Kicking the Fructose: Old School Sweet

Has too much sweet been giving you a toothache? Do you think if you see one more candy-bunny-sugar-bow-laden creation you’ll decide to live in the woods? Maybe you’re suffering from the effects of sweet overdose – a new phenomenon. Sweet lolita has evolved over the years, and is actually descended from a more refined, but still pastel and romantic style. As shown by F*** Yeah Lolita’s recent Old School series, sweet lolita used to be a highly different creature, almost what we would call classic today. As sweet has begun to bleed into today’s more modern genres like decora and fairy-kei, there has been some nostalgic longing for the style of days gone by. When I first started dressing lolita, prints weren’t nearly as big. Baby the Stars Shine Bright dominated the scene with pink houndstooth and solid ice cream colors, looking more like an elegant neopolitan than a bag of gummy bears. Many of the resources available at the time were backlogs of older lolita magazines, like the ones on Avant Gauche. But today, Angelic Pretty (and its subsequent Sugary-Carnival-Sweet Jam-Cherry-Berry-Bunny fest) reaches an increasingly wider market, and the decololi phase means that more is more. But the softer, older style is still appealing for those who can’t take the fructose rush anymore. If you want to try this retro-sugar look for your style, here’s how to do it.

The main difference in the styles are color schemes and adornment, both in the accessories and in the dress themselves. The older lines were simpler, with generally less ruffles and bows all around – and certainly not the bows-upon-bows theme we see carried out in Angelic Pretty’s latest collections. The colors were still pastel, but with a lower saturation. Pinks were also given a peachier hue, and blue was a truer powder than it was an aqua. Sweet favored more bordeaux and cherry red; sage also made an appearance at spring.

Some brands are still producing old-school sweet for the diehards; Baby the Stars Shine Bright routinely has items that fit the bill. If you honestly can’t find what you’re looking for there, try trolling the Japanese auction sites for older lines of Angelic Pretty, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and Metamorphose (which used to be considered a sweet staple, and has now been more switched to the area of punk and avant-garde). Use the magazine scans of Avant Gauche for reference if you’re not sure. Some traits defining an older sweet style item are:

  • solids and florals, or ‘solid’ patterns like tartan or dots
  • cluny lace
  • heavier use of cream instead of pure white
  • low ornamentation (no excessive pearls, rhinestones, etc)
  • colors in an item are typically listed to two or three at the most – older lolita were taught that a good coordinate matched their blouse, shoes, and socks to the lace color of the dress.
  • For accessories, focus on the traditional rectangular headdress and smaller bows – the head-eating bow wasn’t as prevalent at this time. Soft bonnets were also popular, in half, full or 3/4 coverage. Often these hair pieces were worn with ribbon ties, mostly under the chin.
  • Socks tended towards solids or simple designs, and popular shoes included platforms and rocking horse shoes (once it seemed like every lolita had a pair; now I think it’s safe to say that it seems like every lolita owns a pair of tea parties!). A thick sole with a wide bottom both balances the fullness of the skirt and also makes the lolita herself look more delicate, increasing the dollish image.
  • Also popular but now rather obscure is the lace wrist cuff or ‘wristies’ – gathered lace worn as bracelets. There is some debate on how to wear these, but personally I prefer to wear them lace facing towards the fingers, as shown on the models. However, wear them in whatever way is most comfortable to you.
  • There are some items that are long-running, accessory wise – I have no idea how long Baby the Stars Shine Bright has been carrying their heart-shaped purse, for example, so it would make a perfect edition to an old school sweet coordinate.
  • There were also a few hair styles in vogue at the time – namely, the sausage-curled pigtail and the hime-cut with thick, straightened side bangs. Usually hair was a natural color (no pink!) and without added rats or too much teasing, although long extensions were sometimes seen.
  • Makeup was more natural with less color applied (even so far as using a lighter shade of foundation), and lips were supposed to look glassy rather than glittery.

