I always loved aesthetics. Not particularly fashion, but an idea of beauty. – Miuccia Prada
Lolita fashion is generally seen as an expensive hobby and a brand dress can easily cost several hundred euros. It can be quite a lot more affordable, especially if you know where to look thankfully. I have personally at best paid around 80€ for my most expensive dress, but most of them are in the around 60€ price. I have also gotten one of my favorite dresses from a Lucky Pack, which is a new year’s tradition from Japan, and gotten the dress I wanted plus a dress I could sell and get my money back with.
You definitely want to make yourself a budget at first. What are you willing to spend and on what? I tend to buy my accessories elsewhere (other than a matching headbow) to save a bit of coin and keep a keen eye on my local stores for legwear and jewelry. I really wish I had spent a bit more on a petticoat from the get-go as mine is already after a year starting to be a bit oddly shaped. It does work still, but there is only so much wear that I will get out of it. Investing a little bit in the start keeps you from switching out items all the time in the long run.
When it comes to main pieces you can also save a pretty penny by buying offbrand. Bodyline is a good and cheap brand, though a bit unreliable with their shipping currently. Besides that buying from Taobao (China’s eBay) or Japanese auctions, you can save a pretty buck, but you will need a shopping service. I have not yet used that option as it feels a bit intimidating when you need to translate the posts yourself and then contact the shopping service. Personally, I use Taobao resellers that have good English for simplicity’s sake. I probably pay a bit more for a dress than if I got it right from Taobao, but the difference isn’t big enough to matter in my case. I try to stick in a 40€ to 90€ bracket when buying dresses, but if I save up I could buy myself a more expensive one as well.
When it comes to accessories that is one of the easier points to save some money on. I look for jewelry at sales and in high street stores like H&M. There isn’t necessarily always something that fits, but with time and patience, you do find the treasures. You can also make things yourself if you are crafty. I am planning on making wristcuffs to myself as my wrists are often too tiny for most bracelets. Gloves can also be quite easy to make once you get the hang of it as well as headbows. You can also save up a bit by making skirts and dresses yourself. Otome no Sewing and Gothic & Lolita Bible tend to have patterns and the community will usually help out with finding the one you are looking for, if necessary.
Shoes can also be bought from stores here if you happen to find something suitable, like basic Mary Janes, but it’s not always easy. It depends a lot on the trends going on, but generally classic lolita style shoes are a bit easier to find. As I have an EU size 35 I can sometimes find shoes in the children’s department which makes it a bit easier. Bodyline is seen as a good place for cheap shoes, but I have not found any in my size to try yet. Other than that, try looking for a style of lolita shoes you like and then finding something resembling wherever you shop. Adding bows and details to shoes can be done yourself afterward if you find a good plain base.
I hope that this is a bit of help when it comes to shopping on a budget. If you have any questions leave them in the comments below! Also is there something you would want to know about Lolita that I haven’t covered yet? Feel free to give me suggestions!