Friday, June 25, 2021

A Lolita's Guide to Reservations on Taobao

 As you search for lolita items on Taobao, Google translate may keep spitting out terms like ‘spot’ or ‘tail’ on some of the listings. You may also find ‘deposit’ listings where the item is extremely cheap and suspicious or a weird listing of something you want that has a 99999 price. What does this all mean?

These terms are actually all part of the reservation system for lolita items on Taobao. Today, we will be looking at how it works and go through a few examples to get you familiar with it. ♡


BACKGROUND

Making lolita items is a high risk activity. A lot of these brands operate on thin margins and cannot afford huge losses if something doesn’t sell. As a result, many items are produced via reservations only and may not get extra stock or a re-release once the reservations are done. So if you want to get the best of what Chinese brands have to offer, it is helpful to know about reservations.

Most of the time, it will be a 2 part reservation that requires the buyer to purchase 2 separate listings - one at the start of the reservation period and another when the items are ready. Other times, the shop will use Taobao’s built in reservation system. For small items, the full payment may be required up front, but there will still be a wait for the production period.


PROCESS

First, we will go through the normal process your shopping service follows so it’s easier to understand what’s happening behind the scenes. Then we will go over the process that you will follow when using a shopping service.


NORMAL PROCESS (the one your shopping service follows)

  1. The shop puts out a deposit (定金) listing to start the reservation. This is the first payment and not the final price of the item. It is generally a small fraction of the final price. This payment is non-refundable once the deposit (定金) period ends. It is usually open for about a month before they no longer accept orders. In very rare cases, there will be a cap on the number of orders instead of a time limit.
  2. Production will begin. The listing may be updated to indicate this such as with a 99999 price or a title change with in production (制作中) in it. The production period highly varies and it is often a few months, depending on the volume of orders or how many orders are in each batch of reservations. The shop will normally list how long it takes on the listing, but it can be delayed due to a number of different factors, such as having more orders than expected.
  3. When the items are ready to be shipped, the shop will send out notifications to everyone who purchased the deposit (定金), like a text message. They may also announce it on their other platforms such as Weibo in case text notifications fail. This is when the final payment (尾款) is ready to be paid. This period also generally lasts about a month but it will depend on the specific shop. This type of listing can only be purchased if the deposit (定金) for it was paid earlier.
  4. Once the final payment (尾款) period is over, there may be some items where someone bought the deposit (定金) but failed to make up the rest of the payment to get the item. These items are usually put under a listing titled spot (现货) or spot drop (现货掉落). These items are in stock and there is no wait for it to be produced. It is often more expensive than the deposit (定金) and final payment (尾款) payments combined, and if there were any reservation benefits, it won’t be available when buying the spot (现货) listing.


SHOPPING SERVICE PROCESS (what you have to do, depending on your shopping service)

  1. Find the listing for the item that is available for reservation. Make sure you are within the reservation period, as some shops are slow to update the listing. Time zones are very important! It should be the listing with deposit (定金) in the title.
  2. Make sure you are familiar with the final price of the item, which is the deposit (定金) + final payment (尾款) amounts combined. It will save you the heartache of finding out if you cannot afford the full price of the item.
  3. Submit this link to your shopping service. Most shopping services will require you to make a payment for the full price up front. They will keep track and pay when the second payment is ready.
  4. Your shopping service handles everything so you just wait.
  5. The item is ready and gets shipped out to your shopping service, who then ships it out to you.


You may also see listings titled intention gold (意向金). If the shop is uncertain about how many people are interested in something, they may first put out a intention gold (意向金) listing instead of going straight to putting an item up for reservation. It is usually something small like 10CNY. This amount can generally be refunded at any time. It is a way to judge how many people are interested in buying the item aside from collecting likes on the listing. If reservations end up happening, this payment will go towards the deposit (定金) of that item. Depending on the store, there may also be other benefits such as free gifts or a better discount on the item.


SHOPPING SERVICE SPECIFICS

Shopping services like 42agent, Spreenow, or Chinese Lolita Updates will make you pay in full and handle the rest themselves. If you are new to this whole process, I recommend going with a shopping service like them. Sometimes shops will have discounts if the total number of reservations reaches certain thresholds, but a lot of shopping services will not pass on this discount to you so you will just pay the full price. The reasoning behind this is because it will be easier for them to keep track since they are doing all the work.

