On Being Lolita: My Frilly Beginning

On Being Lolita: My Frilly Beginning

Inspired by some of the thoughts from my previous post, I decided to reminisce a bit. I’ve been wearing lolita since 2006, which sometimes seems like a long time and sometimes seems like a very, very short time!

I’d know about lolita fashion before then, but hadn’t paid too much attention. I wasn’t very aware of sweet lolita, only the more gothic or punk styles which aren’t really to my taste. Then I became interested in Pullip dolls and purchased one who wore shirololi. When she arrived and I saw all the cute little details, I knew that’s what I wanted to wear, too. I started to plot immediately.

I joined EGL on LiveJournal right away and tried to compile as much information as possible. I browsed the websites of lolita fashion brands; it was the reason I installed Japanese text support–so I would see characters instead of boxes or random symbols. I studied discussions, although I was too nervous to participate. I actually took notes on some things, such as lace types or abbreviations. It’s funny to think back on how focused and serious I was! I fretted about my hair, my finances, and more things. I started typing differently after being ridiculed for a stupid but mostly harmless habit of adding extra syllables at the end of sentences for emphasis. (Didn’t stop me from abusing the tilde, though~!)

This was my very first picture! I had just gotten all items for my outfit, and I insisted on putting it on right away and forced my father to take some pictures of me outside. I still remember how excited I was!

I attended my first meetup without any proper clothes, because I wanted to meet other lolita in person. I was not disappointed in the least! One girl (who was later my roommate for several years) arrived in full regalia, and I was fascinated. She was perfectly coordinated, wearing everything I wanted to own, and didn’t mistreat me for being awestruck. She wasn’t even taken aback when I asked awkwardly if I could touch the lace on her blouse. (I still remember thinking, “WOOOOOOOOOW, this is what they mean by good lace!”)

My first items were purchased shortly afterward. I bought a custom dress from In the Starlight. Sadly they closed in late 2009, but for many years In the Starlight was a go-to for custom-made lolita clothing. They probably provided petticoats and bloomers to hundreds if not thousands of girls! My first dress was of my own design, with a built-in petticoat and detachable sleeves. I wanted something that would be versatile as possible. I didn’t commission my item from In the Starlight because it was any cheaper, I did it because at the time I thought (based on measurements) that lolita brand clothing would be too big for me. I didn’t realize the versatility of sizing until a little bit later!

Once the dress and hair accessory were in hand, I commissioned some socks from another lolita seamstress–then I set out on a hunt for white shoes. My grandmother was kind enough to not only help me hunt out white shoes for tiny feet that didn’t look like toddler shoes, but also to pay for them once we found a pair at a dusty shoe store in a neighboring town! I found a white child’s umbrella with a ruffled edge to complete my look and felt very satisfied. I had the opportunity to wear the entire outfit both in a parade (where I was mistakenly thought to be the lead singer of a band) and to a meetup soon after my birthday~ It was very exciting!

Same outfit, but this picture was taken at my first meetup. I was always very fond of this particular image–the girl who took it coached my pose.

I only have a few not-great-quality pictures of that outfit, but I think back on it fondly. I no longer have any of those items except the shoes–eventually I stopped wearing them. For a while I had just those items, and I wore everything so often that I really bored myself even though I tried to add variety, but I wasn’t bored until I’d worn it to death for a few years! The detachable sleeves made it really easy to wear in different ways, although I’m sure someone more creative than me could have done even more.

Overall, looking back on old pictures gives me a warm sense of nostalgia. I’ve definitely come a long way, but I really regret or cringe at anything. I’m happy that I can think of the way things started with such fondness~ I can’t even really imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t started to wear lolita fashion; it would be much different! For something that isn’t earth-shaking, it really has had a significant impact on my life. Someday, when I’m old, I want to be able to look back on this part of my life with a smile and think, “Wow, I had fun wearing those ridiculous clothes!”

On Being Lolita: Where to Start?

On Being Lolita: Where to Start?

When you’re just starting to get into lolita fashion, the sheer variety and choices can be overwhelming! I remember debating for weeks about what would be the very first thing I’d purchase. The prices seem so unimaginably expensive–and they especially did several years ago, before the accessibility of Bodyline or reputable Chinese sellers, such as Dear Celine or Rose Melody, and services like Qutieland.

My sewing ability is nonexistent, which is too bad–bloomers and petticoats are easy (and useful) first projects! Shorts can be substituted for bloomers if you don’t care for them or don’t want to make or buy a pair right away, but there’s little substitute for a petticoat. Sometimes another skirt can fill in, but that’s only if you’re lucky enough to already own something in the right shape with plenty of “floof” to it.

