22 July 2017

Taobao Resellers or Shopping Services?

Taobao seems like some insurmountable mountain to jfashionistas who haven't ordered from it before. While it is in Chinese, and while most shops don't ship internationally, ordering from Taobao doesn't have to be painful.

There are a few tutorials out there on how to navigate Taobao and buy from stores directly if you happen to have a Chinese bank/address to ship to, but the easiest way to order from Taobao is through resellers or shopping services.

I've used both and want to share the pros and cons that I've seen with both. I'll let you make the decision what you want to use when you decide to buy, but it's good to get the full picture on your options.

Taobao Resellers

At first, the only resellers of cute clothes from Taobao lurked around on Storenvy. Those still exist, but now there are more legitimate companies that stock and order lolita from Taobao.

One such company is Devil Inspired. They do both pre-orders and stock items from popular Taobao lolita brands.

Devil Inspired recently sent me a dress from Soufflesong - which you can buy directly, but ordering through Devil Inspired is more convenient for ordering items from different shops at the same time.

I chose the Rose Mary onepiece in pink in size large. If you have a larger bust, you know the struggle of sacrificing a boobloaf for ordering a size up and hoping it doesn't look to baggy. This is what I did, and I don't regret it. This dress is super comfortable and easy to move around in. It's lined with thin cotton, which makes it nice for the summer even though it has long sleeves.

The downside to using a reseller is you are paying a bit more for your items than you would be from using a shopping service. The upside is that you don't have to calculate fees and shipping based n weight for your budget - the reseller does this for you in the listing price. Everything is in English so you don't need to use a translator to figure out sizes and such, and they might have some items already in stock.

Taobao Shopping Services

The shopping service I use is Spreenow, which I also recommend. What I like about them in particular is their convenient shopping cart system and really friendly customer service. They ask for full payments for pre-orders at the beginning, but they do all the work.

The downside to using a shopping service is that you have to go out into the wild of Taobao yourself and tell them what you want. You also have to remember to add in their fees and calculate shipping when you decide to make an order. The upside is that shopping service fees are often less than markups from resellers and you have more freedom to order whatever you want - even if it isn't lolita fashion related.

Conclusions: Taobao Resellers or Shopping Services?

I'm not here to tell you which is the better option for ordering from Taobao. That's up to you. There are upsides and downsides to both, and you should definitely weigh your options.

What do you use when you shop on Taobao? If you haven't ever ordered from there before, what are you waiting for?! Just kidding... let me know below what you think!

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14 July 2017

Plains Derailed! 5 Things In My Wardrobe That Just Didn't Work

Can you think of that one item that makes you shake your head at yourself? I bet you have one in mind!

I can think of five things that I bought that just didn't work in my lolita wardrobe.

We've all made bad purchases before (I even made a video about how to avoid this!), and some of us love to gripe about how stupid we were. I'm one of those people. I love listening to purchase horror stories, and that includes sad tales of dream dresses that didn't fit or new items that came in the wrong color.

It's drama without hurting anyone!

This week's Lolita Blog Carnival topic is just that - five things that didn't work. Keep reading to see some of my mistakes:

Haenuli's Matryoshka Cat

This dress is still super cute to me, even years after I sold it. The cats were too adorable with their big eyes and tiny grandma shawls. Too bad I just never got into royal blue, and I didn't like any of the other colorways either. I only wore this twice (one to help man a lolita consignment shop, two to a meetup at a Lithuanian restaurant) before selling it to someone who's wardrobe hopefully included brighter primary colors.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright's Salon de Thé Minette

I originally wanted the necklace because of the cute cat in a pile of teacups (see a theme so far?) and just bought the skirt for the print since the necklace sold out everywhere instantly. I still yearn for it... Anyways, the colors ended up just being a little off for me to really match it to anything in my lolita wardrobe. I had mint where the skirt was green, and I had pink where the skirt was almost lavender. I kept it around for a long time but recently sold it.

