Category Archives: international lolita day

International Lolita Day, Summer 2016

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I have never missed a Lolita Day since I began celebrating it in 2007. Even when that meant making cupcakes alone in my lolita garb as a high schooler, I found a small way to make sure the lolita spirit got its chance to breathe, at least twice a year on the first Saturdays of June and December. Lolita Day, the lore says, was established over a decade ago to give lolitas of the world (hence, International, or ILD for short) a day of celebration of their fashion and world. What began as simple teas or even just a chance to dress up has blossomed into lavish tea parties and gigantic meetups across dozens of countries.

 

This International Lolita Day, another steamy one on the streets of New York for me, was special to me for another reason. This was the first lolita meetup I attempted since my hospitalization a little over a month ago, when I was given an amazing gift. To read more about my story of organ donation from my wonderful love, click here! (And hey, psst, become an organ donor :)

I was a little scared, to be honest. I wasn’t sure my new body was up for the challenge of super humid subways and the heavy restriction of petticoats and skirts. But my new motto is that fear should motivate me, not detain me. If I’m scared, I must be going in the right direction.

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I was not disappointed. I had a simple and elegant brunch with my fellow lolitas in a quiet ceremony at the seasonal restaurant, Park Avenue South Summer. Park Avenue Summer – as it will be called until the autumn hits us – changes its menu, decor and name for every passing season. This weekend was the first summer brunch, and the restaurant is decked out with jungle greenery and casts of tortoise shells, a fresh Bellini bar and chandeliers of seashells.

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My favorite part of the meal – a dish of smoked salmon and creamy pasta bucatini with some kind of spritely green roe. Also, this is the kind of restaurant that thinks fresh cinnamon rolls for the table is a great starter – clearly the kind of place to frequent!

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Can we say theme commitment? This deer bag charm is the perfect companion to Mary Alice’s Innocent World fawn-themed coordinate.

After brunch, I went to the park with my boyfriend for a few outfit shots before the rain came. I’m most pleased with my favorite new DreamV straw hat in this outfit!

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Outfit credits: Dress, wristlets, Baby the Stars Shine Bright; blouse & hat, DreamV; purse, Liz Lisa; floral brooch by Bii Curly; socks and shoes, offbrand

 

Celebrating Lolita Day

ild15Another International Lolita Day in New York City has come and gone. Each one has been a unique memory for me, and this one is no different. As usual, I walked too much and ate too much. I was amazed by the beauty and ingenuity of my friends’ diverse fashionability.

This year although I was invited to multiple teas, I ended up at a low-key luncheon at Laduree Soho, a famous French bakery. The dining room is done up in a lush antique soda blue and lit with tiny white fairy lights out in the court yard.

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It’s been nine years now since I became a lolita. I’ve celebrated countless Lolita Days, large and small. For some years I was alone, making pink cupcakes in my kitchen in a handmade skirt. For other years, I attended grand champagne teas with dozens of Christmas trees and rose petal puddings. Summer Lolita Days sticky with humidity and icy Lolita Days fraught with snow. In the past I might have pontificated something about “lolita family” or “lolita culture”, and those things are still true. But I don’t think that’s all there is to it, anymore. Not to get all Charlie Brown on you, but this year I wondered: what’s the true meaning of International Lolita Day?

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Whether you choose to mark Lolita Day with something as large and as lavish as a tea party, or as quiet as dressing up alone and taking yourself out for a latte, the spirit of the holiday is the same. Though throughout the year we may reserve our dresses for bigger occasions, our hearts are still the same. As I pressed the long tails of my satin ribbon, I said aloud, “I feel better. I should do this more often – I feel more like myself.” I’m still myself in a pink sweatshirt and leggings; I know that. But the joy that comes from expressing your style and internal view of yourself brings a kind of freedom that’s hard to duplicate. I couldn’t help but twirl around in my new coordinate like a little girl. Appreciating my clothing, my community, the love for lolita around me, is all important – but so is cherishing the love of creativity within myself.

