Hiya pretty girls (and boys).
I decided to make a post on how I care for my lolita wardrobe. These are just suggestions and things that have worked well for me. Feel free to add any additional information in the comments.
General tips and information
1. ALWAYS check the care tag inside the garment. This gives you care information for the specific piece. Care tag in Japanese? Try this guide.
2. When in doubt, ask questions. Do some research, post on egl, send an e-mail to the shop you purchased from, but never try cleaning your clothes yourself unless you are 100% sure of what you are doing.
Prevention is key!
Keep your clothes as nice as possible by preventing stains. When eating, tuck a napkin into your blouse or dress to keep from staining the front. Who cares how it looks!
And what about those pesky underarm stains? Use dress shields! If you are using the adhesive type, test the adhesive on another (less expensive) garment first to make sure that it doesn't leave any residue. I like these ones that attach onto your bra straps. They are soft cloth on one side and vinyl on the other and they are washable.
Also, be sure to apply less makeup (or none at all) to your chin/jaw/neck area to prevent staining high collared items.
To prevent socks from getting super stained on the bottom, wear a thin pair of socks or nylons underneath.
If something does get stained, take it to the dry cleaner. They are the ones best equipped to deal with this "crisis." I spilled tea on one of my JSKs and my dry cleaner got every bit of it out! Never use OxyClean or other products to treat stains at home.
Washing and drying
Many Lolita items, especially brand prints, need to be dry cleaned. This means that you should never get these items wet, because the print could run, color could fade, or damage to the fabric could occur.
For items that can be washed at home, I recommend washing everything by hand rather than using a machine. That way you have control over how gently your clothes are being handled (rather that putting them in the rough washing machine.)
I always wash my items in cold or cool water (unless the tag specifies otherwise) to prevent shrinking and to keep colored items more vivid.
Never twist or wring! This can cause damage and unnecessary wrinkles.
I never put lolita items in the dryer. I like to lay them flat on a white or light colored towel. This will also prevent stretching/warping, but it can take several hours for it to try completely. Depending on the size and thickness of your garment, you may need to replace the towel a few times.
Again, check the tag to see if it can be ironed and at what temperature.
Never use steam to remove wrinkles. As I said above, certain prints can run or otherwise be damaged by water, so use a "dry" iron.
Start with the lowest setting. You can always turn it up if you need more heat.
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use a press cloth! These can be purchased pretty much anywhere (check your local craft/fabric store). Irons can build up residue over time or even discolor clothes. Placing a press cloth on the garment before ironing can prevent this. It's a bit more time consuming, but it's better than ruining your clothes.
About spray starch... I've only used it once to help stiffen up a headbow that came with a dress I ordered from Oo Jia, and it turned out fine. I'm not sure I would feel comfortable using it on brand or on dark colors, however.
If you aren't comfortable with an iron, take it to the dry cleaner and they will press it for you.
How to hang your clothes is often debated. When you order directly from a brand shop, they usually include a plastic hanger with a soft foamy cover. These seem to work well and you can buy them here. I was also looking into possibly trying bendable hangers.
Make sure your dresses are hanging neatly in your closet or wardrobe. You've already spent a lot of time ironing, it would be terrible to end up with more wrinkles.
I don't have much advice when it comes to petticoats. I just try to make sure that they are not being squished by other items so that they stay as fluffy as possible. Before I put it on, I grab it by the waistband and shake it around (gently) to help fluff it out a bit... especially if it's been sitting in my wardrobe for weeks.
Shoes can get scuffed pretty easily. A little bit of shoe polish will help with this. Or use a slightly damp washcloth and mild soap to clean the shoe. Dry immediately with a towel.
That's all I have for now. I hope it helps. In the meantime, I'll try to gather more information on caring for petticoats.