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Why I Love Lolita Fashion

18 July 16 words: Chloe Finney

An insight into the J-fashion that embodies modesty, kindness, friendship, expressing yourself

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Chloe in her attire with her step dad

Originating in Japan in the seventies, Lolita fashion, as you might’ve guessed, is a lot different from the everyday jeans and shirt combo. The feminine attire is inspired by the Rococo and Victorian-era with its modesty and flashy, finest quality garmz, while also incorporating a modern style. It is frilly, pretty, accessorised, glorious and glitzy. It tries to keep the luxury qualities and high quality clothing with elements of frill, petti and puff, while using ideas that make it cute and sweet or appealing for the audience of the modern world.

Over the years, people's fascination with the quality of the clothes and the elegancy of the look meant that demand rose for magazines to publish more. Pictures, articles and forums discussing new and unique fashion types spiked in popularity. This led to people reading about Harajuku – an area of Tokyo where fashion that anywhere else could be thought to be out of the ordinary, such as Lolita – is the everyday norm. Meanwhile, in the west, Japanese produce such as Pokémon and Naruto was being imported, prompting conventions populated with fanatics. The intrigue with the different culture and its art forms drove people to look deeper, which is what sparked J-fashion’s success in the early noughties. Thanks to communication there are now communities all around the world catering for many different Japanese fashions.

It must be stated that one thing Lolita fashion does not take inspiration from is Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, or its subsequent film adaptations. These are completely separate works. It’s unclear about the origins of the name in reference to the fashion, but it was never intended to be compared to that specific work.

The most popular types of Lolita are sweet, gothic and classic. Sweet Lolita is a kind of bright style, which often has prints on such as teacups, animals or carousels. Gothic is usually intricate with dark tones. Classic Lolita doesn’t usually have prints and the focus is more on maturity and subtle detail. My favourite Lolita type is hime (pronounced he-may), a princess style that is very pink, royal and exaggerated. Right now I don’t have the dedication or funds to do hime Lolita the way I want to, so I wear sweet. Lolita is a reflection on you – it’s fine to wear whatever style you want as long as you abide by the general rules of dress. This fashion is about modesty. For example, dresses with straps instead of long sleeves must be worn with a blouse underneath to cover up the chest and the knee is the highest a dress’ skirt length should be. These rules are the most important things to consider for an outfit, along with your petticoat.

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Gothic Lolita fashion

Lolitas do activities together as friends, such as tea parties. It’s easier to be dressed in this style with a group of friends because you’re with people who are used to what you wear. There are local groups that you can join on Facebook, and usually there is a meet-up for every month if it’s a big group. Nottingham has a Lolita group and the people are all really friendly. The only trouble with Lolita is how people in public react – some of it is very nice, but other reactions aren’t acceptable. People sometimes shout insults, or are make rude comments because they don’t understand or they think it’s funny. It can make you uneasy to go out into public on your own wearing Lolita because you don’t know what’ll happen. Another disappointing thing that happens is people taking photos without asking for permission, which can make you feel like exhibits at a zoo or a public landmark. And, we’re not sure what you’ll do with the picture if you’re a stranger. Personally, if I’m asked I will allow a photo to be taken if the person is showing a genuine interest or politeness towards my style – there are some friendly people I’ve met that have seemed genuinely curious and nice about it. I love educating the public about the style, so I don’t mind answering questions or posing for a photograph when I’m out and around - just always treat others how you would like to be treated.

Before I joined the fashion I felt disjointed with the clothes I wore. I would like certain outfits, but never closely enough to relate to what I wore, or say it was a representation of who I am. So, when Lolita came in to my life, I was simply awestruck. Originally, I found it through Facebook, there was a dress with the name Angelic Pretty on its print. I’d seen this brand a couple of times before so I went on some more social media sites to search for it. Before I knew it I’d spent four hours gawking at my screen, researching more about the fashion and ogling at beautiful coordinates people had put together. I was drawn in by the colours and patterns, and it reminded me of all the nice, cute clothes I had worn when I was a toddler. I was fascinated by the custom lace at the bottom of the dresses, the matching sets of clothing that make up an outfit and the dreamy silhouette shape the dresses had.

It was about a half a year or so before I decided it was for me. I was so eager to join in with the fashion that I committed to it with haste. Sometimes people regret joining the fashion quickly because people often join without researching and can end up looking silly, but I don’t think this is the case for me. By the time I committed to the fashion I had spent a lot of time after school immersing myself in to this new style that I loved. I felt that I had seen enough to try and wear the clothing. I don’t have any regrets because a lot of people who have been in the fashion for years have reassured me and helped me with my ideas, so I started with a pretty good idea of what to do.

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I wore Lolita fashion for the first time at a convention in London called Hyper Japan. Through blood, sweat and tears of joy, we had received all the necessities for my co-ords right before the event. I had prepared two outfits to go in and it was the first time I wore Lolita in public. That might seem like nothing, but it required a lot of courage. Lolita is so different from what people are used to, you don’t know what kind of reception you’re going to get. Luckily we were driving to the event and I knew I wouldn’t be the only person there dressed up in Harajuku fashion, so it was easier compared to setting foot in to the city donned with frills on your own. At conventions, wearing things like this is seen as normal so people are usually welcoming and friendly, but if you go to meet-ups outside of conventions things can be different.

As for the clothing itself, I currently own four dresses, four accessories, three pairs of shoes, two bags and one blouse. Soon I’ll be getting another bag and another blouse for my most recent dress ready for a convention in October. Everything I own I bought online and is brand from Japanese companies such as Angelic Pretty and Metamorphose. There are so many places to buy from: most of mine came from a website called Lace Market, which is like a Lolita eBay. Other ones I got from Japanese auction sites and from another website called Bodyline which is like a Primark but for Lolita clothing. Although the popular brands can be expensive, you can buy Lolita clothing from indie brands on several websites that offer cute clothing for less money.

In regards to my friends and family, I’ve had a few hiccups here and there. Luckily, the majority of the people that care about me engage in my style and love how I dress. The pieces I like are expensive due to demand and quality, so if it weren’t for my mum making budget cuts and sacrifices during the convention season I wouldn’t have worn the style that I love. She really likes my clothes and I am forever grateful to her for her presence and continual support with my aspirations. As for my friends, many of them see my style as normal and appreciate what I do. I feel blessed to be around such supportive people because I know that not all Lolitas have that support.

The main selling point for this fashion is wearing luxury clothing that you feel like yourself in, but I wear it because I feel happiest whenever I’m wearing dresses and petticoats and because it’s a way of showing everyone my identity. I think a part of me exists in the fabrics I wear and the accessories I choose. I firmly believe anything I put on should reflect my personality closely and look appealing, and Lolita fulfils this. To me, Lolita is the most stunning and incredible look and lifestyle. I can’t wait for the day to come where I’ll have enough money to go to Japan and buy some outfits for myself in the Lolita retail stores. Life is all about feeling good about yourself, and now I’ve found my one special thing, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I only hope that everyone has something in their life that means they can express themselves and that makes them happy. 

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