Lolita is a fashion style that focuses on elegance, modesty and femininity. There are lots of branches and variations: with sweet, gothic and classic being the major three types. The style has a distinct silhouette, created by the use of petticoats (volumising fabrics worn under a skirt).
Where did the fashion come from?
Lolita started as a street fashion in Japan, growing organically from many influences – the Victorian and Rococo era’s extravagant gowns, 50’s style pop-rock dresses and the maidenly frocks of the 70’s, to name a few. There is no one ‘moment’ lolita was created or named. It’s earliest days are hard to document since it existed only in the closets of those Japanese girls who wore it in the 80’s, before areas like Harajuku were garnering media attention. Lolita as we know it today emerged in the early 00’s (see some examples below). Lolita stores in Japan did not start selling overseas until 2003, and even then it was very difficult and confusing to purchase from them.
Lolita embodies the kawaii (cute) aesthetic. Many people confuse lolita fashion with either the Nabokov novel of the same name or lolicon. Lolita fashion does not have anything directly to do with this. Wearers of the fashion are, generally speaking, not doing so for sexually perverse reasons. Another common misconception is that lolita is cosplay. Lolita’s wear their outfits as regular clothes, not as a costume. You can read more about these and other misconceptions in my post ‘Dispelling Lolita Fashion Myths’.
What makes up a lolita outfit?
Bows, headbands, bonnets, mini hats.
Typical styles can include curls, twintails, full bangs/fringe.
A full skirt or dress that reaches the knees, assisted by a bell-shaped petticoat, bloomers, blouses, boleros. Often dresses are covered in prints or motifs.
Tights, thigh-highs or knee-high socks.
Heels, platforms, flats adorned with straps and bows.
One of the key aspects of lolita fashion is modesty, so revealing cleavage or short skirts would not generally be considered lolita. As lolita clothes are intended to be worn as ‘regular’ outfits, the fabrics and finish should be high-quality. Each individual has their own take or adaptation on the style, so these aren’t hard and fast rules. Think of them as a base recipe to get you started, before you go adding and experimenting with different flavours.
Why do people wear lolita fashion?
Each individual has their own reasons for choosing to wear the fashion. For some, it’s simply cute, whimsical and doll-like. For others, it functions much like the idea of punk; a counterculture style which disobeys what people ‘expect’ of womanhood. Some people take it even further and embody the ‘princess’ aesthetic not just in their clothes but throughout their behaviours and life choices as well – we call these lifestyle lolitas. Regardless of the reasons, remember not to pre-judge why someone wears lolita, or what this might mean about them or their life. Not everyone has a reason behind it and that’s OK; they may just like how it looks!
Where do people buy lolita fashion?
Some of the major Japanese lolita fashion brands include:
- Angelic Pretty
- Baby, The Stars Shine Bright
- Metamorphose Temps De Fille
- Victorian Maiden
- Innocent World
- Juliette et Justine
- Atelier Pierrot
However, there are many, many more places to shop, not just in Japan but all over the world. Some people make their own clothes, there exists a thriving second-hand market and indie brands from China now produce excellent quality. Since lolita shops are specialists which often only product a small quantity at high quality, pieces can be on the upper end or the price scale. Not quite at designer level, but more than high-street chains.
How can I become a lolita?
If you want to become more than just an admirer of the fashion, then jump right in! Being a lolita doesn’t involve changing your personality or lifestyle. All you have to do is wear the clothes, and if that sounds appealing to you, I’d encourage you to go for it. If you have any questions, or if you’re still feeling a bit lost on where to start, feel free to ask me anything you need to know in the comments or on Twitter.