Comments are always helpful; I'm sure there are things I have missed.
Also, if you find any spelling/grammar errors, please let me know. I have a hard time proofreading my own writing.
Non-commissioned lolita clothing, especially that of most lolita brand names, is produced in only one size per garment. This size varies based on the specific item; hence why these companies' websites provide measurements for each item.
This causes a problem for lolita of any size--there will always be pieces that are too big or too small for one person or another. Tips have been written for those who are larger than most pieces of lolita clothing. It can be just as difficult to find items that fit if one is smaller than average.
Below are hints and tips that the smaller lolita can take into consideration when planning and coordinating her wardrobe.
Most importantly, a lolita should know her correct measurements, such as those that would be provided to a seamstress. Measurements are the key to finding lolita items that fit properly. Nearly all garments have their measurements listed, either on the brand name's website or in the private auction or sale. Pay attention to measurements--it is a foolish thing to overlook.
One-Pieces versus Jumperskirts
The "OP versus JSK" debate arises fairly often in lolita discussion. Generally, jumperskirts are considered more versatile and easier to coordinate. However, the smaller lolita is at a disadvantage when wearing jumperskirts.
Shorter lolita should be observant of skirt length. The hem of a jumperskirt or one-piece may fall at an awkward length. Generally, a lolita outfit should be knee-length. A one-piece or jumperskirt that is a few inches too long will require a longer petticoat, or may need to be hemmed or taken up from the waist. Some lolita look quite nice with longer skirts, while others in that situation seem to be trying on clothing from a parent or grandmother--an impression that one will probably want to avoid.
A jumperskirt that is too big, even by only a few inches, tends to "gape" under the armpits. This becomes exaggerated if the waist is also too large, as when the waist-ties are tied it will bunch the excess fabric of the bodice. This makes it difficult to wear the jumperskirt in sundress-style, without a blouse. The best way to remedy this is to have the jumperskirt taken in. However, this should only be done if there are no plans to resell the garment, as it will be much harder to sell after alterations. This is also unwise if the lolita is still growing, as she would not want to grow out of a beloved piece of clothing. Temporary solutions involve layering thicker blouses or cutsews under the jumperskirt, or pinning the sides.
A one-piece dress, however, is easier to disguise if it is too large. As long as the length is alright, one-pieces generally do not appear to be too large. Generally, square-necked one-pieces look best; the peter-pan-collar on a one-piece that is too big may is generally also large, which will make a smaller lolita seem to be smothered by her own clothing. Another benefit of square-necked one-pieces is the ability to layer a blouse below the dress itself, allowing for both more coordination abilities and extra padding to make the one-piece fit better. Also, the smaller lolita should try to find a one-piece that is closest to her shoulder measurements. The sleeves and collar will not lay correctly if the shoulder width of the garment is wider than that of the wearer. Beware of tying the waist-ties of a larger one-piece too tightly, as this could cause the bodice of the dress to loose its intended shape as excess fabric is gathered.
Generally, jumperskirts and one-pieces have larger measurements than other items from a lolita brand name, which can make finding items that fit a smaller lolita's proportions challenging. However, if the item is something that one especially likes and plans to keep, it is always possible to have a professional seamstress or tailor alter the item.
A smaller lolita should look for blouses that are fitted or have a shirred panel in the back. Most fitted blouses have very small measurements. The measurements for a blouse with a shirred back panel may be larger, but oftentimes those measurements are not taken when the shirring is unstretched, which can provide a closer fit. However, there is no way to know for certain the accuracy of given measurements without being able to try on the blouse. If (as is often the case with lolita clothing if one is located outside of Japan) the blouse is to be purchased online, it is best to ask for opinions from others who have purchased that particular blouse before purchasing it.
Blouses are generally not a problem. As long as the sleeves are not too long and the collar is not enormous, even several inches of extra space will not be noticeable. After all, lolita blouses are not intended to be skin tight--or anywhere near it. They are simply meant to fit neatly.
Waist measurements, in particular, are an area to ignore on blouses. This area can be taken in if it appears inelegant due to excess fabric, but will not even matter if the blouse will be worn tucked into a skirt or under a jumperskirt or one-piece. Tucking in one's blouse can also be useful to add bulk under the waistband of a skirt that is slightly loose.
If one's bust size is smaller, a blouse with ruching or trim on the chest can enhance (without being overtly sexual) and balance one's figure.
Look for cut-and-sewn items with smaller measurements, as the items are stretchy. It is not necessary for cutsews to fit the way t-shirts are intended to; they do not need to be tight. In fact, some designs look much better when loose. However, if the neckline is too large or the shoulders too wide, the shoulder straps or sleeves may slide off. It can be very frustrating to be constantly re-adjusting one's sleeves.
Skirts are generally the items that fit smaller lolita the best. Most lolita brands produce skirts with waist measurements much smaller than that of their one-pieces or jumperskirts. However, it is best to avoid skirts with entirely elastic waistbands--look for items with fitted waistbands or partial elastic in the back. Heavier fabrics, such as velvet, should also be avoided unless the waist is definitely small enough; if not, the weight of the fabric will pull the skirt down.
If your legs are thin, some knee-socks may in fact become "over the knee." Or, they may gradually fall down. This is not usually too much of a problem, as the Japanese lolita brands tend to use a thicker knit for their knee-socks that does not slide down too frequently. If one's socks do not stay up, but one does not want to sell them (for whatever reason) a little double-stick tape can work wonders.
Thus, the key tips to dressing lolita when one is smaller than average sizes are to:
a) know one's measurements and reference them against anything one plans to purchase;
b) look for items that are fitted, and check measurements in key areas such as waist or bust;
c) remember that lolita clothing normally should not fit snugly;
and d) special items that do not fit correctly can always be altered professionally.