Category Archives: culture

Why Your Memes Matter: #KawaiiResistance

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It has been a week since we have suffered the blow of the American election, and despite the overwhelming push to stay calm and trust in the American system, Things Are Not Going Well. In the first week, we have seen the corners of the Internet previously relegated for Internet trolls summon those trolls to life on the incoming White House staff. We have seen completely unprecedented calls for racism, white nationalism, hate crimes, and the evil foreboding of deportation and concentration camps.

So why am I discussing this with you adorable readers, in your pinks and pastels and frills and laces? Well, because I believe there is something we can do about it. There is something we can all do about it, whether you have access to a fancy computer or simply apps on your smartphone. Okay, here is my advice to you: goshdarnit, make some damn memes.

Okay, stay with me here. This is not just armchair activism at work. I’m going to explain why memes matter.

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When I wrote my original article on kawaii subversive, I talked about how pastel and kawaii subversive text wrapped feminism, trans and LGBT rights in the lovable aesthetic trend of kawaii, femme and soft grunge. Did these memes change the world? No. What they did do was foster an environment of tolerance, acceptance, defense and normalization of these topics. They made these topics cool, and trending, and at the very least, got you to share support for your fellow women, sisters and LGBT folk on your blog or Tumblr and Twitter feed. For every person who stands up, the culture shifts a little closer to where we would like it to be.

This election has been changed by Internet culture and millennial involvement more than we ever could have imagined, even since Barack Obama’s run in 2008 and 2012. What we saw in this election cycle is that social media has risen above that of standard journalism. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Tumblr are all at the cutting edge of how we communicate; the President-Elect’s Twitter has been the subject of more news scrutinizing than we ever could have imagined. (Read this article on how Facebook’s algorithms helped promote radicalized spaces during this election.) Fake news sites, hoaxes and false quotes spread with the strong power of the meme, an easily shared and digestible bite of information. I remember seeing false Hillary information about late-term abortions being shared through nothing more than a photograph with text. I remember the deluge of Bernie memes that fired up his base and encouraged a strong millennial presence. Even after the election, Biden/Obama bromance memes soothed the collective American psyche as we all made in-jokes at the expense of our new President-Elect.

Memes can spread information for calling your senators and state representatives. Memes can shame public figures, such as they were used to make sure no one forgets the name and face of rapist Brock Turner. Memes of celebrities and public figures can either lampoon them or celebrate them, cause relatability or distance. If memes gain enough popularity and interest, they can garner national attention, such as Pepe the Frog, or the Ice Bucket Challenge. Millennial communication through memes and social media channels does not make our voices any less valid by our chosen venue.

What we need, and what the kawaii and youthful Internet culture can give, is pro-resistance memes. Where the mainstream media urges normalization and acceptance, we the Internet culture has no such filter. We need memes that call out white supremacy for the Voldemort-come-to-life it is. We need memes to remind everyone that Japanese concentration camps are not the model for America moving forward. We need memes that speak out against hate crimes. We need memes not to accept the normalization of a corrupt president and Nazi and KKK platform in our country. We need memes that rally the base, that do not settle for complacency, that foster the idea that we can do something, even as the doors of democracy slam shut in our faces.

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In looking back on this, what Hillary needed was more memes to change her public perception. Remember Wendy Davis memes after her stunning Texas filibuster to protect women’s healthcare? I wanted floral crowns and Photoshopped Khaleesi dragons for you, Hillary. But let’s focus on the future of what memes can do for the resistance now.

To Donald, the victor, go the memes, in this election. His supporters made countless memes and shareable images to bolster and incite his base to victory. They will continue to make more memes. While the “liberal elite” continues to swap articles and fact-checks, the fascist right will continue to make memes, political cartoons, and images. And I hey, I love articles. They’re a great resource. But they do not have the instant impact given over to memes.

This is not to say we do not have enough anti-Donald memes. He is great meme fodder; the man is the darkest joke we have ever seen. In part, I think gallows humor has much to play here, but we also need to look critically at how the humor surrounding his portrayal has underestimated him. If anything, I think we need fewer anti-Donald memes and more pro-resistance memes. Normalizing Donald as our wacky oh-shucks leader is the most dangerous game we can play. He is not just the idiotic orange cheeto-in-chief; he is a deeply racist, misogynistic leader who is threatening our most basic freedoms and way of life. 

