What about other generally punk clothing, like leather jackets and Dr. Martens boots? Those can be pretty pricey, but worth it (I have 2 pairs of 90s England-made Docs and they still look brand new). Plus all the money invested in decorations, like studs, buttons, patches, safety pins, and the time invested to utilize those accessories.
I think that since a lot of lolita brands were, at the time, really small brands run by a few people made it somewhat of an indie market? Because once someone sold their used brand, it would go to another lolita, and the seller would use the money earned to buy new lolita, and the lolita brand she bought from would use the money to make more new lolita and the money/items would mostly cycle through a little lolita bubble? A lot of lolitas probably got their money from part-time jobs or allowances, so they weren't super rich in the first place and probably just had one or two coords? I'm not very knowledgeable in economics so bear with me lol.
But I do get what you're saying, and I agree that it's got a bit of a weird feeling to it. But modern lolita, to me, has that weird feel multiplied. It's SO expensive! Some of the dresses are thousands of dollars and MTO! In recent years I can understand the capitalism feel, modern lolitas are so dependent on brands to re-release their coveted prints because the secondhand market doesn't exist/is overpriced.
I think back then it was pretty accepted. I remember seeing in FRUiTS or another magazine that lolitas would list their handmade items with their own brand name that they made up.