On Being Lolita: Luxury vs. Necessity

On Being Lolita: Luxury vs. Necessity

“Give me the luxuries of life, and I will willingly do without the necessities.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Several years ago I read this quote, and soon jotted down a hasty jumble of thoughts on how I related the saying to lolita fashion. When re-reading some old entries in my personal journal and reflecting on how far my life has come thus far, I crossed over my old composition. I still believe it to be true, and thought this would be a capital place to share a neatened-up version of my old writing.

This aforementioned quote often comes to mind when I reflect on lolita fashion, which seems an epitome of luxury. Clothing is a necessity, to keep bodies warmed and covered. Lolita fashion is barely suited for the latter! The style idealizes luxury as opposed to necessity: the clothing is beautiful, expensive, and decadent. It is not suited to protection from the elements. It cannot stand up to the daily chores of life. The intent is to project an image of removal from most aspects of the real world.

Even with seasonal adjustments, lolita fashion only suits itself to one type of weather–mild. In blazing heat the layers of detailed clothing is oppressive and stifling; in frigid flurries those layers seem ineffective in keeping out the bone-chilling cold. It is possible to dress to alleviate these problems: long-sleeve blouses, no knee socks, mittens and scarves, or fewer petticoats. However, these alterations are designed by resourceful wearers of the fashion, not necessarily the designs of the fashion. Lolita maintain their appearance diligently in inclement weather, but there is a difference indeed between a lolita attired in her finest and a lolita bundled up for winter survival.

It is not suited to daily work. Washing the dishes, scrubbing the floor, or shaking out rugs in lolita fashion is awkward. The poofy skirts squish in an unflattering manner when pressed up against the sink, making the surface fully available for spills and drips. Kneeling on the floor risks dirtying one’s socks and the skirt that is sure to brush across that floor. It is not impossible to do housework in lolita, but no lolita would wear her best dress for the activity! Pulling weeds in lolita would seem an open invitation for a dirt and grass-stained skirt and sweat-stained bodice. This is because lolita fashion is not intended as every-day wear for average people. The influences of the style draw heavily from aristocrats of the 18th century and middle- or upper-class Victorians who would have servants to do their menial tasks. The lolita is not supposed to partake of these activities.

The quote most strongly applies to the many girls and guys who pride themselves on being lolita. Few people have the idle income to be at their lolita finest every day, with a vast array of costly garments, decorated fingernails that impede certain activities, immaculately-styled hair and makeup unmarred by heavy work, or exquisite shoes ill-suited for much walking. Most lolita work, typically in environments where they cannot wear their frills, and have other expenses beyond clothing. She must scale back on some things to afford to buy clothing, attend meetups, and pamper herself in her own “lolita” way.

Thus a real-life lolita balances the luxuries with the necessities. Should she save up for a new dress, or see a movie? Or go out for dinner? Or purchase other clothes? Or pay the bills, perhaps? Often it is very tempting to result to harmful tactics, like credit-card debt or even fraud, in an attempt to enjoy the very best of both worlds. A lolita that conducts herself minimally when living as her day-to-day civilian disguise can dress herself to perfection, surround herself with opulence, and indulge in the manifestation of the dream-world.

My father often says, “We go big, or we don’t go at all.” I fully agree. I would rather enjoy the things I do enjoy exquisitely, and do away with the rest, rather than have a little of each but none of the best. It becomes a mix of miserly and overindulgent–an empty refrigerator and a full closet. I love extravagant things, but I must chose. A fancy meal or a new cutsew? Even when money is so tight that clothing purchases are best not considered, there are always places to cut back just enough to have a bit of spending-money for something luxurious, like a specialty cupcake or admission to a museum.

That is the state of the lolita, who would rather enjoy herself to the fullest than walk the fence between extravagance and essentials. She does not exist at a steady yet dull level, but flares up every so often like a dying star, returning to the colder, dimmer state when that bit of energy has been expanded.

Reading Corner: Little Women

Reading Corner: Little Women

When I was little, one of my most prized possessions was a collection of six thick novels with matching red covers. A present from my grandmother, they had been hers when she was a girl. The six novels did not match merely by chance, but because they were a set of stories that continued together: Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys, An Old-Fashioned Girl, Eight Cousins, and Rose in Bloom.

As I child, I never read them. I kept them neatly on the top shelf of my bookcase, organized neatly into a row. I liked to stare up at their maroon spines, all exactly the same height and nearly the same width. It seemed so orderly and mature to have those matching books on my shelf. Then we moved, and I packed them away never to unpack those tomes again.

Although the setting for Little Women is the Civil War, I settled on it for my second “lolita” book because of a regret for not having read those treasured gifts. I knew vaguely of the tale enough to think it could be tied together at least somewhat. After all, through lolita fashion I had found friends dear enough to me to think of sisters and relatives, and together we have been through trials of all kinds.

I was not disappointed. I found the text engaging, and enjoyed following the story of the four girls who each had their own hardships, disappointments, and joys. None of the characters are flat–each has her good and bad sides, just as all people do. Even though they develop through the story as they try their hardest to live good lives, each retains a humanity that makes them seem real. It seems obvious that experiences inspired the best of the work.

I believe that lolita fashion is strongly about being a young lady. The appearance is childish, but the clothing does not directly resemble children’s fashion. There are certainly elements that conjure up images of rosy-cheeked little girls, but the wearer is decidedly intended to be older as the clothing is made to an adult size. Little Women offers advice that any romantic, old-fashioned young lady can take to heart. It does not chide one for longing to hold onto youth but provides guidance looking towards the future.