Do you have any reason as to why lolita attire is so expensive?
It's a question as old as Lolita itself: "Why can't I afford all of this!?" Because let's face it, Lolita is sometimes prohibitively expensive. Now, for this question, I'm going to assume EmilyRamone is asking why is brand new, brand name Lolita attire so expensive, because, truthfully, not all Lolita is expensive. There are places like Bodyline and Taobao where you can pick up a well made dress for $45 and you can easily pick up second-hand brand dresses from various sales communities and auction sites for under $75. But, again, I'm going to assume that she didn't mean "all Lolita ever, regardless."
Brand new, brand name Lolita is priced the way it is for a variety of different reasons. I know that some people take the price tag on brand pieces as a personal insult to them, but I feel that the price is pretty reasonable when you stop to consider the reasons why.
First up, let's talk a little bit about what "expensive" means to some people. Personally, I feel like it usually means one, or a combination, of three things: It is out of my personal price range, it is priced higher in comparison to other things, or it is unfairly priced and is simply not worth it. When people lament the high cost of Lolita I feel like they are often feeling a mix of these three things: they can't easily afford it, it's much more than they are used to spending on clothes, and there is a good chance they simply don't understand the difference in quality between brand Lolita and "normal" clothes, and thus don't understand why it's so expensive. Lolita is a fashion aimed at younger people, teens and early-twenty-somethings (of course, that doesn't mean Lolita is only for people in that age group!). Take a look at the average fashion aimed at this age group, it's cheap and trendy, and not really meant to be worn, or sometimes even stay together, longer than the few brief months that the trend lasts. Check out this interesting article for a little bit of the history behind cheap clothes. In comparison to what are essentially throwaway clothes, Lolita pieces are meant to be worn for years and are intended to be cleaned and cared for carefully, instead of just tossing it into the washer until it falls apart. If you try to view the value behind clothes as how long it lasts and it's quality, rather than the price on the tag, the price of Lolita becomes much more justifiable.
There are, of course, more easily defined and calculated reasons behind the price tag on Lolita pieces than just perceived value! One of the major reasons why Lolita is so expensive is because of the material cost. Some people who question the price of Lolita, and use the excuse "It's just a gathered rectangle and some lace! I know someone who made a complete Lolita outfit for $5..." probably haven't had many closeup experiences with brand name Lolita. I know that this is going to make me sound like the dreaded brandwhore, as if this whole article isn't already making me sound like that, but unless you live around some really amazing fabric stores, you're not going to be able to walk into a Jo-ann Fabric and walk out with the same quality materials used in brand name Lolita. The cottons are generally much, much thicker and more finely woven, and the lace is just in a completely different world than the lace sold at fabric stores. This doesn't even take any custom fabrics into account, custom woven lace, custom printed fabrics, appliques, embroidery, etc. These are all custom designed by artists exclusively for the brand to use. Along with all of this, Lolita clothes often use a deceptively large amount of materials. Ruffles, rows of lace on every hem, gathers, pintucks, all of these add onto the amount of fabric used a little at a time until you might end up with a single dress with yards upon yards of high quality lace and fabric.
Another factor in the price of Lolita is the fact that Lolita is a relatively small niche fashion. The dresses in Lolita stores are not being mass produced on a large scale, they are being sold on a very small scale, thus the prices tend to be higher. When you buy a dress from a brand, you are often times buying one of only a few dozen of that particular dress. What you are buying is something very exclusive, which is something both intentional and simply a by-product of buying from a brand that caters to a non-mainstream fashion that doesn't mass produce their products.
A third reason why Lolita is priced the way it is is because it comes from Japan, which doubly raises the price. The most noticeable change in price is that we are buying imported products, and have to pay for all that that entails. We are paying for the vast difference between our currency and the price of the Yen, we are adding on shipping costs, shopping service fees, and even when buying second-hand we are factoring in rarity and how difficult that particular piece was to acquire. A final addition to the cost of buying clothing from Japan, that might not be so readily apparent, is that things in Japan are often times simply expensive. Again, this is something that has a whole lot of reasons behind, more so than I feel I am qualified to talk about in-depth, but here is a pretty good article about exactly that (despite the very mid-90's web design, it was actually written only a few years ago! So I swear it's not a decade out of date!).
Lolita sticker shock is something most all of us in the fashion have faced, especially in the beginning, and especially if you have never regularly wear anything more expensive than a $50 pair of shoes and have a fondness for shopping at thrift stores (which was how I was before I found Lolita! Although, I still shop at thrift stores, constantly). After a while, you get used to the price, you come to realize that clothes are only worth as much as you make them worth. If you come into the fashion with the notion that no clothes could possibly be worth more than fifty bucks, and everything above that price is a rip-off, you're probably going to get ripped-off. But, if you do a little bit of research: learn what quality fabric looks and feels like, how to tell the difference between cheap lace and beautiful lace, where to find a second-hand bargains, what to look for in a seamstress, when brands have sales, or even learn to sew, you're going to find that Lolita is not at all an impossibility, but something that just requires a little bit of hard work and commitment, but if you love it and it makes you happy, it's really worth it.
Quality over quantity is something that has always been stressed within Lolita, and it's a notion that many people find laughable when we are being told that we should, instead, be focused on buying what is trendy now and think not about what what we are buying is worth, but how much cheaper it is than everything else. Lolita doesn't have to be $400 dresses, it can easily be a relatively affordable fashion, but what it shouldn't ever be is a cheap throw-away fashion. What Lolita is, at it's very core, is the very opposite of that idea.