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As a lover of lolita fashion and all these kawaii things, I shop a lot online. You could imagine, it's too expensive at real stores, and even worse there's no real stores at our areas at all! Anyway, shopping online is also much more convenient for me - I could easily check and compare different styles, materials, prices, etc.
From my personal experience, when buy lolita dresses online, here are things I often meet and think we should be careful:
1)When looking at a products images, the models photos are important, to show us how it looks after putting on with all these headbows, wristcuffs, shirts, shoes, socks, etc; but flat lay photos or photos on plastic models often give a more realistic feeling about how it feels. Often these photos are taken inside a room, so the color is more realistic too, compared with strong sunny or super cloudy outdoor photo shooting.
2)Often when the information about size, waist type, bodyshape, material is not clear, I either ignore it, or contact shop owner for more info before order.
3)Need to be very careful about size. Lolita fashion originates from Japan and that means it may be 1-2 sizes smaller than our daily wear. That's a shame many styles are only available at standard sizes S-XL, or seldomly XXL, lucky we got custom tailor options.
There are some pretty good quality indie brands like surface spell, classical puppet, hmhm, rose melody, they could do custom tailor and the quality's great too! Just be careful to leave enough time if you need the clothes for "big time", I would say order a couple of months earlier for sure.
4)For colors like white, black, standard red, often there's not much a worry about the color deviation. But most of our lolita dresses are special pastel or ice-cream colors, with all those beautiful and fancy lace, embroidery, prints(oh I love these), so color deviation may be hard to totally avoid. I got an idea about this to minimize that as much as possible: I know how pictures look if I take them with my iphone, sometimes I ask seller to share a photo before shipping, using iphone standard without any PS or touch works.
However, the light still affects a lot, especially at the blue and purple colors. The lucky thing is, right now most sellers will make sure the color deviation is minimum, if any. I don't find this a big issue for me.
I will post more tips as time goes, the purpose is to help you get more beautiful and top quality lolita dresses at the same budget!!!