On Being Lolita: Planning a Picnic

On Being Lolita: Planning a Picnic

Lolita fashion is an expensive hobby; even if you sew your own clothing the costs of fabric, notions, trims, and laces can certainly add up. Meetups can be expensive, too–a formal tea at a restaurant or hotel is usually over $20 per person, movie tickets average $10 each, museum admissions fluctuate but can be wildly expensive (especially if a special exhibit is the object of the trip), and then there’s transportation or other “hidden” costs to attend. All that besides whatever it cost to acquire or complete the perfect outfit. Sometimes it makes my head spin! Although the ambiance of a truly nice hotel can rarely be matched, seeing treasures and artwork adds enrichment to life, and opulent activities seem to mesh well with such a luxurious style, I simply cannot afford to spend a fortune every time I want to see my friends–and I know they cannot either!

Thus my favourite kind of all-inclusive meetup is the potluck-style picnic. I like food-centric meetups not because I necessarily want to eat, but because I want to prolong the time I can spend with everyone. If we arrange a short meetup without meal plans, inevitably the time passes and suddenly it is lunch or dinnertime and everyone is trying to figure out what to do. Spur-of-the-moment restaurant plans are often more expensive than everyone had hoped, not as tasty as everyone wishes, and rather crowded if there’s more than a handful of petticoat-wearing people trying to sit around one table. To avoid this, I always try to build in lunch or dinner when planning an event.

Lolita Day Picnic
I took a few pictures of the picnicking on Lolita Day, since we were having this very sort of picnic!

Picnics make sure there’s plenty of room for everyone without worrying about whether or not there are enough chairs. All you need are picnic blankets (or sheets) and decent weather. The “weather” part isn’t the easiest, but now that spring is in full swing and summer will be upon us where I live, I want to make the most of it!

Having a potluck-style picnic is my preferred picnic type for a few reasons:

  1. Low cost to all those attending–you can spend as much as you can afford.
  2. Greater variety in food choices.
  3. More opportunities to socialize.

Eating out is very expensive, and splitting the check can be even more difficult! Bringing something to a picnic, however, is entirely under your control. If you haven’t much to spend you can bring something from home (food or supplies–every picnic needs napkins, plates, picnic blankets, etc.) or check your grocery stores for a good sale. You don’t have to spend too much, or bring a massive quantity of food; although with smaller groups (generally less than ten people) you may want to make sure there’s enough for each person to have a serving, with larger groups this isn’t as much of a concern. In fact, if 29 people did such a thing, how could anyone actually eat a portion of 29 different things? It would be quite difficult.

Everyone has different food preferences. Some of the delicious things I’ve tried at picnics are dishes I never would have thought to bring or make myself! Other times you might find that someone has a secret family recipe or a special skill making this one particular item. I love trying new things~ ♥

If everyone brings separate lunches, it’s too easy for the group to fracture immediately–established friends sitting together in pods with the newcomers isolated. Sharing foods encourages everyone to begin mingling to see what others have brought, decide what they might like to try, select from the bounty, and talk about what’s been provided. It sounds like nonsense, but I’ve seen it work numerous times. There’s just something about sharing that breaks the ice.

Picnics are also good opportunities for other activities, too–word games and parlor games tend to work out very well. A picnic is often very well suited to a stroll before or afterward. It’s nice to pair a picnic with another outdoor activity, particularly if the weather is cooperating. Personally, I really like to tie picnics to zoo trips, because there is a free zoo in the area that is in an area well-suited to picnicking.

Lolita Day Picnic
It’s always important to have enough blankets, since no-one should have to dirty her outfit in the grass or on pavement.

When planning a picnic, some of the most important things to remember are:

  • Keep a total of guests
  • List who is bringing what
  • Make sure the location and time are clearly known
  • Exchange contact information with other attendees

Keeping track and informing all guests of the total number of attendees is helpful to both host and guests. Knowing the number of picnickers helps you estimate how many blankets will be required for adequate seating; how many plates, utensils, or napkins will be needed; and allows you to scout out a potential area for picnicking based on the size of the group. It helps your guests estimate how much food they ought to be bringing with them. Bringing too much of a dish means they have to carry it around the rest of the day or let it go to waste, while bringing too little can be embarrassing or disappointing.

A list of who is bringing what (or at least what people have committed to bring) helps you spot what is still needed. Is everyone bringing cupcakes? Sounds like the perfect opportunity to provide sandwiches. Has no-one offered to bring beverages? That might be something to suggest if someone asks what they ought to bring. Someone said they’re bringing potato salad–will there be forks for everyone to eat it with? These are questions that can be accidentally overlooked if you don’t know what to expect for the event.

Location and time are vital for any meetup, but particularly so when attendees will be carrying goods that might be heavy or awkward.

Exchanging contact information is vital so that you know if anyone is late, lost, or canceling. It’s frustrating to the rest of the group to be waiting around for an expected participant who never shows up, only to learn later that she changed her mind or was too ill to join you. It’s terrifying as an attendee to be wandering around aimlessly, unable to find the people you were supposed to meet and unable to contact them.

