On Being Lolita: Unexpected Encounters

On Being Lolita: Unexpected Encounters

This weekend I had a day all to myself. My husband was at work, and I hadn’t made any plans, so I decided to be productive. I made a list of chores and errands and started working on them right away, slowly checking things off my list. It was drizzling rain outside, but I didn’t want to lose an opportunity to wear lolita fashion, so I dressed in something subdued but still good-mood-inducing. (Oftentimes I forget just how much I love wearing lolita, only to be reminded when I put on a pretty dress or add a bow to my hair. I always seem to remember it as slightly less-intensely enjoyable, and sometimes I slack off and don’t put forth the effort because I don’t think it will be “worth it.” It is always “worth it!”)

I headed out to pick up some groceries, and decided to head to a particular store that I don’t usually frequent. I’m within walking distance of a selection of stores, but there are a few other places nearby that just require a train or bus ride. In this case, I took the train.

The rain was on-and-off all day. It didn’t quite reach the level of a downpour, but it did get past a drizzle at several points. Sometimes it let up so that it almost seemed like the rain had stopped, but still there was a drop here or there. The temperature was also chilly; autumn is announcing proudly that it is here! I still don’t have a lolita rain coat (I wish!), so I bundled up in my (hideous) black windbreaker and headed out.

After purchasing my groceries I walked back to the train station and waited for the train. It wasn’t terribly crowded, but the only available seats were beside other passengers. I sat down next to a young man with white earbuds, oblivious to everything but his music, and read the advertisements near the ceiling of the train car to pass the short trip back to my stop.

I was surprised when I heard a mild voice address me from the direction of the young man. “I wish more people dressed like that,” he said with a smile, holding his removed headphones in one hand.

Although my coat covered up most of my outfit (which was very simple save the lolita skirt), he had noticed the white print of parasols and logos along the bottom hem of my skirt. Apparently the words “BABY, the stars shine bright” meant something to him. He commented on how the style was anachronistic and yet still modern, and asked if I’d had a chance to visit one of the stores–either in Japan or San Francisco. I was really happy to be asked such detailed questions about the style from a stranger.

Most of the time, if a stranger wants to talk to me while I’m wearing lolita fashion, they ask the same questions:
“Why are you dressed like that?”
“Are you in a play?”
“Who are you supposed to be?”
“Do you like working at the American Girl store?”
“Is that purse a bunny?”

Those are the questions I’ve come to expect. I expect pokes on the shoulder, an exchange of confused glanced, curious whispers between friends, and raised eyebrows when people ask what’s been on their mind while they’ve been staring. I certainly don’t imagine that anyone knows what I’m wearing, although I do occasionally hear excited shouts of, “Hey! A lolita!” Even as I was talking to the friendly young man seated beside me, I could hardly comprehend that he not only knew that I was wearing a particular fashion style, but knew where the stores were located.

I know that some people worry about lolita fashion becoming mainstream or widely-accepted, but I really appreciated the change. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t mind if the fashion were recognized by more people–if instead of shouting, “Little Bo Peep, where are your sheep?” they could just mutter and think, “One of those weird lolita girls.” (Or, even better, smile and start a good-natured conversation!) I can’t help but think that this one guy’s recognition is related to the growth of lolita fashion in the United States. It isn’t quite mainstream, but there’s a lot more information available in English to anyone able to use Google.

Several years ago, that wouldn’t have been the case. There wasn’t a BABY, the Stars Shine Bright store in San Francisco. There weren’t numerous (if misinformed) online articles. There weren’t so many blogs, so many girls sharing photos, or so many companies offering overseas shipping and thus having that one page on their website, often awkwardly-phrased, with translated instructions for English-speaking customers. Now that Tokyo Rebel exists in New York City and Angelic Pretty will join BtSSB in having a San Francisco store, I can’t help hoping that more information will spread.

There was something nice about being known. It made me feel like a person with an unusual clothing choice instead of a strange frilly alien to be feared. ