The Drawing Room

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After the late-night high glamor of New York Fashion Week and a very lazy day in my slippers, I rallied to attend a low-key Connecticut lolita meetup the following weekend. One of our local lolitas had made reservations at the cute art gallery/teahouse The Drawing Room in Greenwich – a sweet shabby chic sanctuary on an otherwise rainy afternoon.

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The Drawing Room seated us at a long table to ourselves among the artwork, with mismatched armchairs and ottomans that felt like a chintzy Alice in Wonderland set. Specials included grilled cheese paninis with truffle sauce, coconut milk Mulligatawny soup and full-size cucumber sandwiches. I also enjoyed a very good hot chocolate with bitter shavings, though their tea menu is comfortably large.

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Though it was just us five, it was nice to have a quiet meetup after the onslaught of lolitas earlier in the week. Allison and I both chose a sweet chocolate theme for our coordinates – I’m in Sweet Cream House by Angelic Pretty, and she’s in Melty Chocolate. Mori girl, sweet gingham, and embroidered aprons added a country vibe.

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drawingroom3We tried some group shots using my swag-gifted smartphone camera remote from New York Fashion Week ! I propped up my Iphone on the table and used the button in my hand to get us all in the shot. Not a bad first try! The remote is definitely in my go-to mobile blogging arsenal for outfit shots and bigger group shots. You can buy a similar one here!

 

New York Fashion Week

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“Why are there, like, people in costumes here?” asks the blogger/yuppie/hipster in front of me, in her ironic black fedora and gauchos. Her spirit animal is probably a pumpkin spice latte. Dwarfing her and her two lookalike companions are a slew of ladies in layers and layers of chiffon, drooping princess sleeves and towering Victorian-era bonnets stuffed with pastel roses. “It’s fashion,” I reply. “Isn’t that the point of New York Fashion Week?”

This year, Gothic Lolita Wigs generously gifted thirty New York Fashion Week Art Hearts Fashion Show tickets to the New York City lolita community. On a sweltering day outside Lincoln Center lolitas came en mass along with the rest of the fashionable world.

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Classical over-the-top style seemed to be most popular, in tones of cream and ballet pink. Bonnets continued to be a staple of 2014, whether small and soft or large and structured with buckram. With the arrival of Tokyo Rebel back in the city, Baby the Stars Shine Bright and Innocent World are experiencing a burst in popularity as well, though Angelic Pretty’s less sugary designs are still common.

collage2Inside the Mercedes-Benz fashion show lobby, the guests could enjoy complimentary pear and strawberry cordials. At the TREsemme exhibit there was a booth for taking your own .gifs, and free selfie remotes for snagging perfect portraits without wonky selfie-arms. The show was a smash hit – you can check out the amazing footage from designers Mister Triple X, Control Sector, Gregorio Sanchez, Altaf Maaneshia, Hallie Sara, Shrekahnth, MTCostello, and Furne Amato.

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My outfit for the fashion show – Crystal Dream Carnival, a heart bag, and my Alice and the Pirates bonnet with a Moss Marchen silk roses bow. I revived this older cinnamon Gothic Lolita Wigs hairpiece for the occasion – I wanted a richer color than my usual blonde.

After the show, a few of my friends and I hailed a cab to Soho to hit up the Anna Sui afterparty. Besides a 70% off sale on her gorgeous designer clothing, there was also champagne with rose petals for guests and makeup demonstrations with their setting powders, blushes and lipsticks. It was a great way to wind down the day – followed by Japanese comfort food at Hiroko’s and tall Japanese style parfaits!

Everyone looked beautiful, and I met so many new people. I had a lot of fun attending New York Fashion Week – hopefully I can attend next year’s, too!

The Saints of Lolita

femalesaintsmalesaintsI’ve often joked about how we as lolitas worship at the altar of brand and our beloved lolita idols! On a whim of inspiration I made these pop art digital collage pieces, which I call lolita prayer cards.  They’re part traditional Catholic prayer card and bodega saints’ candle, part glitter and irreverence with a strong dash of gluestick and vision board. I’ve featured four of the lolita world’s greatest celebrity influencers. Top left is Maki, illustrator and designer for Angelic Pretty; top right is Misako Aoki, longtime fashion model; bottom left is Novala Takemoto, author of the lolita novel and movie Shimotsuma Monogatari/Kamikaze Girls, and of course the bottom right is Mana, lead singer of Malice Mizer, designer of gothic lolita brand house Moi-Meme-Moitie, founder of the Gothic and Lolita Bible, and, legend tells us, the coiner of the term ‘lolita’. Without them, we as lolitas wouldn’t exist as we do today. ♥

 

Labor Day Tea

A few friends and I had an informal teatime meetup to celebrate Labor Day! The city experienced an upswing in weather and after a chill August burst out a steamy September day. The subway that day may honestly have been a direct route to purgatory.

