Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lolita Fashion: What it Really is.


**Big thanks to the South Florida Lolita Society for helping me make this entry better!**

First off, this blog entry has nothing to do with the book Lolita or little girls or hentai. Lolita fashion, erroneously called Gothic Lolita or Elegant Gothic Lolita in the west, is a fashion style that emerged in the 1970s on the streets of Japan. Lolita draws heavily from Roccoco-era fashion to create an innocent, doll-like, and elegant style.

The style is believed to have been popularized by Mana of the visual-kei band, Malice Mizer. Mana went on to create his own line of Lolita clothing Moi-même-Moitié. The term Elegant Gothic Lolita refers to a style on his line of clothing, and is not a term used to describe Lolita fashion.

True Lolita:
Although Lolita has many sub-styles, they all follow the same general rules. A typical Lolita outfit consists of proper undergarments, a bell or cupcake-shaped dress (or skirt), a blouse, a head accessory, socks or opaque tights, and proper shoes.

Dresses and skirts are worn over bloomers and a fluffy petticoat or pannier. A petticoat is similar to a stiff, fluffy underskirt that is worn under dresses. The petticoat is a vital part of the outfit, as it’s what gives the dress its shape and familiar silhouette. Without the petticoat, the dress appears misshapen.

Underneath the petticoat are bloomers worn for modesty. Bloomers are necessary to avoid any… embarrassing moments.

Dresses and Skirts:
There are two types of dresses in Lolita: Jumper skirts and One-pieces. Jumper Skirts (JSKs) are sleeveless dresses that are meant to be worn over blouses. JSKs are never meant to be worn alone, because it’s improper to show bare shoulders. Although length also varies by style, dresses (and skirts) are ALWAYS knee length or lower.

There are many styles for Lolita dresses, from Ama-Loli (Sweet Lolita) to Gosu-Loli (Gothic Lolita). It honestly depends on the company and the look they are going for. The dresses have feminine elements like certain cuts, ruffles, and frills. Lolita dresses do not need to have lace in order to be considered Lolita. In fact, only a few dresses and styles use lace. Dresses drowning in lace are usually not real Lolita, and are cheaply made or cosplay quality. The lace is often very itchy, which gives you more reason to avoid it.

Blouses are worn with JSKs or skirts, and usually have a rounded, or high collar with feminine elements and cuts. On many, the sleeves are gathered at the end, or have puff sleeves. On it's own, it gives off an air of elegance and femininity.

Head Accessories:
Popular head accessories include mini hats, bonnets, Alice-Bows (large bows inspired by Alice in Wonderland), and much more. Lolita headdresses can also be used, but as of late are rarely worn by Lolita. This is mostly due to its popularity in cosplay Lolita.

Wigs are desirable because they allow you to change your hair style to suit your outfit, even if you don’t have the right type of hair. You rarely see Lolita with plain hair. Blonde or colored two-tone wigs are also quite popular among Lolita right now. The color of the wig, when not natural colored, should always fit the color of the outfit, or coordinate.

Socks and Shoes:
Usually, knee socks or opaque tights are worn with Lolita to avoid showing too much skin. Sheer tights or stockings are seen as too provocative for Lolita and are not used. Many companies have socks with patterned prints to match coordinates.

Shoes for Lolita are usually Mary-Janes or similar cute shoes. Rocking-Horse and Tea Party shoes are popular for Lolita as well.

I don’t think Rocking Horse shoes (left) are suitable for tall Lolita (like myself), so Tea Party shoes (right) are a shorter alternative. The heel is fairly low, they are easier to find, and has more colors than plain Mary-Janes.

Depending on the style of Lolita, there are more options for shoes, such as boots or modest heels for more mature styles. I honestly don’t know much about shoes, but I believe stilettos and tennis shoes are still out of the question.

Cosplay Lolita/ Ita-loli
An Ita-Loli is a Lolita that is painful to look at. The word is a combination of the word for pain, itai (痛い) and Lolita. Looking at them is sort of like looking at yellow and green font. Ita-Loli and Cosplay Lolita fall under the same umbrella at anime cons.

Cosplay Lolita is looked down upon because it's worn as a costume even though it's normal (everyday) fashion for Lolita. It often includes unnecessary anime elements. The dresses are almost always Black/White or another bright color. This isn’t to say that all black/white coords or everything on this list are strictly cosplay or ita-loli (except the first four points), but they should generally be avoided by beginners. They are seldom pulled off correctly, unless you have a good knowledge of what is or isn’t Lolita. The most common offenses are:
  • Cat ears, wings, and other articles you wouldn’t wear with normal clothes (…These are cosplay no matter what.)
  • Too short dress or skirt (Lolita is always around knee-length and above mid-calf)
  • Lack of petticoat (I’ve committed this atrocity before. The dress was made to be worn with a petticoat, it looks wrong otherwise.) 
  • Dress drowning in Lace (If the dress has lace, there should be a balance.) 
  • Random colored wigs that don’t match the coord (Hot pink wig + Blue/White Coord. = Ita)
  • Excessive, unnecessary makeup or makeup styles
  • Shiny Fabric (Shiny fabric usually means cheap fabric, but there are a few exceptions)
  • Wearing things that don’t fit the style (i.e Converse with Sweet Lolita)
  • Costume Platform Heels (These are 4 in. heels from the Halloween store. I would avoid these, not because they’re costume-y, but because they’re extremely uncomfortable.)
Once again, everything on this list (except the first one in the list), could be pulled off if you know what you’re doing. They aren’t meant to be tried by beginners.

It might sound like I’m just picking on people, and you might think “WELL WHAT IF THEY’RE A BEGINNER. THEY DON’T KNOW BETTER!” A lolita newbie is open to criticism and usually gets better after tips and research. I was an Ita-Loli once and still am until I buy new dresses and a petticoat. The important thing is to know when you're doing something wrong and looking for help. It saves you a lot of time and money.

Helpful Links:
Hello Lace They provide A LOT of helpful information for beginners to Lolita and experienced Lolitas alike. It has a terminology list, as well as pictures for hairstyle and coord. inspiration.
Lolita Fashion The site doesn't update anymore, but it's very helpful for Lolita beginners. it gives examples of the different styles of Lolita and tips for putting together outfits.
The Lolita Handbook on Livejournal  The Lolita Handbook gives info on the anatomy of a Lolita outfit, sewing and fashion guides, building a Lolita outfit, and more.