My coordinate credits: jumperskirt, Angelic Pretty Disney collaboration; blouse, KOKOkim; bow, Moss Marchen; tights, Ophanim

International Lolita Day: Winter 2012

On December 1st, the New York City lolitas celebrated International Lolita Day by enjoying a Christmas-themed tea at a upscale Victorian teahouse in Manhattan, Lady Mendl’s. It was a gorgeous turn of the century townhouse, probably not unlike the one my grandmother grew up in during Victorian-era Brooklyn. It was decorated with glittering Christmas trees, cozy fires in every grate, and some very cute butler-style staff who poured tea and made mimosas. It was really a lolita’s perfect idea of a winter holiday party.

Pictured above are my two lovely friends, Crystal and Rune, as well as a candid shot Caitlin took of me at the tea table!

Dinner was in courses, featuring first an amuse-bouche of butternut squash mini quiche topped with baked Parmasean, followed by an array of tea sandwiches and then scones with clotted cream or jam. The dessert was a cream-soaked cake of mille feuille layers.

This is what I wore for International Lolita Day! Normally I would have worn my Liz Lisa heels, but the forecast was for snow, and New York City sidewalks in slush with four inch heels seemed impractical, to put it lightly. I’m wearing:

Blouse, hairbow, pearl necklace: Baby the Stars Shine Bright; Salopette, ring: Angelic Pretty; boots: Yesstyle.com; everything else, offbrand

These boots are so comfortable. I wanted a simple boot that would go with both my lolita and daily wear wardrobe, so I chose these soft grey low-heeled boots adorned with ribbons on the side. I can wear them with just about anything, and I do. Soft grey, I’ve decided, is my chosen neutral over black, brown or beige. It usually matches any pastel without being as sharp as black, and it goes with any hair color I end up with.

Unfortunately, not many of my photos came out in the dim cozy lighting of either Lady Mendl’s or the Aspen Social Club, a midtown bar and restaurant we hit up afterwards. Here’s one of my few favorites – Crystal and I posing with a game of chess.

 This International Lolita Day I’m so thankful for my friends. My girls in the city are really more like my family than any other friends I’ve had before. I know they’ve got my back, and they’re the only girls who like both my sass and my adorkable. So thanks to them all, especially Crystal and Dalin for running the tea party meetup, and wicked props to Amber for running such a huge event the same day! You girls are the best.

What did you all do for International Lolita Day? Did you meet up with friends, or enjoy Lolita Day quietly at home?

Celebrating International Lolita Day!

Sunday was the day my friends and I chose to celebrate ILD this year instead of Saturday – it ended up being a great choice, as the weather was perfect! International Lolita Day for us always ends up being a mix of meetup and Christmas-time tea, complete with White Elephant gift exchange and a lovely afternoon teatime at the Rose House in Queens.

There are so many places to buy Sanrio and Hello Kitty goods in Queens! Really tempting, they had so many different kinds of Hello Kitty products. I was good and did not buy tons of plushies like I wanted – the only thing I bought were keyboard stickers to cover up the guminess of my much-loved pink netbook. They’re marked with the letters of the keyboard but do take a bit of getting used to! Here I am pouting over not indulging in a My Melody plushie… so soft and pink! All of us lolitas got a little plushie crazy!

Among the many, many products, there was also Hello Kitty and My Melody bubble gum!

Then we went to do purikura, which is real treat as the booths are rare in New York City. Unfortunately ToTo will be closing at the end of December – we were entertaining ideas of buying this little pink-saturated business, but of course that’s just a pipe dream. Here’s all of us squeezing into a booth…

Dalin decorating the puri!

One of the ‘walls of purikura’ where you could leave a photo. It was covered and there was another one too!

Only one of the machines sent the photos to my email, the very weird machine that talked with a Barbie-ish voice. These puri were decorated with Venus of Botticelli… and kiwi. The other machine was much cuter! Still these puri are more hilarious than anything else. That’s me in the lilac and pink fade wig! Bottom row, left to right: Lauren, Angela; top row, Crystal and Alex! I also got really cute ones of Dalin and I, my darling blogger best friend! Those I’m going to put in my lolita scrapbook.