I found this petticoat tutorial by RhodyGunn at DeviantArt. Her tutorial has lots of pictures and follows the pattern from the GosuRori pattern books. Kouhiko posted a petticoat tutorial in Sew_Loli, which has some very adorable illustrated instructions. Free bloomer tutorials are easy to search for online, although most of them are historical patterns and may need a bit of modification to use for lolita fashion.

A petticoat and bloomers are foundation garments. They’re not always pretty and lacy, and you can’t usually show them off or take your first lolita fashion pictures with only those things, but without a petticoat and bloomers it’s difficult to wear the outer layers of lolita as best they could be worn. For a lolita-at-heart, I recommend making these undergarments, if you can, as inexpensively as possible so you can save your hard-earned money for clothing items without lacking what ought to go beneath.

Undergarments aside, I personally feel that there are two “best” starter pieces for a lolita’s wardrobe. Which one is a better choice for which lolita-hopeful really depends on her sewing goals and ability.

A Blouse with Detachable Sleeves
For the Lolita-to-Be with Sewing Potential

If you can sew or are learning/want to learn to sew, a blouse with detachable sleeves is a great starter piece. Simple rectangle skirts are a staple of the style, and quite easy to make. When those have become second nature, there are other skirt styles to add to your repertoire. Then, jumperskirts, and from there–the world! Additionally, most lolita accessories such as hairbows or wrist cuffs are not terribly confusing to make, either.

Blouses, however, are generally not very easy to make. Figuring out the patterns in the GosuRori pattern books can be difficult without a good grasp of written Japanese, and most commercial patterns just aren’t quite right for lolita fashion.

Owning a blouse with detachable sleeves will give you a proper top to wear with the skirts or jumperskirts you can make, and it will be suited for warmer or cooler weather and slightly different “looks” due to the ability to be short- or long-sleeved. There are often blouses with other detachable elements as well–waist ties or additional collars. These extra pieces allow more variety from the same garment, so that even if you are always wearing the same blouse you don’t have to feel or look like it! You can add a little bit of interest with your craftiness with brooches, ribbons, or other temporary embellishments. Maybe even change the buttons once in a while~

Also, a blouse is also usually less expensive than a skirt, jumperskirt, or dress–so you can save some money on your purchase and have more to spend on the supplies you’ll need for your sewing endeavors!

A Non-Print Fabric One-Piece Dress
For the Future-Lolita without Much Sewing Interest

Maybe you already know that you and your sewing machine are mortal enemies, you cringe at the thought of pricking your fingers yet again, or you just know you’ll quickly grow bored of the practice. Maybe you just don’t have enough free time, or have too many other hobbies. Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that you really don’t want to sew your own lolita outfits.

In that case, you probably ought to get a “one-piece,” the term used most commonly within the fashion for a dress with sleeves that typically isn’t intended to be worn over a blouse. This makes a nice first item because you instantly have an outfit. It’s much simpler to start off with an item that doesn’t require too much to complete it–you can usually accessorize with things you already own. Doing the opposite–starting with what you already own and accessorizing it to be lolita–is much harder.

A good first one-piece ought to not be a specific print. Brand-name or small-label print garments are incredibly popular, but they’re also incredibly noticeable. After you’ve worn and re-coordinated that dress several times, you’ll likely grow bored with it. There’s no real harm in wearing the same outfit over and over, if you like doing so, but a lack of variety can make you envious of other girls with more varied closets. A dress without a specific design is easier to reinvent over and over again, because it has slightly more of a “blank canvas” quality.

You can wear the one-piece as it is, you can wear it with patterned tights, you can wear it with a cardigan, you can wear it with a skirt over it like some of the models in Alice Deco À La Mode, you can wear it over a blouse or cutsew like a jumperskirt, etc. You can wear accessories in matching colours or contrasting colours. There’s a lot of opportunity for experimentation! (Also, non-print one-pieces are much less expensive than their highly-sought-after and limited-release counterparts!)

Pictures are online shop catalog images from Angelic Pretty, but that doesn’t mean your purchases need to be! I simply chose them to illustrate my points because I love Angelic Pretty! ♥ Moi-même-Moitié, Sweet Rococo, Bodyline, a shop from TaoBao, or a commission from a seamstress–all are great choices! It’s best to pick something you love, so you won’t get tired of wearing it, and to pick something that fits you well, so you will be comfortable and look your best.

I’d love to hear others’ opinions as to the best “first item.” It can be quite hard to choose~ Thinking about this subject has made me very nostalgic~ ♥ My first “starting point” seems so long ago!

