Open Letter: A Slice of Dream

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It’s cherry blossom season. For weeks I have avidly been watching the sakura tenkyou, the forecast of blooms, waiting for that single weekend that signifies the beginning of life again. The pink clouds that mark the earth like lace. It’s been a hard winter, but it finally feels like we have made it to the other side.

It hasn’t been easy to keep up with updates on my Hello Kidney fanpage. I’m not sure what to say, when I have no sunny, upbeat news to report. Most of my struggle in the past two years has been silent. Even when I’m out with my friends, I’ve tried my best to hide my pain. I’m from old New England stock. We are stiff-upper-lip types.

The only person who really knows what I deal with on a daily basis is my boyfriend, Paul. They say love is made up of 50% vulnerability and 50% authenticity, and in this recipe, there is nowhere to hide. He has seen every muscle spasm, every struggled step, and every bad day. He has half-carried me up the stairs and been my support when I am too stubborn to give up. He has slept in a chair with me in the hospital during a blizzard and stayed awake when I couldn’t any longer. He has gotten me medicine when I wake up in the night, crying with pain. Every day he amazes me with his strength and loyalty and unwavering faith.

He’s my hero. And now, he’s going to be my kidney donor.

Fate is a funny thing. It takes so many coincidences to get two people to occupy the same space after they were born and raised worlds apart, that you start to wonder if coincidences even exist. I met Paul eight months ago. To be sappy and blunt, it really was love at first sight. It’s like a little voice said to me, “OH, there you are” and I could really breathe for the first time.

In the following months, my health slowly began to decline. My heart was a strong as ever, but the things we used to love to do together – aquariums, parks, city walks – became harder and harder. There were more and more sick days, long weekends on the couch watching movies. And then, right before Christmas, Paul told me he had the donor form all filled out.

I was amazed he would even volunteer. It takes a lot of guts and love to even offer. We both tried not to get our hopes up as the system slowly unfolded its bureaucratic machine of testing and insurance and paperwork. Meanwhile, I was slowly fading. With each passing day new pain arose. I surrendered more and more things to my disease. High heels, for example. Cheese, for another. Meetups with friends.

Then, after many hospital visits and false starts and “not promising anything”s, we got something concrete. Paul is a match. And we have a date to share an operating room – April 28th.

I still have further procedures to undergo to prep my body for accepting the transplant, including other minor surgeries and transfusions. My first surgery is April 21st and my treatments begin the following Monday. On that Thursday, God willing, they will very carefully take one of Paul’s healthy kidneys and connect it to my veins and arteries.

The cherry blossoms have struggled this year against the sudden onslaught of cold snow. We did, too, with each pitfall and obstacle. The dream we wanted so badly – the ordinary life of parking tickets, grocery store runs, and studio apartments – was so far out of reach. We kept praying and hoping. There is no magic bullet. I will always be disabled. It may be we have only bought a slice of our dream. 

But for now, we have this chance. We’ve always had to believe we were the exception to the odds.

This is the truth.

Fairytales do happen.

We’d also like to thank everyone who has supported us during this hard time, and everyone who volunteered to get tested or submitted crossmatch samples. We wouldn’t be here today without everyone’s prayers and wishes, and we appreciate every last one. There is no such thing as a wasted prayer, and I know we have felt each tiny ray of light from every good thought. We especially appreciate our friends, who have supported us as a family would.

Please continue to wish us well on April 28th! I or a family member will let everyone know when we are both safely on the other side. And yes, for those of you playing at home, the family joke is that I will now be 5% Korean ;D

Love always,

Victoria Suzanne & Paul

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Outfit of the Day: Hummingmint Goes Lolita

Deer me! It’s time for another weekly blog update. I posted a few teasers of this outfit already on my Instagram @victoriasuzanne – it even got picked up by Gothic Lolita Wigs for a repost due to featuring their pretty Classic Wavy mint wig!

After styling a cute casual princess look based around Sanrio’s Hummingmint character for Sanrio.com, I got inspired by the little deer. Florals and mint and roses are perfect for chasing away all this winter. With springtime coming, I thought bringing a lolita version of Hummingmint to life would be an adorable sweet lolita look.

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I’m not sure my spring-invoking method worked, though, cause we got hit with a fresh round of snow early that morning.