After purikura time we headed to tea at the Rose House. It’s a lolita favorite and they’re used to use trekking in and standing out amongst their other customers. Here’s the menu and the teas, all on tea lights to stay warm.

Besides elaborate tea services and wonderful flavors of milk tea, they also have the most amazing waffles. I ordered chicken and waffles – smoked chicken that is – that they serve with honey and whipped cream with sprinkles. I also had rose petal milk tea. It was wonderfully fragrant and delicious, but the rose petals stuck to my tongue… a little awkward to take them out at the tea table!

At tea we had a White Elephant gift exchange. I was the nasty one and ‘stole’ my present, but I just loved the hairbow from the Stone Flower so much! It’s coated in white iridescent rhinestones. Here’s Crystal showing off her new Stone Flower ring and new Icing Sugar cookie ring!

Christmas lights strung across the Queens Cross mall… the mall is mostly mirrors, so the lights were really magical.

Finally here is my coordinate! I was really set on wearing lavender even though I don’t currently have a lavender dress, so I combined a dress and skirt for a pop-ish style. The theme was either winter or ‘what makes you lolita’, so I interpreted this as trying to show my personality in my coordinate. I thought, if I died in this outfit, would that be okay? And yes, I’d be okay if this was the last outfit I ever wore! Simple but sweet and a little quirky.

All Angelic Pretty but for the shoes (Bodyline), wig (MintyMix), and lace tights (Macy’s). A shame the pink tights didn’t show up better, I love them to death and wear them everywhere!

We had one of the best days out on Sunday. I am so grateful for my lolita friends – we really have a fun time together, the laughter never stops! And who else would go to three Hello Kitty shops with me in one day and not only not be bored, but share my enthusiasm for giant My Melody plushies?! I am truly blessed to know these girls – NYC lolitas represent!

By the way, there are going to be many more photos on my Facebook if you’re a friend! I just couldn’t face bombarding you with all of them!

 

I’d also like to announce the two winners of the Kawaii Companions x Parfait Doll giveaway!

Ally has won the Ichigo Necklace and Jamie Lynn has won the Ichigo Ring!I’ll be emailing you with information about receiving your prizes, so please look forward to it!

And thank you to everyone else for participating – it seems the favorite lolita motif is definitely DEER! I expected something like stars or sweets or even carousel ponies, but deer are something of an underdog – apparently they need more prints!

I hope you all had a wonderful International Lolita Day – what did you get up to?

 

Happy International Lolita Day!

Happy International Lolita Day (Winter 2011) everyone! I hope you plan to spend the day celebrating your lolita-ness, whether out with friends or at home reveling in the cute! I’m actually celebrating with my friends on Sunday this year, due to pesky prior conflicts, but I think it’ll be a lovely time all the same.

As International Lolita Day comes upon us yet again (I like the winter version better, it always ends with my dearest girls snuggled in a tea house exchanging holiday presents – summer ILD always seems too humid and is outside!), I want to take a moment to reflect on lolita. In the past I’ve posted poems from the great lolita bards – novelists and singers – of Japan, but I think this year I want to express something myself.

Lately I’ve been seriously considering getting a lolita-inspired tattoo. Nothing huge, nothing colorful, just a simple design – I won’t say what! – to show how lolita fashion has changed my life. I know it sounds silly to say that a fashion style can ‘change your life’, but getting sucked into the world of lolita really has pushed me into becoming a very different person than I was before I met the ubiquitous Momoko.

At the precipice between my ordinary existence and my beginning as a lolita, I was an unremarkable individual. I didn’t have any particular passionate drive, let alone a sense of style. I’ve already shared in past articles that I had no idea what to do with my hair or makeup, and it was only by the grace of God that someone had convinced me to wax my eyebrows. I couldn’t even get a date to my prom. Now, because I’ve discovered lolita, I feel truly beautiful. I’ve figured out the exact color my hair has always wanted to be because of lolita (pink, naturally.) I’ve learned to appreciate my unconventional features, like fuller cheeks. And I never, in a million years, dreamed that one day I’d be sending out headshots and working runways as a lolita model.