And again, why do I appeal to you, the kawaii culture reader? Because the kawaii culture has skin in the game. Kawaii culture has always been a place of diversity, religious, ethnic, racial and LGBT and gender fluidity alike. We have always said, from the words of Novala Takemoto, that lolita fashion is a princess with the soul of a punk. Punk is a prime example of how aesthetic was used to make a political statement in previous decades. Fashion has power because we live our lives in it; it and aesthetic encapsulates us as fish to water. Lolita fashion has always stood against the patriarchy, to make a statement of who we are, despite what society tells us to be. It is time to put our fashion and aesthetic where our mouths are.

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This doesn’t just apply to sweet and kawaii fashion lovers. I appeal to all Internet youth cultures to flood the social media outlets with memes encouraging protesting and resistance. If you are a Harry Potter fan, make memes. If you are an anime fan, make memes. If you are pastel, grunge, Dr. Who, Supernatural, neogoth, vaporwave, make memes in whatever aesthetic you prefer. If you cannot protest, you can choose to network by sharing information and spirit and support across social media. Even if you are not American, if you are against fascism and racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and hatred in all its forms, you can make memes. We do not need to manufacture fake news to garner support; the real news is dark enough. Quote your favorite activists and journalists. Quote real statistics. The truth is on our side. Love still trumps hate.

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I am going to be working on creating #KawaiiResistance memes and concentrating them on a Tumblr and Facebook page, and I am accepting submissions, but I also encourage you to create resistance memes of any aesthetic and share them across all social media platforms. This blog has always stood for positivity, personal empowerment of women and girls through kawaii aesthetic, and it will continue to face the onslaught against these freedoms and its intersectional marginalized groups without ever. backing. down. If you would like to collaborate on this issue further, feel free to contact me on my Twitter @victoriasuzanne or by private message on the Parfait Doll Facebook fanpage.

 

Why Body Acceptance Needs to Be Bigger (And What That Means)

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After Parfaitdoll.com’s spotlight on Bustle.com for plus-size lolita fashion (most notably for this article interviewing two plus-size lolita cuties! Take a read if you missed it!) I got to thinking about body acceptance in lolita fashion, and other kawaii styles. Body acceptance is something we need to talk about more as fashionistas – of every stripe and style.

Fashion is a double-edged sword of self-expression. On the one hand, there is a magic to becoming your own art canvas and realizing your daydreams on your own skin and body. You can become anyone you can imagine – a princess, a pirate, a CEO, a dystopian punk fairy, and everywhere in between. On the other hand, using your own body for art can leave you feeling frustrated when the image you created can’t match your reality. No matter how creative we are, some things will not change no matter how many times we go shopping or alter thrift store finds.

And lolita fashion, which is even more expressive and dramatic than its mainstream counterparts, makes this doubly true. We are formed on the basis of a specific shared dream, the haunting fairy-tale apparition of femininity. This idea is based on a mishmash of Victorian beauty ideals, Asian beauty ideals, and the evolving new dreams and trends of modern fashion, like kawaii and uljjang styles. And with all that pressure, we really need to take a look at not just who we want to be, but who we really are. 

We are not talking about just fat acceptance or thin privilege or the myriad of other words we’ve developed and bandied around for the past several years’ of body talk revolution. We are talking about being comfortable in your skin, now, whether it is changing or stable, no matter its color, shape, weight, capabilities or anomalies. This includes not just being comfortable with what it looks like, but also being comfortable with what it can and cannot do, and what your responsibility is to care for it. Each body is unique, both in its appearance and its hurdles and needs. That’s been a hard lesson for me: that my body will always need more care and consideration than others’. Consider it the introvert of bodies – it will need extra recharging and more sensitive care. It is never going to be okay with all-nighters, crippling hangovers, or the occasional wicked sunburn of careless youth.

For me, body positivity and acceptance has been something I struggled with my whole life. Having a chronic illness and at times restricted medical diet has wrestled a lot out of my control. On dialysis, I had to cope with foreign objects and tubes and other medical body mods. The medications I took to keep me alive bloated my body and filled my abdomen with jelly-like fluid. Steroids could make me physically thin but make me feel puffy and flabby. I remember trying on clothes with the sole attempt of hiding my medical equipment, worried I would make other people feel grossed out or uncomfortable if they glimpsed my bandages or stitches. Here’s the bottom line: no one should feel ashamed of or uncomfortable in their own skin. 

