Monthly Archives: August 2008

Lifestyle?

There’s always a lot of discussion about whether lolita is just a fashion, or a lifestyle. As ever, people tend to be polarized on the subject. As ever, I find myself walking the line up the middle between the two ideas and taking the safe agnostic approach– to each her own.

Personally I don’t think wearing lolita means you can’t, or shouldn’t, swear or make dirty jokes or drink– if that’s what you normally do, at least. I do think you might want to curb that a little, if you are the kind of person who normally cusses like a sailor or something like that– it just seems weird otherwise. Unless you’re wearing sailor loli! (Cymbal crash here, please.) But that’s just my opinion.

In my experience, the Japanese sort of fall into the same categories as non-Japanese as far as lolita etiquette: some believe your personality should match your clothes, while others act as they probably do on a normal basis. In the end I think its a matter of whether these people consider themselves “girls who wear lolita fashion” and “girls who consider themselves lolitas”. The ones who have created a lifestyle around being a lolita extend that cuteness or loveliness to their whole persona; but then, who is to say whether they were just that cute to begin with? I think you have to have a pretty cute core to become a lolita, anyway. I will admit though, when I see a lolita acting in an especially “unloli” manner I tend to think, “Did she just grab that dress cheap at a resale shop because she wanted to ‘be a lolita’ for a day?”
I think it’s pretty interesting to watch the reactions of non-lolitas in those situations though. For example, I went to a live where there were a few other lolis in the audience, including one wearing Baby’s cutsew OP from a few seasons ago. In order to jump and dive more freely, she yanked off her petticoat gracelessly (though without exposing anything). This earned a few raised brows. Later she sat down to have a smoke and sip a plastic cup of beer. If she’d been wearing a t-shirt, or a punk outfit– or even a gyaru getup, let’s be honest– that would have been almost expected, but she earned the scorn of everyone around her just by being normal when people weren’t expecting it.

momokoSometimes I see lolitas being a little… ridiculous, really. For example there have been several occasions when I’ve seen a girl in lolita clinging to a friend or boyfriend, sometimes a parent, like a small child– like she’s afraid to let go. This might be because he shoes are too hard to walk in, but I think most of the time its because she wants to look completely helpless. From my perspective as a modern American girl, I would never want to be completely helpless, nor appear completely helpless, regardless of my clothing choices. Perhaps I even think of lolita in sort of a feminist light– I certainly don’t dress like this to get the attention of men. And I never considered being ladylike to being on par with being weak– regardless of what Momoko might say! People seem to forget that she ends up being an ass-kicker in the end, anyway (pardon the French… and if you are French, pardon my sense of humour!).
rollsAt the same time though, I have seen a lolita being chauffeured about in an old Rolls Royce like the one pictured to the left (sadly I didn’t take a picture at the time, as I’d forgotten my camera– naturally!). Talk about living the lolita lifestyle! I found that endearing and adorable. So I guess, to each her own.

Honestly though, I think the so-called “brolitas” (I hate that term, by the way), really have it down. I’ve never seen a boy in lolita behave as anything other than adorable. I’ve occasionally been annoyed by a falsetto here and there, but otherwise I think it’s quite cute.
On that topic, I’ve been asked if male lolitas are very common in Japan. I don’t think so, really, at least not compared to their female counterparts. But you do find them every now and then, at events or having tea with a group of female friends. Oddly I’ve noticed that they’re generally the best-dressed in a group as well. Go figure.

As for me… I’m not sure I’d consider myself a “lifestyle loli”, as I observe the disaster area that is my very non-Victorian apartment, the floor scattered with band flyers and the sink stacked with dishes that my own not-so-delicate hands need to wash. But I do feel that, while wearing lolita, I tend to stand a little straighter– maybe a little prouder– and maybe smile a little more often. That feeling is so profound that I actually add a little lolita to every outfit I wear, even at work where I have a strict dress code, whether I sneak a pair of Baby the Stars Shine Bright socks by or just pin my hair back with an Innocent World trump-themed hair clip.
But, to each her own. Everything always is.

