Oh the dreaded Ita! It's what every new Lolita fears she will be branded. If you are unsure of what the term means, Ita is a less-than-nice term for someone trying to dress Lolita but doesn't quite get it right. The common Ita mistakes are usually made by beginners who simply don't know better and often fall for buying a barely costume quality dress simply because whoever was selling it was claiming it was Lolita, but it is indeed possible to continue being an Ita for years.
Before I get on with this list of Dos and Don'ts, I would just like to say you can wear whatever the hell it is you want. If you love stuff that would normally be considered Ita, go for it. Rock the hell out of it if you want! Just don't call it Lolita and you'll be alright. But if the world of Ita doesn't interest you, and you want to stay away from it, there are a few guidelines to follow that will help you steer clear of the Ita label.
Don't wear anything made of costume satin or stretch velvet- Satin and stretch velvet are cheap costume staples, and they're pretty much guaranteed to make anything made out them look like, well, a cheap costume. On occasion, Lolita brands will put out a satin piece, but the satin that high quality pieces are made with is miles above the cheap costume satin that cheap Ita dresses are so often made with.
Stay away from cheap black and white dresses- Black dresses with white lace have become the Ita trademark. If you're a beginner and totally clueless it's best to stay away from this combo altogether because if the lace is even a little bit cheap and stiff, it's going to stand out like crazy on a black dress. If you must wear black and white, wear an all white blouse with an all black JSK or skirt. Mixing separate solids is much more foolproof than cross-mixing laces and fabrics. Or, buy from a trusted Lolita shop, that is to say brand or a talented seamstress, somewhere where you'll know that the lace isn't going to end up being 2 inches of stiff raschel lace. A black and white dress, in and of itself, is not necessarily ita, but a cheap and poorly made black dress with too much cheap lace and a poor design can be. Check out this post about the color scheme is you're still confused.
Stay away from other "Gothic" color combos- I'm mostly talking about black and red and black and purple. While there are people out there that successfully mix these two colors, many "beginner" Lolita dresses that would look okay in all black like to mix in another Gothic color. Some newbies seem to think that these are more "Gothic" color schemes because they're commonly found in Western Goth outfits, but they rarely work for Lolita and are, more often than not, sold by low-quality costume shops. If you're looking to get into Gothic Lolita, check out this post.
Avoid dresses with too much lace- Cheap lace is where most Itas fail. Simply because if a dress is cheap, it's most likely because it's cutting corners with the lace, since the average Lolita dress requires yards and yards of lace. So try to avoid any "beginner" dresses you might buy that have lace on them. If you are buying your first dress from a cheaper place, such as a questionable Taobao shop, Fan+Friend, or Bodyline, look for a dress that has no lace at all. Small ruffles instead of lace is a safe way to add frills to a dress. If you want to know more about the difference between "good" and "bad" lace in the world of Lolita, check out this post on the subject.
Don't try to make a Lolita outfit out of clothes you have laying around- You see your first Lolita picture, and instantly you are in love! Oh God, how you want to look that way RIGHT NOW! So you run to your closet and look for your fanciest skirt and nicest blouse. Voilà! This sort of looks like that doesn't it? No, it actually doesn't. Very few "normal" clothes look Lolita, blouses and accessories can usually be found in a closet, but it is the skirt that is going to kill the look. Nearly every skirt I've seen in a good Lolita coordinate was made specifically to be Lolita. If you try to find Lolita clothes in your pre-existing closet, you're just going to end up like you're going to church or a fancy dinner. Which, of course, isn't a bad thing, but it's definitely not Lolita.
Avoid traditional Ita accessories- There are a few accessories that are associated with Itas, these include arm warmers, overly ruffly headdresses, awkwardly placed mini top hats, lace fans, and leg warmers. These are typically regarded as Ita-esque because they are usually made with really cheap materials or don't match the Lolita aesthetic at all (I'm looking at you legwarmers! Who was it that decided that the bottom half of bell bottoms would look cute with fancy dresses?).
Go easy with the makeup- Yeah, I know the word "Gothic" is right in the name, but that's no reason to cover your face with eyeliner Death swirls. Stay away from scene makeup and anything you saw on a Jrocker as well. And don't think that just because Lolita can be described as "doll like" you have an excuse to paint your face white, make tiny fake kissy lips and apply perfectly round pink spots of blush to your cheeks, you shouldn't be taking makeup inspiration from your grandmother's porcelain doll collection.
Keep your anime out of your Lolita- Lolita is not cosplay. This means that you shouldn't be wearing a character costume and calling it Lolita. Avoid other things that are typically featured in anime as well, including cat ears and tails, bell collars, neon wigs, and extremely exaggerated details such as huge areas of corset lacing or extra wide gravity-defying ruffles.
Keep your love of Japan out of your Lolita- Just because Lolita comes from the magical land of Japan doesn't mean you have to insert as many Japanese elements into a coordinate as you can. No paper umbrellas, no Japanese style brocades, no geisha makeup, and you know what, if you're a newbie to Lolita I'm going to say no Wa-loli. Wa-loli is sub-style of Lolita that involves kimono inspired dresses, this is a rather difficult style to pull off without looking like you're obviously in costume. So please, don't make your first Lolita dress a Wa-loli one.
Skirts should be the proper length and shape- It's true that there are a variety of slightly different Lolita lengths and silhouettes, but "frumpy", "skanky" and "tube" are not included. In the most classic Lolita silhouette the bodice or blouse should be form fitting, and the skirt should begin to flare out at the natural waist. Skirts should fall at the knees or just above them. Barely-butt-covering mini skirts and shapeless sack dresses are not part of the Lolita aesthetic.
Don't immediately try to be "unique"- You really can't mix the style up successfully until you get the basics down and you know what you're doing. Keep it simple at first. Don't try to add too many colors or details, and don't try to do anything wacky at first. I'm not trying to suppress your unique urge to be your own special snowflake self. It's just common sense, you can't run before you can crawl, and you can't coordinate an interesting and successful outfit until you learn to wear a petticoat and can resist the sweet siren call of cat ears.
Don't try to sexy it up- If you want to wear Lolita because you're looking for a new and sexy (in an erotic pole dancer sort of way) style to wear, you don't know the first thing about the fashion, and maybe Lolita isn't for you. To avoid being labeled an Ita, don't show off your boobs (I'm not going to say "no cleavage, ever!" because sometimes that just can't be helped), keep your upper thighs and butt covered, the belly should never show, and don't start sucking seductively on lollypops.
Don't forget the basics- The thing that is often overlooked most by Itas is the petticoat. Even if you have a relatively okay outfit deciding to go petticoatless is going to make the whole outfit look so much worse. Also often overlooked by Itas is leg wear. Knee highs, over the knees, tights, whatever, just don't forget to wear something on your legs. You really can't make a Lolita outfit with a dress alone.
It's really not hard to avoid being an Ita, the main reason why anyone at all ends up an Ita is simply they didn't know better. Girls just discovering Lolita simply see a cheap, easy to get a hold of dress labeled as "Lolita", so they just accept it, and then buy it. And it's not as easy as breaking just one of these rules to be labeled an Ita, as you can see from the pictures, most of these dresses are breaking several if not all of the rules.
If you find yourself loving something that other people call Ita, try not to worry about it so much, like I said in the beginning, there's nothing wrong with liking something that's simply not Lolita, just remember that just because you do like Lolita, doesn't mean that you have to force the label on everything with lace on it.