Angelic Pretty's Sugary Chiffon

I still own this blouse, only worn once! I got this as a gift actually, and I was originally excited because the three-quarter sleeves with the chiffon cutouts were beautiful. Unfortunately, it really only matches one or two dresses. I guess I thought I had more dresses that would match a bright baby pink blouse than I did, most of my sweet JSKs are pink themselves.

Haenuli Tights

This heading is so generic because I honestly don't know the name of these tights. Please let me know if you do! Like the blouse, I still own these but never wear them. They do match my wardrobe, but when worn, the business looks bad on me. We all know I don't have the skinniest legs, so the delicate furniture is stretched out. I've since learned that I look better in simpler legwear, and they're easier to wear with busy prints.

Himena's Olivia's Room

I like the motif of dollhouses and rooms, and I jumped at this Taobao predorder. I still love the print, but I wish I had ordered the ivory instead of the pink. If you've witnessed my dismay over the true color of my Imai Kira pieces, then you know I have bad luck with pinks that are actually purple. This is also the case here. I still love it and match it with white, but I do wish it had worked a bit better with my wardrobe.

Let me know in the comments what you've regretted purchasing. What things just didn't work in your lolita wardrobe?

Also, please check out the other participants in this week's theme.

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24 June 2017

Bringing Back the Old School Aesthetic

What we now call "old school" lolita used to be the only style we wore. Chunky lace, puffed sleeves, simple cotton dresses, long bloomers.

In 2016 old school seemed to be making a comeback, even if only a mild attempt. Baby, the Stars Shine Bright's classical series offers brand new pieces of some of the company's old school designs.

Personally, I am enjoying seeing this small revival of old school. I don't wear the style often, and I only have one blouse and one JSK that would be considered true to the style. My own style and wardrobe has shifted away from cotton lace and knee-highs since I first started, and original pieces probably wouldn't match too many things in my closet.

It Started With an Idea...

Someone in my local community decided to host a picnic in a picturesque field. This adventure was to be a collaborative art project between a few friends, taking artistic photos in old school lolita. 

The picnic itself was intended to be Victorian-inspired and eco-friendly, so we brought our own china and silverware. No tupperware or paper plates to be found!

A few problems did emerge... Despite having a potluck thread on the Facebook event page, we were not particularly efficient with the dishes. We had six teapots, three creamers, a dozen tea cups, but no plates. Using the extra saucers as plates may have looked silly, but it worked.

Time For Baking!

Last week, I posted a list of six of my favorite ways to decorate a cake with minimal effort or talent. I love decorating cakes, but for this picnic I decided to bake one that needed no additional decoration. It speaks for itself. I made a hot milk cake - a recipe from the Great Depression that uses ingredients in a way that makes the most out of readily available ingredients while still maintaining a creamy, sweet taste.

I regret taking my cake in a glass cake display, my arms were definitely sore after hiking with about thirty pounds. The glass was unnecessarily heavy, and I'm sure it didn't help that I also brought a full Royal Albert tea set, a milk glass creamer and bowl, my bulky camera, a wool blanket, and a thick ceramic baking dish (because forgetful me had to rush and bake the cake right before I left, I had to let it cool in its dish up until I cut it).

Most of the food was homemade, which was impressive. We had lemon scones, hardboiled tea eggs, poppyseed muffins with fig jam, four kinds of tea sandwiches, fresh fruit, petit cheox, and about a dozen different kinds of tea.

Kamikaze Girls Redux

Because our hostess wanted to turn this meet into an old school lolita photoshoot, we took a lot of pictures after lunch. Me being me, I also took video footage for a vlog. Check it out here!

As well as individual outfit shots and candid photos during the picnic, we all stood out in the field for a group shot. We were posed to look like a moody jrock band about to drop a hot new album. As well as an obligatory dabbing shot because we're dorky like that.

While photoshoots never really show you the struggle behind the photo (the wind strong and cold, the sun dry and hot, and the grass painful and messy), they can portrait an ideal image. I think the few photos I did get were successful at creating the kamikaze girl aesthetic of whimsy and melancholy. 