Fall 08

So after perusing the 30th volume of the Gothic & Lolita Bible, out today, I started thinking about the fall season from the brands.

metaPeople seem to always polarize their opinions about everything– they either really really love it or absolutely hate it. I’m feeling this especially with Metamorphose this season– almost every lolita I know feels strongly one way or the other. Honestly though, I’m neither extremely impressed nor disappointed (except with the raschel lace Swan Border pieces, which I have a deep distaste for). The school series is playing it safe, in particular.

Angelic Pretty, recently the constant center of attention, really delivered with the Fancy Melody series. I wish I’d acted quick enough to snag the black jumperskirt! I’m really regretting it now that the series is in stores. It’s amazingly cute. The Royal Poodle line is on reserve now, and the blue x silver socks and jumper sold out withing the first two days, so it’s definitely going to be a hit. I like it a lot. If the skirt would fit me I’d be all over it!

babyI was mostly excited about the GLB because I was hoping for better pictures of the Rococo Accessories print (ロココ小物柄). It didn’t really deliver on that, unfortunately. And all I can share with you is an even blurrier, tinier picture of the magazine article! That’s kind of sad…
Anyway though, the print appears to have all sorts of delightful things in it: parasols, fans, perfume bottles. It’s just adorable in my opinion. And I love the violet-ish color with bright accents. It really does scream Marie Antoinette! It’s so decadent.
candlesPersonally I’d like something a little more elegant/adult this season (maybe I’m starting to feel my age… noooooo!), and Baby’s “Rose Candle” onepiece is all of that and then some. I saw the skirt during a sample exhibition at Passe, and fell in love instantly, but Baby’s skirts have much too small of waists for me. This OP will probably turn out too small, as well, because Baby’s sizes rarely end up being what they initially guess for magazines. I think that it looks perfect in this coordination though. Perfect shoes, perfect hair, perfect everything!

Recently I’ve been drawn to brands I don’t pay much attention to; for example the indie brand Chantilly. I’ve seen their bonnets and a few other pieces at the Angelic Pretty here in Nagoya before, and they always seem impeccably made, but I never much noticed anything else about them. In this month’s Kera, which has some photos from the fashion show in France last month, I spotted a darling jsk that I’m just dying to have, black with big lace roses.
I also really really love this upcoming skirt/blouse combination from Mille Fleurs. It’s so ridiculous and over the top! If only it would fit me, I’d.. probably not be able to afford it anyway! Oh well. It’s lovely to look at.
It seems that their site hasn’t been updated in quite a while, though. I really wish some brands would stay on the ball. But I guess if you have a very small business, just keeping your blog updated might be enough. I’m not sure how… but maybe it is.
mille

As for coats, I think everyone is performing brilliantly there. Baby’s are perhaps a bit safe, AP’s appliqués are kooky as ever (though their normal coats and the trench coat currently in reserve are all fabulous), Victorian Maiden’s are to die for… but then, I’m a coat person.

At any rate, that’s my few cents on the Autumn releases from the brands… well, some of them! While it’s on my mind, I’m not too pleased with IW, either. I think they’ve been trying pretty desperately lately to do something ultra cute, but somehow they always seem to miss their mark. They should stick to making elegant and regal pieces, and leave the teddy bear prints to AP. You can’t really pull off stuffed animals in a print using dusty, mature colors, in my opinion.
I was also interested to note that this issue of the GLB is kind of lacking in the over-the-top deco goodness of recent times. Is the wearing-a-parfait trend finally dying out? I hope not… because that will mean I’m fashion-backward!