Lolita has also given me a drive, an ambition. I had never stuck with any hobby for long – horseback riding, ballet, at one point even, vocal lessons – but in lolita and later lolita blogging I found my true passion. I was ruminating on my ‘cutie mark’ the other day – how wonderful would it be if our life’s calling just appeared one day, instead of spending a lifetime wondering – and I realized blogging would be my cutie mark. (A laptop cutie mark? I have no idea how that’d look on a flank.)

Whenever I think of all the people who had to be involved to create my experience, that altered me forever – the girls on the street back in the early 2000s; Mana coining his term ‘elegant gothic lolita’; Takemoto, whose words inspired me; The Isobes for their brand, which all culminated in the film Kamikaze Girls; back across the ocean, all those executives who decided to release the film in America; the girls who made the first online lolita presence; Maki and Asuka and all the others behind Angelic Pretty; Misako Aoki who inspires me daily; to my first lolita friends and their support, to the dear, best lolita friends I have today, that I prowl New York City with decked out in pink lace and layers of chiffon.

I know that I will always be forever thankful to these people, and their shared dream of lolita. They made me who I am today, even if some of them will never know it. Somewhere, across the sea, in a tiny state, they changed the life of this small-town girl.

So today, on International Lolita Day, I look back on all of these people… and wish them my gratitude.

So tell me on this International Lolita Day – what does lolita mean to you? If you could thank the ‘spirit’ or ‘gods’ of lolita for anything, what would it be?

International Lolita Day, 2011!

By my count, this is my eleventh International Lolita Day (easier than one would think, since it’s a bi-yearly holiday: the first Saturday in June and December, for the curious). It’s meant many things for me: the years when I met with a few friends and indulged in pink, frothy Starbucks, decked out at local malls; the years when I made long journeys, in the heat and winter rain, to celebrate in style at various swanky tea houses. While the day traditionally constitutes getting dressed to the nines and headed out in the wide world to strut your stuff, or to meet in army formation with as many other local lolitas as you can muster, it has another side. International Lolita Day can be a time for bold celebration, but also a time to reflect and be still.

 

With the advent of the lolita community (and by this I mean, anywhere you can connect with other lolitas online – the blogosphere, Tumblr, Facebook, weheartit.com, Lookbook.nu, the list goes on), we love to do, dress, and show all about our passion for lolita with meetups, photoshoots, and fashion shows. These things are wonderful, but there is also a place in the lolita experience for simply being. To sit with your frills, decked out in the latest dreamy creation of either your favorite brand or of your own hands, and experience how pleasant it is to fulfill your fantasy. For me, the lolita experience is about feeling what it is to become your own daydream: a princess, a doll, a secret fairy, or an aristocratic maiden. It’s a very zen approach to lolita fashion: don your best dress with creamy lace, sitting in flower fields or your boudoir, with perfectly coiffed hair, to paint in watercolor or write musings of poetry, like a pillow book, or to embroider or hold a dolls’ tea party. It strikes me as the way Novala Takemoto might celebrate International Lolita Day – with a cup of delicate tea and his lolita prose. ILD can be a celebration, but I also think, amidst the activity and group photos, you should take time to honor the spirit of lolita. Even something as meditative as re-reading your favorite GLB would be fine. As for me, I’ll be taking peach tea with my twin Byuls, teddy bears, and stuffed unicorn.

 

In honor of ILD, I’ve decided to reproduce this short essay by Arika Takarano, a singer from the Japanese band Ali Project. I love the message and feel it’s a very appropriate encouragement for lolita on International Lolita Day. Items in bold are my personal demarcations.

 

I wonder what made you become lolita? Is it because you wanted to wear cute clothes? Because you like lace and frills? Because you wanted to be like someone? Or was it because you wanted to become cute so you’d be popular with guys?


No, no, that’s impossible, isn’t it? After all, lolita isn’t something with which you worry about what guys think! I bet your answer is something like this, “Before I know it, I was a lolita maiden.”