If you use a shopping service like Superbuy, it is a bit more complicated. When you submit the deposit, they will warn you that it is a reservation item and you need to make up the payment later. The deposit will be non-refundable. When the final payment is ready to be made, you will need to submit a second order and note down the order number of the first payment. The agents usually say that they will notify you when you need to make up the payment, but I will still recommend keeping track of it yourself.


TERMS

Now that you’ve learned how this all works, here’s a handy dandy reference table to help you in the future! I’ve also added a few extra terms that may be helpful for your overall understanding.


Chinese

Pinyin

Google Translate English

Definition

预约

yùyuē

reservation

Reservation

意向金

yìxiàng jīn

intention gold

A way for the shop to collect interest in the item before any reservation happens. Very cheap, like 10CNY. If there is not enough interest, the item will not be made and it will be refunded.

定金

dìngjīn

deposit

The first payment for the reservation. Non-refundable.

尾款

wěikuǎn

final payment / final paragraph / tail

The final payment for the reservation. Can only purchase if you made the first payment.

现货

xiànhuò

spot / stock / in stock

In stock items, no need to wait for production period.

制作中

zhìzuò zhōng

making / working / in production

Item is currently in production, cannot take any more reservations. Do not purchase.

全款

quán kuǎn

full payment / full price / full amount

The price of 定金 + 尾款 added together, this is the full price of the item through reservations.


If you need practice, here’s a few examples. Can you get all of them right?


  1. The first two characters in the title of the listing say 尾款 so this is the final payment. You can only purchase this item if you had already put in the initial deposit (定金). If you just encountered this listing, then your shopping service would not be able to buy it for you because the deposit period has passed. You are better off waiting to see if there is spot (现货) at a later date.



  2. This one is a lot tougher. The 定金 is hidden in the middle of the title. This is the deposit. The final cost of the item will be this price + the final payment (尾款) amount. Check the listing to figure out the final price.



  3. Back to an easy question! It clearly lists 定金 at the beginning of the title so this is the deposit. Again, the final cost of the item will be this price + the final payment (尾款) amount. Check the listing to figure out the final price.



  4. There is a 现货 at the beginning of the title. This item is in stock! If you buy it, it will be shipped right away without needing to wait for production time.




  5. The 99999 price and 制作中 in the title indicates that this item is currently in production, so no more orders can be accepted. You may have to wait and see if there will be spot (现货) available at a later date. There is also a 尾款 at the end, but if you read the full line, 6月尾款, it just means that the final payment will be ready in June.


Depending on the shop, there may be differences in this process and some of the terms, but I hope this gives you a basic understanding of what is happening.

Good luck on your lolita journey~!

Chrysanthemum


Friday, June 18, 2021

Getting into the Lolita Spirit

I had originally compiled this list of lolita lifestyle ideas during the height of the pandemic, as a way to help keep a sense of positivity in a scary world, but as areas around the globe are working towards vaccinating populations, I wondered if this article would still be useful. I’ve come to think that a list of lolita lifestyle ideas can be useful for any given situation - whether you’re a lonelita, find yourself in quarantine, too busy to wear lolita with friends, or just because you need a little pick-me-up. 

1.) Watch historical films/shows featuring lolitas or other romantic aesthetics
 
Of course, much of the lolita fashion community are well aware of Kamikaze Girls (originally, Shimotsuma Monogatari) and Mister Rococo, but there are several other films and tv shows featuring someone wearing the fashion: 
  Musashino-sen no Shimai - a movie based on the manga about two NEET sisters who wear lolita (Sorry! No English subs to this link).
 ❀ Fatal Frame, an atmospheric horror film about a curse that affects girls who kisses the photo of the person they admire at midnight (CW: suicide)
 ❀ Deka Wanko - a comedy series based on the manga about a lolita detective who solves crimes with the extraordinary power of smell. 



This list is by no means complete, but these are the ones where I could find full length videos for. A couple others that come to mind include: Gothic Lolita Battle Bear, Gothic and Lolita Psycho, and X-Cross.

