This article has been moved to our new site, Kawaii Japanese: Learn Japanese online.
We called our fashion section Lolita and Friends because not all the Cures here are, but we all share a philosophy of dress even if we implement it in a variety of ways.
Recently a new Precure made her 登場 (toujou) to shouts of “a new Cure has appeared” (well, I shouted it anyway). Cure Utsukushiku, true to her name, is our Fashion Correspondent and is a Lolita.
In her toujou article she writes:
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.
Now I was thinking about this when I was contemplating writing about my own fashion path (if I may so distinguish my humble attempts), and not only is what Cure Utsukushiku writes vitally true, but I think it can even be taken a step further. In a certain way what we are doing fashion-wise here is the precise opposite of what many current Lolitas (or Western neo-Lolitas) are saying.
The current neo-Lolita orthodoxy seems to be that it is important to get the “fashion” right – to be picky about the right lace, the right brands etc. etc. but that there is no philosophy behind any of this. Dressing good and innocent doesn’t mean being good and innocent. In fact in many instances it is considered important or clever not to be good and innocent. The idea that one can have a foul-mouth, alley-cat morals and a body full of – uh – “modifications” and still be a Lolita is the New Orthodoxy.
It of course makes sense in this context to be ultra-picky about the lace. After all, Lolita has to be about something, so since it isn’t about anything else, it had better be about material details.
Now please don’t think that for one moment I am opposed to connoisseuseship of fine lace, or to attachment to some of the finest brands in the world (which really do have a beautiful ethos and philosophy). I admire and cannot afford these things and I am happy to have friends who can afford them. They make the world more beautiful for me and for everyone else. And I try, in my much humbler way, to do the same thing.
But – but but but but – the question is having one’s scale of values right. There is an old Victorian joke in which a mother admonishes her daughter whom she is afraid is becoming spoiled by material wealth: “Darling, always remember, it is not clothes that make the lady.”
To which the daughter replies: “I know, mother. It is the hat.”
I think everyone knows what the mother meant. That it is neither the clothes nor the hat nor any other material thing that makes the lady. It is the heart. It is goodness and purity and modesty and gentleness and kindness. A perfect hat on an impure heart (well not directly on it, but you know what I mean) will not turn anyone into a lady.
Now the Western neo-Lolita will doubtless cry “I don’t want to be a lady. I don’t want to be innocent. I don’t want to be pure. I just want the right lace.”
That is fine. We are absolutely not here to tell anyone what she should or should not do or be. This isn’t a crusade, it is a haven. We aren’t saying how other people should think. We are just saying how we think. And we are telling other people who think this way that you can. You don’t need to be intimidated by the neo-orthodoxy. You can believe that Lolita is what it (visually) says it is and what names likeimply. You can believe that it is something more and better than a mere “fashion” on the same level as punk, grunge and murder-your-mother.
If Western post-modernists are allowed their heroin-chic, we are allowed our heroine-chic!
In fact I think we would agree with the people who say “For me Lolita is a fashion, not a lifestyle”, but from the opposite angle. For us, our way of life is the fount and source of the way we dress, not vice versa. Those of us who are full-blown Lolitas don’t love purity and innocence because they are Lolitas. They are Lolitas because they love purity and innocence.
So, to say a little about the mere self (which is what I set out to do) – long before I discovered Lolita I knew that clothes are not just neutral bits of cloth. They say something. All clothes do and everyone knows it. They are not morally and philosophically neutral. The “casual dress” of the current West is rooted in its post-modern philosophy of life. That is why I always disliked it.
Neo-lolita tries desperately to twist a dress-style that says something else into the mold of the post-modern West. Now if you like the post modern West, please go ahead. That isn’t our affair and we have no desire to interfere. But we are writing for people who don’t like the post-modern West and are looking for that something else that Lolita so clearly represents.
For myself, I wanted to dress in a way that reflects my ideals. I wanted to be pretty, neat, innocent, pure and a little flamboyant. Being poor, I experimented with clothes from thrift stores and made a delightful discovery. You can get really nice, quite traditional clothes almost unworn from thrift stores.