On Being Lolita: The First Meetup

On Being Lolita: The First Meetup

There’s nothing quite as intimidating and exciting as doing something new for the very first time. This certainly includes attending a lolita fashion meetup. Regardless of whether the meetup is something casual, like a picnic in the park or an afternoon at someone’s house, or a formal occasion like an afternoon tea, it can still cause uneasiness for that of a fledgling lolita (or a veteran who is simply new to the area!).

I often reflect on my first meetup, which certainly caused me a lot of anxiety! I worked up the courage to attend a picnic downtown, since I at least knew the area although I did not know any of the attendees. However, I committed to attending the picnic knowing that did not own any lolita clothing. Although I owned many cute or girly items, I was painfully aware that they were not lolita outfits.

First, my grandmother said she would help me make something. Her attitude was a bit different after realizing that the pattern I intended to use was in some Japanese magazine with no English instructions. We bought the materials anyway, but couldn’t figure out where to start–and never even cut out the pattern pieces. When I explained my distress to my mother, unwilling to ask any more from my grandmother (who has certainly put up with quite a bit of nonsense from me), she took me back to the fabric store and we tried to find a suitable commercially-available pattern.

The night before the picnic, the two of us huddled over a sewing machine on the kitchen table, trying desperately to decipher the confusing instructions for making a simple skirt. The pattern pieces that we cut out seemed awkward and unlike what was required from us. Repeatedly we sewed a seam, examined it, and ripped the stitching out. Finally, at some early hour of the morning, my mother gave up and insisted I would wear something normal–as this new skirt was not to be. I went to bed in tears, convinced that everyone would make fun of me and determined to avoid the picnic at all costs.

However, my mother woke me up the next morning and pushed me onto the train despite my protests. She chided me for my cowardice, saying that I had been so excited, already made the cupcakes I had promised to bring, and if “these people” were going to be mean for about something so trivial they weren’t worth knowing anyway. I honestly think it was the best way she could have handled the situation. If I had been allowed to stay at home and mope, I would have missed out on so much!

At the picnic, no one mentioned my outfit–even so I constantly repeated that I was not wearing a lolita outfit and I knew it wasn’t a lolita outfit oh-please-oh-please-don’t-think-I’m-the-sort-of-person-who-doesn’t-know-what-she’s-doing-I-really-like-this-style-please-don’t-hate-me-you-are-all-so-experienced-and-wise. The weather was lovely, and the food was quite tasty.

It was because of that picnic that I met several people I now feel proud to call friends. (Including one who was also my roommate for over a year.) No-one was rude or cruel, and it gave me the courage and initiative to work on a new outfit and come to another meetup, where I would meet even more wonderful friends~! ♥

Don’t let fear keep you away from something that interests you! Even if you aren’t wearing a coordinate that looks like you stepped out of a BABY, the Stars Shine Bright advertisement, even if your hair isn’t “that perfect hime cut,” even if you aren’t an adorable teenage Japanese girl, even if you hate drinking tea–go to a meetup. Find out what the lolita in your area are really like. Search for that “nice” lolita, and keep an ear open for what everyone else has to say. Ask for opinions, join in conversations, and try to make some new friends!

The first meetup is scary, but you can’t get to know people without meeting them first!

On Being Lolita: The Merit of Courage

On Being Lolita: The Merit of Courage

Wearing lolita fashion can be extremely nerve-wracking, regardless of sub-style. Some people are blessed with incredible self-confidence, able to conduct themselves how they please without the creeping fears of being humiliated. Others, myself included, are not so lucky. The outlandishness of lolita clothing makes it as much of a target for unkind words as other extreme styles, but the reputation of “other lolita” certainly doesn’t help. It is one thing to be mocked by strangers–another thing entirely to be mocked by fellow devotees.

Newcomers to the fashion often ask the question: “How can you wear lolita in public?” There is no secret; the only thing necessary is courage.

It takes courage to step out onto a busy street without fearing other people’s reactions to your attire. It takes courage to hold your head high instead of breaking into tears when a crude comment shoots your way. It takes courage to put on a petticoat and hairbow and step outside again when you know that others will mistreat you. It takes courage to meet new people and do new things, no matter what the context.

The most important part, not just about lolita fashion but about any fashion, is feeling comfortable in your clothing. This may not happen immediately when that clothing is something so far from what you may have worn before. I often notice that lolita who wear other bold styles, such as gothic or punk, are less daunted by the prospect of being out and about in their clothing, and I believe it is because most of them have already conquered most of their fears about going against what is “normal” for fashion. If this is one’s first taste of being a black sheep, it can be very daunting!

