A lolita outfit is composed of basic key elements. These can be broken down into: headwear, blouse, bell-shaped skirt, undergarment, legs, and footwear. Each element is essential in creating the proper lolita aesthetic, but as you will see, there is much room for variety within them. Although none of these can be called absolute necessities, remember that coordinating a lolita outfit is a bit like making a cake. You can take away or replace a couple of ingredients, but if you take away the butter, the sugar, and the milk, it just stops being cake.
A lolita almost always adds decoration to her hair, because it would be a wasted surface if one could not slap a bow on it. The traditional head covering is the headdress, which may come in all shapes and sizes, but is typically rectangular so that it may arch over the head like a headband. The Alice bow is also popular. This is a large bow made to sit on top of the head. Smaller bows, such as on barrettes and elastic bands, may also be used if one wants a less overpowering look. Hair corsages are more common among classic lolitas, as are vintage-style hats.
In general, lolitas prefer to minimize exposed skin, and so shoulders are, of course, usually covered. Most jumper skirts are made to be worn over a blouse. A typical lolita blouse buttons in the front and features a collar which is, traditionally, in the rounded Peter Pan style.
The ideal lolita silhouette is of the bell shape, whether she is wearing a dress or a skirt. This shape is achieved thanks to the petticoats and bloomers beneath. A skirt which cannot fit enough petticoats underneath to achieve this shape is usually improper for the style. A Lolita skirt should be no shorter than 2” above the knee.
An oft-ignored but vital key to a proper lolita’s attire, bloomers and petticoats should top every new lolita’s shopping list. A proper petticoat is necessary to achieve that bell shape that is so essential to the lolita silhouette, while bloomers are necessary to retain a young lolita’s modesty. You may be asking yourself, “but why should I need such fancy underthings if nobody else is going to see them?” Because, my dears, you are wearing a skirt in the shape of a bell. You may recall that if a real bell swings upwards, much as a bell-shaped skirt may do when a lolita is moving around, the interior becomes quite visible. For a lolita with naught but her hot pink Hello Kitty panties underneath, this is unacceptable. Wearing a set of matching bloomers keeps one’s thighs–and all else–well protected from the casual eye.
Though a lolita’s skirt may scandalously reveal her knees, a lolita tends not to expose her legs too often, as this would be improper. It is generally good practice to cover one’s legs at least up to the knee, which means wearing knee-length socks. Other options include over-knee socks, stockings, and opaque tights. Sheer tights tend to be too “sexy” for lolita, while ankle socks, especially those topped in lace, remind one too much of unassociated subcultures such as Sissy, and are simply less flattering on people’s legs.
The traditional footwear of choice for lolitas is the Mary Jane, but similar options are available. A proper lolita shoe should feature a closed, rounded toe as well as chunky, thick heels or platforms (although flats may also be an option). Boots fitting into this criteria are quite common with brands, though care must be taken not to go too edgy in one’s boot choice. Another favorite style, owing to the popularity of Vivienne Westwood in Japan, are rocking horse shoes.