Explorations in Japanese Culture
A lot of people start noticing Lolita fashion in anime, but saw it first at anime conventions. A lot of people, myself included, first mistake Lolita fashion for a form of cosplay. However, being a fashion, there are many who dress Lolita on a daily basis and some who try and live the “Lolita Lifestyle.” What started as a street fashion and subculture in Japan now has fans and followers around the globe.
First thing, Lolita fashion is in not related to the classic novel of the same name by Vladimir Nabokov (which is actually one of my favorite books!). Rather, it is possibly a case of Japanese misappropriation of the term that they just don’t understand. Lolita is actually a street fashion that started in Japan and is known for being intricate, doll-like and is all about creating a complete look. The clothing is inspired mainly from the Victorian and Rococo eras, but within the sub styles there many sources of inspirations. The Lolita fashion is dominantly worn by girls, but in the past few years there has been a growing acceptance of guys who enjoy wearing Lolita clothing. Some men look to wear a counterpart fashion like Ouji or Gothic, but others enjoy cross-dressing in female Lolita clothes. Guys who dress in female Lolita clothes are referred to as “Brolitas.” I have actually seen some Brolitas who look awesome, but it is really a matter of effort in my opinion. If a Brolita doesn’t shave their 5’oclock shadow, then well, they really aren’t going to pull it off well. Even though Lolita fashion seems relatively new to many, it has actually been around since the late 80s.
There is not a clear and agreed upon time that Lolita started, but in the late 1980s popular brands such as MILK, Pink House and Angelic Pretty began to appear, but did not really expand to the mainstream until the early 2000s. Lolita fashion’s move into the mainstream began with the popularity of visual-kei bands. Visual-kei is a fashion among Japanese musicians who wear make-up, elaborately styled hair, and flamboyant costumes. One of the most prominent musicians was Mana, the cross-dressing guitarist of the band Malice Mizer. Mana popularized the term Elegant Gothic Lolita to describe his own fashion and started his own brand called Moi-même-Moitié. Since then the Lolita fashion has expanded greatly and changed a lot as new styles have emerged. During the popularity of the Gothic Lolita movement in the early 2000s, black and white patterns were popular. However, the Ama Lolita style began to be popularized by Angelic Pretty in 2006 and has sense taken off to inspire much of the current Lolita trends today. While there are a host of different Lolita styles, Gothic, Ama and Classic are by far the most common.
While the gothic style of dress had a short-lived period of popularity in the west, the Gothic Lolita style is much different. As with all Lolita fashions, it is first and foremost both cute and elegant. The traditional Gothic Lolita fashion is mainly styled in dark clothing with less of the ribbons and lace that come with other Lolita fashions. They essentially look like a much darker version of the Ama Lolita fashion. However, there is a second type of Gothic Lolita that reflects a much heavier western influence. The less cute version of Gothic Lolita has motifs such as crosses, bats and coffins and also ventures away from the darker colors of the Traditional Gothic Lolita fashion.
Ama Lolita fashion is most easily recognized by it powdery pastels, playful themes, and imaginatively printed skirts. The Ama Lolita style is perhaps the most popular of all the styles and is meant to portray a childlike innocence. The skirts are printed with images of fairytales, pastries, toys, flowers or other magical themes. Amoung the Ama Lolita style is the over the top sub-style known as Kotekote Lolita. Kote Lolita, for short, takes the sweet themes of Ama and styles them to the extreme. Kote Lolitas wear ornate wigs and accessories from top to bottom.
Classic Lolita fashion is by far my personal favorite. While the Classic Lolita style still maintains the cute Lolita style, it is more elegant and historically influenced by time periods such as Renaissance, Elizabethan, Baroque, Rococo, Victorian, and Edwardian. The Classic style is known more for neutral dusty colors, simplicity and a-line skirts. The Ama style is more about bright and fanciful fashion, but the Classic is more concerned with a mature elegance. For that reason, as many Lolitas grow older they see the Classic Lolita style as a more fitting fashion.
Lolita is at its heart a fashion, but there are some who seek to try and live the Lolita Lifestyle. A Lolita Lifestyle generally consists of dressing in Lolita fashion daily, interacting with the Lolita community and even feminine hobbies such as baking, sewing or embroidery. Even if a Lolita is not a lifestyle follower, community interaction is still a large part of being a Lolita. Many local Lolita groups arrange meet ups where the members dress in Lolita fashion and participate in picnics, tea parties, visits to galleries, museums, or even amusement parks. Each local group set there own dress code and agenda for these meet ups, but they are also the only time for some Lolitas to express there love for the Fashion. There is actually a new convention started by some Lolitas here in GA called Frill. The all Lolita convention promises to offer a place to shop, socialize and learn for all lovers of Lolita. I will definitely be attending this year and will have an article on it. I also am looking forward to taking lots of pictures during AWA and the Frill kick-off party!