Lolita in the Media

I just saw a tv special about the making of an upcoming drama that made me think about the portrayal of lolita fashion on Japanese tv, because a lot of people ask about it. Of course, I don’t watch tv 24/7, and I don’t speak Japanese brilliantly, so I don’t know everything there is to know, but I do keep an eye out for lolita characters or even cameos– and I do have a fondness for dramas! Anyway there are a couple of dramas this season that make me think of the way tv dramas look at this fashion I love so much.

cat street
First is NHK’s upcoming キャットストリート (“Cat Street”), which is based on a manga by the artist of Hana Yori Dango (which, aside from being immensely popular in that form, also spawned a media frenzy around it’s multiple drama recreations; in fact, there’s a Hana Yori Dango movie in theaters right now!), which prominently features a lolita character. I haven’t read the comic, but through a little research I see that the lolita is a girl named “Momiji” who makes her own clothes and finds herself generally shunned because of her fashion. From the special, I see that she is portrayed at least in the drama as the usual uber-energetic best friend of the main character, and her style is primarily sweet lolita (though in the interview the actress refers to her own character as “Gothic Lolita”).
This program starts on Thursday and I look forward to seeing it, although I’ll have to stream it online because it comes on pretty early 😦

Also currently on air is the Teppei-starring Shibatora, which features a character who works at a maid cafe. Episode 5 most prominently features the maid cafe, in which all the “maids” wear clothing from Baby the Stars Shine Bright. The clothes are never referenced as lolita clothes and are just considered normal costumes for waitresses in maid cafes to wear. This is a fallacy though, actually– I’ve never seen maid cafe staff in anything but maid cosplay; I have, however, seen some Alice- or otherwise-themed cafes uniform their employees in some brand items. For example, the staff of the Alice cafe in Nagoya all wear uniforms by Milky Ange. Anyway, another theme of that particular episode is pedophilia, which is upsetting in the way it is related to lolita.

I think the two completely different portrayals of lolita fashion provided by these shows gives us a little insight into the mindsets in Japan about lolitas. The first girl is lolita ALL the time. It’s who she is. I guess she’s what would be called a “lifestyle loli” in the west. The other girls happen to wear lolita as part of their jobs, which is directly connected to otaku/moe culture and attracts some creepy characters. Of course I feel more comfortable with the first version, but in the general media the latter is much more common. If not something that is related to maid cafes, lolita characters are usually portrayed as gloomy or downright psychotic. You never really see just a normal girl who happens to dress like a little doll… but then, maybe normal girls don’t 😛

possibleI’m not really worried about whether this particular media attention is going to change the face of lolita or anything; it actually happens all the time– don’t forget there was recently a Hello Project group that performed in lolita (called, for some reason, The Possible). A few months back there was also a hime lolita featured on 恋のから騒ぎ(“Much Ado About Love”), a show that is based around a gravelly-voiced host– a very famous tv personality in Japan– asking “weird” girls (mostly gyaru) about their relationships. Just a couple weeks ago a sweet lolita appeared as well, though her fashion sense was a little dubious in my humble opinion.

I don’t really think the presence of lolita characters on tv (or in comics or wherever else) has really made the fashion more understandable to outsiders, though. Most of the appearances just reinforce the stereotypes they already have, so nothing ever really changes. If Cat Street becomes extremely popular, the lolita character might be thought about a little more seriously… but its still not really an accurate portrayal– after all, the lolita is just the sidekick. And the series is only 6 episodes long! I don’t predict too much ground being broken there.
I’ll watch anyway, though. Just to make sure.

Ask not what you can do for your brand (4)

I didn’t realize that I had totally forgotten to talk about point cards! Which is funny, because they’re ever-present for a lolita shopper (or any shopper!) in Japan.

cards

Point cards are not only a way to earn incentives for spending money at a particular shop, they’re a sort of status symbol as well (they also have the unfortunate side effect of being a tangible gauge for how much you have spent on new merchandise). Generally you aren’t offered a point card until you have shopped at a particular brand several times, unless you buy a substantial amount the first time you go. I’ve never tried asking for a point card at a lolita brand shop, but I imagine they wouldn’t say no to you; I’ve asked in any number of other stores and been favourably received, though most places want you to get a point card the very first time you buy something.

