Something that pops up now and then when new people find lolita and fall in love, is what's really essential to make an outfit "lolita". As a veteran, I thought I'd make a small guide over the most essential things that, if left out, will potentially make the outfit cease to be lolita.
Please remember, as always, that everyone will not agree with me, however: I have been a lolita for twelve years, so I lean back against my experience when I say these things.
I have left out the most obvious part of this tutorial, namely the dress or skirt and blouse ensemble, and will assume that you are at least aware what makes a dress, blouse and skirt suitable for lolita. And now, without further ado, let's begin!
A petticoat doesn't need to be tulle or organza, either. Myself, I prefer cotton, even if it means a heavier petticoat. It also doesn't have to look like on the picture above: the sole purpose of a petticoat is to give volume, and it is entirely up to each and everyone just how much volume you want. A word of caution though: your petticoat should never be visible. If you have so much poof it's visible, then you are heading down the track of sexy, which isn't the purpose of lolita.
Bloomers or drawers
First of all: what's the difference between bloomers and drawers? The simple answer is "length". Bloomers tend to be shorter than drawers, although many people use the words as synonymes in the lolita community. Since people mostly mean drawers when they say bloomers, I will refer to them as such.
Drawers are a crucial part of a lolita outfit, since the very last thing a modest lolita wants is to have her underwear displayed when the wind catches the skirt (and it will). Drawers are usually one of those items that often gets forgotten, and I implore you not to. Lolita comes from a time when every lady and child wore drawers as their regular underwear, which makes them just as important as the very dress or skirt you are wearing. Like petticoats - drawers are very easy to make yourself, and may be just as decorous as you allow them to be.
The praxis is that the drawers should not be seen, but it is perfectly all right if the bottom lace is peeking.
Lolita is a fashion where you should show as little skin as possible, and one of the things that are first to cover up by a lot of lolitas are the legs. While in some cases it may be all right for short, highly decorative socks, I think most of us would agree that knee-high, over-the-knee or tights/leggings are where it's at. They should also be visible, which means that nylon or skin coloured socks are a big no-no. When you choose your socks, be very particular with the material. There are plenty of ghastly socks out there that are shiny or slightly see-through, and these should absolutely be avoided, even if they have cute prints.
A small and underrated trick, if you really want to use those short socks, is to wear leggings as well and wear your socks on top, making them appear to be a part of the leggings.
Blouse or cardigan or bolero
It is important in lolita to cover your shoulders and, if it will not make you melt in the heat, your arms as well. This is especially important if you go for Classic or Elegant styles.
Myself I absolutely adore long sleeved cardigans, but it differs from person to person. If you are to wear blouses - especially if they are white - remember to protect the arm pit of your blouse from sweat. There are plenty of ways, but the simplest one is to simply attach a cotton armpit protector with tiny snap buttons, and wash them regularly. ^.~
Nothing can ruin an outfit completely as a bad choice of shoes. You don't have to buy shoes that were designed for lolita, but when you choose what to wear on your feet - go for petite, and you can't go wrong. A word of caution: there are plenty of shoes out there labelled "lolita", but not all of them are. If you are uncertain, avoid everything with high heels, because that's the easiest way to avoid disasters.
Myself, I don't like heels for lolita, but a lot of people do, so it's one of those personal choice things.
Well, there you go! Some simple advice on lolita essentials. ^.~ Some may wonder why I didn't say anything about hair, and here's why: hair accessories are not essentials. Unless you don't take any care at all of your hair, it's difficult to go wrong there. Even simple ponytails can be charming if done the right way.