Photo credit to Ouji Photography

Photo credit to Ouji Photography

Some of My Favorite Things

I love bad jokes and find them everywhere. The dress I wore to this picnic is the only remaining old school main piece I own, and it's called My Favorite Things. It just so happens that this afternoon did combine some of my favorite things - good food, good company, and frilly clothes.

Normally, I would give you a detailed rundown of my outfit. Fortunately, everything I wore other than my petticoat and shoes was from Baby, the Stars Shine Bright. I'm not a brandwhore, I swear!

My coordinate was perfect for the aesthetic theme of the picnic, but it was terrible for the location. We had to hike a decent distance along a rough trail, up a hill, and through the field full of tall grass with burrs and foxtails. Let's just say that it'll be difficult to completely clean my socks and my calves hated my footwear decision. 

Bring Back the Old School Aesthetic

The aesthetic and feeling of lolita has changed significantly over the years. I love the romanticism of the old lifestyle lolita and want to bring some of that back into my daily life.

Even if you don't like old school style of clothing, I think everyone can find something idealistic and appealing in the way our subculture was back then. The camaraderie, the precious rarity of the clothing, and the almost child-like aspiration to live in a dream world of simple sweetness and elegance.

I want to see a revival of the old school aesthetic. What about you?

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17 June 2017

Cookie Bear Review

Back when buying lolita on Taobao was limited to a handful of trusted shops, buying something from a store without a lot of sales or reviews was risky. Nowadays, it is far less dangerous to order something from a shop that only stocks a couple pieces. It isn't Russian Roulette anymore!

I absolutely adore sailor collared things, especially in lolita. I saw this preorder pop up in Lolita Updates, and I asked my shopping service to preorder it for me. I love the one I use, and they're really good for preorders. Just add the items you want, and they'll adjust the price you pay them once they confirm you know it's a preorder and will pay the full amount up front.

I love the dress I got from Cookie Bear, and I will definitely purchase something from them again if I see something I can't resist!

What I Got:

I preordered the onepiece and the matching felt beret in grey. Other color options were navy, red, and sax. I've been really loving light grey lately, so I couldn't pass up a cute sailor collar onepiece in the perfect shade of grey. I don't regret it.

The price for the dress was 418yuan (62usd), and the beret was 98yuan (15usd). Really decent price for the quality I got but average for Taobao brands.

It came with a detachable bow for the collar and a ribbon to tie around the waist. I really appreciated that the ribbon was made from the same material as the dress, instead of just a long piece of cheap grosgrain ribbon.

The Fit: 

I ordered a size L for the onepiece. While I can't actually read the measurements on Cookie Bear's product page, I can guess by looking at the numbers that it should have a 96cm bust and 82cm waist.

This feels pretty accurate. I wanted to get a size larger than I needed so it would be loose and comfy instead of fitting perfectly, and I'm glad I did. Since there is no shirring, the extra room is nice!

The beret fits nice and tight on my head (which is pretty average I suppose). I don't think it would fit very well on a wig, but it fits perfectly for wearing on top of your natural hair.

The Quality: 

For only sixty dollars, the quality is amazing. While the beret is a little misshapen, I understand wool is thick and is difficult to keep form.

The dress is fully lined, sleeves included, and is made from a nice fabric. It is thin enough to wear in the summer and thick enough to wear in the winter with an under-layer.

The stitching looks perfect, and the trim is quality as well. I couldn't find any lint or stray threads anywhere.

The sleeve cuffs can be opened with two buttons (although they are tough to get through the eyes) but weren't too difficult to put my hands through anyways.

Something that lolita brands often fail at no matter how expensive the dress is: zippers. So far, I have not had a single problem with the zipper Cookie Bear used. I am impressed.

The Details: 

As I've already mentioned, I am quite pleased with the quality and attention to detail Cookie Bear has done for the price of the dress.

I love the color balace between the grey, white, and gold. The different layers of trim are unique and really add to the simple elegance of the dress.

There are two pockets even though it has a side zipper. Come on Angelic Pretty, step up your game! My boyfriend couldn't tell it even had pockets just from looking at it on me, which is pretty impressive.