You usually get one point per a specified amount of money spent at the store; for example, Angelic Pretty is 1 point per 3000 yen, and Baby is 1 point per 5250. Innocent World is the “most expensive”, so to speak, card that I have, with each point a steep 10,000 yen. The number of points required before you reach the goal also depends on the brand, usually between 15 and 20, sometimes as many as 30. The prize that you’re working toward is that the cards become coupons once they’re filled up– again, each brand is a little different, but for example AP’s cards are worth 3000 yen off of any amount, while Baby’s are worth 3000 off any purchase that costs more than 6000; Meta’s is a great deal: 5000 yen off any purchase plus a novelty item. In some cases, if you’re lucky enough to have a full or close-to-full card, brands will have novelty fairs wherein you can exchange your card for limited edition items instead of cash off.
Personally I think AP’s cards are the most customer-friendly– most brands give no credit for amounts that do not total up to a full point (several times I’ve been chagrined to discover that I am a few hundred yen short of another point at Baby), but AP simply writes the excess amount on the card and that’s added to your next visit’s total, so you never lose out. For once AP is on the customer’s side!

I also have to admit that point cards sometimes give me a bit of an elite feeling. My Baby card, for example, has a lovely number 4 written in a large block on the top of it, meaning that I’ve filled 3 full cards already. A card like that earns a little nicer treatment from the staff of any Baby shop when they see it. (Being a regular customer in Nagoya of course warrants a high level of customer care, but in stores where I’m not known, the little card says: I understand and love this style and am a loyal customer.)

Personally I think point cards are a great little benefit, especially for such an expensive fashion as lolita; but actually you can get point cards anywhere– from Tower Records to the discount cosmetics shops to the consignment shops! It’s fun to rack up points but for people like me, I tend to want to spend a little extra to make sure I always get the most points possible… it’s dangerous!

Makeup? Or make down?

I believe that lolita fashion isn’t just about putting on a really cute dress– there’s an entire aesthetic that needs to be considered, and you can be wearing the rarest, cutest, most amazing Moitie-and-Angelic-Pretty-collaboration-radioactive-macarons-on-a-cross print ever, and you won’t look like a lolita if you don’t put effort into your all-around appearance.

In keeping with a theme I unintentionally developed of saying very non-PC things here in my blog, I’m going to say that, yes, I think all lolitas should do their hair and wear some kind of makeup, unless their hair and skin is naturally perfect (and even though I know a lot of beautiful people, I’ve yet to see anyone who fits that description). Yes, natural beauty is great. And yes, all people should feel proud to be who they are and to have their own unique personal attributes. However, I for one can’t see the point in going through all the effort of putting on really cute clothes if you’re not going to wash your hair.

Baby JaneI think a lot of lolitas, especially those just starting out, run into big problems when it comes to makeup. I think it’s important to consider that the makeup you wear in your everyday life might not be appropriate for the days when you dress like a cupcake (or, depending on your style, a vampire). Wearing extremely heavy makeup while wearing a bright, cute frock is going to make you look like Baby Jane, and you certainly don’t want that!

The kind of makeup you wear is largely dependent upon your personal style; that said, it is usually more appropriate to save your thick black eyeliner for your gothic looks and go for a more natural look with sweet and classic lolita. Mana-samaaaaaThe age-old adage “What Would Mana Do” doesn’t really apply to things that Mana wouldn’t be caught dead in. And anyway, just imagine what all that eyeliner and mascara would look like on a girl in a frilly yellow dress! Ghastly!
I think Gothic Lolita in its true form is extremely striking; it’s also more mature than it’s sweeter counterparts. Makeup that is too neutral will make the wearer’s face seem incongruous with the overall look. However, white makeup is almost NEVER a good idea unless you’re going to be in some kind of play, or you happen to BE Mana. Your foundation should never been too different a shade from your natural skintone, if for no other reason than you will invariably end up exposing your natural skin color at some point and everyone will find out anyway.

