As the fashion has evolved over the years, specialty prints–where a company creates special artwork and has it worked onto the fabric before the garments are made with it–haven taken over for most of the sweet lolita brand-names. There is a certain allure to prints, for they are both artwork in their own right and a status symbol.
Each print begins with an idea, transmitted to an artist, who then illustrates the desired image. However, printed fabric does not often show a simple picture repeated over and over again; the desired effect is usually a continuing, fluid series of images that can cover as much of the surface as possible. A typical border print, where most of the artwork is concentrated just along the edge of the fabric (typically used along the bottom edge of a skirt), may require several separately designed pieces that are then carefully arranged together for a final print on the full dimensions of the fabric. An all-over print, on the other hand, requires a different skill to make sure that the continuous design matches up correctly to repeat endlessly.
The effort of the artist shines through in a garment made with a specialty print. It gives the piece more adornment without any other materials. A typical jumperskirt might add interest to the skirt portion with pintucks, ribbon-bows, or ruffles, but a jumperskirt with a border print does not, to keep attention focused upon the crafted illustrations near the edge. Decorative touches on a one-piece with all-over print can increase the opulence of the dress until it seems like a frosted wedding cake!
However, prints are also used as a status symbol. A specialized print conveys the same message as a large logo–and indeed, most prints contain the company’s logo tucked away in the pattern! It lets everyone who recognizes lolita fashion know which company your outfit is from. Additionally, prints are usually hard-to-find, as they are popular with many lolita and often sell out during the reservation period, leaving only a few items to wind up on store shelves.
Several years ago, prints were rather uncommon. Now they are released in an almost-constant stream! Each company seems to aim to out-do the other with over-the-top ideas, bold colors, and eye-catching artwork.
Most prints haven’t impressed me very much, but now that I own a recent print I couldn’t help thinking more about them. I love looking at the dress hung in my closet, bedecked with cherries, strawberries, bunny silhouettes, and Angelic Pretty emblems on the bodice and skirt. The enormous fluffy bunnies border-printed along the bottom catch my attention so that I notice every detail–long eyelashes, massive tails, a hint of blush. The fascination is only slightly different than how I feel looking at a beloved one-piece or skirt, but a print draws attention differently; it offers drawings to examine instead of design elements to fawn over.
Neither is any better or worse than the other, despite the higher sum a popular printed item might fetch on resale. Prints add modernity to lolita fashion, further removing it from historical accuracy. I believe this is natural for a modern fashion. Lolita fashion cannot remain stuck in the past because it never was the past–it is a glance into a time and place that never actually existed, like a vaguely-remembered dream. I can’t help but wonder what other new elements will be incorporated as time goes on.