But Being a Lolita is HARD!

Recently I have seen this term floating around the Internet: ‘closet lolitas’. I originally thought this meant, like the term for ‘closeted’ Pagans or homosexuals, that this was a reference to lolitas who wore and loved their lolita fashion while keeping it a secret from their friends, family, and significant others. While it sounded rather difficult (how do you hide a giant wardrobe of poofy technicolor dresses and $300 dress bills from your parents?!) I figured it must be possible, if people were using the term. Today I finally got it, from a few new comments and messages left on my Youtube videos: the term ‘closet lolita’ was being applied to girls who considered themselves to be lolita despite not dressing in, owning, or even ever having tried on the fashion. I can only assume then the ‘closet lolita’ just consumes media, mostly through the Internet (tumblr, Facebook, forums, blogs, etc.).

Now to clarify my stance – I believe a lolita is someone who has worn lolita clothing with a genuine attempt to follow the lolita style/anatomy/archetype (wearing a cheap lace monster to cosplay an anime character does not count; nor does donning a brand skirt with a t-shirt, converse, and no lolita hair/makeup – lolita fashion is a whole-picture look, not just the clothing or its pedigree – offbrand and handmade count!). No matter how much media, community or interest one has in lolita fashion, I don’t believe you can be a lolita until you have tried to wear the style in its entirety – at least once, though others might argue multiple times or ownership of the clothing and accessories is necessary. Until you’ve actually tried to portray the lolita style to the best of your ability, you are an admirer and lover of lolita fashion. (Nothing wrong with that, if you love the look but it’s not something you’d personally wear.)

I received an email recently with a plea for help from just such a ‘closet lolita’ who has been a ‘lolita for years’ but wanted more help being lolita ‘style-wise.’ To sum her letter, she says her family will support her, but her location is not ‘lolita-forward’ and lolita is ‘far too expensive and far too difficult!’

Okay. Mama Victoria is gonna get a little tough love and speak the truth. Being a lolita… is hard.

Here are just a few things lolitas do on a routine basis to keep up with, well, being lolitas:

Ordering from expensive shopping services, saving up money, making the same dress work in six different outfits rather than buy a new one, darning socks, studying makeup magazines, cleaning wigs, coloring their hair, gluing on nails, gluing on eyelashes, learning katakana, matching up coordinates, buying makeup, dealing with customs, working hard jobs (again to save more money), flying cross country or internationally to buy clothing, curling hair, conditioning out teased bouffants, dealing with strangers, dealing with coworkers or family members, driving hours to meetups, uncomfortable shoes, stockings that slide down, petticoats that deflate, reading handbooks, running group orders, currency conversions, not to mention all of the inside workings and social learning curve of lolita culture…

Lolita seems to be making the list of subcultural trends for teens lately, making blog rolls and Tumblr dashboards all over the Internet. Other fashion trends the average teen or young person can invest in aren’t nearly so stringent, such as scene or hipster trends. Lolita is more on the level of old-school goth, back when goth was both a daily rigorous fashion and lifestyle, rather than its modern descendant, watered-down and sold next to the GAP (who actually owns Hot Topic, for the curious.) Which is why many girls beg the question of why lolita has to be so, well, hard.

Lolita looks sweet, soft, delicate, like an ornate maiden or perfect princess… and, like any princess, it looks effortless. I think that is why, for those on the outside looking in, it seems like it must be easy. To those who haven’t tried it, it seems like for the lolitas pictured, life is a perfect fairytale, a (excuse the pun) piece of cake, and the only reason that the viewer hasn’t attained lolita nirvana yet is due to an external locus of control. You know, the usual, things you hear all the time: “It’s too expensive”, “My hometown is not lolita”, “Going outside would be weird”. Or other times, you hear girls say, “Lolita is my inside self and heart, but…”

Here is the truth: lolitas are strong. Lolitas are brave. Every day, they decide to wear things that are not popular or accepted. They have been mocked, alienated and harassed for their choices, in every location from big cities to rural towns. Why? Because as a lolita, the fundamental belief is that making yourself happy is the most important thing. Even if you feel awkward, standing alone in a pink-and-blue ruffled dress, knowing that the rest of the world is staring… you are standing up for your right to make choices about your happiness, not others’. If this dress makes you feel happy when you look at it and put it on, then it should be your choice to embrace that.