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What Kind of White Are You?

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“Are you mixed?”

This is what the makeup artist asks me as we hang around the jpop exhibit. I blush and shake my head no. I’m wearing a long lavender wig, lashes sprinkled with stars, and a pastel pinafore. If anything it looks like my parents had relations one rowdy night with a cotton candy machine. But this lady insists I’m Korean.

It happens again while I’m in Flushing waiting for my boyfriend. I’m shopping in a boutique where the staff is freely mixing Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. I’m just here for the floral stationery. One shop girl wants to know where I get my dress – not too unusual, since I typically dress like a Disney princess wannabe. When I tell her my clothes are from Japan, she reminds me that mixed girls are cutest and offers me a discount.

I’ll solve the mystery right now. I’ve had this question a lot online, from fans and friends alike. I am 100% white. I am from European immigrant, pale-skinned, New England stock. I have grasped at the straws of my genetic heritage. In high school, I played the Irish harp. My grandmother made us French-fried onion and green bean casserole, not her mother’s pierogies. They never spoke their languages to their children. Whatever culture we had, my grandparents sold to buy us American whiteness instead, or whatever that meant in the 1950s when my mother was born. (After all, whiteness has changed greatly over the years, but I digress.)

I’m scared to talk about this. There, I said it. I want to support the people I see fighting for racial equality across lines right now. I know I am just an ally at best, and that I might come off as another white-girl-tears Becky at worst. I’m not saying this because I am a weeaboo, Koreaboo, egg, or afflicted with yellow fever, though I’ve been called all those things. It would be easier if I could sum up my heritage as simply mixed or hapa and move on, instead of having to justify myself with my life’s story. But I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I know I am white, and the privilege that comes with it.

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2015 at the Mitsuwa summer festival, wearing my first yukata

On the flip side, I’m not white enough for my own family, sometimes. They groan every time they see the rice cooker on for dinner and they are pretty sick of me dragging them to sushi restaurants, where they order chicken teriyaki. My mom cringes when I go to town on a Korean fried fish with a pair of chopsticks. They are exasperated with my pet collection of languages and evenings watching Asian dramas. In my own house with visiting cousins, I’ve been called a race traitor.

When I met a new friend, after a few minutes’ chat he says, ‘So what kind of white are you?’ I stutter a little. I know that being asked ‘what are you?’ is a classically uncomfortable question for lots of POC or biracial people. I know it’s part of my privilege that this is the first time I’ve been asked that. But I’m still not sure how to answer. I eventually say lamely, ‘well, I’m from Connecticut,’ but that doesn’t explain much about who I am. Yes, I am born and bred on cow corn and northwestern Connecticut hills. I’m naturally some kind of blonde and I have the world’s whitest parents. What I can’t qualify with visions of Martha Stewart, Stars Hollow and Yale in the fall is that I’ve inherited a jumble of languages and cultures. My extended family is made up of Chinese, Japanese, Sri Lankan, Jewish and Cuban relatives. I had French picture books from my aunties as a kid, and I coaxed Québécois out of my Alzheimer-dreaming grandfather as a teenager. I spent ten years under the Japanese based culture of Lolita fashion and stumbling through the language and cultural expectations for modeling work. My little cousins speak Canto. I myself speak decent French, some sloppy Japanese and a growing child’s vocabulary of Korean.

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this is what love looks like

My boyfriend has diagnosed me with a kind of multi-flavor Konglish – I usually start a sentence in English and then slip into something else halfway through, or drop in pieces of vocabulary when I run out of English nuance. I’m not trying to offend or re-claim something that’s not mine when I accidentally speak another language, though I know girls who squeal broken Japanese make everyone cringe. When I’m speaking, I often have to pause and translate my own thoughts for the audience I’m speaking to. Early mornings make me mumble in Korean. I sleep-talk and dream in multiple languages. Twice now when I’ve woken up out of anesthesia, I have forgotten how to speak English, to the consternation of the nurses around me.