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Tess and Angela are twins here in matching Innocent World dresses and short bobs. Petrina kept the heat off with a summery boater hat and pixie cut, while I went the hardcore route with a fluffy pink wig. A stack of jasmine and rose petal macarons were last on the plate.

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Stephanie’s antique floral print was beautifully  lush in shades of rose and heavy cluny lace, a throwback to Angelic Pretty’s designs circa 2006. Xiaoyu looked sweet and cool with her sideswept braid and layers of creamy chiffon from Surface Spell.

tripleoutfitMy friend Dalin themed her Angelic Pretty dress with a smooth milk chocolate color palette, while I chose a glittery periwinkle for my Fancy Paper Dolls jumperskirt. The glitter jelly sandales I got on my birthday at Aldo’s have been super comfortable for lolita coordinates this year! (Shameless as ever, I’ll probably choose comfort over extravagance and wear them to New York Fashion Week too.) The Innocent World anklet socks I got at Tokyo Rebel add some much-needed frill and color.

Bosie, one of our many tried-and-true tea salon haunts in the West Village, did not disappoint, and the food was excellent. For a reasonable prix-fixe at Bosie, they will bring out a tower of tea sandwiches – I’m very partial to cucumber and smoked salmon, but they also offer crab, cheese, and pickles – tea cakes, scones with clotted cream and jam, and macarons. Teas could be ordered hot or iced.

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After shopping at Baby the Stars Shine Bright New York/Tokyo Rebel, we hustled out of the sudden storm for dessert. (Hey, at least we walked quite a few blocks between foodie excursions, right?) At Caffe Benne we hid in their upstairs lounge, which has great atmosphere. It looks exactly like a swanky college library, right down to the studying students. This cafe specializes in Korean desserts, most notably patbingsu! We split a giant bowl of shaved ice topped with green tea milk, gelato, slivered almonds, honey, and whipped cream. It was huge – even with six girls, we didn’t find the bottom of the bowl.

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Everyone who came to tea that afternoon, looking adorable! Classics, gothics and sweets all well-presented here! We even had two sets of twins in the back. Thanks goes to Yanise for organizing such a lovely teatime out!

 

Help! I’m Not Being Invited to Meetups

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Welcome back to Parfait Doll after a lengthy hiatus! Changes will continue around the site as I get settled back in and redefine exactly what this website should do for its readership. Thank you to all my readers who have kept up with me offsite and looked forward to its return!

Let’s dive right in to today’s topic – the sticky subject of lolita community and meetups. I’ve heard this complaint lately both from friends of mine and from outside the community.

“Everyone seems really cliqueish and I’m not getting invited to meetups! What am I doing wrong? Are they big bad elitists who hate my outfits? Am I infected with a strange social disease?!”

Heads out of the gutter, people. The glitter might be contagious, but otherwise, you’re probably safe. New York City, my home community, is notorious for being particularly clique-ish and ‘group-y’. The reason? It’s hard to fit more than ten people or so in a Manhattan restaurant at once! With a community of hundreds of members, there’s bound to be pairing off. The larger a meetup, the more unwieldy it can potentially become. So how do you make sure your social calendar is booked with plenty of teas, ballet invitations, or other fun frilly activities?

Check out this article from Captain Awkward, a social skills and advice blog (I’m a big fan – check out her archives for tons of great reading, and join the legions of Awkwardeers!). In a slightly different context, the letter writer worries that her group of friends is boxing her out of parties and invites.  While the situation isn’t exactly the same, Captain Awkward addresses lots of concerns in her article about friend groups, invitations and social settings.

Let’s say you’ve introduced yourself to some local lolitas, maybe online at their preferred hub or group, or in person at a big open meetup. Yet when you log online, all you see is cute photos from teatime that no one told you about! Here’s some classic meetup pitfalls and how to fix them.

Problem: You’ve met some girls you click with, but when the invite list goes up, you’ve been forgotten or left off. How do you get people to remember you’re sitting at home dressed in your best ruffles and glittery eyelashes, just wishing there was an event to go to?

