Depending on where you live, you may find yourself at some point stepping onto a bus in rocking-horse shoes. Although many lolita may find themselves distant from any metropolis, commiserating with Momoko in Shimotsuma, cities and other urban areas are common sites of meetups or other events. Driving may be convenient, as you are able to choose your own arrival and departure and will have a shorter commute than a vehicle that must make intermediate stops, but it can also be inconvenient. Some areas have little to no parking available, terrible road congestion, or various high fees related to motor vehicles, such as metered parking, paid parking, or tolls. Riding public transportation isn’t usually difficult, but there are some extra precautions when dolled up in one’s lolita finery.
Avoid Dirt and Grime
Public transportation systems, whether rail or bus, are typically less than impeccably clean. Generally the cleanliness of the stations and vehicles is related to the area and route–I find that terminals in high-traffic areas such as downtown are often cleaner than those in outlying regions of the city, as are the buses or trains that service them. In a train station or at a bus terminal, grime can be everywhere. Buses and trains contribute to the pollutants, and people traffic mud, slush, or dust as they pass through. Sometimes graffiti is also an issue.
Due to the poofing power of the essential petticoat(s), corridors and turnstiles require a certain level of awareness. I use my arms to push my petticoat close to my legs, to avoid brushing my skirt against the walls of the station or surface of the turnstile. The walls are often very dingy, sometimes washed even less frequently than the floor. Pressing your petticoat close when passing through the metal arms of the turnstiles can also prevent you from getting caught on something and possibly snagging or tearing delicate clothing or trims.
Additionally, watch your step! Puddles are common, as are spills of beverages, food items, and even art supplies. Besides dirtying your shoes, the scattered remains of a half-finished smoothie could cause you to slip, possibly causing injury and/or damage.
When you board a train or bus, be aware of your surroundings. Watch for the open window (a blessing if you are feeling too warm, but a danger if it is allowing brackish water to drip inside), leaking fixture, filth-smeared seat, or freshly-graffitied panel. Never sit down without looking–and if you are extra-cautious, touch the seat with your fingertips to be sure it is dry. I’ve luckily avoided mishaps when wearing lolita, but I have taken a seat on my way to work onto to discover that the snow melted off the previous rider’s jacket into a very cold damp spot at the edge of the seat; it’s quite unpleasant.
Buses or trains are prime locations for theft. An expert pickpocket can squeeze past you in a crowded bus and exit at the next stop before you’ve even noticed your wallet is gone. While iPods and other music players are convenient and can make a boring commute less taxing, they are distracting. Even when you’re not wearing lolita, it’s safest to keep the volume at a level that doesn’t block everything else out. Games, either on a portable system or cellphone, can serve the same purpose. Wearing such an eye-catching style such as lolita fashion attracts attention, and it might be the criminal kind. It’s always a bad idea to just assume you are safe.
If you must carry a large purse, as most lolita do, never let it out of your focus. Don’t just see it, or know you have it with you–confirm that you feel it securely in your hands. Cross-body straps make it harder for someone to snatch a bag from your hands or off your shoulder, but lolita handbags are not made of materials resistant to cutting; don’t rely on a handle or strap to be the ultimate in protection. If possible, keep essential items, such as your ID or bus pass, in a secure place on your person. And close your purse, to keep someone else’s hands out!
When you are in a station or riding public transportation, try to stay near facility employees. Sit near the bus driver or train conductor, or wait near the station agent. This can be just a little bit of extra determent, especially because with such conspicuous clothing the employees are bound to be paying at least some attention to you.
Generally, lolita fashion seems to make unsavory people want to keep their distance, but it never hurts to be cautious.
Respect Other Riders
When you are getting on a bus or passing through a turnstile, have your fare ready. If you’re traveling in a group, you don’t want to be left behind because you had to fumble through your Usakumya backpack to find your fare card. Even if you are alone, it’s frustrating to anyone behind you if someone is blocking the entrance because they weren’t ready to pay when they stepped up.
Lolita clothing is voluminous; try not to invade other passengers’ personal space. Hold your skirts close to your body and carry bags in front of you to avoid bumping into someone else–no-one wants to be accosted by Sugary Carnival or to be knocked in the shoulder by a plush Milky-chan fawn, even if she is utterly adorable. Unless the route has a low volume of riders and the bus or train is empty, try to sit down. Standing up will avoid wrinkles or worrying about the cleanliness of the seats, but it is very difficult for other riders to get past you when they get on and off. Additionally, it takes a little bit of practice to be able to keep your balance when the vehicle is in motion or stopping/starting–you eliminate the risk of tripping onto someone else if you sit down.