I will never fit in an easy box. I remember my first time getting dressed for Korean church, looking at my hair in the mirror. It’s platinum blonde, or alternately, jewel pink. All the guides on being respectful to your Korean elders (and yes, I see the irony on studying this) said you should color your hair “natural” or “dark”. Even if I bought a box of black dye, I was not going to fit in. I was never going to be Korean for my in-laws, and I was never going to be a classic Uconn white girl for my aunts and uncles on my Connecticut side. I can never fit on either side, as tempted as I am to try.

For much of my life, I have been passing. I pass as straight, so I don’t feel I can speak to the righteous fear of the Orlando shooting, even though I know what it’s like to be afraid to hold hands with my same-gender partner in public. I pass as white, and I am white, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to shit-talk #BlackLivesMatter in front of me over Thanksgiving dinner. When it comes to issues of Asian-American rights, I am thinking of my boyfriend, my cousins, my friends, my future children. I worry I’ll accidentally dip my children in whitewash, and in the same breath I worry that I’ll overdo it and give them the extra burden of carrying their Asianess around, in a name they have to repeat three times or in a lunchbox that smells funny. What if I pass on broken language that doesn’t fit in anywhere? What if I don’t tell my children what it means to be Asian, and everyone else tells them instead, encapsulated in stereotypes of Bruce Lee and nail salons? Am I even qualified to do either?

In between a rock and a hard place, I often end up saying nothing, or worse, wishing I had said nothing in the first place. If I don’t speak up to issues of injustice, does it mean I’m another white person who doesn’t care? Or if I do, does it mean I’m another white person who should keep my mouth shut about things I don’t understand? I often just feel… voiceless.

I know that’s something we have in common – to whoever is reading this right now. It’s something that unites everyone who has ever been judged based on who they are or what they seem to be. It’s when you wonder if you are overreacting or convince yourself that they didn’t really mean it that way or if you are just too sensitive. It’s not that I don’t care about these issues today. It’s that I do care – a lot. I cried watching a documentary about homeless elderly in Chinatown. I yell things at my TV screen during the Republican National Convention. I am way too patient with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to my door prophesying the end times (again). I am sitting with my mixed-faith prayer group listening to the other ladies talking about sending white light and love into the universe when they see trouble on the news, and thinking, yes, BUT, we also have to march and call our senators and vote. Even if I am wrong, even if I am missing some big picture, I want to know, because I do care.

I am part of a new generation of Americans. We are going to be a blended community, a blended family. Language, food, culture, religion, and gender are no longer bound to the old definitions of skin and body. I truly believe that is a good thing, something that makes us stronger, that makes our heritage richer, a process that has been slowly coming together for years (like in my current read, The Color of Water). But it doesn’t make this any less confusing a transition, for people on both sides, whether you’re biracial, mixed, or just multi-cultural.

I said when I started this piece that I was scared to speak up, about feeling “mixed up” on racial and cultural identity. I still am. But I know nothing is going to change in this world if we never talk about these feelings. I think every experience is valid, and deserves to be heard out. My motto for this year is “fear means go”, and I have leaned on it hard for the past six months. I am charging into what scares me; I am looking at my fear with curiosity. Isn’t courage speaking even when your voice shakes?

What makes you feel like you don’t fit in a box, or are stuck between two worlds? What makes you feel erased or invisible? What makes you feel voiceless? 

A Tribute to Takamasa Sakurai

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It’s been several weeks now since the news aired that the lolita and j-pop culture world has lost one of its heroes, but I’m still struggling to process it. Takamasa Sakurai died unexpectedly this past December. Besides writing several pop culture books and founding the Kawaii Ambassador program with the Japanese Ministry of Culture, Takamasa Sakurai traveled the globe speaking on lolita fashion and Japanese pop culture. He described himself to me once as a “cute otaku”, a lover of all things cute and the cute girls who create them, and I can think of no better definition for him than this. His passion was to encourage cuteness and the happiness it gave to the people who wore and created it, in every style and in every corner of the world where it was found.

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I met him several times in my circuit around the lolita world of events, but most notably at one of his Otakon speaking engagements. He said he thought my style was cute, which of course got me starstruck hard. While I did meet Takamasa in person several times and chatted with him briefly online, I still consider his loss from two angles – the personal and the professional.