This dress definitely passed the twirl test and the slouch test - two very important points in my book!

Overall, I am in love with what I ordered. Please take a look at my video review for more detail shots and to see it worn.

I hope you consider buying from them if you like something you see - you won't regret it!

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10 June 2017

6 Easy Cake Decorating Ideas

Fun fact about me: when I was in high school I wanted to be a cake decorator. Needless to say, that career aspiration never really went anywhere. I do still love decorating cakes for parties though, and I want to share some really easy ideas that even someone with little to no decorating skills can do.

Maybe you want to treat yourself or go all out for the next tea party potluck!

1. Candied Flowers

This one I've done a few times before, and it looks amazing if you get the right flowers. You can use petals or whole flowers - but you might want to pick a sturdy one for that. Make sure to research which flowers are non-toxic and edible in case someone tried to eat it!

How it works is this: trim off any stems or leaves you don't want (or you can leave a little bit on to anchor the flower into the frosting), gently coat the petals with egg white, lightly dust the flower in sugar, let dry, and arrange on your cake.

Image credit: Sherri Silver

2. Fresh Fruit

Decorating with fruit is probably one of the healthiest options, and you can make a myriad of different color combinations and schemes. Peach slices and raspberries, kiwis and bananas, starfruit, the options are endless.

As a surprise present for my boyfriend, I made a hot milk cake and decorated it with vanilla frosting and fresh strawberries from the farmer's market. I love taking the ugliest pieces and covering them with white sugar and letting the mixture sit in the fridge for several hours, mixing every so often. This makes the strawberries so much sweeter and produces a simple strawberry syrup to pour over the cake. Yum!

Image credit: Elena

3. Candy & Chocolate

This idea is easy but not for the health-conscious. I've found that the hardest part is guessing exactly how much candy to buy - too little and you won't have enough, too much and you can't help but eat all the leftovers!

Instead of kitkats and M&Ms, you can also use other candies such as jellybeans, pocky, chocolate covered strawberries, sour belts, wafer sticks, etc. Like the photo below, you might consider trying a cute ribbon around the cake to help keep everything in place before you serve the cake.

Image credit: thecookieshop

4. Almond Slices (Whole Ones Too...)

Presumably you could decorate with other nuts, but I've personally never tried. Almonds are super versatile and go with many different cake flavors.

My personal favorite method is pressing almond slices into the frosted cake sides to look like over-lapping shingles, but there are many other really easy things to do with almonds. Sprinkle almond crumbles on the top, arrange almonds in flower shapes, make all kinds of patterns, even stick slices into fudge/cookie dough and make pinecones!

Image credit: Elizabeth LaBau

5. 3D Chocolate

You don't need a culinary degree or an expensive 3D printer to make really cool shapes out of chocolate. All you need is some chocolate to melt, a plastic bag with the tip cut off, wax paper, and a design you want to trace.

Here's how to do it: melt the chocolate you want to use, fill a plastic bag halfway with the melted chocolate and cut off a tiny bit of one corner, place the wax paper on top of the design you want to trace, twist the top of the bag and squeeze carefully to pipe the melted chocolate onto the wax paper, let dry, and place where you want it. If you are making something more complicated, you can "glue" together dry pieces together with more melted chocolate.

I've used this decorating technique before for an intricate gingerbread house I made a couple of years ago (if you didn't believe my love for decorating, you will once you see it!)

Image credit: Emma Galati

6. Dusted Powdered Sugar

This idea I have used several times - sometimes with powdered sugar, sometimes with sprinkles. It's really easy, and it works even on cake that isn't frosted.

All you need to do is put your cake on a surface that is easily cleaned like saran wrap, place whatever object or cut-out you want onto the surface, and lightly dust the powdered sugar over the area you want covered.

A tip: this works the best on darker frosting or cake colors like chocolate, red velvet, or green tea.

Image credit: Painted by Cakes

I hope you got some inspiration for your next baking adventure. If you don't bake - maybe you're just inspired to indulge in a store-bought slice!

Comment if you like lifestyle inspiration posts like this, I'd love to make more!

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