Making this post makes me realize a couple of things, that first I have not finished my wardrobe, that I don't know where to exactly start, and this is all a little loose because everyone can do it a different way. This is how I started my Lolita Wardrobe, and some of the things I learned on the way. The things I am missing, the last "essential" things would be some winter coats. As in most things I am going to start from where I started, research. Hopefully this will help you, and me as well.
Many people will say that you should choose a sub-style first. However I would say that you don't have to do that. To start from the very very begging I would choose the colors you want to build your wardrobe around. If you are not sure about this, I would look at what you wear most often day to day. These are clothes after all, and you want to wear something that you will feel comfortable in. Don't even worry about coordination (which we will get to later) when choosing colors. And you can choose one color up to as much colors as you want. These colors will be the bases of your wardrobe, and may change over time.
When I got started I choose the two most often used colors in Lolita, black and white. Many people will say that those are an ita combination, but they shouldn't be based on what you buy.
Those were the first two colors I choose, and have since expanded my color pallet. With my wardrobe mostly stable and well rounded, I feel I can expand on the colors I choose.
The colors that I choose at first
I don't care if you save up loose change, or get a job, or get allowances from you parents or what not, always always remember that you pay for what you get. This meaning that if you buy from a brand name like Angelic Pretty or Baby The Stars Shine Bright you mostly will get very superb quality. Good quality usually means good design, good non-scratchy lace, and you will get full lining (for the dresses and the skirts). If you buy from say...Bodyline or Taboo they are usually without the great details, and the lining... sometimes the lace can be good or bad, so watch which dress you invest in. The last one you could look for is handmade or indie brands. These will usually be just about as good or in between name brands and taboo. Though many people buy dresses first, I would highly suggest against this.
So while at first you save up for a dress, it shouldn't be your first purchase. I would suggest that you first purchases revolve around accessories, headdress, petticoats, and socks. These are the things that will make a good foundation to your wardrobe and in some cases (like the petticoat) hold it up. And not just that, will give you a lot of room to play with your looks.
One of the biggest purchases in lolita is the petticoat. This to many people is like buying the perfect house, it can take awhile, and many people will make many mistakes before finding that gold nugget.
I have three petticoats myself, and these all vary in style as well as poof. In lolita poof factor is a huge deal! How big do you want your poof, you might ask? How big is the perfect poof? These questions, I have learned varies dress from dress. Not only that, but many petticoats lose their poof! This can really suck if you are spending around $50 for a petticoat, and it doesn't hold up.
So here are some tips.
F+F petticoat, which I won't be linking because it loses its poof really fast. And Candy Violet Petticoat that is super super huge.
The Classical Puppets Petticoat, it is the perfect poof... For most of my dresses. You can get them here or here.
Petticoats can be a bit expensive, but considering you wear them a lot more often than the dresses, it would be good to invest a little into it. It will be worth it in the long run.
Socks, accessories, and headdresses should be easier. You can get lots of these for fairly cheap and anywhere!
All of my leg wear stay with the colors I choose to base my wardrobe on. The first pair or the ones I got from F+F and are pretty plain. The second pair are a bit more fun (the white has see through flower patterns) and I got them from a taboo store, they are secret shop socks. My tights! They are flower patterned and polka dots (which are more see through once they are on).
For socks and general leg covering, like tights...
Tights can match anything and can make some great coords. What is best is that you can get them anywhere. I got my tights from Target, and Forever 21. People like Holly Tea Time (indie accessories) even makes their own tights now! Socks can be gotten from taboo or brand name as well. Secret Shop is a really great cheap alternative if your wallet is a little light. Make sure that even when buying tights or socks that you are still keeping with your colors!
Hair accessories from Claire's and Taboo/indie brands. These all stay with in my color themes.
Accessories and headdresses are the easiest to find! You can find all these at Claire's for a fair price. Or you can find them online, I really enjoy small businesses that sell accessories. Online places, such as Etsy or Holly Tea Time, are good places to start looking. You can find really great handmade jewelry there.
As for headdress, you can have big bows, small bows, and in-between bows! You can get them from anywhere! And I mean anywhere. Target, Claire's, or even Baby The Stars Shine Bright! That is totally up to you and how much you are willing to spend. But make sure that your headdresses match the colors you choose for your wardrobe!
And this is how I started/wish I started my Lolita Wardrobe. It would have saved me some money. So I hope you guys learn from my mistakes. If you have any questions or suggestions, don't be afraid to leave a comment!
Next time I will be covering shoes and blouses, so look forward to that!