People sure like to feature lolita in horror movies. If that’s not your cup of tea (pun not intended), I find that a good Western historical fiction film, TV series, and documentaries puts me in a positive mood. Peruse the Period Drama selection on Netflix or other streaming service of choice. For something from the Rococo era, I recommend Belle and The Great. If you want something more grounded in reality, I suggest starting with Lucy Worsley's and Karolina Zebrowska's videos or visit the Absolute History Channel and the English Heritage channel. For a list of over 100 lolita fashion YouTubers, check out LikeaTeacup’s blog

Additionally, I highly recommend exploring non-English sources of lolita content, such as Weibo and Bilibili (which often uses the term “Lo” for lolita fashion) and in your social media of choice, searching for: ロリータファッション   
Even if you can’t understand the language, it can be quite heart warming seeing how far the fashion has touched people around the world!

2.) (Re)read old egl posts

For a long time, the Elegant Gothic and Lolita (EGL) Community on livejournal was THE place to be. You could learn about the latest releases, ask for advice (so long as it wasn’t already in the “memories”), peruse through people’s meetup photos, and find inspiration for making one’s life “more lolita”. 

It’s been long abandoned for more modern social media outlets, and many of the old photos are missing, as well as much of the information is considered to be outdated by today’s standards, but I think there can still be much joy to be had by paying the egl community a visit. I also suggest paying a visit to the old daily_lolita community page where people used to submit photos of their outfits of the day. While you’re at it, cruise around the Wayback machine and Archive.org and imgur for lolita fashion content. 

3.) Play doll dress up games

Doll dress up games are a fun time waster, and although Flash is long gone, there are still places floating in the internet where one can customize their own lolita character. Picrew and Love Nikki are particularly popular.  A more recent one that has popped up online is Alice Closet.


Love Nikki


Alice Closet

4.) Spice up your virtual meets

I’ll admit, virtual tea parties and video streaming meets have gotten pretty stale and they’re just not the same as in-person meetups. However, until lolitas worldwide can meet in person again, here are some ideas to have fun with your community safely: 

❀ Powerpoint parties - Have everyone put together their own powerpoint of whatever they like or know a lot about and do a live screen-shared presentation. It can be informative or just for jokes. It’s a great way to get to know people better. 

❀ Bake/Craft-a-long: To do this, set a date and project with ingredients or craft supplies people will need to participate, and live stream yourself making the thing(s) step-by-step. A bake-along in particular would be a great pre-tea party activity. 



❀ Game Night: Skip video games and instead play classic social party games like Pictionary, Scattergories, Who Am I?, Never Have I Ever, and trivia (I recommend setting it up with the Kahoot app). Make the subjects lolita related, like using print names, brands, clothing pieces, and lolita models. 

5.) Pursue “lolita lifestyle” hobbies and crafts

A lolita lifestyle may be something individually defined, but passing the time doing old-timey activities can be a good breather, especially for those working/studying from home where everything is virtual. Here’s a fun list of ideas by Vanilla Bear.

If you’re not particularly artsy nor crafty, order some lolita fashion coloring books for a relaxing coloring session (here are a few cute ones I found on Aliexpress and Amazon). 

6.) Make coordinates for future meets

Just because you’re not going to physical meets right now, doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for them. This is a great time to play around with your wardrobe and try something you’ve never done before. You can even get your community involved in this (if you have one), by making a post for sharing coordinates and asking for concrit or suggestions to add what is missing in your wardrobe. You can try wearing these coords, or if you feel too tired (and more comfortable in PJs), make flat lays or collages. This is also a good time to practice posing for future outfit shots. 



7.) Research and plan for future in-person meets

While this situation can feel dire, it's important to keep your spirits up and try to look forward to a brighter future. Make plans for meets you've always wanted to be a part of, so that when it is safe to have in-person meets again, you and your comm are ready to party. 

8.) Listen to music

I'm usually hipster trash when it comes to music, but occasionally I'll tune to my local classical music station or listen to a stream of Baroque music on YouTube, and I find that it can be a breath of fresh air to top 40 radio tracks and sometimes gets me in a romantic mood, especially while I am embroidering. 