When seated, try to only take up one seat. If there’s plenty of space, there’s no harm in carefully arranging your petticoats and skirts to flow as elegantly as possible across the plastic seating, but if everyone is packed in like sardines, don’t assume that no-one would dare sit on your clothes if they’re invading nearby seats. I typically take hold of each side of my skirt and fold them over my lap, setting my bag ontop of that if I am carrying one. That leaves the seat next to me free for someone else.
And, if possible, sit next to another lolita. It’s less nerve-wracking to be next to someone who is probably more aware of the value and sentimental attachment to your clothing than a random stranger. Another lolita is less likely to smear dirt/dust on you accidentally, grumble about your attire, or start off on a commute-long tangent about how you remind her of the Tooth Fairy and don’t you know it isn’t Halloween yet?
Take a Deep Breath
Although you may be doing your part to respect other riders, sometimes other riders (or even bus operators) will disrespect you. People may snicker while you wait at the bus stop, snap photos with their cellphones while you ride the train, make comments among themselves about your attire, or attempt to start up conversations with you for a variety of reasons. In these instances, it’s best to stay calm. I recommend being polite and ignoring non-direct offenders, but the proper reaction is entirely dependent on the situation.
Don’t be afraid to ask “stealth-photographers” to stop, but don’t expect they will just because you asked. Smile and nod when an old man rambles on about how you look so pretty and what a shame that the good ol’ days are gone, but don’t put up with someone’s unwanted advances if they make you uncomfortable. Ask them to stop, turn your attention to something else, or move somewhere else if possible. If you feel threatened, don’t hesitate to contact the nearest transit employee–it is their job to handle issues like this, and if they ignore you make note of their name/number and file a formal complaint!
Usually I find that there are only twitters from teenage girls, which are better ignored than acknowledged, and ramblings from homeless or “troubled” individuals, which can be uncomfortable to weather through but generally are harmless. It’s inevitable that people’s attention will be captivated if you look like a pastel cupcake or a vampire princess.
Watch Your Step
Lolita footwear is not very practical. Take care when stepping on and off the bus so that you don’t loose your footing and slip. (This is especially important when it is rainy or cold outside, as there may be water or ice!) Gorgeous shoes can complete a coordination, but if you have a difficult time manuvering in said shoes, consider wearing a more practical pair, carrying the pretty ones, and swapping them at your destination.
Also, don’t rely solely on shoes that are painful to walk in. Public transportation eliminates some of the walking, but often not all of it. Make sure that you can keep up with the others you are meeting up with; unfortunately, if your shoes are really hurting you it is extremely unlikely that someone else will carry you! Be responsible, and bear it as best you can or (the much better option) wear more comfortable shoes.
If any of this seems daunting, it isn’t at all uncommon for lolita to wear one outfit for traveling and change into their coordination when they reach their destination. If you’re too worried about your clothing or too nervous about attracting attention, tuck your outfit into a backpack or duffel bag and bring it with you. It usually isn’t too difficult to find a bathroom in which to change–the station nearest your destination, a coffee shop, etc. It isn’t worth stressing yourself out over!
If you don’t want to pack your entire outfit, sometimes just packing your petticoats is enough. Petticoats provide the volume that is the most common problem when using mass transit; a flatter skirt is easier to deal with or more comfortable for some lolita. If you have a very large purse and a very durable petticoat, you may be able to squish it inside for the duration of your ride, and change back into it at a later time.
Overall, public transportation isn’t something to be feared or avoided, but a little extra thought can go a long way! I’ve relied on my city’s rail and bus system, which isn’t the best but certainly gets the job done, for several years with very little in the ways of mishaps. I don’t have any horrific stories of clothing ruined, valuables taken, or injury sustained–but I try to take some part in that rather than relying entirely on chance! Once you’ve ridden public transportation a few times with a full lolita coordinate, it becomes second nature to be alert for dirt, check your footing, and keep your poof controlled.
Since I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space or feeding the meter, I can enjoy my time at the meetup with my friends even more! ♥