Dress: Metamorphose Tempes De Fille; boots, coat, DreamV; cardigan, eBay; necktie, Pinkly Ever After; hairband, Forever21; Hummingmint accessories by Sanrio

Outfit of the Day: Easter Bunday

Sweet lolita has its moments of pure cotton-candy-land fairytale – the bright, loud looks that just inspire sugary daydreams. This dress, Angelic Pretty’s Happy Garden print, is one of the latter – a strawberry lemonade pink sky showing a field of rainbow Easter bunnies in bright green clover. It’s perfect if you’re planning on hanging out with your local mall Easter bunny. I paired mine with a mint spiral wig and some tall pink bunny ears. I love the opportunity to go all-out with full on fantasy style coordinates.  resize1

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Blouse, badge: Kokokim; Jumperskirt, rabbit head pass case: Angelic Pretty; socks, shoes, bow: offbrand

I’ve been wearing these heart-strap shoes for a while now and love how delicate and dainty they look, but I also love that they are so comfortable! Lolita shoes can really be a struggle depending on your foot needs and the style you want – I prefer something a little less bubble-toed than the average style. These would be another great addition to my collection!

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For me, no outfit shot seems to be complete without a tasty food review! Hey, sweet lolitas gotta sweet, right? The Flour Garden Bakery in Connecticut had an amazing display of beautiful traditional Easter sweets, everything from cupcakes to sugar cookies and Easter egg cakes. I got a platter of assorted cookies to take to my family’s holiday dinner, and a little treat for the photographer and myself – mini caramel cheesecake and buttercream bunny cupcakes.

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That pink sugar bunny and malted pearl totally got to my heart! What’s your favorite springtime dessert? I am so sad I missed the cherry blossom frappuccino at Starbucks – anyone got a copycat recipe?

 

Teatime with Marie: Angelic Pretty x Disney

I have always been a Disney girl since I was small (wasn’t everyone when they were little?), but it’s something that has only blossomed with age. The cute characters and movies I loved as a kid, I appreciate more now for their stunning watercolored backgrounds and concept art sketches. Here in America, Disney princess products are still relegated to kids’ toothbrushes and backpacks, but in Japan, the niche market of Disney adult fans creates delicate, feminine merch. No velcro sneakers here – think gilded wallets or charm bracelets honoring Belle, Rapunzel, and Ariel. Check the Disney Japan webshop if you want to drool along with me!

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My biggest obsession is that my favorite lolita brand, Angelic Pretty, has teamed up with Disney to create several beautiful lolita dresses. At this last International Lolita Day, I wore my first Disney x Angelic Pretty piece, which features soft renditions of Disney princesses in snowglobes, topped with a huge lavender bow.

This latest release is themed around everyone’s favorite princessy white kitten from the 70s’ film The Aristocats. Marie lives a pampered French life set in the Victorian period, and this dress shows her favorite things in the pattern like roses, hair combs, butterflies and perfume bottles.

I decided to put together a cute and fluffy coordinate for Marie’s new onepiece. The outer layer shows off her white fur, with a soft pink wig and silky bows set against sweets-themed Triple Fortune cat ears. And then, naturally, we went out to tea.

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If you’re looking for a quaint neighborhood to explore in western Connecticut, consider an afternoon in downtown Seymour. Only a couple blocks wide and easily walkable, the town has a collection of consignment and antique shops framed by a tea parlor (Tea with Tracy) on one side and a cupcakery (Wildflour Cupcakes) on the other. We went to both!

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While Tea with Tracy certainly has the cutest decor and a very large tea menu, we found the actual food items to be small and pricey. I’d loved to revamp their idea of cucumber with mint cream cheese into a heartier black-and-white sandwich stuffed with sprouts, and their butternut squash soup was sadly a bit one-note. I always add curry to mine! Though my photographer will attest that the toasted marshmallow hot cocoa really did taste like toasted marshmallow, at least in a sort of Jelly-Belly flavored way.

As for Wildflour confections, we picked up a box of take-home cupcakes from their selection, sporting everything from juicy maraschino cherries to sparkly Easter peeps. The only downside is, I wasn’t fast enough to eat any myself – the family got to them first! Still, they had an adorable interior if you wanted a cozy place to meet up with friends or dare I say, take a few photos… (If it was possible to hide a couch in your purse, trust me, I totally would have.)

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Where are your favorite places to have tea in your neighborhood? Is there some secret recipe to make a great teahouse? Out of all the ones I’ve tried so far, I’m still on the hunt!

Walrus + Carpenter Meets Alice

Today I celebrated six months with my boyfriend, so we hit up one of our favorite smokehouse gastropubs along the Connecticut shoreline. Lately food and cooking has become one of my new hobbies, and I hope to add cute cooking, kawaii domestic life and even foodie reviews to Parfait Doll to share more of my life with you, my readers! (Anyone else obsessed with pink cookware, for example?)

