Project: Wa lolita

So I fell off the face of the planet. It’s probably going to happen a lot, so fair warning! But today on Blogville, I have some photos of my latest project, a wa lolita dress! Ooooooh, aaaaaah!

But first! Background info:

Wa: from the kanji 和, “wa”, which means Japanese. So says the internet, which never lies.

Lolita: Not the book by Vladimir Nabokov, which Wikipedia summarizes with the following sentence: “the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle-aged literature professor Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. His private nickname for Dolores is Lolita.” So, erm, yeah… not that. Never mind that the narrator’s adopted pseudonym is “Humbert Humbert.” If I ever read it, I’ll let you know what I think…

Anyhow, I mean lolita the Japanese street fashion, characterized by bell-shaped, knee-length skirts; traditionally-feminine elements such as ruffles, lace, bows, and so on; Victorian and Rococo aesthetics and elements; an often girlish look whence the name lolita; and *not* an emphasis on sexuality — lolita clothing is actually very modest and is meant to be more elegant or cute than sexy.

And, let’s face it, the skirts are POOFY. And RUFFLY. And it turns out I actually am a girl after all (yes, there were some doubts for a while…), because I’ve been wanting a lolita dress for years. I’ve had the fabric for a dress for at least three years and finally broke down and bought a petticoat for it (see my earlier post for a picture). So without further ado, here it is!


The original design, done very shabbily in Photoshop using the base colours. I ended up using Simplicity 4080 for the kimono top, and drafted the skirt, obi, and giant bow patterns myself. Turns out, according to JoAnn, that the pink fabric I ended up buying is not pink, it’s brown. …Yeah, I don’t know either, but I do know it was the only fabric in the entire store that matched the pink in the flowers. Yeesh.


Those ribbons in the sleeves seemed like such a great idea until I stepped on them. A bazillion times.

The top, featuring the prettiest cotton fabric ever to grace the hallowed halls of Fields Fabrics. I bought 7 yards of it three years ago; I think I used four. Whoops! Who wants a dress of their own? The cream piping around the neckband I got a JoAnn, which was a huge blessing because I’d been planning to make my own, and that might have killed me. I punched grommet holes in the sleeves for the grosgrain ribbon and finished them by hand while watching Annie. Four words: “Solo for the President!!”

Also, whoever came up with the sleeve-lining pattern for those sleeves is a GENIUS. I never would have managed that (without significant headache) on my own.


The skirt! Three layers with some funky finagling (that’s a technical sewing term, by the way) to get the zipper in properly. The ruffles were 140, 200, and 170 inches long pre-ruffling and took me both Sister Acts to gather and pin on. Here’s a picture of the ruffle bands pre-ruffle:


With katana in position in case I get frustrated.

Also, a word to the (un)wise: measure your waist with the petticoat/underlayers *on* — that skirt makes my waist 2 inches smaller than it is otherwise. More finagling was required to get the waistband to the proper length because I didn’t trust my first, with-petticoat-on measurements. Derp.


The obi (belt), obijime (cord thingy) and obiage (pink thingy at the top). I bought cream cording and pink and blue rat tail and wrapped the rat tail around the cording for the obijime. I think by that time I’d given up on movies and started listening to Glee soundtracks. Loser Like Me? Best song ever.


The GIANT BOW OF DOOOOM! Top and bottom pieces are separate and held together by the piece in the middle. The bow attaches to the obi via a piece of broken arrow and some coat hanger which my landlord helped me cut and wind when he was here installing my AC units. Best landlord ever? I think yes. Unfortunately the bow deflated a bit as I wore it, but I think it held up pretty well, all things considered.


The finished project from the front! But wait! In addition to the outfit, we also need…


Shoes! Found these at the Salvation Army (trip #7 that week, I think) after resolving to make myself a pair of okobo out of knife racks. Don’t ask. It was going to work, I swear. They ended up being acutely uncomfortable and gave me blisters, but they looked pretty awesome once I covered the thongs and painted them:


Next time, I’m going to get real tabi socks (those Japanese socks with a separate slot for the big toe) and see if that helps. And last but not least:


Kanzashi! I’m lousy at falls (the dangly rows), but these turned out pretty well, I think — I used the leftover rat tail, which worked waaay better than the embroidery floss I used last time. Having the wig (thank you, Kristie!) was also awesome, because I could just stick the comb down into the wefts and it stuck. I also made a little flower for the other side of my head, as well as a flower for a choker (which reminds me, I owe my sister a new chain for her St. Anthony medal since I disassembled hers while making my choker last minute…)

And ze finished product:


Jafax 2012, GVSU

Better (read: less squinty) photo to come, I hope.

Final thoughts:

-Piping is evil. Pretty, but evil.

-Wow was this warm! Guess that’s what I get for lining it…

-You can always shrink things. You cannot make them bigger once you’ve cut them out. (Looking at you, skirt tier #1).

-Kristie is awesome for loaning me her wig and letting me use her serger.

-I want a serger.

-Hint hint.

-Erm, how do I sit down?

-IT’S SO POOFY! Can I have another, please???


10 thoughts on “Project: Wa lolita

  1. Wow, I finally finished reading the whole post. Not only an amazing, beautiful outfit, but very entertaining description of the creation process.

  2. I absolutely love this outfit, it’s perfect ❤
    I was wondering if you could give me some tips about the skirt, if it's Full Circle, 3/4 Circle, a or Rectangle one. Love the ruffles on it. Awesome work!

    • Thank you! 🙂

      All three layers are full circles; I measured out a waistband and then calculated the size of each circle’s inner circumference based on that. (Don’t forget to factor in a seam for your zipper!) I had to do a little tweaking (all those digits of pi…) but it came out pretty close in the end.

      • Thank you for the tips! The skirt looks so puffy and I wanted to do something like this! I hope mine will look as awesome as yours 😀

  3. I know this is an old post, but I was wondeting , for the skirt, did you use a patter of some sort? I’m planning on making a way Lolita super Mario cosplay, so I’ve been looking all over for tips and help and patters. And how did you do the obi? Is there a pattern for that? Thank you for taking the time in reading my message.

    • Ooooh, a lolita Super Mario sounds awesome! I’d love to see it when it’s finished.
      I didn’t use a pattern for the skirts — each tier started as a basic circle which I then altered to give it the ‘sloped’ look. If you don’t want to make your own pattern from scratch, I’m sure there’s a pattern out there for a circle skirt which you could use as a starting point (poodle skirt patterns are good for this, but they generally have elastic waists rather than zippers).
      I didn’t use a pattern for the obi, either, but I would take a look at Simplicity 4080; I’m pretty sure their obi pattern is the same as the one I made up — mine’s just a long rectangle with a layer of extra-stiff fabric and boning at the centre to help it keep its shape, and clasps in the back. The bow is a separate piece but when it goes on it hides the clasps on the obi pretty well.
      I hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions. 🙂

      • It did very much, thank you. If I have more questions, I will ask. Thank you very much. And I’ll be sure to show you a pic of how it comes out (Hopefully good XD)

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