The solution: Get in with the movers and shakers. In any group, there’s going to be people who organize. Usually the same people tend to run the events, such as planning the outings or booking the private rooms or even having everyone to their place. Pinpoint who these lolitas are and try to chat them up. One-on-one time is even better – invite one of the hostesses out for a coffee. Then when the next event is being planned, they’ll add you to the list!

Problem: You work unusual hours or have a rigorous study life, and your local community seems to love brunch just when you’re headed to your job or partying while you’re at home cramming Japanese vocabulary for a big exam. After declining a few times, now you’re worried you’re getting skipped over for invites.

The solution: Life happens to everyone and occasionally we all need to take breaks from our hobbies to handle the nitty-gritty stuff. Drawing away from your hobbies to be a Responsible Adult doesn’t mean you need to pull away from your friends, though. Make sure you’re still chatting up your friends regularly even if you can’t make every event, and try not to flake on the events you do find the time to attend. There’s lots of ways to keep involved with your Lolita community even when you’re not able to meet face to face. Answering questions or leaving comments on message boards, posting interesting content, and just being a good online friend are some examples.

Problem: Your local community is humdrum and doesn’t seem to have a lot going on. The cobwebs are evident on the message board – last updated in 2008.

The solution: If there’s no lolitas to be found in your area, consider checking further afield for Lolita events. It may be quiet in your neck of the woods, particularly if you live somewhere rural (I speak from experience. Consider me reporting live from cow country.), but a nearby city might have tons more going on. There’s also no harm in being part of multiple communities if you have the means to travel. I’m a New York City Lolita first, since that’s where I’ve had the most meetups in recent years, but my state community of Connecticut is having a small Lolita renaissance now too. Can’t wait for our September tea coming up!

The fix-all-solution: There’s also one more solution to any meetup difficulty – run your own! It’s not nearly as daunting as you might think, and anyone can run successful meetups with practice. If you need help, considering appointing a co-hostess with more experience until you feel comfortable. Small meetups for pick-up coffee and chatting in the park can be just as fun as elaborate, catered hotel teas, too – don’t worry about being too fancy! The point is to get dolled up and have some good times with your fellow fashion enthusiasts.

If you’d like to meet lolitas and aren’t sure how to go about getting yourself a lolita friend, check out this article  I wrote on making lolita friendships. If you’ve got further questions about lolita meetups (you social butterfly, you! :) feel free to drop me a line at my Ask Box!

Momoko Rebooted: Takemoto’s New Novel, Emily

It’s ten years ago this year that the movie Kamikaze Girls debuted (the same year as Mean Girls… coincidence or girl power conspiracy?) Kamikaze Girls is one of the great catalysts that created lolitas around the globe with its international release – and I was one of them. Though the author, Novala Takemoto, has mostly retired from the lolita socialiate circles since then, I’ll always treasure his contribution to lolitas everywhere in the form of both his beautiful film and his many books, short stories and articles.

I’m excited to see that he’s written a new lovestruck novel in the vein of his most famous, Kamikaze Girls (Japanese title: Shimotsuma Monogatari, A Shimostuma Story). The cover art is done by the famous lolita author Kira Imai, whose work has been made into a variety of printed dresses with Angelic Pretty and lolita fashion magazine covers. Here’s an excerpt of the novel, translated into English:

That’s where I was the first time you talked to me, at La Foret, the fashionable mall located at the intersection of Omotesando and Meiji Dori. There were a few chairs there that anyone could use to pass some time. Rising up between the chairs was a great tree, looking like it belonged there. I don’t know if it was a gingko or a poplar or a gum tree. There were green leaf-shaped objects in the space between La Foret and the street. Instead of show windows, the stores inside La Foret used these hollow translucent objects for shop displays. I sat behind the leaf-shaped objects, on the side of the building, facing the entrance to La Foret, hiding behind the leaf that had the list of shops on it. I sat directly on the ground, hugging my knees to my chest. I didn’t look at anything in particular, and I didn’t think about anything in particular, and I stayed there in the same position until the store closed. That was the only place they’d let me hang out.

Why didn’t I run when you spoke to me? Why was I able to answer you, even with a stammer? I would normally be frightened by any male—whether it was the police, a high school boy trying to hit on me, a poor old country bumpkin confused and looking for directions, or a little Boy Scout holding a donation box. If any male tried to communicate with me I would flee in a flash. Somehow you were special. You’re still special to me. Special things are always special right from the start and remain special until the end.