There is everything down-home about this restaurant, named the Walrus + Carpenter after a reference to the classic Alice in Wonderland. While there is a homage to the literary oysters on the menu, there’s a much bigger slant towards smoked and pulled pork, brisket, fried chicken and mac and cheese. And they do brunch. We are so there.

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Honey-sriracha caramel on fried chicken and waffles that slowly candied on my plate, paired with some fresh bitter greens and in the background, baked mac and cheese robed in a crunchy bread crumb top. If only every breakfast could look this good.

On this breezy day hoping vainly for spring, I wore this pink Liz Lisa outfit. Even in the grayness of late winter, I love showing off my happily pink-again rosy hair courtesy of Overtone – my new go-to for fantasy hair color care, which I’ll be reviewing soon.

The key point to this outfit is the printed stockings and mini (my mini-est of minis) skirt. The tights are only printed to look like thigh highs – no sagging here. The bottoms are white and tops are nylon toned to keep with that cutesy anime girl illusion. Wearing a teeny skirt (with small modesty bloomers, of course) emphasizes the line between the white stockings and the lace hem. Layers on top add fluffy warmth.

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And of course, no date would be complete without an appearance from the leading man. To my very patient Instagram photographer and loving boyfriend, cheers to six months!

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Happy Galentine’s, You Noble Land Mermaids

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After Halloween, I’d have to say my next top holiday is Valentine’s Day. Whether single, attached, or otherwise engaged, how can you not be on board about a holiday with hearts, chocolate, and the worship of pink? This is actually the first year I’ll be in a real, honest-to-goodness relationship and for me it feels like I am waiting on Christmas! I’m so excited to share my lovey-dovey feelings with everyone around me. I just have a lot of feelings, you guys.

I got the chance to kick off V-Day season a little early when I was invited to my friend’s lovely Galentine’s meetup at Rose House in Flushing, Queens. Flushing is a NYC borough known for its strong Korean and Chinese presence, so cute things like this sweet teahouse abound. An easy trip on the 7 subway can suddenly drop you in a mini-Asia of Rilakkuma stationary and milk tea. (Anyone interested in the kawaii lover’s guide to Flushing? Let me know!) Rose House, a Chinese interpretation of an afternoon tea that look straight out of your favorite drama, is a beautiful restaurant themed with red roses and plush couches. Tea looked something like this:

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After everyone had had their fill of way too much sugar, we played a little Victorianesque party game. Each girl had brought a flower, and we all tried to guess their names and meanings in Victorian flower language. Back in the Victorian period, every bouquet could be endowed with secret meanings – think Snapchat gone horticulture.

The food was stunning as usual. There was a selection of fat Belgian waffles, both sweet and savory; hot and iced teas all featuring rose petals; and crisp croissants with meat filling. The menus alone were overwhelmingly works of art. If you’re ever in the area, I definitely recommend them for a simple teatime or lunch.

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Here’s a few of my favorite fashion shots from the tea! I love to see how everyone interpreted the theme (Valentine’s roses) differently – whether that was around dark red roses or soft pink blossoms. Thanks everyone for coming out, and thank you to Crystal for hosting such a lovely girls’ day out!

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Tokyo Otaku Mode Liz Lisa Review!

Liz Lisa Lucky Pack

It’s been a long time since I had that January rush of lucky pack season. When I first started wearing jfashion, lucky packs, or the as the Japanese say, ‘fukubukuro’, were the hot item to build a starter wardrobe and start girls prepping their Christmas grandma money every late holiday season. They’re still a big deal in Japan – especially if you can swing your vacation days to be there in person, lining up in the Tokyo cold to get giant discounted suitcases from your favorite design houses.

My first lucky pack was from Angelic Pretty, but as my style has grown I locked my eyes on my other favorite fashion darling, Liz Lisa. Typically when I purchase from Liz Lisa I buy secondhand from friends or on eBay. This was my first time shopping with Tokyo Otaku Mode, a middleman retailer like a giant Japanime online mall. They host a number of fashion brands I like, including Milklim and Swankiss, not to mention more figurines and kigurumi than you can swipe your mom’s credit card at.

In general, a great shopping experience: easy to understand and use English website, no extra fees, free shipping, and even a 10% off coupon that will probably convince me to come back post-holiday season.

Liz Lisa Lucky Pack

For $150, my lucky pack featured a large zipper-style purse with pink grosgrain ribbon (which, I must tell you, I have used every day since); an ice-grey tulle skirt; a white cowl sweater with scalloped edges; and a soft double-breasted camel coat. All together they make a complete outfit, but they also work to flesh out the rest of my wardrobe’s skirts and sweaters for an easy casual winter coordinate.

