Bibliotheca: My Favorite Flexible Dresses

 It's Bibliotheca time once more, with the theme of versatility. It's also the end of November, that golden time when Americans are mostly recovering from the feast of Thanksgiving and preparing ourselves for the abject gluttony of the office holiday party. Personally, I'm bringing Krispy Kreme donuts. 

This time of year, more than any other, I find myself reaching for comfortable staples. And when lolitas hear comfort, we almost all think of one thing: shirring. 

Shirring (which is pronounced to rhyme with "stirring" and not "steering") is one of the main ways that lolita brands can account for size flexibility without offering a full range of sizes. Simply put, it's horizontal lines of elastic (either as thread or a larger width) that are sewn into a garment to gather excess fabric. Although many dresses have partial shirring at the back for a few meager centimeters of comfort, more really is more: back shirring over the whole back can make a garment fit many more people. The most adaptable type of shirring, of course, is full shirring that covers the entire front and back of a garment.

Full shirring can be controversial. For one thing, although it can stretch over many chest sizes, bustier lolitas might find that excessive stretching loosens up the gather of the shirring or cuts into their chests, creating horrifically uncomfortable situations like the dreaded quadboob. Shirring also looks frumpy to some eyes-- I am unilaterally pro-frump, but some lolitas prefer an elegant tailored look. Shirring may also present some sensory and health issues to people sensitive to pressure around their torso, and I respect that.

Despite these potential issues, brands including Sweet Mildred, Triple Fortune, Enchantlic Enchantilly, Pina Sweetcollection, A. Gato Designs, and Atelier Pierrot have made fully shirred dresses some of their signature looks. Furthermore, fully-shirred cuts are used even more often for skirts, like Metamorphose's frequent lucky pack releases. 

Chantilly's Queen Cat OP

Meta Lucky Pack with Skirt

But these brands, though significant, aren't my focus for today. There's one brand with the single most versatile fully shirred dress, and unfortunately, it's Baby the Stars Shine Bright (as featured in Kamikaze Girls). 

This dress, of course, is the simply-named Shirring JSK, and its elaborate counterpart the Shirring Princess JSK. 

BTSSB Shirring JSK


BTSSB Shirring Princess JSK

These sisters (not twins) have been rereleased multiple times in multiple colorways for good reason. The two dresses differ most in the skirt-- the Shirring JSK has layers of tucks midway down, while the Shirring Princess JSK keeps the front simple to highlight the regal bustle hiding in the back. 

I firmly believe that every lolita can use a good, comfy dress with plenty of lace, and for most of us, this is a solid choice. The dresses aren't the most size inclusive, as fully shirred pieces go, but they're much more inclusive of different sizes than most cuts on the market. The different colorways lend themselves to many different styles-- Shirring Princess (even in solid black) is never going to look perfectly gothic, but it can get pretty darn close. Most importantly, these dresses are dependable. BTSSB may no longer have quite the quality it once did, but new lolitas looking for a solid main piece can still rely on the sturdy cotton and detailed lace with plenty of petticoat room. 

Granted, solid dresses in simple cottons like these almost never win coordinate contests. For lolitas, these are about as far from flashy or OTT as a coord can get. Equally, though, it's hard to mess up with a Shirring JSK or Shirring Princess. The colorways are easy to coord in a variety of ways with pretty much no thought. If I don't have time before an event to fiddle with corset lacing or wrangle hiding invisible zippers, I know these dresses have my (actual) back. 

In any case, though these BTSSB dresses are my go-to choices for new lolitas or lazy days, the point remains that full shirring from any brand is almost a guarantor of comfort for me. So go forth, be frumpy, and don't worry about being a centimeter or two different from your last measurements, because shirring will embrace you regardless.

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