As Maki of Angelic Pretty has said, ‘Lolitas are always fighting for what they believe in.’ If you want to be a lolita, to wear lolita fashion and in doing so truly have the ‘lolita experience’ so to speak, you have to fight. Lolitas around the world face adversity in becoming lolitas, whether that’s cost, time, location, culture. I have had letters from Muslim lolitas who want to dress in adorable fashions but still honor their religious standards, like long skirts. I have had letters from girls who are exceedingly poor but have been carefully saving their pennies or learning by nights how to sew.

Like I’ve said in the past, anyone can have a successful blog. The same is true of lolita fashion, or really anything you want to pursue. In our culture we chase endless small hobbies and interests, a culture well-known for dabbling: the ability to play a few songs on a bass, a brief love affair with knitting, or a dusty collection from when coin collecting seemed cool. Fleeting interest is commonplace. Passion is an abstract word few understand these days, something we reserve for ballet dancers or astronauts. Obsession we are readily familiar with; addiction, an old friend. To become a lolita, no matter your circumstances, it’s not really clothing you need. What you need goes by many names – drive, passion, determination… I suppose in this case I will call it a healthy obsession. Decide a goal for fashion self – what you deem to be the perfect idea of lolita. Obsession is your friend. I think all lolitas who truly love the fashion are always thinking about lolita, considering how they’re going to meet their own daydreams head-on. Novala Takemoto’s 5 Rules For Becoming a Lovely Girl says ‘If you long to be a maiden, then define yourself as your own rival’, if you’d like to think of it that way.

Every lolita starts as an ordinary girl, accidentally stumbling onto a dreamy world of fashion that makes her want to fulfill that dream, no matter how hard or long the road is. Even as seasoned lolita, after five years, I am always trying to ‘better’ my style, and redefine it to fit myself. It’s been a long journey that I know I have yet to complete – if I ever will. A journey not just about clothes or hair, but also who you want to become. I think that defines the lolita experience… that no matter what, to be a lolita, don’t give up.

To finish this article, I thought I’d include a long-beloved favorite poem from Novala Takemoto, who I hope is safe.

I want to become a lolita, you say.
So become one, I reply.
What can I do to look like a lolita?
I have no words with which to reply to this.
You need a headdress, don’t you? And a pannier.
Is this coordinate strange?
Is it not wrong for lolita?
Why do you want to do lolita?
Because it’s trendy, because my friends do it…
If that’s the case, you have no right to wear lolita.
If you just do what the others do, you will look like a lolita.
But I want you to think about something.
Who do you live for?
You think you want to be yourself, but you are afraid of isolation.
You yell that you want to be free, but you take comfort in following convention.
When you are praised for something you don’t even feel comfortable with, are you really satisfied?
Girls who wear Vivienne Westwood but don’t even know the Sex Pistols.
Even when wearing a jersey, a princess is a princess.
My lolita rules are mine alone.
So you are the only one who can find your own lolita rules.
My god and your god are different, aren’t they?
There are angels who wear elegant dresses and play tamborines,
But there are also angels wearing armor and carrying swords whose job it is to fight.
I can’t answer your question.
But there are a lot of hints all around you.
You just haven’t noticed yet.
What you feel is right is your answer.
Sew frills onto the hem of your heart!
Put a tiara on top of your soul!
Have pride.

Please excuse the previous recent lack of updates to Lolita Charm. Not only was this week my college midterms, but I have been feeling unable to write about Japanese pop fashion while seeing so much tragedy in Japan. Please continue to keep the Japanese people in your hearts and prayers. Click here for more on what you can do to help Japan.


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  • This is such an inspiring piece of writing, I took much joy in reading it. But I have a different problem. You see, I wouldn’t mind going outside, or that my hometown isn’t lolita. My problem is that my parents forbid me to become lolita. So after loads of scolding my mother said that I may not buy anything and that should I wait until I left my parents house. I had already bought a cutsew and she sent it back to the seller. I would wait until I left my parent house, but that would take appr. 8 more years. That’s just too much! Is there I can do to convince my parents to let me be a lolita.

