There’s a lot of assumptions when it comes to lolita fashion. It’s to be expected, really; it’s a niche within a niche. What started out with youths asserting their independence and expressing themselves on the streets of Japan in the early 90’s has evolved and been interpreted through the years in all sorts of ways.
Essentially, lolita is about wearing elegant clothes that are adorned with frills, lace and delicate prints. It emphasises modesty, femininity and a cupcake-shaped silhouette. As someone who has worn lolita on a near daily basis for the past eight years or so, I thought I’d run through some of the topics that come up time and again.
“Lolita fashion has something to do with lolicon/sexual perversion”
I’m starting with this because, unfortunately, it’s one of the most common misconceptions. This is a myth that started from an obvious source – the name of the fashion. Lolita as a fashion has nothing directly to do with Lolita, the book by Vladimir Nabokov, or the concept of ‘lolicon/lolita complex’.
The origins of the name remain murky, but it would seem to have something to do with a fusion of cute ‘Alice in Wonderland’ innocence and punk-like disowning of societal standards, mixed in with a Japanese misunderstanding of the term lolita – Caro-chan over at FYeahLolita muses on these naming origins if you want to know more.
What you need to bear in mind is lolita is a street fashion. Much like punks didn’t sit around a table and decide what to name their fashion sense, lolitas didn’t either. It’s a hybrid of many styles, naturally born from a certain time period in a certain country; when it was first created it wasn’t consciously constructed to ‘be’ anything!
“Lolita is cosplay”
Cosplay is the act of dressing up as an anime, comic or video game character. Basically, think of fancy dress. Lolita is a fashion; you’re not dressing up ‘as’ anybody or anything. Lolita is not cosplay.
It’s true that some people only wear lolita to conventions, which is probably how this myth started. Some, known as ‘cosplay lolitas’ just see it as a bit of fun and aren’t committed to wearing it seriously. Generally this is people who are new to the fashion.
Other lolitas only wear the fashion at conventions because they lack the confidence to wear it anywhere else. The other thing to bear in mind is that because of the last myth mentioned, some people don’t feel comfortable for their employers/friends/family to know about their interest in the fashion, incase they get the wrong idea. They reserve wearing it only for special occasions or around people with mutual interests.
“You have to look a certain way to be a lolita”
Lolita at the end of the day is just clothes. We may admire our favourite models and think the petite look is adorable when combined with ruffles and lace, but that doesn’t mean it’s the be-all and end-all. Lolitas come in every shape, size, gender, sex and style. If you want to wear it, if you enjoy it, then you should! It’s as simple as that. You’re the only person holding you back.
Most brands do make their clothes in one size, or a handful of sizes, but don’t take this as an indication that you can’t wear lolita if you can’t fit into major brands. The fact is most brands are boutiques, and unlike high-street powerhouses, they cannot afford to create garments in a whole range of sizes. It’s frustrating, but that’s the reality. There are options, such as choosing garments with shirring or elastic, having them altered, commissioning seamstresses or choosing indie brands that can make garments at a custom size for you. None of these options are as bank-breaking as you might think.
“You need to behave a certain way while wearing lolita”
This sounds plainly ridiculous, but some people honestly believe this. I’ll say it again – lolita is just clothes. Most people who wear the fashion behave the same when they’re not wearing it, too. This myth may have came about because many people who wear the fashion are attracted to the ‘cuter’ things in life and already have that sunny disposition, rather than the other way around.
“You have to be rich to be a lolita”
It is true is that most major brands are, by general standards, pretty expensive. When it comes to putting a full outfit together – dress, socks, shoes, accessories, petticoat – you’re easily running into a four figure sum if you buy them all full-price and brand-new. But, if you’re willing to look a little deeper, you’ll find a whole host of other options a bit more in-budget.
Lolita fashion has a thriving second-hand market and, unlike some of the castoffs you may find on Ebay, most lolitas take pretty good care of their clothes. Whether that’s because they cost a fair amount the first place or because many lolitas only wear their outfits occasionally, most of your fashion fellows will take great care in describing their sales with accuracy and sending them to you carefully packaged. There are many Facebook sales groups and the popular auction site lacemarket.us where you can browse for a bargain.
In Japan especially there are cheap deals to be had. Second-hand shops such as Wunderwelt, Alice Fururun and Closet Child are great places to start, and you can even buy from them online, though you may need an intermediately shopping service to purchase for you.
If second-hand isn’t your bag, keep an eye out for something called a lucky pack or ‘grab bag’. This is a common promotional technique in Japan, where last seasons wares are bundled into a ‘mystery’ bag for a discount price. You won’t know what you’re getting exactly, but that’s half the fun!
Indie brands & seamstresses
Finally, nowadays there are a slew of cheaper brands that still produce good quality garments. Indie brands based all around the world produce some top-notch stuff. They also sell on Taobao – basically, China’s version of Ebay. If you’re new to Taobao it can seem like a headache at first, but once you get your head around it you’ll realise that even with service fees and shipping there’s some incredibly cheap and beautiful items available.
Ever faced any myths yourself?
Let me know in the comments! If you have any questions about the fashion, too, I’m more than happy to answer, whether here or while I’m streaming on Twitch. It’s always great to meet people who are interested in knowing more about the fashion!