So You Want To Be a Lolita Model

{images via Baby Paris Nord, Tokyo Fashion Festa NYC}

As part of the open Q & A attached to the grand opening of the site, I received one question from a girl who wanted to know more about lolita modeling and how you get started with it. So here is my response: a down-and-dirty look at how I got into lolita modeling, how you can too, and the speculation behind going pro.

How I Got Into Modeling

I began modeling lolita fashion as lucky chance. At the time, in 2008, I had been posting my outfit coordinates avidly to daily_lolita, a Livejournal community to share your lolita style. To my surprise, I received an email from a girl in New York City asking me if I could submit a few more pictures that might get me approved to model for Baby the Stars Shine Bright when they put on a fashion show at New York Anime Festival. Needless to say, I was thrilled! Looking back on it now, it’s a miracle I made the show – I was very, very sick at the time, but nothing would stop me from showing my apostolic-like loyalty to the brand I loved. Although I was certainly not the most beautiful girl on stage, and nervous as a rabbit to boot, it was an experience I will never forget.

My second time modeling for Baby I auditioned again and was told I was to be an ‘alternate’ model, which is like being an understudy – you take the place of whoever can’t make it for some reason or another. While I did not end up modeling at the time, I was employed as a dresser for backstage. While this seems like a big let-down when you’re expecting to model, it was a great learning experience. I got an up-close look at how fashion shows are run; I got to make connections with other girls and the designers; and I got some appreciation for hard the staff works on a show. The fashion models are the most visible part of the show, but those backstage work very hard to make sure it all runs smoothly!

Besides my two brand shows, I’ve also modeled for independent designers, as well as taking part in my friends’ various projects such as commercials, photo shoots, and promotional appearances. So while I would hardly consider myself a professional lolita model, I do consider myself an amateur lolita model. This article is a collection of my brief experience.

A Brief, Realistic Talk About Size

Lolita modeling is rather a unique field compared to mainstream modeling. Most girls who make good lolita models would never make it in the mainstream modeling arena – they tend to be ‘brand sized’, meaning petite in height and figure. I personally am five foot two inches. It’s a big difference to the typical six-foot model standard! My cousins are also models and they tower over me.

Brand shows, even for volunteers, may have stringent requirements. One Baby show I worked on made it very clear that waists capped off at 25 inches. It was very stressful for me at the time to be worried about my weight down to the quarter inch. As we all know, the Japanese brands design clothes for the young Japanese girl, and many non-Japanese girls simply may not fit the bill. When telling the organizers your measurements, be honest as to your current size. It saves everyone a lot of stress when it comes to fittings, or worse, unexpected day-of size surprises!

If you’re more interested in working for independent designers, they may have more variability when it comes to size. If their dresses are one-offs, they may have designed something you may fit. A lot of designers make small sizes to save on fabric, especially for showpieces, so keep that in mind as well.

{images via Japan Expo 2009, Baby Paris Nord}

Finding Opportunities Near You

Brands wanting to put on fashion shows in foreign countries such as the United States don’t usually want to pay the money to tote their own models along, so they often look for local volunteers. The New York Fashion Festa employed volunteer models from FIT, who had the good fortune to be made up by brand designers and make-up artists. There may be a call for models online, or you may be contacted by one of the local organizers.

Volunteer-based fashion shows at conventions or other pop culture events are a great way to gain experience. You may get some experience walking down a runway, posing for photos on the runway, or simply being on stage if you’re not used to it. While I didn’t end up modeling for Baby the Stars Shine Bright at the Washington state convention Innosera, I came back the next day and signed up for the volunteer lolita fashion show. I got to walk and show my modeling ability to the Baby designers, who had stayed to watch. Not only did I get more experience, I got exposure to the designers and most importantly, I didn’t give up and go home. Even if you got cut from a bigger show or feel like there aren’t any ‘prestigious’ shows in your area, sign up.

Go with an open mind; any experience is good.

{image via SHRINKLE; image via xinhuanet.com}

Building A Portfolio

Another great step if you want to get into modeling is to start building up a print portfolio. If you live in an area with an art school, or have friends interested in photography (taking classes, working with good equipment, etc) then it should be easy to get started. Explain that you’re looking to get into modeling for lolita fashion and would love to do a few photo shoots. Often the student will do the photos for free, as an exchange, since you both need experience. If you want to reach out to people you don’t know personally, make sure you take someone with you to the shoot and meet somewhere neutral – be safe!

