Guest Blogger Juanita Talks About Online Shopping And Lolita Fashion

I write about what I know, but my style universe is a lot smaller than the big picture out there. This is, after all, an art form exercised by countless people with many different lifestyles, tastes, interests, and levels of expertise in different areas. So this is why I’ve started asking friends of mine to write up their own guest posts, so we can all get some insight into many of the different perspectives there are. Here’s my first guest blog post written by Juanita about our online shopping experience together.

Shopping is a skill that I generally lack, especially when done online. I like to stick to ‘safe’ clothing items, such as hoodies, t-shirts, and jeans. So I suppose you can conclude that I enjoy feeling comfortable in my clothes or as some would define as the ‘low maintenance’ look. It’s not that I don’t enjoy looking fabulous, who doesn’t? It’d just that I unfortunately lack the knowledge or the motivation to put any effort into my physical appearance.
This is where Victoria* interceded and provided the advice and assistance that I so desperately required to help polish my look for a night out of the town. She suggested shopping online for original items you cannot find in our lovely city. All I could think about was the mishaps of my latest purchases that looked ridiculous both on me and in my closet. I was slightly apprehensive, but I also knew that she had impeccable taste and would not let me purchase something that would look asinine on me.
So we browsed the web and looked at many different websites that I had never heard of before. The two that made a huge impression on me were Timeless Trends corsets and Retroscope Fashions, both from which I purchased items and have no regrets.
I have never owned a corset but have always admired the fashion from afar. It brings a certain elegance that has been lost through our current trends of shorter skirts and lower shirts. So as an inexperienced corset shopper I had no idea where to start. What’s my size? What should I start out with? What is considered good quality? Well I was in slightly over my head, but with Victoria’s guidance and the countless corsets she owns, all my questions were answered. I found my size and was able to try different styles and colors to give me an idea of what I would like. That’s one of the benefits of shopping with an experienced online consumer. However, if you do not have the advantage of knowing an expert adviser, the website provides a sizing chart that will enable you to find the appropriate size for your body as well as information about their corsets.


The boutique I am absolutely captivated by is Retroscope Fashions; it has your classic Victorian and Lolita styles, which are breathtaking. I am fascinated with the air of sophistication this style will give those who choose to wear it. I gladly embrace the style and was able to find a Lolita dress that solidified my new found addiction to it. My excitement could not be contained when my dress arrived in the mail and the excruciating dance of waiting to wear it out almost was too much for me.


Overall my online shopping experience was quite enjoyable. I found what I was looking for, learned a lot of valuable information, and acquired the confidence to shop online by myself.

*My name for the purposes of this blog.