That’s right! You are a chosen maiden, a born aristocratic maiden. I understand you well. You’re a daydreamer and a visionary who is here in body, but not in spirit. You’re shy, willful, don’t want to be like others. You like reading by yourself rather than partying with friends. You love pretty things and want to live surrounded only by things you like. Isn’t that right?


“I am a special maiden.” It’s okay for you to think that, you know. Even if there are strangers who look away and snicker at you because your skirt is too poofy, or because the ribbon adorning your hair is too big, you don’t have to let it bother you. Sure, it’s aggravating that there are still some confused people who see Gothic and Lolita as unemotional, cheap cosplay, but you should just remain confident and stand tall.


One cannot learn true kindness unless one becomes strong. Nothing will come of indulging in the comfort of lukewarm idleness. It’s trifling and foolish to look at the same things other see and try to discover something interesting from such. After all, there are many more wonderful things, yet-unknown things, beautiful things that will take your breath away in your world. I know that you can find these things.


Cotton candy envelops your heart. Scarlet roses bloom in your eyes, and the taste of honey forever spreads upon your tongue. Your hair is soft and your skin is smooth. You are a maiden who was born to be lolita. You exist in a cocoon. The light of the sun and the glistening of the moon gently fall upon you there. You want to stay there forever with your eyes closed. While you wish for that, the dreams that fall gently upon you there are woven like a sweet layer of powdered sugar…


But girls with a highly developed sense of beauty are intelligent. Have you realized that behind the fluffy cuteness lies a well-honed sword, the blade of which shines brightly? That’s right. After all, you already know, don’t you? That this world does not consist of only beautiful things? That somewhere lurks malice that intends to do you harm? That roses have thorns so that may remain sublime? And that sentiment, you must fight to protect what is dear to you?


This is what I think: Gothic and Lolita clothes are a maiden’s armor, which even a knight armor cannot compare. A maiden’s lace is her steel. Her ribbons are chains. Her dress hat is her helmet, and she surreptitiously changes the blood that flows from her wounds into true red rose petals. Thus, the maiden fights. After all, to live is to fight, and to become beautiful is to become stronger.


You are a noble being that no one may touch, you are cute and yet tragic. Yes, the ideal aristocratic maiden, in my imagination, is very much like you.


There are other maidens who say, “But I’m not cute, so…” You know, though, there is no such thing as a maiden who is not cute. It’s just that there are maidens who don’t have enough confidence. However, modesty is a virtue, and those maidens won’t become the kind of shameless women who are not mindful of their appearance. That’s why I think not having confidence is a step towards beauty, too. So, stop looking in the mirror and sighing! You must find at least a piece of yourself that you like best. For example, part of your face would be nice: like your peachy cheeks or even your eyelashes. Your tiny, pink seashell nails would also be fine. The fact that you’ve got a talent for art, or that your specialty is making sweets would be fine, too. It’s enough for you to acknowledge, little by little, that there is something you excel in. See? When you think of it that way, do’t you recall this and that talent?


Say, I can see wings on your back – elegant wings, with the luster of velvet. Please keep flying freely, without fear. Even if someone should hurt you, you will end up landing in the right place. I know this well, because once upon a time, I was like you, too.

What Are You Doing for ILD?

whaaa…? no, not yet!

I can’t believe it’s almost time for ILD again (I suppose that’s what happens when you have a holiday twice a year instead of once!). ILD, or International Lolita Day, is a holiday celebrated on the first Saturday of June and December, for all things lolita! Whether you are gothic, classic, sweet, punk, fairy, hime, country, or sailor, this is the day everything is about lolita! Lolita Day always sneaks up on me, but this year I’m going to be prepared! Last year I went to a sumptuous ILD party in NYC, but this year I don’t have the room in my schedule :( Here are a few ideas if you want to celebrate and there’s no gala near you!

First: get dressed to the absolute hilt. Every rose, rhinestone, bow, pearl and teddy bear in your arsenal. Wear your most sumptuous dress, your most cakely shoes, and put on your biggest, curliest wig (or style your own hair into huge, teased masses of pigtails). Your stickiest lipgloss, your brightest blush, and a healthy coating of glitter finish off the look until you feel like a walking strawberry cream parfait. Everybody likes parfaits, right?

