Japan is a weird place. From its movies to its festivals to its dining habits, the country has a long history of giving birth to some truly bizarre sh*t, then sending it overseas to our eagerly awaiting, comparatively bland Western hands.
The most recent weirdo Eastern trend to show up on American shores is the fashion movement known as Lolita. Despite the fact that is sounds like some filthy daddy-daughter fetish scene, Lolita, according to most enthusiasts, has nothing at all to do with sexuality and everything to do with embracing your inner well-behaved Victorian-era prepubescent girl.
Ladies who practice Lolita do so by dressing themselves like the porcelain doll that your got for your eighth birthday, then going online to connect with other girls who dress like the porcelain doll that you got for your eighth birthday, then getting together to do things like sing karaoke, drink tea, and attend animae conventions.
According to one Lolita site, the movement originated in the 1980s when Japanese teens would kick it every weekend in downtown Tokyo jamming to rock bands and getting all gussied up for each other. A small faction of girls on this scene, for one reason or another, started sporting Little-Bo-Peep-esque ensembles; a few key trendmakers picked up on the look and started companies like Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Manifesteange Metamorphose temps de fille that specialized in producing the frilly, old-fashioned clothing, some Japanese rock bands embraced the trend, and thus the Lolita subculture was born.
There are a number of “styles” of Lolita that a lady can choose from. For the girly traditionalists who like lace, pastels, ruffles, knee socks – the whole little girl work – the Sweet Lolita look is probably their best bet. Angsty types who like black and abhor the sunlight make perfect Goth Lolitas, and for those grown women who want to want to wear elaborate costumes but still be kind of adult-ish about it, the Victorian Lolita look is less kitsch, more class. Wizard of Oz fans can make like Dorothy and rock the gingham as a Country Lolita, and chicks who are all about blood-spattered nurse uniforms would do well as Guro Lolitas. (No, for real.)
But no matter what type of Lolita a girl identifies herself as, all practitioners agree that the ideal Lolita not only looks like a classic lady but is a classic lady: poised, polite, gentle, and soft-spoken at all times. For girls who embrace the lifestyle, being Lolita is ultimately about creating a more fantastic, “pretty” existence for yourself to escape the drudgery of the day to day, a.k.a. playing some serious motherf*cking dress-up.
Unsurprisingly, some people take issue with the Lolita style. For one, the association of the name with the infamous Vladimir Nabokov novel combined with the fact that the movement is about adult women dressing like fetishized little girls understandably strikes some people as disturbing. And personally, I’m not overly impressed with the vaguely misogynistic undertones to the whole scene. However, as I mentioned before, ladies who identify themselves as Lolita don’t associate the style with sexuality at all and instead see it as a means of expressing themselves; of building confidence and being part of a community.
In a recent New York Times piece, Lolita Kelsey Hine said about the style “…it gives us a sense of self…it’s meant for girls. Girl on girl fashion as opposed to girls for men fashion.”
While I have no intentions of going Lolita myself, I do think that there are some good ideas that can be taken away from the trend. Good quality bonding with like-minded sisters certainly never hurt anyone, and taking the time to get down with your inner child can do wonders for the soul. Times are tough, and the reality of young adulthood can be a bitter pill to swallow. Sometimes, making a like a five-year-old and adding a little whimsy to everyday life helps to put things in perspective and remind yourself that the world really is a lovely place.
But I’ll do it by playing on a swing set while mowing down on FunDip, because dudes, the day I wear a petticoat and bloomers is the day hell freezes over.