Tag Archives: Japanese fashion

Lolita – Mere Frills, or a Light in the Darkness?

Welcome to our series on Lolita fashion! There are many sites and blogs  devoted to Lolita fashion, but we like to think this one will be a little different – for our interest lies not just with the fashion itself, but with the philosophy and meaning behind the fashion.

So is this about “lifestyle Lolita”? Yes and no. We think this series will appeal to lifestyle Lolitas, but we are hoping to offer a perspective that is rather different from what is available elsewhere.

For the uninitiated, Lolita is a style that emerged from Japan in the 1990s. The style is characterised by knee length skirts with petticoats, lace and bows, and a girlish yet elegant aesthetic. Although it is heavily inspired by Western historical fashion ranging from the 18th century to the 1950s, the style is something unique to Japan.

So what makes lolita so different from any fashion current in the West?

In most Western countries, the clothing of the average woman on the street is often sloppy and baggy, or scruffy and casual. Or else there is the other side of the coin: an over sexualised parody of femininity: the “glamour model” aesthetic. Or there is “high fashion” which in spite of the name, is often deliberately ugly and grotesque. It seems that in the world view of these designers, straight up prettiness is unchallenging and unartistic.

This is exemplified by the disturbing term “heroin chic” which was widely used in the 1990s to describe the trend of already thin models made to look outright gaunt and ill with dark make up.

Then there are “alternative fashions” which are mostly really just more variations on the same theme. Often taking elements of traditional femininity, but adding an ugly and discordant element, like 50s dresses with tattoos and facial piercings.

conceptLolita on the other hand is truly different.When I found Lolita, I finally had an ideal to aspire to. It gave me permission to be what I had always wanted to be: feminine, elegant, and pure. It spoke so deeply to the part of my heart that had resisted the corrupting influence of the culture I had grown up in, and showed me an alternative. A real alternative in a world where “alternative” is a rallying cry, but whose “individual and alternative” choices are all variations on the same theme. It really is completely different from anything else, and I don’t think it could have come into being in a Western country.

The traditional classic and sweet Lolita looks are unaplogetically feminine; lace, full skirts, cute or dainty shoes, neat and feminine hair, enough makeup to look polished, but not too much.

IMG_8214Look at this model from Victorian Maiden; her demure and peaceful expression, her gentle pose – now, compare that with a Western fashion model, any style you can think of. The Western model will likely either be making a highly sexualised pose, or looking distant and cynical, or even aggressive. There is so much pressure when dressing in a feminine style to add a harsh and discordant element, whether it is through facial piercings or tattoos, a pair of stompy boots, or even just an just an angry facial expression; to add an “edge” to one’s image, to show that one is not “weak”, not “vulnerable”.

It seems to the present writer that this is a defense mechanism towards the harshness of 21st century life: “the world is hard and coarse, so I need to harden myself, and coarsen myself to protect myself”. This is understandable, but is it really true strength? Isn’t this just playing into the idea that femininity is weakness? We believe that femininity, cuteness and innocence are powerful things and will always prevail against darkness and coarseness in the end.

Some of you may now be wondering, “Isn’t it just clothing? Something we use to cover our bodies? It doesn’t really mean anything does it?” or “I just like frilly clothes, why does that mean I should be pure or innocent?”. It is understandable that you may feel this way. This is the standard view of the 21st century West, and for many who have grown up in this culture it can seem like the only logical viewpoint. But for the vast majority of the history of humanity, people have held the belief that clothing and design do have meaning, and that they are important.

Now, we understand that not all Lolitas will feel this way. If you just want to wear the clothes, but think and behave as a typical 21st century young Western woman we are certainly not here to stop you. This site may not be for you and that is fine. We are writing for the minority who feel lost and out of place in the modern world and are yearning for something deeper, gentler, and more beautiful. If you are one of these girls please stay true to your principles, and please keep checking back here for more!