Angelic PrettyThat doesn’t mean it has to be boring, though. After all, sweet lolita is rather over-the-top to begin with so you might as well have some fun with your makeup. I think it’s especially fun to experiment with eyeshadows– colors are the way to go! Recently the trend I’ve seen on a lot of Japanese lolitas is to wear one shade of eyeshadow and a different color eyeliner and yet another hue of mascara. This gives the entire face a really playful, fairy-like look and adds to the fantasy of the outfit. Just make sure to not go overboard, and coordinate your makeup! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met people who insist that they should wear blue eye shadow with every single outfit.
Also, experts will tell you that you should choose between a strong eye and a strong lip when doing your makeup. With gothic you might be able to get away with having dark lipstick and deep eye makeup, but with sweet I think it’s safer to stick with a colorful eye and a natural, if very shiny, lip.

As with any kind of fashion, what you’re really looking for is makeup that compliments your overall look. If the makeup is too flashy it will overpower the outfit; too plain and your beautiful face will take a backseat to the clothes you’re wearing.

I recommend carrying oil-reducing sheets with you. Flash cameras tend to bring out the worst in people’s faces, so a little dab before the flash goes off might save you the trouble of photoshopping later. This is especially useful for people who cannot wear foundation due to allergies.
If you do have various skin conditions that prevents you from wearing the usual layers of concealer, foundation, blush, etc, adding a touch of lipgloss and some mascara will give you a more finished look. You might be surprised at how far just a little bit goes.

Remember, when you’re wearing lolita, the dress shouldn’t be the only pretty thing! Your bound to feel a lot more confident, as well, if you have the whole package.

But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Lolita
Image copyright MGM.

I’ve been re-reading Nabokov’s classic novel Lolita recently, partly because I could feel my brain beginning to atrophy as a result of reading too much nonsense (good nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless, The Russian Concubine et al) and I needed something possessing the verbosity only found in “classic literature” (and I’ve had my fill of Wilde for a while)… and partly because I wondered what it would feel like to go back to this controversial story after becoming that which is so often confused with it: a Lolita by fashion terms. I think the first and last time I read this book must have been at the end of my junior high career or the beginning of high school, so a number of years ago. I’d never heard of Lolita fashion at that time and I got a little scandalous thrill from reading the book because it was actually banned in my school district. The movie was even more scandalous– for my 14-year-old self.

Anyway, I digress. I just wanted to make a bit of a comment about these two oft-confused but readingfundamentally different usages of the same name. Lolita fashion is one of those gross misnomers that would have benefited SO much from a simple name change in its early stages (I can’t help but think about the English school NOVA, which would probably be doing a LOT better now if its name had been changed after it collapsed and before it came back…). But that can’t really be helped now, and forever the fashion will be incorrectly equated with Nabokov’s famous Lolita (and as a result, “lolicon” in Japan, which takes it’s name from “Lolita complex”– also from Nabokov’s famous 12-year-old).

There are a lot of debates about why the fashion is called “Lolita” and whether it’s related to the book, or the film (in which Lo is fundamentally different as a character: in the book she’s a fairly typical kid to everyone except the perverted Humbert Humbert, but in the film she is presented as a seductive young woman). Personally, I think that if the name has any significance at all, they have to be related. But I don’t think that means that Lolita fashion should be considered something inherently sexual. Perhaps this was just yet another misinterpretation of Lo’s character; or perhaps it was something a little deeper.
First, let’s think about Lolita the character’s two personalities.
In the book, she’s a grubby little girl who is just interested in being a kid until her life comes crashing down– thanks entirely to Dr. Humbert, a middle-aged man who can’t contain his desire for her. Her world becomes increasingly wild and unpredictable and extremely mature, especially considering she’s only 12. If the fashion is consciously based on this version of the character, then we might say that the idea is to give girls who find themselves thrown into a world that is changing too fast, and becoming too dirty, some sort of lovely fantasy to cling to.
In the film, Lolita is a 14-year-old tease who seduces Humbert. If we want to think of the fashion as related to this version of Lo we might conclude that it is for girls that are young at heart but still mature and worldly in their heads. She’s quite a tough cookie, after all. Which is actually a kind of compliment if you think about it– and certainly many a Lolita I know is an intelligent young woman wrapped in a very colorful package.

