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Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Words of a Lolita Mentor: My lolita

In the past weeks, I've been asked twice by different groups of people to become a lolita mentor. I can understand why - I've been a regular lolita since 2002, which makes me a veteran, although it still came as a surprise. I must say I'm flattered by it, that anyone would think I could be a guardian to someone new. In light of this, I thought I'd write a post about what lolita is to me and how I started out. If this is useful to someone, then I couldn't be happier! ^.~

When you go into a lolita community nowadays, one of the first questions that turn up is: what kind of lolita are you? I've seen it everywhere. Are you Sweet? Hime? Gothic? Classic? To be honest, I don't really think it is a relevant question, and I'll explain why. First of all, I'm sure that there is not one lolita who will stay within one of these all the time - especially not over a period of time. The substyles are simply a way to find clothes that appeal to you inside the style itself - for example, it's easier to find a store with your taste of clothes if you can call them something. Lolita has become so varied over the years that the styles need some kind of sub categories. That said, I don't think it ought to apply to people.

When someone wonders what kind of lolita I am, I'd like to answer: none and all. What I mean is that I've been a lolita for so long that it's become so integrated with my wardrobe that the style I dress in doesn't belong to any one subcategory - it's what I like to coordinate at the time. If it means mixing - then sure, I mix. If it means my clothes happen to fall into a subcategory - all right, then they do. But front and foremost I am LOLITA.

I'll tell you a little story: about how I started out all those years ago. (Time flies, doesn't it?) It seems a lot of people nowadays find the style and go on a shopping spree - that's not how I started. Back in those days when I found lolita, it was much more difficult to find things on the internet. In fact, I first came across j-rock on Kazaa. (If you remember Kazaa, then maybe you can guess how old I am!) Through Kazaa it didn't take long for me to find Malice Mizer - and Mana. Like so many others, I was dumstruck by him, and all those years of loving princesses (did you ever watch Lady Lovelylocks?) and pretty dresses came crashing back. I wanted it. I wanted it more badly than I'd wanted anything before.

Being quite lonely back in those days, with only one person I could truly call my friend, it was never a matter of worrying about what others would think. All that was in my head was wearing something that I liked. I didn't even know about brands back then - Moi-même-Moité (which was the only one known to me then) was very new and Paypal was unknown territory. Although there were brands back then (such as BSSB - it was founded 1988), I don't know if internet had developed enough back then to successfully buy overseas. So there was really only one option for me: sew.

Of course, I didn't know how to sew back then, and any so-called "rules" for lolita was completely unknown. All I knew was what I could see. Back then it was so much simpler, since I only knew one "lolita" - Mana. So I took my inspiration from the clothes he was wearing. I made patterns with only a vague idea how to, and I'm sure that many people nowadays would not call what I wore "lolita". However, although they were a beginner's items made from scrap fabric, they were something beyond all those substyles that exist today - it was lolita born from the very place lolita comes from: the heart.

It took quite a while before I met another lolita, and when I did - my lolita world opened up even more. I got some basic patterns from her (copied out of the very first issue of Gosu Rori from 2003), and that's when the fashion took over my wardrobe completely... In hind sight, it's actually a bit funny that before I got those patterns, most of my dresses were very gothic - afterwards they flourished and branched out to something else entirely. A wardrobe filled with home made things - dresses, blouses, drawers, muffs, coats... Everything you could think of. And every single thing loved more than any thing I'd ever bought, all designed by the same passion and love that got me started in the first place.

My personal opinion is that people put much too much store in brands, and believe that the brands are setting the rules of what lolita is - or should be.What really does define lolita, as I see it, are those that form the style. The people who dig deeper than brands and bring out something more. It's also those that dig deep that stay, because they find something more than just a fashion, although that's how it all started, right?

Did you know that lolita was originally a protest - a fashion designed not to attract the male gaze? It why some guide lines that exist today has things like 'don't show too much skin' and 'don't show a cleavage' exist. Because of these roots, there are some basics things that are the building blocks of lolita.

One of the most important keywords being that lolita should not be - or at least not intended to be - sexy. (I do not take people's personal dispositions into account here.) The guidelines about not too short skirts goes hand in hand with this keyword. It doesn't necessarily mean that lolita ought to be cute - it can be, but it doesn't need to be.

A second keyword to lolita is 'timeless'. Maybe this will surprise some, but if you look at it, it's what it is. Lolita was inspired by Victorian dolls, which looked much like adults or teens, wearing childrens detailed dresses. These dolls are, of course, timeless, simply because they cannot age. (It is a quite familiar concept to conserve beauty - in paintings, for example.) The also have a sort of timeless, romantic appeal to people in love with beauty, which brings us to the third keyword.

The third keyword is 'romantic', in the sense of dreaminess rather than actual romance. You don't have to look very far to find lolitas with dreamy, far away looks on their faces - as if lost in dream. This romantic, dreaminess is important to the lolita, who ought to live on top of the worldly worries of 'ordinary people'.

If you lose these three keywords, then no dress or coordinate - no matter the brand - will capture the essence of what lolita is. You may wear a lolita's costume - but you will not be a lolita until you find the magic. In the same way, you can find lolita in the most unexpected places if you simply open your eyes. There is no need to go head over heels and buy a lot of expensive clothes and shoes to be lolita - in my mind you can, if you're not careful, lose the soul of lolita by putting too much store in brands and coordinates someone else designed to match. Then it becomes simply just that - someone else's costume.

It is important to remember that lolita isn't necessarily the outer casket - of course, the clothes are what most people would identify as lolita, and they are certainly significant since it started as a fashion, after all - but the dream within. The love of the concept. The fascination of timeless beauty.If you have these, then you have what it takes to make lolita into something truly your own, instead of relying on subcategories made up by the fashion industry.

If asked now, after you read this, what style of lolita you are. What will you say?

Finally, a small quiz for you if you haven't already seen it (link will open in new window):

What kind of lolita are you?