If You’re The Only Rufflebutt in the Whole, Wide, World (Or So It May Seem)…

  • Go out to your favorite cafe with a GLB, an iPod full of your favorite lolita music (Tchaikovsky? Kanon Wakeshima?) and ordered the most decadent dessert on the menu.
  • Set your self-timer and take a ton of photos. Spend the rest of the day covering them with sparkles, or use Puricute to…. well, spend the rest of the day covering them with sparkles.
  • Dress up any unwilling participant, like your best friend, dog, boyfriend, or hamster. 
  • Make an absolutely huge wishlist of every single item you wish you could buy. Resolve to own at least one by the next ILD!
  • Get some felt or fake silicone cream and make yourself an honorary cake hat for the day. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s only for celebrating ILD! Cover it with strawberries, clay cookies, roses, or anything else you like.
  • If you collect dolls or stuffed animals, set them up for an old-fashioned tea party and take a cute photoshoot. 
  • Pick out a lolita pattern from the GLB or other online source and spend your day puzzling it out! For beginners, try bloomers, a hairbow, or tote bag with cute felt appliques; for the more advanced, consider making berets, pochettes, or a simple skirt.
  • If you have the time, plan yourself a ‘princess day.’ In the novel Kamikaze Girls, Momoko describes the day of the typical Rococo lady – wake up leisurely, play with cute toy breed puppies, eat an adorable breakfast… you get the deal! This idea is actually from a Japanese lolita forum a long time ago, where the original lolita said ‘simply spoil your princess self’! I couldn’t put it any better!
  • Find a Japanese bookstore and sit for hours among the shelves, reading through every Kera and GLB they have in stock!
For One Or More Lolitas…
  • Get together a friend and a room full of nostalgia cuteness for a super-special anything-goes photoshoot. Learn how with this cute guide from PinkSugarIchigo! A few theme ideas: everything Sanrio, a single color theme (cough…pink? or perhaps… cough, black?), or just wallpaper the place with every brand bag you own between you for that ‘runway snapshot’ feel.
  • If you have any purikura places near you, pile into the green screen and take a memorandum! Bonus: see how many adorable stamps you can use in under 30 seconds. 
  • Whip up a few platters of your favorite tea-time snacks and have a tiny tea party at home! While huge parties at fancy tea restaurants are wonderful, sometimes a steamy pot of tea, a little lolita gossip and a small parlor are all you need to celebrate the day!
  • Choose a new lolita recipe to make together! Icing gingerbread girls into pretty lolita clothes and curls is a favorite for a winter ILD!
  • Take a tea etiquette class at a local tea salon or fancy hotel – bring a cute notebook for notes and dress in your hostess-y best!
What are your plans for ILD? If you could do anything for ILD, what would you do? Do you have a secret ‘fantasy ILD’ celebration, like a huge gala with tiers of macarons or a shopping trip to Japan or San Francisco?

Lolitas In the Wired

Thank you everyone who came to see Dalin of La Vida Frills, Crystal of Pretty Wonderland, and myself speak at Kinokuniya Bookstore this Saturday! The seats were packed and quickly turned to standing room only! It was great to see so many lolitas out supporting lolita style and subculture in honor of International Lolita Day :) Everyone looked great, despite the extreme humidity!

Crystal and I at the microphone for our lolita blogging panel


L to R: Dalin, myself, and Crystal after speaking to the audience (photo credit to Merry Wu – thanks, Merry!)


After our panel, Kelsey of I Do Declare and Zoh of Morrigan NYC did a panel on running your own indie lolita brand. (photo courtesy of Pretty Wonderland!)


Here you can see a display of Morrigan NYC’s newest design, the Moby Dick print.


Dalin’s Revolutionary Revolution (BABY the Stars Shine Bright), my Milky-chan (Angelic Pretty) and Crystal’s candy print (Bodyline) in a print shot.