Online Shopping 101

Every time the Canadian dollar is doing well I get to laugh as I watch the news detailing the trips of hundreds of families across the border for some American shopping. Laugh more than what’s appropriate most likely, because all that time spent away from home is making for a pretty crappy deal. So I’ve often wondered maybe somewhat cruelly how people can be so silly, when all they have to do is hop online to get all the selection they want without the added time and hidden expense.
The truth is, most people are a little afraid to shop online. They don’t want to buy something they’ve never seen in person, or they’re concerned about security issues. I’ve been shopping online since the day I got my first credit card (obtained solely for that purpose) at 18, and ever since then I buy virtually ALL my clothes and half of my jewelry from my living room. In the six years since then only two purchases have not turned out, so I’m confident that everybody can relax and the water’s fine. Online shopping is something the knowledge and skill of which grows very easily with a little practice once you get started. To help you get that start I’m now writing this handy little guide.
So why shop online?
A better question to ask is why NOT shop online? You get the biggest selection in the world, and it only takes minutes -up to as long as your heart desires- to see it all. You’ll undoubtedly obtain many things you just can’t get locally, which will make for a very personalized look you just can’t pick up at the mall. You also get to compare prices for everything, savings that will often cancel out the cost of shipping. If not, the rest is made up for by the aforementioned selection and convenience. Also keep in mind that since web shops instantly reach a global market, many retailers these days have completely forgone limiting brick and mortar shops. If you want to take part, you’ll have to go online. And another note about shipping: receiving packages in the mail is incredibly fun. It’s like Christmas all year round. Some would even argue that the anticipation and the excitement of getting your stuff is even better than the instant-gratification of shopping in person.
So what about that issue of not being able to see the item in person? Just like in traditional stores, online businesses want to keep you happy. They know that good products and services will result in positive word of mouth that’s better than any advertising campaign. If they scammed you, they wouldn’t be in business for long. Many even have a section where you can read honest testimonials from past customers. And if you become a happy customer yourself, definitely take the time to let them know.
Furthermore, all products will have a detailed description and photos. The photos should let you see what you’re getting from multiple angles, and the description will tell you important things such as materials used, the manufacturing process, and if sizes happen to run a little large or small. Plus they’re often just fun to read. When it comes to clothing, every site will have a size chart for each brand that they carry, so you know your item will fit. Just take your basic measurements and compare them to the chart to find your size. Of course it’s definitely an asset to know your body type and what basic clothing styles will flatter it too.
If for any reason the purchase doesn’t work out, all online stores will have a return policy that you can check out in advance, and most of them are even better than the return policies you get for shopping in person. Timeless Trends for example has a 45 day return policy that they will extend depending on circumstance. But just like traditional shopping, make sure that the item you purchased is returned in the same condition you received it. They sent you something pretty and new, and you owe them the same courtesy.
The service online is often surprisingly awesome. Because many of these companies are a lot smaller than traditional ones, you have a better chance of communicating directly with the company owner or item manufacturer, sometimes one and the same. And yes, there are very open lines of communication online, whether through email, live chat, or a phone call. I’ve once had the pleasure of communicating directly with Louise Black of Project Runway for a made-to-order item made by her. How cool is that? And I will never forget to rave about AntiSally of Goth Rosary’s awesomely friendly *hugs* in her emails.
Payment is also extremely secure, possibly even more so since there are no hacked machines on which to get skimmed. Giving your credit card information is completely safe, and if it still makes you nervous most all sites now let you use PayPal, a service so secure I was once locked out of my own account and had to make a new one. Refunds are always given out promptly where necessary. Also, when it comes to using PayPal, particularly if you’re shopping on a site such as eBay or Etsy, where items come from individuals instead of commercial stores, PayPal ensures that if you don’t receive your item in 45 days they’ll make sure you get refunded even if the refund isn’t coming from the seller themselves, which is very good to know.
Speaking of eBay, this is the biggest thrift store in the world, and then some. Not only does it have an infinite amount of used stuff, but due to its success a lot of commercial retailers are using it too. The first thing you might want to do is treat it for what it is, a huge thrift shop. This means there are tons of great finds there, you just have to be patient when looking for them. Sometimes those gems can be buried under a lot of crap. And once you’re lucky enough to find one of these gems you’ll want to pay as much attention to the photos and description as possible. If there’s anything more you need to know you can always email the seller; they usually get back to you extremely quickly.
The second thing is to make full use of the search options. The search bar works just like Google’s does, so if you want your item to absolutely have a certain word in the title, put a + in front of that word. If you don’t want to include listings with a certain word, put a – in front of it. Make sure the search keeps the same words together and in a particular order by putting quotations around them. Then narrow down your search as much as possible using all the options in the left panel. You can even select “Buy Now only” if you just want your stuff right away without fussing with the whole bidding thing. And of course never forget to check the shipping costs; it’s been known to happen for a seller to list an item for 1$ with something like 150$ shipping, so don’t be caught off guard.