    Thanks a lot, Emma

    • Hmm, I haven’t had this problem as I was around 17 when I began wearing lolita, and my mother has never minded. If she’s sending it back, you may need to wait until you’re old enough to move out. Have you discussed with her what she finds so objectionable? Clearly she’s seen a cute cutsew isn’t a hooker top, like the erotic connotations of lolita, so perhaps something deeper is at work? I haven’t written anything on the subject but Caro-chan of Fyeahlolita.com has! http://www.fyeahlolita.com/2010/07/convincing-your-parents-to-let-you-wear.html

  • This is such an inspiring piece of writing, I took much joy in reading it. But I have a different problem. You see, I wouldn’t mind going outside, or that my hometown isn’t lolita. My problem is that my parents forbid me to become lolita. So after loads of scolding my mother said that I may not buy anything and that should I wait until I left my parents house. I had already bought a cutsew and she sent it back to the seller. I would wait until I left my parent house, but that would take appr. 8 more years. That’s just too much! Is there I can do to convince my parents to let me be a lolita.

    Thanks a lot, Emma

    • Npark09

      i kinda kknow what you are going through, for years i fought with my dad about anime… (which later got me into lolita). he was a army vet so he had strong political views about forgein stuff as well as  “its a waste of money”. What got me though was saving up the money i earned or i would sell stuff i grew out of.

      my family thought that my love of anime was just a phase i would grow out of as well. when you are young you have lots of different interests but as you get older you tend to learn what you like and what you want to spend the most time buying/doing.

      i have no clue how old you are but i started (anime) in the fourth grade, saving money for every manga i bought. i also took verry good care of them and would talk to them about the characters and story for hours.

      first, i have no clue what your family is like, what are their reasons for forbiding lolita? the most common i have heard of are that it is too expensive and that it is just a phase, or they dont understand the meaning it has to you and how you want to take better care of how you look.

      for the $ problem, maybee you could set back some money for college to match the price of each piece you buy? and also wear/portray yourself well even without lolita. lolitas take good care of thier clothes and let your family know that you will to, for me as a child i could never convince my parents to spend money for things they thoughti would get tired of or misuse… you could also try to incorporate lolita hairstyles and more elegant jewlrey into your regular wardrobe :)

      i have no clue what syle you are going for but hopefuly some of this helps >.<

      • Ellienor~<3

        My parents said the same thing about me likeing anime! I have been an otaku since i was five. I just didn’t know it was anime then. (All I watched was Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Cardcaptors, and Digimon.) I found out what anime was in 6th grade and have been obsessed with it ever since. I am now a sophmore in highschool. I know it’s only been about five years but it’s longer than some people I know!

    • TheLovelyFluff

      This is a really stupid, grade-schooly last ditch attempt, but I would say type up a letter about why you want to be lolita, then make a pamphlet all about the fashion, it’s roots, the whole aesthetic, etc. You have to show your mum that you are passionate about this and what this style truly means to you. I had it a bit easier because my mum is a DJ and an artist and my father is a drummer and designer who loves anime too ( you could sort of compare me to Miwako from Paradise Kiss), so they were really supportive of this cause. I don’t know what your family is like, but you have to show them that you really care about this. Start by wearing girlier, nicer clothes than you normally would, maybe get a job and save the money to buy the clothes yourself, and try the pamphlet thing. i’m sorry I couldn’t personally drag my 12 year old self over and give your mum a talking to, but this is all I can do to help.

  • staggsk1

    This is so beautiful and inspiring! My current excuse for not dressing is that I must first learn to sew as I’m generally way too big for most of the dresses I find online. On one hand, I’m disappointed that it’s going to take so much effort just to make ONE dress! Learning the different stitches, learning about materials, learning how to decorate and sew on buttons and zippers and pockets… But on the other hand, I’m so excited that it’s going to become such a consuming part of my life! Currently saving up for a sewing machine. I’m going to try to make a headdress first. ^__^
    And I agree, it was terrible seeing so many horrible things happening in Japan. I donated as much as I could at the time to the Red Cross! <3

  • Jessamyn De Vos

    What a wonderful article! It made me a bit teary. :p
    I live in a small town in Texas and it’s hard to wear Lolita around here. Leaving my apartment was, by far, the hardest thing to get used to. People can be very cruel and I still haven’t gotten used to the stares! I would tell any closet Lolita to grab life by the ruffles and lace! It’s hard at first but it gets better!
    If they need anyone to hang out with and they live in south Texas, they can come hang out with me! :)

  • Ellienor~<3

    My I just say this really helped me out alot. I only have one lolita outfit and it’s not really my stlye. I  am currently saveing all my money to purchase more lolita and I’m just turned 16. My mom hates lolita. This article gives me courage. I used to be super nervous and scared to dress like a lolita outside of anime convintions. I’m going to be a full time lolita and no one is going to stop me! Thank you sooo much.

