On Being Lolita: Is It a Lifestyle?

On Being Lolita: Is It a Lifestyle?

20070630 Algonquin Weekend
Originally uploaded by sweetmilktea

I do not consider myself a “lifestyle lolita.” This might seem odd, considering that I love eating sweets, drink tea excessively, abhor hard labor, fail miserably at athletics, enjoy learning about and trying old-fashioned fancy work, read Victorian novels, announce my advocacy for common decency, and try my best to be a proper young lady. My house is decorated in my tastes, with lots of white and pink–and rose motifs on my sheet sets and several pink quilts. The rice cooker we use almost every night is an official Hello Kitty product–just like my television, DVD player, some dishes, and several items in our bathroom. Even at this point in my life, I still indulge in fairy tales and think about living in a world that is a wonderful dream.

I am not a “lifestyle lolita” because this is how I have always been. I was this way before I wore lolita fashion. I will be this way whenever I no longer wear lolita fashion. I carry a rose-tinged romantic dream in my heart.

Thus, I do not object to the ultimate goal of those who call for a “lifestyle” to accompany the fashion. There is nothing wrong with wanting to live beautifully–if it enhances your enjoyment of life, embrace it! Suit your own tastes and support your own values. If you aren’t harming yourself or anyone else, you may as well enjoy what you have while you can have it–otherwise it is squandered.

However, I criticize the concept of a “lolita lifestyle.” The typical “lifestyle” that comes to mind is one in which a lolita eats only sweets, drinks only hot tea, does lady’s fancy work for pastimes (such as embroidery or tatting), avoids physical exertion, and decorates anywhere that can bear decoration with “cute” things. This is a blending of several extremes of misinterpreted Victoriana and the lives of the 18th century aristocracy–usually heavily influenced by court ways at Versailles. There is also a dash of the Japanese cultural obsession with “cute.” There is nothing uniquely pulled from the fashion style it is associated with.

None of these things are exclusively connected to lolita fashion. None of these things are really represented in the fashion itself–especially not when early lolita designs were evolving and separating from the “pink house” styles. There have been prints incorporating fairy tales, tea-time, Alice in Wonderland, etc.–which is perfectly normal, as these have all served as inspiration for designers of lolita fashion. However, these designers have been equally inspired by fruits (not the fashion–the edibles), crosses, churches, mermaids, and pirates–none of which are considered as part of a “lolita lifestyle.”

My criticism of the label of “lolita lifestyle” is three-fold. To begin with, it bears nothing to call its own. As I mentioned, many concepts are pulled from Victoriana–although without historical accuracy, which I attribute to a lack of research due to an initial obsession of the traditions at face-value. Other habits tend more towards the court-life of aristocrats, with formality and extravagance of certain customs–but, again, without in-depth considerations. As lolita fashion is Japanese, there are often Japanese cultural aspects added in (specifically those related to “cute”)–usually the most thoroughly-incorporated. I believe this is because many lolita have or once had interest in Japanese culture as a whole; thus more information was looked up and noted about the involved Japanese customs or inspirations.

Additionally, “lolita lifestyle” ignores all sub-styles of lolita fashion other than sweet lolita. The touted “lolita lifestyle” is much too childish for most classic lolita. Although these young ladies may appreciate many of the Victorian aspects from the lifestyle, it would not be fitting for them to eat cake all day or decorate their homes with stuffed animals–were they trying to “act” their clothing, their pastimes would be more refined and elegant. And what of the gothic lolita? Their attire (and often their preferences towards the dark and macabre, hence their clothing tastes) is better suited to a dark, candle-lit cavern with a midnight “breakfast” served atop a closed coffin–as was once addressed briefly in a humorous one-page article of the Gothic & Lolita Bible. Punk lolita, rebels at heart, would be more likely to upset a tea party than sit quietly for it. (These are all stereotypical descriptions for emphasis.)

However, my deepest-felt objection to the “lolita lifestyle” is that it is simply a rehashing and expansion of the ideals of the character Momoko from Takemoto Novala’s Kamikaze Girls (Shimotsuma Monogatari). Momoko is obsessed with “Rococo,” mistaking the style of art and design for a time period. She incorporates several shallow aspects of Victorian culture as well, although her focus is 18th century France. She eats only sweets, disdains athleticism, and lies to and cheats her foolish father to acquire money to spend on her wardrobe. Although the book is very enjoyable, I don’t think people should restrict themselves to a fictional character’s ideals. One person cannot be dictate a fashion’s associated lifestyle.

Thankfully most “lifestyle lolita” don’t exist solely on Momoko’s ideals, but it is clear that she has set the example. Novala’s other writings sometimes expand on this subject, as he has many thoughts on what a lolita should and should not be, but he places emphasis on doing lolita because it is what YOU want, not what society insists on. With this in mind, drones of Momoko-clones blindly following what she had set forth would certainly not be his purpose for writing Kamikaze Girls. Insisting that lolita fashion has a well-defined ideal of a lifestyle is only true if Novala’s writings are to be considered. There is not much else that focuses on this topic other than input from those who follow those ideas–no other source insists on a “lifestyle.”

Thus I believe that the label of “lolita lifestyle” is misleading. It would be better said as “living romantically” or “Momoko lifestyle.” Either is more suitable depending on the inspiration for the person attempting to live such a life–although it should be noted that even the character Momoko followed her Rococo-dusted ways before discovering lolita fashion. That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from a book! There’s nothing wrong with filling your life with beautiful things! There’s no reason to be ashamed of appreciating old-fashioned aspects of other cultures, or from mish-mashing things you like together! It’s your life, and even though others can tell you how to live it, you don’t have to listen to them.

Ultimately, the “lolita lifestyle” offers nothing uniquely and absolutely connected to the fashion, and that is why I dislike the phrase.