If you're not into Bach, Vivaldi, or Chopin, listen to string covers/arrangements of pop songs. Try different eras of classical music and listen to non-white/non-male composers like Joe Hisaishi, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Saint-Georges. Or pay homage to lolita's roots and listen to visual-kei music and music by artists who wear lolita (Merry Merli, Ali Project, Nana Kitade, Kokusyoku Sumire). 



9.) Read lolita magazines and other publications

Sometimes it’s good to step away from your screens and flip through a good old-fashioned Gothic and Lolita Bible or Kera magazine. Similarly, you can explore other magazines dedicated to lolita and other J-Fashion, including Spoon, Melt, Girlism, Le Panier, Wunderwelt Libre, and Tulle

Try digging up lolita comics and art on image hosting sites like Pinterest, Imgur, Instagram, and Deviant Art (not on DA, but I highly suggest this comic that still is on its own site called I R Lolita). Search for news articles and academic writings on the fashion (my favorite articles are by Masafumi Monden and An Nguyen). 

Any seasoned lolita will suggest Kamikaze Girls and So Pretty/Very Rotten, but do also explore Google Shopping or Amazon for all kinds of other books dedicated to lolita fashion (whether they’re accurate or not). Lolita may be a niche subculture fashion, but there’s quite a world of writings out there. 



10.) Read books set in a historical or fantasy setting

Escaping the humdrum of modernity through reading books about a distant past is a great way to refocus your mind and eyes away from glaring bluelight screens. Pick up a story or two on historical fictional romance and adventure, like a Jane Austen novel or classic gothic stories like Carmilla - or Rose of Versailles for a bit of both! If you prefer non-fiction, read up on biographies on royalty or life from centuries ago. I’m a fan of Antonia Fraser’s biography on Marie Antoinette, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and books on the real world of Downtown Abbey.  

11.) Curate a lolita lifestyle Pinterest board

Putting together an aesthetic mood board is a great mood booster. Here’s a link to my board for inspiration.  Pinterest boards are also a great place to put together your wardrobe post, so you will be ready for the next Wardrobe Post season.

12.) Embrace "quarantine-kei"

So you’ve spent $200 on your dream dress, but it's been collecting dust in your closet since last year because there aren’t any fancy tea parties to go to (whether your comm isn't meeting in person yet, or because you’re a lonelita). Wear it anyway. You can leave the petticoat in your closet, throw on a pair of house slippers instead of heels, wear a tee shirt instead of a blouse, and put on your favorite bathrobe. No one needs to know or have any business telling you that you have to dress in a full coordinate in the comfort of your own home. Let me tell you, wearing a princess dress while doing light chores is an experience in itself. Just be sure to wear an apron. 



Source: Weibo

13.) Dress up to the Nines (to get essentials)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, make going out to run even the most mundane of errands an opportunity to live life to the fullest and treat the grocery store aisle as your own runway.  


I hope that you’ll find this list helpful! Tell us what suggestions you’ve used or if you have any other ideas on how to add a little lolita in your day-to-day life. 


Thanks for reading.
Mocha




Friday, June 11, 2021

Is the price right? How to spot a good deal and how to bargain

 “Wait, this dress was released a month ago, why is it being sold for an extra 100$?”
“This dress came out in 2012 and it’s third hand! Why is it being sold for 1000$?!”
These are some questions you might find yourself asking when you first look into the lolita fashion secondhand market. How do you know when an item is a good price? What is this "scalping" people have mentioned and how do you avoid buying them? Read on to find out!
So, what is scalping? Scalping is a term from the business world. It’s a short-term trading method used to profit from the volume of trades. In lolita fashion, and many other hobbies, scalpers are people who are not part of the hobby and looking to profit off of the community. They buy limited edition items, and then sell them for a higher price. A brand that's in high demand, such as Angelic Pretty, can sell out of items within seconds, only for the same items to appear on various secondhand selling platforms for double, or even triple, the price. The scalpers hope that a disappointed lolita who missed out on the original sale will buy the overpriced item and they will pocket the difference. 

Is everything selling for higher than the original price scalping?
No! In lolita fashion, we place a lot of emphasis on dream dresses (Which you can read about here), and many lolitas will have dream dresses that are years, or even decades, old. Since there are less of those items on the market, they will be sold for a higher price due to being so high demand and having low market availability.