Here’s my outfit shot, taken on the way home at the Stamford train station! All items Angelic Pretty except hairbow (Baby the Stars Shine Bright), and shoes (Montreal). In case it wasn’t obvious already, I think I’m almost entirely an AP girl now ;3

I had another great International Lolita Day this year – seeing some of my favorite lolitas, delicious Thai food, cream roll cakes from Cafe Zaiya, shopping at Sanrio Luxe, and of course spending the day with my wonderful prince. I can’t wait to see what December ’10’s ILD has in store! What about you, lovely lolita readers? What did you get up to for International Lolita Day this year? What is your dream way of celebrating ILD for this December?

Lolita Nation: Vol. I

Subcultures are the vogue of our generation. For years we dissected the youth of the world into categories that seemed, to the psychologists among us, juvenile and two-dimensional: skater, jock, prep, and other high-school worthy labels. But eventually society began to realize that what may have seemed to be nothing more than local hoodlums or ‘those weird kids’ were actually something more. These groups began to develop their own customs and traditions, their own socialization patterns, their own ‘tribe markers’ and symbolism, and in some cases, even their own religions. They began to break away from the mass culture of their country and instead divide into smaller sects within it. This was what we call subculture. Some examples of subculture that most people are familiar with: the hippies, the beatniks, the goths, the punks… And now the newer, ever-evolving subcultures of the new millenium like internet culture, fandoms, steampunk, and even… lolita.

For the longest time, both in Japan and overseas, the debate has ensued: what is lolita to its practioners? Is it a fashion style alone? Is it a concept? Is it a state of mind? Is it a lifestyle? Or is it, like those other mold-breakingly attired peoples to come before it, a subculture?

To answer this question, there is the obvious: what makes up a subculture? What seperates subculture from a trend, from a fashion statement?

On the surface, lolita appears to be merely a fashion. It is heavily invested in clothes and outward appearance. Most girls do not spend 100% of their time in lolita fashion, or spend 100% of their time only with others interested in lolita fashion. Does this make it a weekend warrior-style hobby? Is lolita fashion no different than dressing in this season’s florals?

When it comes down to lolita, it is not the clothes that seperate us most distinctly from the mainstream. Yes, those layers and layers of lace and petticoats may seem to be what all the fuss is about, but lolita fashion – the adverse choices in clothing we make – is not what lolita is purely about. Lolita fashion does not exist in a bubble, on a page, or in a theatrical production. Not only do we interact with the world as a whole, we are also interacting with each other.

Lolita fashion is the jumping-off point for our subculture. Whether it is the fashion that attracts like people together or like people are attracted to the fashion, it is hard to say. However, it is obvious that one of the most definable traits of someone in lolita subculture is their appearance. This isn’t just about fashion (an entire other article could be written on fashion and how this relates to lolita social hierarchy, but I’ll spare you this round), but also permanent changes to one’s appearance. Just like industrial goth is usually accompanied by piercings, lolita has its own physical markings. Some of the most typical are blunt cut bangs or, more iconically, the hime cut; sweet lolitas may also lean towards unnaturally colored hair and lolitas of any style seem to favor bleach blonde. I’m currently sporting the ‘split’ – half blonde, half pink – which is in style at the moment. When I am asked about my unusual hair style, I usually want to respond – ‘Well, it’s in style right now with my culture.’ To respond simply with ‘in style’ would be confusing if you’re not familiar with the current lolita scene. In style does not mean in style with the mainstream. The mainstream is following completely different trends based on different nuances of pop cultural media and celebrities. The subculture follows its own trends and has its own perceptions of beauty, some of which may even be counterculture to that of the mainstream.