Unfortunately it doesn’t say when the English edition will be released. I am looking forward to more of Takemoto’s fanciful writing bleeding through with its relatable awkwardness. (If anyone has any information about the release or where to read it, please drop me a line, and I’ll update the post so others can read it as well).

You can read more about Novala Takemoto in a short interview at the book’s promotional website here.

Racism is Not Kawaii: The Avril Lavigne Factor

Hello Kitty Avril Lavigne

 

In another addition of “oh, those wacky Japanese”, as explained by white people, Avril Lavigne has debuted a new music video called Hello Kitty. When I first watched this as it popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, I immediately felt a migraine coming on. In this video, be prepared for more “edgy” contributions to culture that really hit the same shabby racist note.

The video begins with ‘me no psycho*, arigato, k-k-k-kawaii’, which immediately makes my stomach roil. The first line already makes fun of Asians in standard Mickey Rooney style, by mimicking an Asian broken English style. The Japanese words sound as though they’re just tacked on for flavor; the opening line is literally “me no psycho, thank you, cute’, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The song is also called ‘Hello Kitty’, which is also confusing – Hello Kitty doesn’t appear anywhere in the video, most likely because they couldn’t get Sanrio to agree to use the image.

In the next shot, it’s revealed that Avril is basically rebooting Gwen Stefani’s old Harajuku Girls. In 2005, Gwen Stefani hired four Asian girls to follow her around in matching outfits for a series of music displays. Comedian Margaret Cho said it best: to be blunt, it’s a minstrel show. She’s collected a group of Asian girls, dressed identically, who background dance behind her without expression. This is what probably makes the video so strongly offensive. Using Asian girls are decorations, accessories, or props is dehumanizing. It’s funny (and by funny, I mean funny painful, not funny haha) that Asians make great background props in everything from Tokyo Drift to Avatar: The Last Airbender but never make main character in their own stories, like 21.

It’s no surprise that the video was met by immediate backlash from Asians and non-Asians alike. Avril further makes an ass of herself on Twitter, responding to the comments with the following:

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Thanks, Avril. Such a sensitive response makes us feel so much better.

She continues that she shot the video in Japan, with Japanese cast and directors, for her Japanese fans. The Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., reports that Avril “had only good intentions when making the video.” The spokesman added … they “would be happy if the discussions surrounding her song and music video results in more people discovering the beautiful and rich culture of Japan.”

That’s understandable; a lot of artists tailor work specifically for one audience or another, and Japan is always interested in encouraging tourism. However, the way this is taken in Japan by Japanese fans is a wholly different view than it is by her other fans abroad. This video is not being consumed in a bubble. Besides her Japanese fans, she has her American fans of many races and other multi-racial audiences around the world. How would it feel to be an Asian-American watching this video, as a white woman simplifies Japanese culture down to thigh highs and tutus with silent Asian girls as dolls?

Here’s another way she could have shot this video (despite the fact that the subject matter and lyrics are pretty flat… apparently it was written by her Nickelback hubby, Chad Kroeger) She could have collaborated with a Japanese artist, for example, to give a little more weight and autonomy to the Japan connection. She could have featured other assets of Japanese culture besides the tiny slice of pop culture that continues to misrepresent Japan to the West as more than the “wacky Japan” tropes. Why not showcase Kyoto, or Okinawa, the deer park in Nara, or Tokyo Tower? Maybe celebrate hot springs or summer festivals in yukata?

From a fashion point of view, the video also fails pretty horrible. Her pink petticoat-tutu hybrid looks like it’s from an American discount toy store, with safety pinned non-descript cupcakes, paired with a Hot Topic corset she rescued from the early 2000s. The only fashion inspiration I liked were her vintage mint glasses – check Etsy if you’re interested in finding similar styles.

Between the blatant racism, tired trope of ‘white girl discovers Harajuku, becomes instant expert’, boring lyrics and story-boarding, it gives the feel of nothing more than a Youtube pop project. In fact, it reminds me strongly of the amateur video song ‘I Love Chinese Food’ by Alison Gold. Only redeeming factor? There’s no creepy dude in a panda costume.

*one of my commenters mentioned that she may actually be saying ‘minna saiko’, not me no psycho, which translates to ‘you rock, everyone’. Credit goes to T.R.A. at Medium for clearing this up for me – another great article about the oppressiveness of the song here.