Another reason for higher pricing is popularity. Well known and loved items, such as Usakumyas and Kumakumyas from Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Cats Tea Party by Angelic Pretty, or Iron Gate by Moi-même-Moitié, are iconic pieces that many lolitas wish to own. These lolitas are willing to pay a higher price to own these items and it is completely their choice to decide to pay more for the chance to own them.

What should you do if you see a scalper? It’s simple: ignore them. “Calling out” a scalper won’t make them change their ways. If the item is scalped but no one buys it, then it will either sit on the selling platform with no buyers, or the scalper will eventually have to lower the price to get rid of it. If you see someone you know buying from a scalper, you can warn the buyer privately, but it is ultimately their choice whether they decide pay a higher price for that item. 
Source: Strom Neverland https://tapas.io/episode/413822
So how do you know that you are paying a fair price for the item you want to buy?
That’s also simple: market research!

Lolita fashion has some amazing resources that you can use to find out how much an item was originally priced and even its going market rate. These are some steps I recommend following before buying an item:
  1. Search for the item on lolibrary.org
    Not only will this show you the measurements of the item, but in most cases you will also find the original price. In addition, you can use it to find the Japanese name of the item, which will help in the following step.
  2. Search for the item name This will usually bring up previous listings of the item being sold in various second hand platforms. You can then manually browse secondhand websites for sold listings of the item to see how much it has been sold for in the past.
Interested in some more data about Cats Tea Party?
This post has tracked the price fluctuation and also explains why this specific dress is so expensive: https://nadinao.me/blog/cats-tea-party-price-data 

I personally recommend taking special notice of secondhand sales platforms from your general area (Such as Lacemarket for the Western lolita community, and Mercari/Frill for lolitas in Asia) as some items may be more sought after in certain communities due to a difference in aesthetics.

Once you have done these two steps, you should have a general idea of how much the item you want is worth and can start considering how much you are willing to pay for it. Make sure to also include shipping, customs and taxes in your calculations!

If the pricing is just a bit over what you are willing to pay, you can also consider haggling the price a little lower. However, please be mindful and consider the following etiquette when asking for a discount:
  1. Be polite!  A “Hello! I am interested in buying this item, would you be willing to sell it for X price?” will get a better response than “Can I have it for X price?
  2. Don’t accuse the seller of overpricing their items. You don’t know if they originally bought the item for a higher price or added shipping fees, customs and taxes onto the item price to avoid selling at a loss.
  3. Request a reasonable discount.  A reasonable amount to discount will usually be between 5-10% of the item price, or if you live close to the seller you can try requesting free shipping or picking the item up from them.
  4. Personal anguish isn't leverage. No one owes you a discount because you've had a hard life, or have been going through a hard time. Spilling your whole life story to the seller will just burden them, instead of garnering sympathy. 
  5. If the seller refuses- CONTINUE TO BE POLITE! It's their item, and it’s their choice to sell or not sell the item at any price. Respect that and either buy the item at full price, or wait for it to come up again at a price that suits you better. 
So there you have it! You can use these tips to make a more informed decision when buying lolita. What could you do with the money you save from doing your market research? Why buy more lolita of course!

Heading off to browse the secondhand sites now,
Milk Tea


Friday, June 4, 2021

Happy Six Months of Quills and Frills!

International Lolita Day, or ILD is a twice yearly holiday that many lolitas around the world celebrate by dressing up on the first weekend of December and June to show off coords, and in better times, visit with their comms and friends.  We officially started the Quills and Frills at the beginning of last December, which somewhat aligned with Winter ILD.  This weekend is Summer ILD, and marks our half-year anniversary!

(Art by Lavender Earl Grey)

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to the blog by providing posts, writing and fixing code, and making art to share with our readers.  I also want to thank YOU, the readers, for reading our guides, rants and musings, and supporting us in this little adventure.  Without everyone involved, this dream could not have become a reality.

We still have many ideas for future posts, but we also want to hear from you about what kinds of things you would like to read.  Linked here is an anonymous survey where you can tell us what you would like to see in the future.

Hope you have a wonderful and safe International Lolita Day!! 

~Quills & Frills Blog Staff~