It’s also best to try and come up with a rainy-day alternative! You can’t always count on sunshiny weather. It helps everyone if you come up with a backup plan well in advance and communicate it to everyone so they know what’s going on. If you are forced to cancel, make sure you notify everyone. Sometimes posting a message just isn’t enough–it’s always best to call or text message those who said they would come. Otherwise they might show up to a picnic that never was, wasting time and effort in vain!

Does anyone else have picnic tips? ♥ I know I cannot be the only lolita who likes picnics!

Meetup Report: Lolita Day Picnic

Meetup Report: Lolita Day Picnic

This year I was determined to have some sort of gathering on International Lolita Day, which falls on the first Saturday of June and the first Saturday in December. It’s a biannual holiday so that we can have the opportunity to wear our finest warmer- and cooler-weather coordinates. It’s also more fun! Lolita Day is not an “official” holiday–it’s something created by Western lolita who wanted a day of celebration. For that, I fully support it!

It’s clear that there would never be a bank holiday in honor of lolita fashion, but if there can be days like “National Strawberry Ice Cream Day” (January 15, for the record), why can’t we have an “International Lolita Day?” All that it really takes to create a holiday is enough momentum. It starts somewhere, is little-known, those interested in it celebrate and spread the word, and eventually it gains enough momentum to be more than just the inkling of a good idea. I love celebrating, and I know I’m not the only one! I hope that in the future, International Lolita Day becomes part of the core knowledge of anyone gaining an interest in the fashion. I never need an excuse to get dressed up, but I certainly won’t turn one down~

Mingling Amongst Ourselves
I was so happy to see new faces and talk to old friends! It was a great meetup.

To try and make the meetup in Chicago as accessible as possible on Lolita Day, I planned a potluck picnic at the free zoo. I didn’t count on the increasingly dismal weather forecasts. For the week before the picnic many potential attendees worried about the talk of thunderstorms. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of suitable rain plans–there isn’t really anywhere in the city for a large group to meet and have a picnic indoors without renting something, and the group had outgrown the capacity of my tiny home. The weather forecast isn’t very accurate in our area due to the effects of the lake, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for a good day.

Of course, as soon as I left the house to head to the zoo, it started raining. We trudged along anyway, as I would not be convinced to cancel without seeing lightning. Nearly everyone was sending me messages or calling to ask if it had been canceled, though! We were all very concerned with the status of our intended event. My small group arrived very early and right in the heart of the downpour, so we huddled in the conservatory and tried to avoid the leaky spots. (It’s a beautiful vintage building, so it isn’t water-tight in the slightest!)

By the time several of us had assembled, the rain was over. Unfortunately, the grass was wet, which complicated the picnic a bit. I wound up sending the group about a block or so north to a covered gazebo so we wouldn’t be sitting on blankets soaked with rainwater, then waited for the rest of the guests. I wish I had brought a checklist, because it was very difficult for me to figure out who had arrived and who was missing, since no-one notified me that they weren’t going to come.

It’s not a meetup without lots of picture-taking, although honestly a lot of the time most of us forget.

After a leisurely, enjoyable lunch, we headed back to the zoo. At this point the weather was gorgeous~ The rain had alleviated some of the humidity, although it wasn’t exactly “dry” weather, and the sun was shining but the clouds still remained. I appreciated that it wasn’t blazing hot, but also had the chance to give my parasol lots of use between the rain and sunshine. We meandered around the zoo for a while, and then split so those who wanted to ride the carousel would have the opportunity.

The zoo has a lovely carousel that is truly a work of art. It has 48 handcrafted endangered species, most of which can also be seen at the zoo in a non-carved form. It sits near the back of the zoo on a structure custom-built to hold it, beneath a canopy to protect it from most of the weather. Thus the paint isn’t faded from sunlight, we didn’t have to worry about it being wet from the rain, and it’s always a bit cooler on the carousel even though it doesn’t go very fast. I didn’t get any pictures, although I really wanted to, because I left my camera with my husband and I was holding everyone’s bags.

As much as I adore that carousel, I’ve actually never ridden it! Isn’t that silly? Maybe one of these days I’ll actually go on, but I don’t know how I could choose which animal to be my steed–they are all so beautiful~

Polar Bear
I love the polar bears~ Seeing this one out and active made me so happy!

After everyone had enjoyed the ride, we rejoined the other group by the polar bears, took pictures, and enjoyed each other’s company. There were so many people at this meetup that I hadn’t had the chance to meet before, so it was very exciting! Lately there has been a lot happening in the suburbs, which I can rarely get to, or events on Sundays when I’m trapped in the office. It was nice to finally connect a face with a name or identify a girl with her picture. I enjoyed being a part of so many conversations~

Slowly different members began to depart, and those that remained headed over to some tables to have a “second” picnic. A few people had arrived a bit late, and many of us had leftover items. There’s almost always an abundance of food, but it can come in handy if the meetup lasts a few hours longer than you might have thought it would and everyone is feeling hungry again. My husband was glad to have people drink more of the tea we brought, since it made the bag he was carrying lighter and lighter~

Soon it was time for me to head home, while some attendees went to Chinatown for dinner. That would have been kind of fun, but since I had to be up early for work the next day it just didn’t seem like a good choice. I had a really wonderful time meeting so many people, I can’t wait to see everyone again~! ♥