Since Halloween is very fast upon us, my article ‘Can I Wear Lolita on Halloween?’ is getting plenty of hits and comments. Upon re-reading it, I realized there was more to the lolita-costume debate than there was a few years ago. In the past, I said that one cannot dress ‘as a lolita’ for Halloween, anymore than one can dress ‘as a schoolgirl’, for example, because it is a fashion, not a costume. But things have changed since 2012 (when I wrote on this topic last!) and this Halloween, in 2016, I have a new edict for you.
Wear whatever you like this Halloween.
Why the change of heart? Well, in a microculture like ours, a lot can change in four or five years. The world of lolita culture and fashion, our state-of-the-frilly-union, so to speak, is no longer what it was. We used to want mainstream acceptance in the way American goth has had acceptance – some eye-rolling, a little weirdness, but accepted like a quirky second cousin you really can’t do anything about. I’m sure the classic American goths raised on Trash and Vaudeville will have their own input, but in general, no one is confused by goth anymore. There’s Abby on NCIS, everyone has tried out black lipstick, and Doc Martens are made in kiddie sizes. As the goth generation grew up, it settled in.
This was what, I think, we wanted as a community for lolita fashion. No more weird cat calls on the train, no more strangers saying they ‘just HAVE to ask’, or if there was a play or circus in town. Lolita fashion could not be diluted! We would cry out. The public cannot get the wrong idea if we are to finally show our culture to the mainstream. There could be no weird costume portrayals at Halloween, labeled ‘Harajookoo girl’ or ‘Living Dead Dolly’. Some even latched onto the ‘culture, not costume’ message, which is beyond the pale – the fashion is not at all oppressed in the same way as racial stereotyping, as I stated in the original article.
Something happened since then for lolita fashion that we did not expect, exactly, but now in hindsight seems inevitable. Lolita fashion did not mainstream as we all sometimes would dread back on the old EGL Livejournal days – could you imagine, we would lament, seeing every teenybopper wearing cheap, Hot Topic styled lolita dresses? But that’s not what happened. Lolita fashion did not mainstream. But what did mainstream was kawaii culture. Lolita fashion, with its attention to detail, deeply layered culture and guidelines, did not dabble easily. But the general aesthetic of kawaii, brought on the wings of all the subgenres we had never imagined – pastel grunge, vaporwave, living doll style (Is that a thing? How do you do, fellow kids?), and the endless, endless flower crowns for basically everyone. I went into my local Claire’s yesterday, and it looked like Tumblr had regurgitated a tween paradise of cute trends, everything from Pusheen iPhone cases to pastel-and-pentacle chokers for any budding pastel goth. At Hot Topic, gone were the scenester clothes of my day, replaced with punk-ish Disney and Totoro t-shirts. What we had pioneered and considered fringe, when Anime Club showed Miyazaki films, it was all finally a household name. Much like geeks, who consider themselves outside pop culture, but are actually at the heart of it – who hasn’t seen Suicide Squad or Star Wars or Star Trek now? – kawaii has become digestible.
Besides the normalization of kawaii culture, another trend once considered weird has become mainstream – cosplay. When I was a teenager, cosplay was still barely a thing. I remember having delusions of making a Yu-Gi-Oh cosplay for the movie premier at twelve year old out of white duct-tape (don’t judge, we’re all young once). Now there’s Heroes of Cosplay. Now you can buy quality cosplays on the Internet, and read dozens of tutorials. Costumes are no longer just for Halloween. Costumes are not necessarily the over-priced, scratchy, flammable things they used to be when your only choice was going in your dad’s old clothes or shopping at your big box pop-up Halloween store. Costume once meant cheap, poorly constructed plaything, a connotation we wanted to stay far away from. Today, the line between costume and fashion had blurred. And isn’t that a good thing? The world of fashion is expanding to ever more fantastical heights without the trappings of the word ‘costumey’, looking down its nose on the unusual.
So what does this mean for lolita fashion on Halloween? It means the pond is too big to worry anymore. There is no lolita fashion homeland to protect. The styles of Japan, once so rigid, have burst into a myriad rainbow of colors and styles in the East and West both. It has blossomed here overseas in ways we would never have dreamed of when all we had were Gothic & Lolita street snaps. Lolita fashion is not dead. But lolita fashion has reincarnated to the world at large.
In short – dress up on Halloween. Wear pastels, or darks, or jewel tones, with your Baby the Stars Shine Bright bunny ears if you like, (like Kate Beckinsale, who sources tell me hit up BABY NYC a few weeks ago!), or with your handmade unicorn horn, or with the mermaid scale tights you got from Hot Topic. Wear your best lolita dress, maybe with a horror mask, or fake blood dripping from your chin, or a galaxy freckling your face. It’s a night for magic, and mischief, and being whoever you want to be. Save the serious and sacred for November 1st.
Celebrate Halloween by wearing… Anything. You. Like.
Oh, and PS – Halloween themed lolita and kawaii fashion? Not only perfectly acceptable, hello, it is CUTER THAN EVER. Long live witch lolita! I mean, check out the cuties above. Slay, ladies – on the runway, and an errant vampires you might run into!