Why is this dress so expensive? A kawaii data story
Kawaii Data no Monogatari
Originally posted August 7th, 2017
July 2019 Update: Some of the information in this post is now out of date because as of last year, this dress received a re-release. Some of you newer readers may well have this very infamous dress in your hands right now. I’m not saying that it was because of this article, but regardless, you’re welcome! At some point in the future I intend to update this article to show the inevitable price crash that comes with flooding the market - very exciting times!
How much is Cats Tea Party worth? Why is it so expensive? This question has plagued people in kawaii fashion circles for many years. By which I mean, since approximately 2014. So three years.
It’s bothered me for a while too, so I decided to finally, definitively find out using the only tools I had available to me; crowdsourced data, some spreadsheets and a recently acquired knack for data visualisation.
The result is this.
Sales values of Angelic Pretty Cats Tea Party since 2012 (separated by colour)
NB: Prices are calculated in GBP because I am English and that’s the money I use.
At this point we have to do a bit of dull conversation about the methodology of this data and how we got here.
Basically, our definition of “unsold” doesn’t actually mean that dress wasn’t worth the listed sale price. Sometimes we would find what we thought was a sale, only to look into the user feedback and find it was actually a scam or someone had backed out. So for example, the buyer on the graph WOULD have paid £2,800 for the dress – but unfortunately the seller backed out. We decided to keep these unsold values in the chart and include them in our work because they do tell us something about how much people think the dress is worth.
Why is Cats Tea Party so damn expensive then?
One part of the reason that Cats Tea Party is so expensive, is that it’s incredibly rare. But just how rare is it? This anecdote gives us a bit of an idea.
“A small art gallery called Parabolica Bis in eastern Tokyo had an Imai Kira exhibit. There was special merch on sale, including tshirts with the snooty cats on them that anyone could buy. During the exhibition, there was an AP tea party at that small gallery with a limit of about 20 people, and a sample CTP was on display. People who attended and reserved the dress got an Imai Kira print as a bonus.
The reservation period wasn’t very long, so I think it’s likely that less than 50 exist.”
– Abiba and Alice on Facebook, who were living in Tokyo at the time.
You can see the original new post discussing the gallery opening here.
“Myself and another Australian girl ordered through chibi-tenshi when they put up the online MTO. Originally chibi-tenshi intended to go to the tea party, but there was a colossal screw up with the tickets to the tea party. The exhibit itself was open for longer, but only a selection of items (these ones! http://www.angelicpretty.com/news/godoten/goods.htm) were available, you couldn’t order the dress there. We had to wait a bit for confirmation, but at some stage (I think after the tea party) AP agreed to do an open MTO online and in store. My emails indicate it went up online for reservation on the 25th of August and this is the first post about it on the Tokyo store blog for reservation (http://yaplog.jp/ap-tokyo/archive/6906).
I’m having difficulty locating any further information about the online reservation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t much since I think it actually wasn’t very popular with many people (I think you either loved it or didn’t care about it) and the initial price likely further put off a number of people who did really like it at the time.”
– Lindzi on Facebook, who ordered the dress online
Another reason that the dress may be so expensive is that it is one of the few modern pieces manufactured in Japan. We know that by 2010 Angelic Pretty were already manufacturing in China, so being made in Japan gives this piece that extra wow factor. Kira had been creating postcard art of AP prints for some time, and they had collaborated previously on ‘Candy-chan on a walk,’ which was a screen printed design. It’s possible that a move to digital printing made it possible for the two to collaborate again.
Also, it’s cats having tea. It’s just inherently want-able.
As part of the Dream Masquerade Carnival event that took place in London in 2017, there was also a Q+A with Maki and Asuka , the Angelic Pretty designers (above). Dear reader, I asked them how many were originally made. I did it for you. I did it for the integrity of the data. But, they didn’t know.
So we know basically why it’s expensive, but exactly how expensive is it?
Average price for pink cats tea party, including no sales: £1,146.35
Average price for pink cats tea party, excluding no sales: £1,234.26
Our overall valuation of pink cats tea party: £1,190.30
Average price for grey cats tea party, including no sales: £1,257.58
Average price for grey cats tea party, excluding no sales: £742.10
Our overall valuation of grey cats tea party: £999.84
We did not expect the grey to go for less than the pink. In our opinion it’s worth more, because we think there are less of them (though we have no idea) about but this is what the numbers say. If we remove the most recent value, the average price goes up to £1,114.33 which is possibly more accurate.
The most recent piece of data for grey cats tea party, which is dragging the price down, was actually a sale at Closet Child Ikebukuro. A source from Japan told us that CC is run by people who don’t share the same obsessive knowledge of lolita that would say…cause someone to write a blog post about average sales prices of a dress… and instead they keep more up to date with popular current releases. Knowing that, it’s easy to see how they would end up low balling the price!
Fun Trivia We Learned on the way
I called this post kawaii data no monogatari because we learned a lot of fun but ultimately useless knowledge along the way that we thought would be great to share!
Did you know that nobody in the dataset had ever split a Cats Tea Party set? Nobody has ever lost a bow, or a choker or had bits fall off any part of the garment. The worst thing that’s happened to any dress being re-sold is some light stains.
Outside of Japan, the biggest fans of cats tea party are in the US! We think there is at least nine owners of the dress in the US.
We’ve found out that there is only one known cats tea party set in the UK! Someone has also owned the cutsew.
The most well travelled dress went from Japan, to Australia, to the USA. It’s travelled roughly 19,929 kilometres across the world. That’s the size of 1,246 of the front of the Palace at Versailles (108m).
The second most well travelled dress went from Japan, to Finland, to the US.
The biggest fan of the dress is Lacemarket user Hervia, who has owned and sold the dress twice. Hervia is US based, and sold the dress to sailorenceladus in California, who then sold it on to another Californian. Road trip!
The most sales of Cats Tea Party happened on Lacemarket – surprise, surprise.
So now we know, sort of conclusively, that the current price of cats tea party is around £1,000. We also know why it’s so expensive.
If you know of a sale of cats tea party that you can prove, please comment down below and we will come back every couple of months or so and update all the numbers. If there is truly 50 dresses in existence, wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to find all of them?
We really hope you enjoyed reading this nonsense, please feel free to suggest any other elements of lolita fashion that you’d like us to do a data piece about in the comments too. Or, if you want to know more about this dress, please leave a comment below!
Finally, if you would like to see the original data, please click here.
Other Boring Points about Methodology
To get our final values for the dress, we used two websites. The first one converted the currency on the date of sale and the second adjusted that value for inflation to the current year. We did this because we felt it was the only way to make a fair comparison.
Secondly, our data is by no means conclusive. Though we looked for listings on livejournal, lacemarket, mercari, yahoo auctions and mbok many of these sites don’t allow you to see unsold items or previous sales unless you have a direct link to the original auction. We also attempted to find sales on the Chinese resale market, but were not able to.
Shout Outs and Thank You-s
This post wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of teamwork. Firstly I’d like to thank all who have contributed to the data collection so far. Though we wish we had more data it was amazing that we were able to collect any data about such a tiny niche thing in the first place. Next, a big shout out to Jo for her help and for suffering my endless ramblings about this project. Then I’d like to thank Kyra for trawling Japanese auction sites and finding some really interesting tidbits of info. Also Abiba for providing her quote about the initial production.
A BIG shout out to the team at egl.circlly.com for their cracking website. Not only did they have the best interface and richest data, but the ability to filter all previous sales of the dress was a god send during this project.