I’m not usually overly affected by celebrity death, like I’ve seen my friends be. For example, David Bowie’s recent passing from an eighteen month battle with pancreatic cancer has hit a lot of my generation hard, from the fans of Velvet Goldmine to the Labyrinth.  His fans may never have met him, but his work has so long been the voice and spirit in their ears that they feel his loss as strongly as a friend might. The song that got you through hard times, or the movie that made you laugh, the gift of their creations to to us, feels like a piece of them. An expression, a quote, from someone you never knew, can visit your dreams or change your life.

Takamasa feels like this for me. The loss of his contribution is like a light winking out. His joy at seeing girls create their own idea of what was beautiful was infectious. He was the ultimate cheerleader of j-fashion and youth pop culture. He was fascinated with watching us dream. If there ever was someone who clapped if they believed, it was Takamasa. We were all his Tinkerbells.

Takamasa Sakurai: thank you.

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image from Animedia

Racism is Not Kawaii: The Avril Lavigne Factor

Hello Kitty Avril Lavigne

 

In another addition of “oh, those wacky Japanese”, as explained by white people, Avril Lavigne has debuted a new music video called Hello Kitty. When I first watched this as it popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, I immediately felt a migraine coming on. In this video, be prepared for more “edgy” contributions to culture that really hit the same shabby racist note.

The video begins with ‘me no psycho*, arigato, k-k-k-kawaii’, which immediately makes my stomach roil. The first line already makes fun of Asians in standard Mickey Rooney style, by mimicking an Asian broken English style. The Japanese words sound as though they’re just tacked on for flavor; the opening line is literally “me no psycho, thank you, cute’, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The song is also called ‘Hello Kitty’, which is also confusing – Hello Kitty doesn’t appear anywhere in the video, most likely because they couldn’t get Sanrio to agree to use the image.

In the next shot, it’s revealed that Avril is basically rebooting Gwen Stefani’s old Harajuku Girls. In 2005, Gwen Stefani hired four Asian girls to follow her around in matching outfits for a series of music displays. Comedian Margaret Cho said it best: to be blunt, it’s a minstrel show. She’s collected a group of Asian girls, dressed identically, who background dance behind her without expression. This is what probably makes the video so strongly offensive. Using Asian girls are decorations, accessories, or props is dehumanizing. It’s funny (and by funny, I mean funny painful, not funny haha) that Asians make great background props in everything from Tokyo Drift to Avatar: The Last Airbender but never make main character in their own stories, like 21.

It’s no surprise that the video was met by immediate backlash from Asians and non-Asians alike. Avril further makes an ass of herself on Twitter, responding to the comments with the following:

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Thanks, Avril. Such a sensitive response makes us feel so much better.

She continues that she shot the video in Japan, with Japanese cast and directors, for her Japanese fans. The Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C., reports that Avril “had only good intentions when making the video.” The spokesman added … they “would be happy if the discussions surrounding her song and music video results in more people discovering the beautiful and rich culture of Japan.”

That’s understandable; a lot of artists tailor work specifically for one audience or another, and Japan is always interested in encouraging tourism. However, the way this is taken in Japan by Japanese fans is a wholly different view than it is by her other fans abroad. This video is not being consumed in a bubble. Besides her Japanese fans, she has her American fans of many races and other multi-racial audiences around the world. How would it feel to be an Asian-American watching this video, as a white woman simplifies Japanese culture down to thigh highs and tutus with silent Asian girls as dolls?

Here’s another way she could have shot this video (despite the fact that the subject matter and lyrics are pretty flat… apparently it was written by her Nickelback hubby, Chad Kroeger) She could have collaborated with a Japanese artist, for example, to give a little more weight and autonomy to the Japan connection. She could have featured other assets of Japanese culture besides the tiny slice of pop culture that continues to misrepresent Japan to the West as more than the “wacky Japan” tropes. Why not showcase Kyoto, or Okinawa, the deer park in Nara, or Tokyo Tower? Maybe celebrate hot springs or summer festivals in yukata?

From a fashion point of view, the video also fails pretty horrible. Her pink petticoat-tutu hybrid looks like it’s from an American discount toy store, with safety pinned non-descript cupcakes, paired with a Hot Topic corset she rescued from the early 2000s. The only fashion inspiration I liked were her vintage mint glasses – check Etsy if you’re interested in finding similar styles.

Between the blatant racism, tired trope of ‘white girl discovers Harajuku, becomes instant expert’, boring lyrics and story-boarding, it gives the feel of nothing more than a Youtube pop project. In fact, it reminds me strongly of the amateur video song ‘I Love Chinese Food’ by Alison Gold. Only redeeming factor? There’s no creepy dude in a panda costume.