Yuu Kimura’s New Fashion Label Opens to Overseas

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Yuu Kimura, the baby-faced street fashion and fairy-kei Kawaii Ambassador, announced on her Facebook page the launch of her new fashion label KOKOkim. In the same vein as other pastel fairy-kei and street fashion styles as CANDY STRIPPER and Nile Perch, she’s created soft pastel gingham onepieces, straight-silhouetted and baby-doll cut dresses, tights and jackets. She states on her fanpage, “The concept of KOKOkim is MOEHARA”, which means moe (pronounced mo-eh, meaning an idealized young girl) and Harajuku, the cradle of modern Japanese street style, put together. Previously the label was only featured as collaboration with GLAD NEWS, but now announces its standalone brand. In an interview for Harajuku Press Online, Kimura said: “We want to dress lovely clothes coming out to the world of animated cartoon well not costume play only for special day smartly every day!”

Even more exciting for us pastel fashion enthusiasts overseas, this brand’s webshop is sponsored by the global service of Rakuten and bears a large Foreigner Buyers Welcome sticker! Prices are in Japanese Yen and roughly equivalent with Putumayo pricing. The average dress costs between 11,000 to 15,000 yen ($100 – $150 USD).

Shop here!

Photos: KOKOkim with the exception of AsianBeat‘s photograph

Marshmallow Girls

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Recently I ran across this Audrey Magazine article about the new Japanese trend of calling plus-size or overweight girls ‘marshmallow girls’. (I think it’s a really cute name… It makes me think of pastel marshmallows and marshmallows ropes and things I want to hug…!) For once, we got to see some bigger girls in cute fashion magazines, and I thought they looked adorable!

In the November 20 edition of the fashion magazine la farfa VOL. 4 (published by Bunka-sha), a magazine targeted a plus-size Japanese women, they introduced Goto Seina in a new feature called “marshmallow girl”. La Farfa is the first plus-size Japanese fashion magazine and recently threw the first plus-size Japanese fashion show with readers models. In her blog, Goto Seina said about the new nickname: “Of course there will be different opinions — people who say ‘you’re a pig’ or ‘you’re a fatty’, but for me, [marshmallow girl] makes me really happy”.

Particularly refreshing is the above cute image of Goto Seina wearing the same tiny shorts and thigh highs look that is popular for thin Japanese girls (Though… Puffy coats and tiny shorts still aren’t practical for winter, Tokyo… In New England we have this thing called snow, see.) I was pleased that they didn’t try to put her in something to ‘cover’, ‘flatter’, ‘minimize’, or other code words for hiding her shape.

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My Strange Addiction: Living Doll

Living Doll

The living doll phenomenon, girls and sometimes guys who aspire to look like ball jointed dolls or Barbies, has been popularized this past year through YouTube and news media around the world. Sometimes intertwined with anime or alternative Japanese fashions like gyaru or lolita, living dolls have captured media interest. On January 1st, 2014, TLC’s My Strange Addiction interviewed three self-claimed living dolls, of which two girls involved with lolita fashion took part.

I wasn’t sure if I could handle watching the show after seeing the clips and preview photos, but when I found myself with some time to spare and my boyfriend’s cable box last night, I took the plunge and watched the hour-long special. (I also had fun live-tweeting the experience – it felt like I was watching alongside all my Facebook and Twitter friends!)

I will not really be covering Justin, the Ken Doll lookalike in this article, as he isn’t involved in alternative fashion. I fully support however he wants to look with plastic surgery so long as he’s not risking his health, and I thought he looked kind of cute.

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The Venus segment went much as I expected; there was no new information in watching her many attempts to turn her YouTube success into a real dollars-making business. The episode shows Venus practicing Japanese from a guide book, making typical “kawaii” sounds in the mirror, and signing a couple autographs at a local shopping center. Her elusively-seen stage mom makes an appearance, showing off her white lady dreads styled into a bun covered with bows and in a matching Bodyline baby blue onepiece. The segment finished with some details and footage of Venus’ trip to Japan, which we now know is part of the infamous Mr. Yan “Venus Fall in Dream” scandal. (For more on this topic, there is a round up article here.) While they did not mention Bodyline by name, there is currently a legal debate about the footage she took in Japan and may open up a whole other issue for TLC, but that’s not really applicable to my review.

Watch the full episode of My Strange Addiction: Living Doll here! 

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