Not only will doing print modeling get you to be more comfortable with how to pose your body and how to act in front of the camera, you’ll also have photos to show the organizers of prospective shows. Lolitas love to host photo shoots, both meetup and personal, so you’ll probably get to know at least a handful of photographers in your area. If you’re really lost, as some fellow lolitas for their tips at the next photo shoot meet!

Work out your best expressions and angles as well. This means spending inordinate amounts of time with your mirror, or a camera and self-timer. Experiment and see what works for you! This will also help with the mundane tasks like posing for photos at conventions or just taking outfit snapshots. When it comes to practicing for the runway, your best bet is to look at different Youtube videos of lolita brand models walking and posing.

{Misako Aoki for Baby, image via flickr)

Networking

One of the ways I’ve gotten various opportunities is knowing the right people and living in a fashion-based area, such as New York City. ‘Networking’ is the fancy word for making friends. Get involved in your local lolita community and events. Make sure to pass out business or calling cards if you run into someone you’d like to work with, like an independent jewelry designer in need of a model, or perhaps the photographer from a recent meetup. Keeping an online portfolio to document your work is also helpful.

{Angelic Pretty model, RinRin}

Going Pro… My Speculations

We’ve already established that I’m not a pro lolita model, but these are my speculations on the topic if you really think you’re destined to appear on the cover of Kera. To begin with though, be aware that this is a very, very long-shot career, even if you are native Japanese. The only American model I know of who was discovered and swept off to be a professional brand lolita model is RinRin, who was previously part of the California lolita scene. Another girl, who is French, got picked up by the 6%DokiDoki girls. The few Caucasian or non-Japanese models you may see in advertisements are not usually recent transplants either. In the past you could have considered the ‘Bodyline modeling competition’ your ticket to a Japanese modeling career as well, but it doesn’t seem as if these gigs go from Bodyline to Baby – they tend to be one-shot deals.

But if you’re still determined to try, here is what I’d suggest:

1. Learn as much Japanese as you can.

Take a class, get Rosetta Stone, whatever. Knowing Japanese is essential if you want to work as a lolita model professionally. For one, it’s assumed you’ll end up living in Japan. For another, you’ll need to know how to take direction and work with the photographers and designers.

2. Go to as many brand events as you can.

This is true whether you’re living in Japan or an overseas country. Try to become a regular face at brand events, dressed in your best. If you know Japanese, as in Step 1, all the better – make some small talk with the designers or representatives. Try to be memorable (in a good way) and your picture may appear, however tiny, in a magazine.

3. Get a snapshot in a Japanese magazine.

This, I’ve heard, is how a lot of girls in Japan are trying to break into modeling for their favorite street style. This will require you to take an extended vacation or stay in Japan. Every Sunday, get dressed as adorably and uniquely as you can, and hope someone will take a street snap of you. A lot of designers shopping for models may simply flip through the street snaps of magazines. You’ll often see that yesterday’s street snap is today’s print advertisement.

{image via Baby Paris Nord)

Off the Runway

I’ve enjoyed my modeling experiences within lolita, and it truly amazes me to think that if I hadn’t discovered lolita, I would never have gotten the chance to experience those things. As a petite girl who usually comes up to the knees of real models, it was something I’d never have gotten to do without lolita fashion. Although I have a lot of fun modeling, I know I’ll never be a professional model. What’s more, I wouldn’t want to be one. I’m much happier blogging and just enjoying my lolita life! For that reason I didn’t audition for the Baby Otakon fashion show this year – I didn’t want the stress and demands on my time, I wanted to catch up with friends. I hope to see lovely aspiring models on the stage that morning, maybe even some of my readers! I’ll be happily perched in the audience in my Baby best. See you on the other side of those bright lights!

  • rikkuking

    Thank you so much for the article. Looking back, I should have at least tried for the Baby model audiyions. I didn’t because 1) I’m 5′ 6.5″, though I fit the brand sizes otherwise. and 2) I check in on Friday, not Thursday. Now I’m sad I didn’t try, since I really would like to try. While I don’t want modeling as a career, I’m somewhat interested in it and Lolita is the best way while not being so serious it MUST become a career.

    Again, thank you and I’m always looking foreward to new posts. I’ll see you at the con hopefully; I’ve been dying to meet you for a year now!