There’s also a new Bobon21 lucky pack on the site I’m eyeing – isn’t this a cute set? Everything you need to dress sweetly on a snowy day!

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Why I Don’t Miss EGL

why don't I miss egl?Wow, what a blast from the past is was reading Dresses and Devilment’s look-back on the once great Livejournal lolita fashion community EGL! Founded over a decade ago and the strong hub for many lolitas of my “generation” (the era of 2006 or so, when I got into the scene), this simple community was the backdrop of lolita interaction. While I loved reminiscing about the old site, I have to say, I don’t miss it. There’s a new style to communicating about the fashion online, and I think it’s got its pros!

Everyone’s Got Original Content

Before, when EGL was king, a lot of lolitas relied on a few big contributors to create new content. Guides, outfit posts, and events were all run by a small group who enjoyed putting together new resources for the community. Now with the flush of social media, there are more outfit shots and easy ways to share and selfie than ever. Scroll through the #eglcommunity tag on Instagram – girls everywhere are stepping up to show their stuff. Lengthy Livejournal posts with cumbersome tags and HTML are a thing of the past – showcase your dress unboxing or meetup in real time with tons of social media platforms. Instant sharing at meetups and events makes lolita a real-time experience even if you’re stuck at home.

Make Your Own Sandbox

If EGL had its rules and theme set, the new social media world of fashion is the opposite. Anything goes when it’s your own platform. Feel free to jumble up all your interests and different fashion styles into whatever mix you’d like. Tumblr can help you currate together your outfit ideas and inspirations as well as your favorite looks from others. New social media is more personal and less rigid than a fixed community. I remember when I started my blog, that was one of the appeals – I could make it my own space! My Pinterest fashion board is an easy way to organize my favorite inspirational photos, no categories required.

Real Time Chat – No Problem

Pages and pages of long, forum style comments were the preferred style of EGL. With multiple interfaces now like Facebook, instant messenger, Lacebook, Instagram, and Pinterest we have so many more ways to communicate. If you’re a lolita granny like me, do you remember refreshing the page for comments?! Oh, the minutes of my life lost to that F5 key when trying to follow a discussion on EGL. Now we can even host digital tea parties or event planning meetings over Skype, or have massive group chats.

Safer Shopping

Livejournal never really meant to work as a place to exchange goods and money, but we shoehorned it in there anyway. Facebook is still pretty clunky at sales, perhaps, but Lace Market, eBay, Etsy and Storenvy all make up for that.

Missing Memories

I used to love poring over the EGL Memories when I first started doing my lolita research. They seemed full of great information, especially the Lolita Handbook that practically raised me. Now a lot of the memories have fallen out of date, are a mass of broken and tangled links, and broken images – the saddest part, since they were once illustrated by EGL mod carnet_atelier’s adorable chibi themed artwork to teach the different lolita substyles and clothing items. I remember reading them as a beginner like they were all I would ever need to know in life, in awe of the girls with enough experience to write them.

 

The lolita web community is truly an amazing beast. When I think back on what we’ve come from – the simple forums and boards, the baby-faced Internet that lolita fashion has grown up alongside – I’m truly amazed. This fashion, despite being physical lace and threads, has always translated into tech to unite us from its inception. Sharing street snaps and tutorials and advice has kept us interlinked around the world. Now we can peek into the lives of lolitas around the world in real time, from Singapore to South America, from my own streets of New York City and into the rolling fields of Ukraine or Poland. Even better, as technology becomes easier to use and more enmeshed in our daily lives, we can all create content as easily as a few swipes. I can’t wait to see lolita fashion continue to evolve alongside its technology.

What’s your favorite way to share your lolita style online? Are you constantly mobile or still loving the desktop console?

Victoria Suzanne’s Modeling Crash Course

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If you are reading this article, chances are you are about to walk a runway, whether it’s at a huge anime convention or at a charity ball, in a fashion parade or an open-air festival. If you are nervous, not sure where to start, or wondering what you have gotten yourself into, worry not: this guide has got your back.

This year is my TENTH YEAR wearing lolita fashion! (Oh god, am I the crypt keeper yet?!) Of those ten years, I think I have been doing lolita fashion shows for about seven of them, and I have learned a lot about runway walking along the way.

One of my friends contacted me recently asking what advice I would give for first-time models getting ready to walk that weekend. She had some beautiful, lovely girls, but no experience! “How do I whip these girls into shape?” she wanted to know. “What would you tell first-time models who are about to walk?”