Recently I took a bit of an involuntary break from wearing lolita fashion, because I moved into a new place and my clothing was left along the wayside for several months. When I finally dressed up again, I felt most of the nervousness that I thought I had lost return to me. As happy as I felt to be wearing my beloved frills again, I worried about what my landlord might think, about what passersby might say, and so forth.

Here are a few tips that I use to help get over that oppressive sinking feeling when fear has taken hold:

  • Stand up straight and tall, and smile! If I act like I am confident, even if I am shaking inside, it is easier to go about my business without thinking too much about my worries. Standing erect and having a pleasant expression exudes an attitude that makes one less of an easy target to pick on.
  • Bring a friend! I find that I think less about what other people might be thinking if I am engaged in conversation with a friend. There is strength in numbers.
  • Remember that strangers have their own lives. They’re not likely to dwell too very much on one odd-looking stranger, so don’t waste time focusing on what goes on in their heads. Keep your thoughts focused on the fun you are having or will have, or other pleasantries.
  • Ignore unkind comments. Arguing with some foul-tongued onlookers is a waste of time and energy. If they’re apt to be cruel, it’s best to move from their presence as quickly as possible. That’s not to say that it’s improper to stand up for oneself, but avoid drawing deeper into an escalating conflict.

The very best way to acclimate yourself to wearing lolita is to do it. Discover how far you can take yourself, and then test your boundaries every once in a while. If you love the clothing but are simply too shy to be seen in public (or you worry about being spotted by co-workers, friends, or schoolmates), pack your frills and change into them at your destination. Walking around with a full “flock” of fully-attired lolita is much less nerve-wracking than being alone.

Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t let yourself be unsafe. Whispers or mean comments can wound pride, but anything physical cannot be prevented by courage alone. Do your best to know how the people around you behave. If you live in a bigoted place where you might be threatened for your fashion choices, act responsibly.

Just don’t let unfounded anxiety keep you from fun!

On Being Lolita: Joining a Community

On Being Lolita: Joining a Community

Because Chicago is a major city, our “lolita population” constantly ebbs and flows. The sheer volume of people living in the city or various suburbs means there are bound to be several people interested in something you like, even if it is very obscure. This is particularly true for lolita fashion–numerous lolita live in the city, and even more can be found out in the outlying suburbs. There are constantly people moving in and out of the city, coming to and fro for university, and of course there are always new girls (and inevitably some guys) discovering the fashion.

I firmly believe that the very best part of lolita fashion is the communities that form around it. I particularly adore my local community, as most of the members are really great people that I feel very lucky to know. ♥

When one starts getting into lolita fashion, it can be very confusing to sort things out and get a true grasp of what the fashion is and is not. Even following the “rules” cannot guarantee a successful understanding of the style. It takes time and experience to really get a feel for it. Spending time with other lolita is a great way to evolve and grow from a fledgling lolita-admirer to a ♥lolita♥. The best way to do this is participation in the local community–interacting with other, more knowledgable lolita.

However, not every community is the most welcoming. Some lolita have forgotten what it was like to be brand-new to the fashion, enthusiastic about everything and ignorant of sublties of the style. They might have rude comments about the outfit a newcomer was so excited about. However, weathering any initial unpleasantries can reveal willing help–especially if one is eager to learn.

It is very important for a lolita-hopeful to learn how to accept criticism. Most lolita are extremely opinionated, and some will add their 2¢ even if it wasn’t requested. Learn to ignore the rude, unhelpful comments from those who just want to be insulting, but pay close attention to the people who offer constructive criticism–criticism that doesn’t just point out what is wrong, but provides suggestions to make it right. Don’t assume to be an expert on the fashion at first try; be willing to listen to what veteran enthusiasts have to say.

Some people don’t have patience or tact, so they are best avoided if one is brand new. However, there will inevitably be kinder individuals who wouldn’t mind helping out someone unwise in the ways of lolita fashion. Additionally, some people are much crueler online than they are face-to-face; the same person who might be spiteful on an internet community might prove to be a wealth of knowledge that they share with a smile if one is meeting her in person. Attending a local meetup is a great way to talk to experienced lolita, ask them questions, and learn more about such an intriguing style.

It can be intimidating to go to a first meetup–an event where everyone else seems to know each other except you. Being friendly, willing to join conversations, and participating in whatever is going on at the meetup will open doors.

Besides, you just might run into a silly person like me, who loves talking to lolita-to-be~ (Especially since the others are bored with my nonsense by now!)