaller. It is well formed though, with a cute shape. It sits well on the dress. The chest bow is a bit floppier, although it is made of tulle so that is understandable. I like how this chest bow and the tulle ruffle on the neckline have been lined neatly with a thin line of gold lace. It works well with the gold accents in the print. If I were to choose between the chest and waist bow, I think I would keep the chest bow. It is a shame that neither bow is detachable. I think a lot depends on whether you decide to wear the matching choker or not. The choker features a large ribbon bow, which in my opinion makes the overall look a bit too bow-heavy. So I would definitely give the choker a miss if I wore this dress. There appears to be a lacy yoke and some small ribbon bows underneath the chest bow. Given that the chest bow doesn't appear to be removable, these details are very obscured. I don't really feel the need for them to be there. It feels like a lot of effort has gone in to something which is not going to be seen. The back of the dress offers no shirring, so size flexibility is severely limited. The stock photos show that the skirt is plump with volume and flares outwards loads. It will hold plenty of petticoat and I can imagine you could create a large OTT shape if desired. The print is displayed really well on the front of the skirt, despite the random ribbon bows dotted down the front of the skirt. I don't feel these shiny ribbon bows are needed, or at least the ones midway down the skirt shouldn't be there. I don't think the bows at the bottom are as bad, but they are still a bit distracting. There is a tulle bustle on the back of the skirt. The tiers have been well spaced out and layered brilliantly. It creates a really frilly appearance which compliments the bottom hem. The bottom hem features crown themed lace layered on top of a tulle ruffle. I think this looks really pretty and is a good match for the bell sleeves.

This is the JSK. The bodice looks well fitted but the overall bodice shape is a bit underwhelming in my opinion. I don't like the neckline shape at all. The straps are an okay width and look fairly supportive. They are topped with tulle and some really pretty lace, which then goes down the bodice in to a triangle design. Both the tulle and the lace sit really well on the dress. The gathering has been done excellently. There is a waist bow, which perfectly hides the area where the lines of tulle and lace meet. I think the overall size and shape of the waist bow looks good, but maybe the tails could have been a bit shorter. The inside of the triangle is neatly pleated and features a good use of gold lace around the edges to help define the bodice details. There is also a line of card suit shaped buttons, which matches the Alice in Wonderland theme. The neckline features 3 ribbon bows, which are again a bit shiny. I am not sure I like how these bows look on the dress, but I don't know what I would suggest as an alternative. The back features a panel of shirring which is topped neatly with a ribbon corset. The stock photos show that the skirt has a good amount of volume and flares outwards generously. It is not as full in volume as the OP, but it will still hold its fair share of petticoat. The skirt is kept simple in design, so the print is displayed excellently. The bottom hem is then finished off neatly with a line of gold braid and a line of the crown themed lace. This looks really pretty, although I think a tulle ruffle layered underneath could have looked good considering the use of tulle on the bodice. 

Finally, here are some close ups of the print. This series comes in sax blue, red, dark blue and black. Aside from sax blue, all the colours are quite dark. If I am being honest, I think the colours are a bit uninspiring. Sax blue and red are typical for Alice in Wonderland prints and having another darker blue shade feels a bit unimaginative. As for the print, it feels as though AP have rehashed a load of parts of older prints. Alice in Wonderland is a very overdone theme in lolita anyway, but this print just feels a bit lazy. The castle in the print is almost identical to the one on their Wonder Queen print. There is nothing really new or exciting about the thrones or playing cards either. I do like the rose themed gold gates though.

I think it is fair to say I am not impressed with this series. It lacks originality and I don't feel it has the same charm as the prints it is trying so hard to emulate. It is a shame because I actually think the dress designs look quite good. My top choice would be the JSK in dark blue. I am not surprised to see that this series is still readily available at the time of writing this (the best part of a week after it got released). I am also a bit miffed that AP didn't re-release some of their Wonder Queen accessories with this series!

Thursday, 2 March 2017

February 2017 Haul

Despite telling myself I was going to spend less in 2017, I am today presenting my latest buys from Japan (and there will be a Taobao review soon too...). I ordered from Swimmer and Angelic Pretty, and also got a pair of AP socks on auction.

First up is my Swimmer order. I wasn't actually intending to place this entire order but I accidentally discovered a replica of the bags on Taobao and saw that the original was from Swimmer. I decided to take a chance and look on Swimmer's site to see if they were still available. To my surprise, they were still available. So as I was having a hard time deciding between 2 colours, I ended up getting 2 colours and a pair of socks that I thought looked cute. I added the AP stuff afterwards.

