Doll Complex

“You look like a doll!”

I hear those words at least three times a day as I go about my life – on errands, to the hospital (where as you might gather I make frequent visits), at restaurants, and on the street. The general reaction of the public – at least, in my experience – is to associate my Lolita style with dolls. I consider it one of the highest compliments that can be bestowed on a Lolita. It means I have done my job right and pulled off the image, to look like a doll.

I’ve never thought anything of it, until my mother asked me: ‘Why do you want to look like a doll? That seems so counterintuitive to your personality and the emotions behind Lolita.’

So why do we want to look like dolls? What is it in the idea of dolls that we choose to emulate and idealize? The traits I associate with dolls range from light to dark. To compile a list of doll associations, I would say:

  • Dolls are perfect, especially physically. They don’t have a single hair out of place, or an eyelash unpainted.
  • Dolls are meant to be played with, like in the song Barbie Girl by Aqua. They are subject to the volatile needs of their owner – loved one day and then thrown down the next. This doesn’t seem to bother them.
  • Dolls do not do anything on their own, and have to be helped and manipulated.
  • Dolls are taken care of, assuming they are loved. I know Miko-chan is always taken care of – her hair styled, put into her pajamas for bed! :3
  • Dolls are representations of humans but are not actually human. They are not actually real or suffer from the realities humans do.
  • Dolls live in a fantasy world, which can be whatever they want it to be. Their lives are really very surreal and dreamlike – the taps and lights in a dollhouse don’t work, for example.

What I have gathered from this list is that dolls are reflections of us, both positive and negative. The positive things – or more positive than others – is that dolls live like the things we strive to be like. They’re physically beautiful, like works of art. Lolita is about turning yourself into a work of art as well. Every aspect must be carefully cultivated to create the full masterpiece – hair and nails and dress and accessories. The other way we emulate the dolls is their fantasy life. Perhaps we’re unsatisfied with modern society, because it seems like Lolitas turn to the fashion in a desire for something more beautiful and fairytale-like. Escapism is also part of the fact that dolls do not suffer from the same human tragedies or human interactions gone awry – or if they do, they do not feel pain.

But dolls are also powerless, whereas the Lolita is actually rebelling against a society she does not want a part in. The Lolitas gives herself power through juxtaposition. The Lolita is beautiful because she is placed in an ugly world. Photoshoots prove this point over and over: the Lolita is photographed against graffiti, or in dark castles or alleyways. When she is photographed against a like setting, such as a beautiful garden or pretty room, one is under the impression that this is her oasis, her world. Like a walled garden, it is her sanctuary carved out from a reality of city streets. The location is more an extension of her than it is two seperate things – almost as if she has colored herself into a drawing, or imagined the space. When she is photographed against her opposite, however, there is sense that she is a spot against the negativity. She’s out of place, and that makes her more beautiful.

So the Lolita both identifies with an is the opposite of a doll. In some ways, they are very much alike. In other ways, they are like insects pretending not to be poisonous. If they act powerless, all the better way to have power. Their power is to make an impact upon society, in almost flash-mob street performance kind of style. Although we dress for ourselves, we do make a mark upon society whenever we go out, whether we like it or not.

Do we dress like dolls – and love to be identified as such – because we hope the correlation is purely physical? Or is there more psychology behind the idea?

The mind and reason behind Lolita, I think, is a very deep treasure trove of a new generation of girls’ reactions and actions upon the world around them. In a culture that sometimes seems out of control and very far from anything fairytale, we have chosen to reverse gears – right back into this pink, glittery world we remember from being children. Even non-Lolitas seem to have a nostalgia for princesses and fairytales – for example, mainstream pop/country singers Taylor Swift {Love Story} and Carrie Underwood {Ever After}.

As a Lolita, I’m not even sure why we do these things. What emotional and psychological needs are driving us to follow this dream, to such lengths? Even if you say, this is only how I dress – other people don’t do this, do they? There is something in the Lolita that even she doesn’t understand, that connects to this part of her. Not everyone can be a Lolita. It’s not for the faint of heart or the dabbler. There has to be a real need, a real desire to fulfill this something. If I wanted to be dramatic, I could almost call it the Lolita gene – something chemical and genetic and programmed. There’s a secret that I’m trying to unearth in every Lolita. I hope you’ll be there with me to find the why part of yourself and your frills, too.

Author’s Note: The dolls in the image are part of a PullipxAngelic Pretty collaboration, available this August. I’m in love, aren’t they sweet?!

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  • Julia

    This is really interesting! I think that for me personally, Lolita is a control thing. I can’t make everything around me perfect and aesthetically pleasing, but I can strive to make myself look that way, and lolita is a great way to do that. Making myself look “like a doll” helps make my world look just the way I want it. Though I could be wrong XD

  • vorkbom

    I really liked this article. I love dressing like a doll, even though I hardly ever behave like one ^^ Or maybe because I hardly ever behave like one. I think everybody wants to be pretty and beautiful, lolita is just one of the many ways to achieve such a thing :)

  • Anonymous

    This is actually a really interesting article and I’d be very eager to see more discussion on it. Maybe you should post it up on egl?

  • huffie-puffie

    I really just want to look like a regular girl who takes care of her appearance and wears cute clothes, and while I wouldn't object to being compared to a doll I'm not aspiring to be doll-like. I don't look down on anyone who does think that way while dressing in lolita of course, I just wanted to say not every lolita wants to look like a doll. :)