One of the most prominent parts of a subculture is its shared knowledge, morals, or even history. Lolitas possess at the very least a shared knowledge. This is fueled by the rituals and traditions necessary to execute the fashion style (such as, petticoats go below skirts), but also pop culture and its timeline, and a glossary of words specific to the fashion and the culture’s traditions. While working through cultural issues with the crew of American Lolita, it became apparent that half of what I was saying to them was gibberish. “Wait, what is Moi-Meme-Moitie and how is that like Moi Dix Mois?” French accents notwithstanding, we soon realized that what the entire crew needed was a compiled short dictionary translating ‘lolita’ to English. Think of all the words and simple turns of phrase we inside the culture take for granted – JSK, OP, NWT, cutsew, shirorori, Kikikirara Shoten. To anyone outside of the lolita scene – the subculture – these words are entirely without meaning. But I could say these to any lolita and be understood. And this is only the tip of the jargon iceberg – because lolita subculture is heavily participated in over the internet, acronyms and shorthand are just as necessary. Some of the above terms are nothing more than letters, which stand for different terms – JSK for jumperskirt – which can then be translated into spoken terms when used in real life conversation.

Our shared history is from pop culture – the first Gothic and Lolita Bible, collection of popular models, and fashion trends of the past. Older lolitas recall the days of rectangular headdresses, Angelic Pretty’s older prints, or the earlier works of Imai Kira. Kamikaze Girls is also a great example of how a shared fascination with pop cultural media has shaped our subculture. Many girls consider the film an initiation rite into the fashion and culture; many say that the lessons it teaches are the beginnings of lolita concepts and moral themes.

The fact that much of lolita culture is shared and participated in online also contributes to the notion of lolita subculture’s shared history. High impact events mostly play out online, and many in the community participate – such as great scandals and scammer alerts. This shared history bonds us together. Those not present for earlier events usually learn of them secondhand – it’s often that a lolita will say, ‘Oh, it was before my time, but I heard about…’ Lolita culture is mostly relayed by word of mouth or secondhand, in what could almost be considered an oral tradition.

Concepts are also part of the culture. Most brands or even magazines provide a basic concept or mission statement to solidify the look and emotion they are trying to portray. Another example is the basic concept of gothic culture – the darker emotions and shadowy style that overlays the entire genre. If I had to choose a concept to overlay the general lolita culture, I would say it is personal fufillment to the point of excess. In a word, opulence. The princess motif, the sweets-to-cavities style, the rise of decololi, all point at opulence – our Rococo inheritance – as our key theme. Other smaller themes are peppered throughout the culture – beauty for beauty’s sake, a sense of personal independence bordering on solitude, a sense of entitlement, and a multitude of others. These themes unite our knowledge and media consumption into a mass interpretation. They form the basis for what our culture stands upon.

Dissecting a subculture piece by piece is an exhaustive process, moreso to argue the point. In honor of International Lolita Day, our bi-annual celebration of lolita fashion, community, and culture, I would like to declare that we as a group stand up and be counted as a subculture. This is Part 1 of the series. I will continue to discuss the argument supporting lolita as not just a fashion, but as a subculture throught the following articles. Stay tuned!

Kinokuniya x International Lolita Day ’10!

Kinokuniya, long-time patron of lolita subculture and the lolita arts and purveyor of Japanese magazines such as Kera, Gothic and Lolita Bible, and Alice Deco A La Mode, not to mention occasional carriers of Angelic Pretty and Victorian Maiden, are collaborating with a cast of New York City lolitas to put on 2010’s spring session International Lolita Day! Click the above image to enlarge the poster for all the information you need to visit Kinokuniya on ILD. I’ll be speaking at 2 o’clock as part of the Lolitas in the Wired panel along with my lovely fellow bloggers and longtime friends Crystal of Pretty Wonderland and Dalin of La Vida Frills. And for any who stick around after the panel, I have a special – fluffy – little surprise that will make its official debut this Saturday!
International Lolita Day has always been one of my favorite events to attend. It is so great to see lolitas celebrating their culture and fashion both within their own groups and welcoming newcomers and interested outsiders. It is a wonderful chance for lolita fashion to be recognized and appreciated by new people and groups. I’m especially pleased to be able to support Tokyo Rebel, Kinokuniya NYC, I Do Declare, and Morrigan NYC in their endeavors. So if you’re in the NYC or tristate area, please stop by! I’d love to see you :)
(Psst – posting has been slow because of the little surprise coming to LC Headquarters this weekend! Keep your eyes peeled for rhinestones and cuteness!)
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