Honestly I don’t think there’s anything insulting about relating the Lolita fashion with Nabokov’s character. The insulting thing is when it is done by someone who actually knows very little about either. Whether there’s any real connection, we may never know (and while it’s interesting to ponder, there’s no point in fighting over it).

LolitaAs for whether Lolita the fashion is intended to be about sex, I’d say decidedly no; but as a friend of mine once said, Lolita might not be inherently sexual, but humans are, and that’s bound to connect at some point. But people who wear blue jeans have sex too– that doesn’t make blue jeans an automatic statement of sexuality. If Lolita WAS originally intended to have some sort of sexual connotations, I think it’s moved pretty far in the opposite direction by now. I can’t see how wearing a two-tier cake or a cupcake on your head could really be seen as an invitation for lowbrow activities (but that’s just one girl’s opinion).
Unfortunately, there has been enough media exposure of Lolita fashion, linking it to maid fashion and the “moe” phenomenon, that in Japan there are a number of people assume all kinds of Lolita fashion are actually some sort of fetish.
Among people who know about the fashion though, there is a particular idea– that Lolitas can be downright frigid. As one of my Japanese friends explained: Lolitas and gyaru don’t get along because “Lolitas are prudes and gyaru are easy”.
But that’s for a different essay altogether!

And in conclusion, I recommend both the book and the movie Lolita to anyone who hasn’t yet read or seen it. If nothing else you’ll probably learn some new vocabulary!

Too much candy gonna rot your soul

Wow… it’s been a really really long time! Sorry!

candy
Anyway. The recent trend in lolita fashion has been sweets. I tried to resist for the longest time, but the sweets bug finally bit me as well. This is pretty logical though, since I AM a sweet lolita!

I also apparently enjoy arranging them for photos…
Anyway, the major brands for sweets jewelry in Japan are Ribbon Holic (which the necklace and hair clip pictured above are from, I just love them), Ribbon x Ribbon, Melonwhip, etc. Some of these brands are actually still pretty hard to find in Nagoya, and even in Osaka. I don’t really know about Tokyo. You have to look at select shops; in Nagoya, I’ve only found a modicum of items at select shops Bellino and Kick Out (which also carries the only Swimmer items that I’ve found here). You can also find a lot of these brands online; for example chocomint delivers, as usual.

These brands are kind of overpriced in my opinion. Their products are ridiculously cute of course, and high quality for what they are, but I actually think some of the artists who make their own are just as good, and much much cheaper.
Personally I am a fan of Ashlee, who is getting to be quite well-known as the go-to girl for reasonably priced adorable sweets goods. I recently commissioned her for a headband similar to the ones Melonwhip did for Kera magazine, because I couldn’t find them in any stores, and the result is just lovely:
headband
(photo credit goes to Ashlee)

I decided to try my hand at making sweets because I wanted to deco my DS lite, but all the cases you find are really expensive. I thought, NO WAY am I paying $40 for that! And so I went out and got some supplies to make my own sweets.
kits
There are actually a million options for kits, parts, and other things for making sweets in Japan because it’s quite the trend– not just for lolitas, but for everyone! Gyaru, junior high school girls, even some boys are going the deco route. As for the kits, I’m really happy with the “accessory wo tsukurou!” kit. I immediately made several cute little things. It was so easy!
cute
The “icing” made by the same brand leaves something to be desired. I got the standard caulk-type icing as well, but not a proper tip for it, and as a result made several huge messes and ended up wasting half of my resources!! In the end it might have been cheaper to just buy a premade one, but I’m not going to give up! I have all these little paper-clay cookies and stuff, I have to do something with them… hahahaha….
I guess the moral of this story is that these things are harder to make than you might think xD