The following blogpost will be documenting my experience in exploring the Lolita Japanese fashion trend.
In order to start my journey with the Lolita style, I decided to watch a few YouTube videos about it and to follow a bunch of Lolita clothing stores and Lolita fashion models on Instagram. (I put the links to the videos I watched at the end of this blogpost).
What I quickly learnt about Lolita fashion is that it actually has nothing to do with the word Lolita.
For me and for most people, the word Lolita conjures up connotations with the novel ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov and the film adaptation of the book. When you google the definition of Lolita, you get ‘a sexually precocious young girl’. Thus a common misconception about Lolita fashion is that the style is sexual or that it fetishizes young girls.
But this definition of Lolita couldn’t be further from what the Japanese fashion trend actually is. In fact Lolita is a modest style inspired by Victorian and the Rococo era of dress.
I read an article by An Nguyen and Jane Mai, authors of ‘So Pretty / Very Rotten’ which is a collection of essays and comics about Lolita fashion and Nguyen and Mai’s personal experience with the Japanese sub-culture (Leblanc, 2017).
Through their experiences I learnt that Lolita is “a celebration of femininity, modesty, cuteness and beauty that does not fit into mainstream fashion trends” (Nguyen and Mai 2017).
Likewise, Nguyen says that “Lolitas dress for themselves. It is clothing that reminds us that not everything has to do with trying to attract or please men” (Mai 2017).
In this way, Lolita’s dressing for themselves is “a complex form of rebellion and social commentary on Japan’s oppressive social structure and its social expectations on young people, especially young women” (Younker 2011, p. 98).
However, Nguyen comments that Lolita clothing is very expensive, so even though Lolita fashion “can be freeing, there are also limitations in trying to find solace in material objects and consumerism”(Mai, 2017).
My experience of Lolita fashion is that of an outsider. My initial impression of Lolita clothing when I was scrolling through Lolita Instagram pages, was that I found it a little bit creepy as I was reminded of dolls dressed in Victorian clothing. I had those dolls as a child and I was creeped out by it then, and am a little creeped out by it now as an adult.
But I also think the style is unique as I have never come across people in my every-day life wearing Lolita. I have lived in New Zealand and Australia all my life, so this perhaps explains my lack of exposure to the Japanese fashion trend. Although my initial reaction to Lolita was that it was “creepy” and “unique” after a healthy dose of consuming Lolita content posts on social media, I started to really appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the clothing.
While I do not plan on becoming a Lolita fashion model anytime soon, as a twenty-one year old woman who has a passion for fashion, I understand wanting to wear clothes that make you feel-good about yourself. Fashion is after all a form of self-expression and the appeal of Lolita can be said to be its rebellion towards societal standards and expectations of how women should look. Yet, I think about Nguyen’s comment about the cost of Lolita fashion and how there isn’t much freedom in material items. I think there is still a lot left to be explored about the cost of rebellion and to what extent dressing differently can ad-dress (pun-intended) systemic issues in society such as gender inequality.
That being said, while I believe I have learnt a lot about Lolita fashion through Instagram, watching YouTube videos, and reading about other people’s experiences, I think my engagement is somewhat limited as I haven’t had a direct personal encounter with Lolita myself. I think in order to gain a deeper engagement, I might have to find Lolita fashion stores in Sydney and undergo a full Lolita makeover Safiya Nygaard style? Stay tuned.
Leblanc, P 2017, ‘The TCAF Interviews – An Nguyen on So Pretty/ Very Rotten’, The Beat, weblog post, 13 May, viewed 6 September 2019, <https://www.comicsbeat.com/the-tcaf-interviews-an-nguyen-on-so-pretty-very-rotten/>.
Nguyen, A and Mai, J 2017, ‘Lolita Fashion’, The Paris Review, weblog post, 25 May, viewed 31 August 2019, <theparisreview.org/blog/2017/05/25/lolita-fashion/#more-110942>.
Younker, T 2011, ‘Lolita: Dreaming, Despairing, Defying’ Stanford Journal of East Asian Affairs, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 97 – 110.
YouTube Videos that I watched about Lolita Fashion:
‘Why I Am A Lolita: The Modern, Modest Japanese Subculture’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKg8kl_fFuk
‘I Got A Japanese Lolita Fashion Makeover’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUjVPIEtJd0
‘The History of Lolita [Kawaii Fashion School]’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npi825Q9iUE
‘Sugar Coated – A short documentary about Lolita Fashion’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0QSyv8tEgg