Why do people buy brand new and actually nice clothes and give them to thrift stores? Here’s my guess: current Western society has almost no occasions for wearing good (non-business and non-“s*xy”) clothes. So if people buy them for an occasion they never wear them again, or they are attracted to them because they are lovely but never have the social courage to wear them. Just my guess, but the phenomenon is very real and – very useful for impoverished Princesses!
Now such clothes are clearly not Lolita, far less are they by beautiful Lolita brands (though they are often good Western brands). But then one can dress them up really quite cheaply.
Here are some of my favorite inexpensive up-dresses:
Neckscarves: you can often get these new from thrift stores too. You can get lots of pretty ones that add variety to a small wardrobe. A delightful touch is getting a BIG chiffon scarf and tying a HUGE bow at the neck. This makes relatively conservative clothes look much more kawaii.
Gloves: Gloves are a super-secret. No one in the current West wears gloves except to keep their hands warm! Simple white gloves can be very inexpensive, and they transform an outfit. You are changed instantly from someone in neat clothes to someone in what the general populace tends to regard as “costume”. You will get comments. You will get admiration. You may well also get unwanted attention. Gloves are the catalyst that gives your outfit the quantum leap (if you’ll excuse my blonde physics).
Hats: Not quite as powerful as gloves, but again, hats are almost unknown and you can get lovely straw ones very cheaply.
Hair decorations: If you aren’t wearing a hat, decorate your hair. Bows, ribbons, Hello Kitty hair-slides. Again they dress up your outfit and add kawaii-points out of all proportion to their size and price.
Shoes: Lots of nice shoes around and you don’t have to break the bank. Again thrift stores can be your friend. A favorite trick of mine to ratchet up the Kawaii is to get some nice school-type Mary-Janes (mine have darling little punched-through the leather flowers) and wear them with lace-trimmed white ankle socks (usually over pale sheeny stockings).
So – if you have the money and dedication to be a full-blown Lolita, please do it, and make the world a prettier place! And if you want to discuss it here among like-minded friends you are a thousand times welcome on our comments section (and maybe you’ll become a Cure).
But if you can’t afford it, you can still express your love of purity, goodness and kawaii through dress. Experiment. Ask questions here. And tell us your discoveries.
This is an adventure for all like-minded girls!
What is more than just Kawaii is our promise between girls. We believe in you. We will fight for you. Gather your invincible gentleness!
Doki Doki Precure theme song
It was interesting learning about her from a native Japanese speaker, who told me that she is a kigurumi (nuigurumi = stuffed [lit. sewn] toy, amigurimi = knitted toy, kigurumi = worn toy). That is, she is a – well a suit. Her inside (nakami) is a secret (himitsu) that no one knows.
I quote the Japanese because I think it is interestingly different from the English-speaking way of looking at things. Rilakkuma is the kigurumi and she has a nakami (inside). Not “someone is dressed up as a cute bear”.
Nor do we suppose that this “someone” is necessarily a human. Rilakkuma’s little friend, Korilakkuma, is a bear who often dresses as a pink rabbit.
Now my point here is a slightly subtle one. Rilakkuma is considered the epitome of kawaii. One of the slogans surrounding her is “Happy life with Rilakkuma”. The fact that she is, in a sense, a “suit” does not in any way detract from this. The fact that we have no idea what is “inside” does not make her less kawaii, it makes her more kawaii.
The frequent sight of her other “outsides” being washed or dried is part of her unique attractiveness and of what has made her a runaway kawaii success in Japan.
I could be wrong, but I fancy the Western mind would find the fact that a cute bear is not what she seems fundamentally undermining to her cuteness. There would be a near-instant suspicion that the “inside” might not be cute.
The Japanese view, which to my mind is simply the natural view seems to be “happy and innocent unless proved otherwise”, where the current Western or “cynicisist” (or perhaps “neurotic” or “phobic”) approach to life sees everything as dangerous or fake unless proved innocent (and still pretty suspicious even then).
Well maybe that makes Western folks happy (though they don’t look very happy to me). But I know how I’d rather live.