*one of my commenters mentioned that she may actually be saying ‘minna saiko’, not me no psycho, which translates to ‘you rock, everyone’. Credit goes to T.R.A. at Medium for clearing this up for me – another great article about the oppressiveness of the song here.

My Strange Addiction: Living Doll

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The living doll phenomenon, girls and sometimes guys who aspire to look like ball jointed dolls or Barbies, has been popularized this past year through YouTube and news media around the world. Sometimes intertwined with anime or alternative Japanese fashions like gyaru or lolita, living dolls have captured media interest. On January 1st, 2014, TLC’s My Strange Addiction interviewed three self-claimed living dolls, of which two girls involved with lolita fashion took part.

I wasn’t sure if I could handle watching the show after seeing the clips and preview photos, but when I found myself with some time to spare and my boyfriend’s cable box last night, I took the plunge and watched the hour-long special. (I also had fun live-tweeting the experience – it felt like I was watching alongside all my Facebook and Twitter friends!)

I will not really be covering Justin, the Ken Doll lookalike in this article, as he isn’t involved in alternative fashion. I fully support however he wants to look with plastic surgery so long as he’s not risking his health, and I thought he looked kind of cute.

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The Venus segment went much as I expected; there was no new information in watching her many attempts to turn her YouTube success into a real dollars-making business. The episode shows Venus practicing Japanese from a guide book, making typical “kawaii” sounds in the mirror, and signing a couple autographs at a local shopping center. Her elusively-seen stage mom makes an appearance, showing off her white lady dreads styled into a bun covered with bows and in a matching Bodyline baby blue onepiece. The segment finished with some details and footage of Venus’ trip to Japan, which we now know is part of the infamous Mr. Yan “Venus Fall in Dream” scandal. (For more on this topic, there is a round up article here.) While they did not mention Bodyline by name, there is currently a legal debate about the footage she took in Japan and may open up a whole other issue for TLC, but that’s not really applicable to my review.

Watch the full episode of My Strange Addiction: Living Doll here! 

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Why New York City Lolitas Swear

 

New York City lolitas swear. A lot. At least, all the ones I run with do. In fact, your average New York City lolita has enough mothaf***ing sass to power the Empire State Building for at least a year, with the exception of special occasion Christmas lights. From my travels around the country, it seems like New York City girls do the most backtalk to street harassment. Maybe that’s because we’re subjected to plenty of it on a daily basis, or maybe because we’re from a culture where people speak their mind often.

So this article is to bust the myth that lolitas are “ladylike” and don’t swear. If you want to see gorgeous lolitas draped in chiffon and pearls shatter lolita stereotypes, holla at my New York City girls.

My friend Andrea, the moderator of the Atlanta lolita community, came to visit over International Lolita Day. She’s got that southern charm and class, which is something we New York girls aren’t really known for. When people are rude to us (everyone from native New Yorkers, tourists, or drunk guys on a train), New York City girls do not hesitate to put them in their place. Andrea said to us, “People often tell me I’m too nice. I need to hang out with you girls more to learn some of your attitude.”

On International Lolita Day, it’s also prime Christmas season in New York and plenty of out-of-towners and tourists are visiting to see the Rockettes and Rockefeller Plaze and generally live out their Home Alone II daydreams. Riding the train in, we rode in a car with a few families – mom, dad, 2.5 kids and the like. As the train pulled into Grand Central, everyone starts gathering their things to exit the train. Both families sitting further to the front stopped dead in the aisle, effectively keeping everyone on the train from leaving. The mom flashes an L.L. Bean smile at me and says, “So. I gotta ask.” And waves her hand vaguely at my body. (Check out my previous post to see what I wore!)

“What do you have to ask?” I asked her, looking her dead in the eye.

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Top 3 Pastel 90s Toys We Love

After this Sunday’s My Little Pony Exhibit, I started thinking about all the other 90s and late 80s pastel toys we loved and grew up with. This was a golden era for girls’ toys, made in creamy dreamy colors and big eyes with twinkles. Whether its nostalgia or how well they fit with Japanese sweet fashion trends like fairy-kei and sweet lolita, many girls still love collecting these cuties today.