But what’s my all time favorite site to shop on? Etsy! This works like Ebay in that it’s a hosting site to countless little shops run by individuals. The difference is that it’s completely focused on vintage and handmade items – nothing commercial. There’s no bidding, and you can find the most incredible, unique, amazing, ridiculous, and beautiful things. The interface is a lot friendlier than Ebay too. When you like something you “heart” it, and it goes into your wishlist for viewing later. You can even heart shops so you can go back to them easily and browse their selection. This is especially one of the greatest sites for unique and affordable wedding shopping. Jewelry, dresses, center pieces, cake toppers, invitations – they have it all, all made by extremely talented people. And I’m addicted to vintage window shopping there. I just got a gorgeous hounds tooth wool dress from the 50s. Damn, I should write a review just about Etsy!
Here’s a general little tip: When you’re not satisfied with the price or shipping of an item, Google the product code. This works except in cases where the item is 100% unique to that store, usually if it’s used or handmade. Stop Staring isn’t the only website that sells Stop Staring dresses, and Pinup Girl Clothing isn’t the only store that sells Collectif dresses or Leg Avenue shoes. You’ll find the product code either at the end of the name of the item, or at the beginning of the description. It will look something like this -> pc-lizbeth-bkgr. It most often represents the brand, the product name, and the color. Googling this code will allow you to see all the other stores carrying that exact item so that you can compare prices and shipping options in a much more specific way than typing in, say, “green and black wiggle dress.”
So now you have what you need to be a real web-savvy shopper and impress your friends with your fabulous finds. Be prepared to answer the question “where did you get that??” repeatedly, and enjoy the glory of finding exactly what you want and need with a lot more fun and convenience than effort.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Weddings!

It may not be wedding season quite yet, but you can bet the planning is already well underway. And because a wedding article probably wouldn’t be quite so useful the very month of your nuptials, I’m writing it now by special request.

I have an issue with weddings. I love weddings, I really do, but what I don’t like is how retailers take advantage of engaged couples by making them believe that they have to fit a mold or their day just won’t be what they imagined it to be, while in fact the opposite is much more true. The truth is weddings are about you, the couple. It’s not about a formula or conforming to other people’s expectations. I really believe that the best weddings are the ones which show most the personality of the couple in a fun and unique way. You only get one chance to do this, God willing, so you should be having the most fun and least stress that you can manage. I’m going to focus on two main things here, the dress, and Etsy, both great fun.

That wedding dress… damn. Have you heard of “white blindness”, that thing brides get when all those white dresses sort of start to blend into each other so they start looking all the same and the process becomes simply overwhelming? I can relate. And I didn’t even start out looking for a white dress. Have I mentioned that conformity for the sake of conformity bugs the hell out of me? I have? Oh, good.

So anyway, I was in the market for a blue dress at first. I never wear white, so I thought starting now would be a little off. And I liked blue. So I went into bridal boutiques looking for bridesmaids dresses (which is a great option if you don’t want a white dress). Everyone in the shops assumed I was graduating from high school until I told them it was for my wedding, after which point they tried pushing the most hideous and expensive wedding dresses, and even uglier bridesmaids dresses on me that I had ever seen. I’m not sure if I was just in the wrong shops or what, but I felt like the 80s had exploded all over downtown. The whole thing quickly became a little unnerving.

What I learned from this was not to focus on labels. Slap the word “wedding” into the name of an item and watch its price jump and originality plummet. Not a great thing. You’ll notice that I tend to focus a lot on what things cost, but weddings especially are already really expensive. It’s important to save where you can. If you want a white dress, that’s fantastic. If you want to purchase it in a bridal salon, that’s also fantastic. I just feel it’s important to know about all your options.

For example, many formal dresses come in white. Many very beautiful ones that you wouldn’t find in a bridal salon, especially if you don’t go for the whole poufy ball gown thing. Outlet stores are especially great if you’re on a budget. I found myself a lovely backup dress at the Le Chateau outlet for 20$. A little too simple maybe, but when you’re dealing with something as important as that, it eases the mind to know you have a plan B in case anything terrible should happen to your plan A. In my case, it almost did. Long story, but my plan A almost never arrived.