  • konnichiwacryssi

    I’m a closeted Lolita but not by choice. I have 3 skirts, my petticoat got destroyed (it was hand made and not the best of quality to begin with), and with short hair, my outfits don’t look completely right. The closest I can do it casual lolita with little effort.

  • Heather Kimmick

    Thank you for this!  I guess for the moment I am a closet Lolita too.  I am still building up my wardrobe and don’t have a full coordinate yet.  Currently the only to Lolita items I have are a pair of BtSSB socks and a headband.  I’ve been saving up to buy fabric to sew my first coordinate.  I just started work on the mock up for the underskirt today so it shouldn’t be long now.  I can’t wait to wear complete Lolita for the first time!  A friend–well former friend now–told me that I wasn’t a Lolita because I didn’t have any Lolita clothes and that I was just copying her because she was a Lolita.  But I never believed her and deep down I knew I have the soul of the Lolita.  I try to live the Lifestyle, even though I can’t wear it yet, because it feels comfortable to me.  Sure it is difficult but I love learning to be so refined and lady like.  Lolita has opened up a new world and new opportunities for me that I never dreamed existed.  So thanks for this article.  It made me feel a little less insane about working so hard for this.

  • ashley wolchan

    I suppose I got lucky. My family really supports that Im lolita, even my grandmother who’s nearly 90 saw one of my punk loli dresses. She just thought it was a very beautiful dress. My mother supports me as long as I keep up with school work. She has even bought me a few dresses during the holidays from putamayo and tries to understand what lolita is as best as she can. My dad is pretty lenient with it since he was a punk when he was young and understands its just a fashion although he did once call it a fad. The only problem I’ve had is sometimes people say to my parents that they should keep me away from hello kitty because its immature but they defend me because I am fulfilling my responsibilities as an adult 

  • Lizz-chan

    it took me three years to be lolita. i learnt to make do with three skirts and one blouse, how to make a peti by pinning up a long skirt for poof, how to buy socks on the cheap, how to trawl $2 shops and op-shops for something even vaugly loli. washed out stains and learnt to embroider and sew on lace. I am a young lolita as well, as i discovered lolita when i was 13 and have just kept at it for years. i even live in a non-loli friendly area.
    i now count my self as lolita. it took me 3 years, but i’m there.

  • Roxy

    I don’t agree with all of this piece.

    “Closet Lolita” is just one more term certain fashionistas use to seperate themselves from the “other fashionistas.” It divides people instead of bringing them together in what is supposed to be fun, fabulous, CREATIVE fashion.

    Given the creative aspect, there is nothing wrong with “dabbling”— that’s what a lot of Japanese fashion is all about! Loli fashion in Japan is a result of “dabbling” in European Victorian fashion. And, of course, the US, like Japan, has many cultures in it— not just one stagnant un-changing one.

    I understand that it makes sense to understand the “basics” of what you are dabbling in, just as an artist must learn basic anatomy before distorting it. However, once you understand a bit about what you are exploring, there is absolutely nothing wrong with walking off the beaten path. There is nothing wrong with mixing things up a bit, incorporating loli gear into other styles, converse shoes and all.

    That is part of innovating, and keeps things fresh and exciting. That is the reason there are so many variations on the Lolita style today— Loli itself started in part as a “distortion” of Victorian fashion.

    And as the history of the Victorian Ages taught us, the moment you over-specify an artform, it dies out and becomes a dusty antique. Many people give up their “passions” because people keep adding rules where they don’t belong. Loli style is alive and changing, not stagnant.

  • Tsukki

    Well, I understand your point, but I think you’re being a bit judgmental, which isn’t right. I can understand you’re proud of the long road you’ve gone trough, but believe me, you haven’t had it THAT hard. Everybody’s lives are different, so you shouldn’t go judging and classifying others because you’re considered a Lolita icon. I suppose you’re already judging me, because you may think I’m one of those teenagers loli wannabe, but girl, if I were in your shoes I’d be enjoying how lucky I’ve been instead of getting upset because some people, for whatever reasons, are considering themselves whatever. You live in a wonderful place and have wonderful jobs. Let the rest think they’re Lolitas if that makes them happy.