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The Night Before: Eat Pretty

Hydrate! Drink plenty of water the night before and morning of. This will flush your system and keep you from retaining fluid, give your skin elasticity and glow, and just make you feel better. I recommend a bottle of water before bed and upon waking up. Tea is okay in moderation, but remember it is a diuretic! Keep water with you throughout the day and make sure to pee frequently.

Sleep. Seriously, if you are at an anime convention especially, or you know you have an early makeup call, go to bed. If you need to, set an alarm to start getting ready and doing your night routine. Setting alarms in my phone reminding me to wash my face and moisturize are the only way I can avoid staying up on my phone or reading. A sheet mask or night cream can be a relaxing way to switch to sleep mode and take care of your skin for the following day.

No booze. Again mostly if you’re at anime conventions, there could be a lot of partying going on the night before you model. I personally won’t drink at all until AFTER a fashion show, but I suppose one glass to be social won’t kill you. Just remember that it will dry you out and you’ll need to double hydrate. It can also mess with your beauty sleep. Nobody wants you hungover for makeup call, either.

Cut the salt. Salty foods will also defeat the purpose of hydrating – you’ll retain water, which will make you juicy when you want to be lean. Processed food and convenience food is a big cuplrit, but also be careful if you like Asian food (ramen, my favorite!) or salty fish or sushi. Junk food is a given, as well.

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So what SHOULD you eat? I recommend eating something light and protein-rich the night before or the morning of with low sodium. You want to be full, but not bloated. You know your body best, so if you’re lactose intolerant for example, skip the dairy. Otherwise, I’d suggest a mix of healthy fats like avocados, an easy protein like eggs or tuna, and some bulking greens or rice. If you can make your own food, I’d suggest some kind of eggs or avocado toast, or bring a bento of vegetables and onigiri (I made sweet potato and avocado onigiri the other day for a dinner side – easy and healthy, recipe here). Sweet potatoes are also a great way to build low-calorie Vitamin E in your skin. You can microwave them in specialty cloth bags in your hotel room and eat them with a spoon with some salt and pepper, or cinnamon sugar.

If you have allergies, tell someone. Your fashion show coordinator should know to ask this in case you are provided with food, but in case they’re not, mention not only allergies but any dietary restrictions. If you have issues with gluten or are a vegetarian, it might just be easiest to pack your own food. If you are traveling for the show, you can stop at a local market to keep fresh food in your hotel room or bring your own cooking from home. Don’t get stuck with a wheat allergy looking at a box of granola bars!

Keep reading to move onto the big event – the day of the fashion show!

Read the rest of this entry »

A Tribute to Takamasa Sakurai

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It’s been several weeks now since the news aired that the lolita and j-pop culture world has lost one of its heroes, but I’m still struggling to process it. Takamasa Sakurai died unexpectedly this past December. Besides writing several pop culture books and founding the Kawaii Ambassador program with the Japanese Ministry of Culture, Takamasa Sakurai traveled the globe speaking on lolita fashion and Japanese pop culture. He described himself to me once as a “cute otaku”, a lover of all things cute and the cute girls who create them, and I can think of no better definition for him than this. His passion was to encourage cuteness and the happiness it gave to the people who wore and created it, in every style and in every corner of the world where it was found.

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I met him several times in my circuit around the lolita world of events, but most notably at one of his Otakon speaking engagements. He said he thought my style was cute, which of course got me starstruck hard. While I did meet Takamasa in person several times and chatted with him briefly online, I still consider his loss from two angles – the personal and the professional.

I’m not usually overly affected by celebrity death, like I’ve seen my friends be. For example, David Bowie’s recent passing from an eighteen month battle with pancreatic cancer has hit a lot of my generation hard, from the fans of Velvet Goldmine to the Labyrinth.  His fans may never have met him, but his work has so long been the voice and spirit in their ears that they feel his loss as strongly as a friend might. The song that got you through hard times, or the movie that made you laugh, the gift of their creations to to us, feels like a piece of them. An expression, a quote, from someone you never knew, can visit your dreams or change your life.

Takamasa feels like this for me. The loss of his contribution is like a light winking out. His joy at seeing girls create their own idea of what was beautiful was infectious. He was the ultimate cheerleader of j-fashion and youth pop culture. He was fascinated with watching us dream. If there ever was someone who clapped if they believed, it was Takamasa. We were all his Tinkerbells.

Takamasa Sakurai: thank you.

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image from Animedia

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