Though we often admit that lolita is a childish look, even the sweet style once had more refinement than a child – clearly a young woman dressing as something from a different place. Today’s style is adorable, and has its place – I encourage the fashion and everyone’s personal fashion to evolve – but the older sweet was also stunningly beautiful. To lose it amid the trends would be a shame. Show your support (and your lolita history knowledge!) by adding a little more fairytale and a little less Splenda to your wardrobe!

Have fun kicking the fructose – and kicking it old school! ;D

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  • Jaime

    I love that picture, and I really love older lolita styles. I'm still into white-on-black ^_^;

  • Violet LeBeaux

    This post was such a lovely walk down memory lane! I miss old school sweets :( I love the new fashions but I think that old style sweets are just classic. I really do miss the days when sweets were about one or two colours and matching lace. And I remember the inundation of posts about RH shoes EGL XD

  • Victoria Suzanne

    @Violet: Ahaha, the endless debate of wood vs. foam RHs! Still one of my dreams on what I think lolitas are :)

    @Jaime: I love to see white-on-black done old school, so elegant and classic!

  • Caro-chan

    Awesome post! You beat me to it, I had been meaning to finish up the Old School series with posts on Gothic and Sweet but I've been lazy XD I'll never give up the hime-cut! I honestly don't know what to do with my hair without it.

  • Victoria Suzanne

    @caro-chan: I've had the old-style hime cut for a long time & love it (until my hairdresser slipped and it vanished!) You should do Gothic, though! I know nothing about it, and they'd make a good pair of articles :D

  • candiesandlaces (Valentine)

    This is much more my style than the koterori I keep seeing. I've been tired of overly sweet lolita for a while now, to the point that I stopped looking through decora and spank! pictures as much.

    I do think you can use the most recent and over-the-top prints in this way, though – you just don't coordinate with a gazillion accessories and hairclips and keep the color scheme simple.

    For example, if your AP skirt or jumper is pink with a blue/pink/lavender/white print, just wear white socks, a white blouse, pink shoes and headdress/tiny bows/smaller alice bow few theme and color-coordinated accessories. You know, instead of wearing matching printed socks and head-eating bow, a blue blouse, a pink cardigan with a lavender bow, three hundred bead necklaces with sweets, 3 big rings on each hand and 15 little bows and hearts on your hair to "compliment" the head-eating bow.

    What do you think? It's sweet, but not too much. It's not exactly the same retro-vibe, but if you use the new prints the old way, it might work??

  • Victoria Suzanne

    @candiesandlaces: I like the idea of using a crazy-print piece more simply! I'd like to see it; more refreshing, clean lines to better show off the print.

    also, I haven't heard the term koterori – which is that?

  • candiesandlaces (Valentine)

    Koterori is a term I picked up from those"A Lesson in Lolita" in maruione. Let me find the quote:

    "Now for the other group I mentioned earlier. For those who are slightly put off by the extreme and spectacular look of Kote-lolis (Lolitas who radically adhere to the "ama-loli" or sweet Lolita style) and want to start with something a bit more simple, a skirt is probably the best solution."

    It's here!

    Here's me wearing a super-sweet skirt in a simple coordinate:

    [I'm in the middle]

    Also, I know it's not a print dress, but I tried to wear this in a sweet but not insanely sweet way last month:

  • Victoria Suzanne

    It's so interesting that they make a distinction!

    and may I say that your coordinates are a great example, absolutely gorgeous!

  • Musouka_Ningyou

    I have been in love with old-school sweet for a while. I love realy OTT sweet, but I honestly can't pull it off, so I've been working more towards an old-school sweet style instead.

    I'm glad to see I'm not the only one!

  • Victoria Suzanne

    @Musouka_Ningyou: I love both but sometimes OTT is hard to pull off, definitely – and requires a lot lot of extra accessories and effort! (not really for daily wear @_@)

  • Jessica

    awesome post! I love the over the top sweet styles that are seen nowdays but it's interesting learning about what lolitas wore in the begining.