  • Sai Fujiwara

    I am finally going above my mainly causal lolita style into all out. I already dress up all the time (things like southern belle dresses, real corsets, skirts, heels, etc) and have not considered myself a lolita as I did not own anything that was labeled specifically as lolita (until recently when I purchased some real lolita skirts). I plan to start sewing some of my own things and even have a list of dresses I want. I search all over for things that work for lolita while not killing my wallet. It’s possible since I have noticed recently that fashion is following more Asian trends here (Korea was doing a lot of the things I have seen in stores lately for years!) so keep up hope and the search! If you really love the fashion, you will not regret it ^0^

  • Secret Lolita!

    Aww I love this article! Its very empowering. I guess I am a closet lolita. Personally, I call myself a secret lolita, it sounds more mysterious hehe ^.^
    At the moment, I dont have the guts to wear my clothes in public. I’d feel silly because I am 23! And like so many others, my family are also against it, which doesnt help because its nice to have some support. Although, its not like they could stop me if I wanted to brave the streets. I guess main reason why families dont approve is because the fashion makes you look like a little girl and that ties it in with Nabokov’s Lolita. (I’ve read it and couldnt finish it as it got too much!) So they’ll automatically think that it is a sexual fetish, in which we dress to fullfil the twisted desires of pervert old men! And it does come from Japan, which doesnt help things because in addition to Sushi and Geisha, Japan is renound for its sexually suppressed men with weird fetishes! :S So the idea that people would think that of me also puts me off wearing it in public! I think its all in the name. Why oh why did they have to call it Lolita!? Why not Alice or something!? Never the less, as Shakespeare wrote in the voice of Juliet: what is in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet. Soon, very soon girls, I will wear my clothes out and attend a meet up….because the desire for lace, frills and bows grows too great!

  • Gah! This entry is so inspiring! >.< As a new lolita, I'm finding the truth in your "lolita is hard" statement. But, walking around in frills, ruffles, and bows and feeling just like a princess while doing it is so worth it! 

    I felt tears coming on when you started talking about Maki's blog. By the time I reached the poem, I was long gone. T.T 

    Thank you so much <3

  • Pikapii6

    Unfortunately, I am a closet lolita as well. I own one outfit, but I don’t feel pretty enough to wear it. I’ve been eating healthy and working out so I can finally feel comfortable and happy and able to wear that dress. I also have a job. It helps me save up so I can buy more. I have so many dresses saved onto my computer so that when I finally get the money, I will buy them. I don’t wanna be a closet loli any longer and I’m sure I will not be.

  • You can’t be serious? You do know the proper defenition of a lolita is a young girl, normally prepubescent or in early teens, that likes seducing older men, or that, without trying seduces older men with her charm,and/or her body, right?

    • Hey there, please read the rest of this site and do some research. Lolita is the name of a Japanese subcultural fashion and has nothing to do with young girls seducing older men.

    • kwaii-kun!

      that is the WESTERN definition you know that right? and i prefer you not say that to a girl who was kidnapped!

  • kwaii-kun!

    i like hot topic,BUT I REALLY WANT A LOLITA STORE THERE!! :3

  • kwaii-kun!

    also i am sort -of – a closet lolita. freinds make the dresses and all but i have not worn them though and i don’t really call myself lolita. though.

  • ino112

    thnx for this inspiring article it has helped me alot ,im a 13 year old muslim and was not sure if there were any muslim lolitas outhere so you really reasured me and helped me take a desicion i also have a question is it possible to be inbetween kawaii/fairykei/lolita/goth/punk being interested in all of them i was confused all i know is i really like all of them and was planning on wearing all of theses styles so i wouldnt be limited or tagged in any way finally could any one help me plz im a bit new to all of this so i dnt know any online stores plz help thankyou!! im really lucky and happy that i have friends hwo are loyal and like me for whoever i am so that makes it easier for me !!!

  • This article really made my day! I think it’s so wonderful that you try to learn about any form of lolita and share your results here on your blog.

    So I just understood that I’ve always been a closeted lolita xD although not quite by choice. Although I have neither shortage of the budget (at least for some starter sets^^’) nor problems going fully lolita-dressed publicly, I have grown rather fond of my sports activities, especially swimming and martial arts, indulging several days a week. And changing in busy locker rooms and stuff your precious dresses in tiny cramped spaces just won’t do, let alone remove and reapply the makeup, the wigs/hairpieces and accessories etc…

    So I compensated the loss of not being able to live as a full-time lolita by wearing some rocking horse shoes and read so much of you <3

  • I love this blog, I want to be a Lolita, I feel like a hidden princess wearing pauper clothes. I want to get dressed up in my frilly dress and wear my peacoat with pride. T_T