If you didn’t have Puppy (or Bunny or Kitty or Pony) Surprise as a child you might be kind of creeped out… The theme is that the little puppies or other baby animals come out of a velcroed pouch in Mom’s stomach. The ‘surprise’ is that the box doesn’t say how many baby pets you’ll get until you open the box. Some later editions revealed to your the baby animal’s gender only after you had opened the package, too. (For a trip down memory lane, watch this commercial. I love all these old commercials for girls’ toys!)

Today, they’re beloved collectibles for their pretty faces and ice cream pastel bodies.While some of their fur might not have kept as well as we’d have liked, their molded faces are still as sweet ever. Even Tabuchi, founder of the fairy-kei brand Spank!, has a few.

If My Little Ponies were roly-poly and fighting off the Rainbow of Darkness, Fashion Star Fillies were the long-legged supermodel ponies on the catwalk who were braiding their hair. These slightly larger horses were made by Kenner in the mid-1980s, and were made for dressing up. They wore everything from jazzercise wear to prom dresses to wedding gowns. But I think what we like most about them is their fanciful, beautiful pearly colors and oodles of easily-lost hairclips. I’m just going to let one thing sink in for a minute… as pretty as these ponies are, someone made them jazzercise wear. Jazzercise. Oh, 80s and 90s, we miss you, but we are kind of glad you’re gone.

Watch the commercial here! This weird retro music and their names, like Joelle – and the fact they wear garters – really highlights how strange this idea was. And gave girls really unrealistic expectations about horses.

Precious Places were actually a Fisher-Price product, meant for younger children. The figures are pretty simplistic, but the houses are the real gems of this toy line. Each set featured a small pastel dollhouse, such as a ballet studio, a stable, a wedding chapel, or a Victorian mansion. The lights all worked (with batteries hidden in the chimney) and the dolls could interact with the house through magnets in the accompanying magic wands. I still have my pink-and-yellow ballet studio (like the one picture on the bottom right) and it makes a lovely display on my dresser.

Precious Places has a really sweet commercial as well that shows how the magnetic keys work and really highlights the working electric lights that featured in the tiny houses.

 

Are you in love with collecting vintage 80s and 90s toys? Do you remember having any of these are a child?

If you want to read more about 80s and 90s toys, check out these sites:

✰ 80s Toy Ark

Ghost of the Doll – a great resource for looking up old toys

What Age is Right for Lolita?

 

 Kaya, a very, very young lolita, whose mother modifies Angelic Pretty clothing and items to fit her. (It’s rumored that her mother is an Angelic Pretty designer.)

I see this topic coming up again and again – not only on your average online forum, but also in the many emails I receive. If I had a nickle for every girl who wanted to know about how her age fits into lolita, I’d have a very pretty brand wardrobe indeed (unfortunately I’m not getting paid on this price point… sigh!) The whole hub-bub, especially from new readers on the Doll, is this way-back-when article right here.

This was one of the first articles I ever wrote on my lolita blog, then called Lolita Charm, and it’s always attracting comments both positive and negative. For those of you who don’t want to reread it, here’s the basic synopsis: lolita fashion standards and most importantly the lolitas’ drama-laden internet culture is not something I’d want to impose on my child, or children as young as, say, 13. To put it in context, this was written when they was a lot more emphasis on ‘doing it right’ and the hammer came down pretty severely on those who put a single toe out of line. It was a commentary on our general culture and whether or not this was a good influence on younger girls, and not a VIP list of who’s in and who’s out.

Since then I’ve had girls who worry they’re ‘too young’ at eleven, or others that they’ll be ‘too old’ at seventeen. And since then, I have talked to very sweet lolitas ages younger than I, and appreciated the work of teenaged bloggers like Tavi, who are quickly joining the ranks of professional style bloggers everywhere (check out her Rookie magazine, I’m currently in love with it). On the other hand, I’ve now met many girls in my local community pushing the other end of the spectrum – don’t ask a lady her age, so we won’t address any specific numerals – but suffice to say well into the age of adulthood or even AARP status!  And guess what? They’re all pretty fabulous, dedicated lolitas.

For the record, once and for all, to be blunt, get your notebooks out: You can be any age and wear lolita. 