You probably wont be surprised to see that it is a moon design! Considering the price, I thought the bags were worth it. You can tell by the feel of the material that it is not top quality, and I will be super careful to take care of these bags to make them last longer, but Swimmer's prices are pretty cheap. In fact, they were only a tiny bit more than the Taobao replica. So it was definitely worth double checking Swimmer still had them! I don't think they will hold up that well in heavy rain, but they should be able to withstand a reasonable amount of bad weather. Some of the metal rings holding the beads looked slightly open, meaning the pearls were at risk of falling off. I was able to take a pair of pliers to them though to close the gaps. The scallops were well shaped.

I was very pleased to see that my bags had at least some cardboard to help protect the bag in transit. I forgot to photograph it, but the metal parts underneath the card were further covered in a bit of protective plastic, just to keep them a bit more safe. The bag was stuffed as well to hold its shape.

There is a small pocket on the back of the bag, but I don't think I will use it because it feels a bit tight and there isn't much room to put anything other than a couple of tissues or hair pins in there. As you can hopefully see in this picture, the stitching on the bag is really neatly done.

After lifting the flap, I found there was another popper in place to help the bag keep its shape. I thought this was a nice touch.

The bag was actually a lot bigger than I was expected. It seems really roomy inside and there is an additional pocket on the inside as well. The bag is lined well. I am also happy to report that this bag did not have that distinct smell that a lot of cheaply made bags seem to have!

I got the bag in black as well as off-white. I didn't want to risk either colour selling out before I made a decision, so in the end I got both! Both colours are really lovely, although I think I like the black one slightly more. The straps were easy to clip on and are adjustable, so you can change the length.

As I was ordering from Swimmer anyway, I added this pair of constellation ankle socks to my order. The label had some washing instructions on them. Even though I can't read Japanese, the symbols were pretty straight-forward and easy to understand. 

The socks were a bit darker in colour than they appeared on the site. They almost look black, although in person you can tell that they are dark blue. The constellation pattern was crisp and very clear to make out.

The socks felt very soft and were a decent thickness. They fitted my wide feet comfortably. I think some lace around the ankles could have looked cute, but as they are, they are a lovely pair of casual socks.

I also ordered these British Crown socks in wine from Angelic Pretty. Japonica very kindly included the shopping bag that AP give with each of their purchases. I really wanted to get these socks in ivory and possibly black as well, but I left it too late to get those colours. But I am still really impressed with the wine colour, which is quite vibrant and bold. 

The pattern is very crisp. I absolutely love these socks, even though I complained a bit about the upside down crowns when I discussed this series on this blog.

The one part of the design I am not so keen on is the bows on the ankles. It is a cute idea, but the bows have not been well formed. The shape of the bow looks a bit rushed. Also, unless you are wearing low backed shoes this bow is not going to be on view anyway. 

I have noticed with more recent AP socks that they seem to be a bit thinner and shorter than they used to be a few years ago. They are still reasonably thick, but when I tried on the other pair of AP socks I got (see below) I couldn't help but notice that these newer release socks are very obviously thinner in comparison. As you can see, these socks do reach over my knees, but only just. There is no way I could stretch them further. I am still impressed with the quality, but they don't quite match up to the quality of my older AP socks.

I thought I would include a photo of the ankle bow. I don't think they look much better when worn. I am actually tempted to take the bows off.

Finally, I got this pair of AP Holy Night Story socks on auction. The socks were like new and I could tell they had barely been worn. I really love the bold colours. In case it is not obvious- I love royal and emblem themed legwear!

The design is super clear. Even from a distance it is easy to make out the sock design right away.

These socks are a couple of years old, which is why it is interesting to try these on after trying on my British Crown socks, which only came out about a month ago. As you can see, these socks are a bit longer and ended a couple of inches above my knees. I can also confirm that the material is thicker, and therefore warmer than the newer release socks. Despite both pairs of AP socks being of a good standard, I do think it is a shame that their quality has appeared to take a bit of a dip in more recent times. I have noticed it with my other newer AP socks as well. I suppose because I tried these 2 pairs of socks in such a short space of time, the difference in quality was a bit more noticeable. But despite this, I still think the newer AP socks are worth it. Angelic Pretty do some really lovely sock designs and come up with interesting patterns, so it would be a shame if the quality were to deteriorate any further.

So that concludes my impromptu spending spree. I am really glad that I discovered those bags and then made sure to check if Swimmer still had them. Overall I am really pleased with all of my new purchases. Despite a bit of negativity in this post towards the more recent AP socks, it has not put me off buying from Angelic Pretty at all. I also feel the Swimmer items were good value for the price paid. I have made a mental note to check their site more frequently from now on. I am looking forward to pairing my new items with my royal and cosmic themed outfits in the future!

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