I just got back from Connecticon (my second year in a row!) and of course, it was the usual con affair. I saw, in no particular order: a crossdressing Sailor Moon with a beard, a guy in a long black jacket who insisted on a hug, a girl dressed as a sexy pikachu, and then I ended up hanging out with a crewful of steampunk pirates. Not to mention the usual cat-eared, tailed, or fairy-winged visitors, all sipping lattes in the hotel lobby and camped on the carpeting floor of the exhibition hall. In the sea of it all you can spot a few rufflebutts, petticoats spread across several seats, looking somewhere between at home and worlds away.
Lolitas at conventions can go one of two ways. The first is that they’ve been congoers, or interested in con topics, for quite a while – that might even be how they got into it in the first place. Or perhaps they’ve never had an interest in the conventions and are just going to soak up or bring the few lolita events that will be present. In some cases there is even a division or a dislike from the lolitas directed at the otaku visitors. Even I can sometimes be seen cringing at a poorly done cosplay, or being hit on by yet another furry (?!) But in this last con, I was more involved with the con itself and the people working it, and from this I’ve learned a few things.
- Keep an open mind about anyone you meet. If you’re instantly turned off by and outfit or a fandom, you might miss out on making a good friend. Even the most unusual people at conventions, I think, have a great deal of courage. They have probably designed and made, or bought, their own outfits specially, and are sometimes in character. That takes as much guts as it does to wear lolita! I’m proud of anyone I see dressing out of the ordinary. They took a chance and I think that’s commendable.
- Accept compliments gracefully. Many people may comment on your clothes, most likely nicely (as this is an atmosphere sponsoring other people aquainted with Japanese pop culture). If this is the case, just say thank you. Nothing else need be done!
- Give compliments often! If you see someone whose outfit is especially beautiful, or from your favorite anime, don’t be afraid to say hello or mention that you love seeing their outfit. I was lucky enough to witness a Princess Tutu cosplay and several other beautiful characters I didn’t even recognize. Every little compliment like that makes that person light up inside and be happy they decided to dress up. And isn’t that something we want to support, as people who know the power of a well-placed compliment?
- Don’t be afraid to cross over with other genres of people. Even if you think you have nothing in common with a group of people swapping Pokemon cards, you never know! If anyone is friendly to you, return the favor.
- Realize you’re the minority. There are not nearly as many lolitas at the convention as there will be cosplayers or general anime lovers, so now is the time to realize you’re mostly in somebody else’s sandbox. So please be respectful of them. They came to enjoy what is mostly their hobby, and the con has probably been made possible by similar people.
- Be encouraging and respectful to any new lolitas you meet. A lot of girls get their start from a few bad outfits worn to cons, and that’s perfectly fine. They could blossom into beautiful lolitas in time, maybe even with a helping hand from you! Even girls who are considered ‘doing it wrong’ can shape up, or perhaps they have something to contribute besides their clothes! (I know, gasp!)
- Don’t start drama on site if at all possible. Real life drama is a pain for anyone around you. Even if you’re not on good terms with so-and-so, or she’s wearing something awful, keep it to yourself. If you really need to vent, talk to friends later in private or write it out in a personal journal. Making drama is messy and looks trashy, which are not things we want lolita to be associated with! Besides, wouldn’t you rather have fun instead of worrying about who said what? Keep that negativity far away from you!
- Even if you’re just there for the lolita events, see if there is anything else that interests you. The best way to go to a con is to get involved! Is there another subculture or genre that you’re interested in? Would you like to see a panel discussing magical girls, or see Mario and Luigi perform a duet? The more you get involved, the happier you’ll be with the outcome of your experience.
- You are allowed personal space. If someone is too pushy or tries to hug you without your permission, you are allowed to tell them to stop. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your personal rights. Just because you’re dressed cutely does not make you a novelty for them to enjoy. I’ve seen people ‘glomp’ their favorite character without any respect for the person in the costume, which is pretty terrible. However, I was approached by the previously said guy in long black coat, who politely asked for a hug, and though bewildered, rewarded his courtesy with the hug.
- Treat service people well. Staying at a convention can get messy and include wet towels, banana peels, late-night runs to Dunkin’ Donuts, and an endless supply of fliers and receipts. Take care of your things as well as you can, like picking up after yourself. Be polite to any servers or hotel personnel, and remember to tip your maid and bellboy. For convention tipping help, click here.
- Bring calling cards or business cards! The people you’ve connected with will probably want to keep up with you online. Lolita calling cards are popular right now (yes, I have some! I’ll have to write about those, too!) and serve a useful function. The bare minimum you should include is your name or handle, at least one place they can find you on the internet, and perhaps a tagline about yourself, for example, ‘Jane Doe, lover and sewer of lolita fashion, janedoeslivejournal.com’. Some good places for people to follow you are Livejournal, Twitter, an email, a Facebook or Myspace page, or if you sell anything, an etsy profile or web page.
In contrast to the typical con atmosphere, I’ll be at InnoSera next weekend, which is entirely populated by lolitas and doll-owners, so it will be interesting to see what that is like! Tomorrow I’m flying out to Seattle, so expect more soon!
I’d also just like to add that the Connecticon Fashion Show was a wonderful success and there will be photos along soon. I was dressed in supremely dark Gothic lolita and loved it! Plus, the last shoot for the documentary, LoliGirls, was wrapped up – ready to premiere in September!