I bought my own dress, a traditional white wedding dress, on eBay. A lot of people would recommend against that, and depending on who you are I will too. However if you’re a very casual laid back person, then it’s worth a shot as long as you know what you’re getting into. EBay dresses are factory direct designer knockoffs. They don’t tell you that, but it does have both a good side and a bad side. The good thing is that since you’re purchasing a dress that has yet to be made, they can make it custom according to all your measurements, and even color choice. I think this is amazing. It’s not likely to need much tailoring, especially great if you don’t fit into standard sizes, and you’re not stuck with white if that doesn’t float your boat. You can even choose the color of your trim. And many of the dresses are reproductions of the most gorgeous and expensive gowns you will ever see, all for around 200$ including shipping. Fabulous!

The bad side is that they are after all knockoffs, and while they’re not horrible, you can definitely tell the difference, so here’s where you just need to determine how much perfection you want. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting something legitimate so you know you’re getting the best possible quality.

If you like things a little retro-glam, you have to check out Unique Vintage. I think they’re awesome, and they have shoes and accessories too. I especially love this bridal emergency survival kit.

Enigma Fashions also has a beautiful and diverse little bridal collection, so I’m going to slip them in here too just for the hell of it.

Another great place to look for dresses, especially if you’re a little indie, is Etsy. If you love the thought of something lovingly made by hand just for you, this is likely your best bet, and you don’t even need to know anyone who can sew, because these fine people are just itching to do it for you. These dresses will range from the very cheap to the very expensive, and are made by some extremely talented people. You might even find a semi-famous designer in your search. I had a custom shrug made for me just in case it rained, and it turned out the woman who made it designed dresses for the Oscars. Wow.

If you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, many sellers are more than willing to take on custom orders. They’ll do pretty much anything you want, and this is a great way to make sure you’re getting something that nobody else will have.

Speaking of Etsy, there’s much more than just wedding dresses there. They not only have a huge wedding section, but they sell pretty much anything you can think of. After all this you might be asking, What the hell is Etsy, anyway? It’s a huge website hosting a ton of individual shops that sell all things vintage and handmade, catering to every taste. It’s a great way to get something with a really personal touch, and I highly suggest you check it out, even if you’re not getting married any time soon. Personally I’ve become a little obsessed with it, and have gotten quite a few of my friends hooked too. This is where I get most of my jewelry, including a beautiful gold hair vine I wore in place of a veil, a velvet bag, and a ring bearer pillow that was made as a treasure chest. I’ll leave you to search the site and let the awesomeness you find speak for itself.


The last thing to mention in this article is rings. You can get some great rings on Etsy too, but I want to do a special shout out to the place where we got our amazing rings, Hand Woven Bands by Todd Alan Studios. And surprise, it’s online. Don’t worry; I’ll do a tutorial of online shopping soon in case this is something you’ve ever been apprehensive about. The name pretty much describes what they are, wedding bands expertly woven by hand in a variety of gorgeous braids. They are truly stunning, and let me tell you, the service is exceptional. We were phoned by Todd twice to make sure our color selection was correct. I can’t recommend him enough.


Never mind, that wasn’t the last thing. I just have to tell you about Offbeat Bride, which is both a book and fantastic web community. You don’t have to be offbeat to enjoy communicating with other brides and getting loads of ideas for the big day. It works sort of like Facebook. You get your profile, and you can join groups relating to all sorts of different wedding topics where you can have fun and insightful discussions with all the other girls, and even a few grooms. I absolutely love it. The best part of all? Wedding Porn, the greatest and most fun source of inspiration on the entire internet, in my humble opinion.

And finally, if you’ll be doing your own makeup on the big day, check out my coworker Danielle’s truly fantastic makeup tutorials on Youtube.

So I think that’s about it for the wedding article, but of course if you have any questions or if there’s anything more you’d like to see just let me know and I’ll see what I can do!