    • http://www.parfaitdoll.com Victoria Suzanne Stella Alice

      I’m glad you liked it! Did I run into you? I met a few readers but I’m not sure about your username versus real name!

  • http://commerciallyalternative.blogspot.com Super Bloomers

    That is so amazing that you’ve modeled for lolita. What an experience! I’ve always wanted to try modeling, not professionally or anything, but for the fun of it. I’m too short for fashion modeling, but too large for the petite frame needed for lolita. But I still love fashion. My dream, if I could do anything in the world, would be to sew clothes for fashion shows. I always tell my mom that when I have a good job and lots of money I’m going to take her to a high end fashion show. xD

    Thanks for the great article!

  • http://helloenaam.blogspot.com HelloEnaam

    Wow~ It’s so great that you got to model for Baby! Thanks so much for the article! It’s very informative. I’ve always had a sneaking interest in modeling, but I doubt anyone has much use for a headscarfed model -__-

  • http://www.routevenus.net Markie

    Bit late to comment, but OHMYGOSHHHHH thank you so much for writing this article!!  I was the one who submitted the question!  I’m just the right size, unfortunately I live in Nebraska and not Japan right now haha.  Even though I’m already 23, I hope I have the opportunity in the near future to head back and go straight to Tokyo to make use of your advice!  Luckily one of my best friends is a photography student and interested in (read: loves) Japan & fashion just like me, so she agreed to help me out with a portfolio.  Yay!
    As a side note, what about that blonde Western gal who works for Innocent World?  Does anyone know about her, who she is, etc…?  

  • Anonymous

    Love your posts so much! They are so interesting :)

  • http://adventuresofrisaoshiro.blogspot.com/ Pandy

    I have the height part down haha, but unfortunately, I’m much too chubby to fit into the clothes!

  • Ofsta A La Sheep

    I’m assuming they won’t accept a sixteen year old? D; C’mon, my petite-ness needs to be good for something!

  • http://thelittlelolita.blogspot.com/ Miss.Victoria

    :D This is very helpful! Im looking at being a lolita model, so i was told by some of the other lolitas to network. So would going to the tokyo fashion festa would help that right? I cant find when it is though ._. and i have to work around my highschool schedule, do you know when it is? (its a long trip to NYC from where i live)

    • http://www.parfaitdoll.com Victoria Suzanne Stella Alice

      Well, Tokyo Fashion Festa was a one-shot event in 2009 I believe? and most likely will not be occurring again, and to model in that show you needed to be a student at FIT, a fashion design college. The other issue is that being under 18, you may need parental signature, and I am not sure that brands would accept models under 18 for this reason. Some of the best opportunities are in New York City, so going there often and engaging in lolita activities and events is very helpful.

  • Saia

    Nice article. I’ve wanted to become a Lolita model for a while, though realistically it will probably never happen for me. I don’t fit the height or size (being 5’10 with a 30 inch waist(and a 45 inch bust to boot). :/ Sad but true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001750736664 Linda Wei

    Thank you so so much for writing such an amazing article! I’ve always wanted to become at least a freelance model, but I was held back because of my height. I’m also 5’2″ :). Do you know of any opportunities in Washington State or the Bay area of California for Lolita fashion show auditions?

    • http://www.parfaitdoll.com Victoria Suzanne Stella Alice

      Not at the time, sorry! I’m not from those areas.

  • Http://www.amandatea.com

    Great Article and very thorough. So awesome that you got discovered from daily lolita. If i was looking for a lolita model that would be a great place to look now that i think about it .

  • MissMimzi

    Thank you for posting this. It makes me feel a little hopeful to try and start modeling again (a long time dream of mine) which I haven’t been able to do in mainstream since i was a child because I am barely 5’2″ and especially since I now know there are opportunities for American girls in Lolita style!

  • Pande

    I want to be a Lolita model but I fear that I’m not cute enough or have perfect skin, and sadly, that is key to model in general… 

  • Angelus

    Helloww, ^^, very helpful article, I was wondering if it is possible to make a living out of lolita modeling? I’m 4.9 ft short and skinny, is it still okai for lolita modeling? 

  • Selena Mata Mayorga

    Am I the only one that is over 5’7”? I’m kinda chubby though but I am 13 years old! Turning 14 this year.. On dear, what is going to happen to me..?

  • Sophie

    This is one of my biggest dreams, I love Lolita and have always wanted to become a model for something. Even though I’m naturally thin enough I’m barely tall, this would work great for me (>w<)/