Anyone can appreciate the lolita aesthetic and want to incorporate that into their life or fashion style. That’s all you need to know. Lolita fashion is lolita fashion. Lolita is clothing. The most important thing to learn, at some point in your lolita experience, is that lolita is not the Internet. Lolita is not even other people, lolita or not, online or in real life. If the Internet disappeared tomorrow, would lolita still exist? Of course. I stand by my belief that lolita internet culture is not perfect, but it’s not lolita. Lolita is an idea, a concept, expressed in fashion, that you tailor to yourself somewhere between your imagination and your heart. Fashion and style has no age restriction.

Speaking of age now in this article is funny for me, because I wrote the previous article when I was perhaps 19 and now at 22 (and a half!) I can already see a difference in my thoughts. In 2008, the ‘pseudo-science’ of lolita was popular, trying to analyze ourselves for why we liked what we did, in every aspect from our desires for childhood and childlike ideals right down to whether or not we romanticize other lolitas in a notion of bisexuality. Today I find the attitude to be more that we like how it looks, it’s cute, what else is there to know? I think the emergence of this attitude in the West is due to the many cute styles filtering out of Japan that aren’t quite so loaded a gun as the concept of ‘lolita’. There is little analysis going on, in, say, the world of fairy-kei or mori-girl. It’s cute. What else is there?

As I read recently online and to my chagrin just got the meaning of, age is all between the ears (did I used to think that meant brittle hair? I don’t know.) It’s true. Age is just between your ears, in your head. If you feel young in your heart, then that’s how you’ll be. If you think, I’m already 40, it’s time to throw in the towel and get used to being middle-aged, then you’ll turn into your idea of a typical middle-aged lady, minivan and all. Who you are is all about your perception of yourself, who you most want to be.

A great example is my belly dance teacher. She is over 60 and is absolutely full of energy and sass. I saw her out at the grocery store once, dressed to kill in a caramel-colored suede jacket with flower cut outs and high heels, dripping in shimmer powder and spangly belly dance jewelry. She is not afraid to stand out, and I am sure she doesn’t let her age get her down. If you hunt around on the Internet, there are plenty of fabulous older ladies to give you inspiration. I even saw a 70ish lady in New York City once, looking like a fashion plate, with a shock of Tarina Tarantino colored pink hair. That’s who I want to be when I grow up. (Can you imagine, no more bleach! Pastel hair as far as the eye can see…)

So, no matter when you discover lolita, or at what age you want to express yourself, I encourage you to take the plunge and follow your bliss. If it makes you happy, if it makes you leap for joy in your heart, if a pile of pink lace sends shivers down your spine –

Go for it.

 

Here’s a few articles specifically addressed on helping out younger lolitas (lolitas still in junior high or high school):

Blossoming: 8 Checkpoints for Younger Lolitas: Advice for younger girls with less pocket money interested in lolita style.

Convincing Your Parents to Let Your Wear Lolita by F Yeah Lolita: How to help your parents understand lolita fashion.

 

friendship

How to Make Lolita Friends (Online and Offline)

A while ago on a lolita forum I saw a troubling topic: among the usual sales and meetup shout-outs, someone had blithely typed, “Snotty lolitas in real life! Share your stories!” with a big smiley face. What was going on here? A few dozen comments later, the general consensus came to light – the ‘snotty IRL lolita’ seemed more urban legend than local convention and meetup denizen. Few had stories to share of their own; more had the ‘my cousin’s-best-friend-knew-this-Swedish-lolita’s-sister’ genre. For the rare girl who did have a story, which seemed to mostly amount to ‘I smiled at her and she walked away!’ there was an underlying bitterness: why didn’t that girl seem friendly? Weren’t lolitas supposed to have an unspoken kinship, like members of a species? Why wouldn’t that girl be my friend [rising wail, stage right]?

So, what’s the deal? Why is Lolita such a hotbed of friendship drama even in real life, whether you’re looking to make friends or fit into the clique you’ve got? Are we lolitas socially awkward lepers, or something?! Why do we seem to have such a hard time building friendships?

In my years in the lolita community, both online and in real life, I’ve honed my own personal ‘friendship’ style. While I admit that I can be pretty shy and withdrawn, I’ve managed to find plenty of lolita friends to chat with – online and offline. I’ve learned how to do this mostly be the ever-popular trial and error. So, if you do happen do be from the Island of Misfit Toys like myself, keep reading!

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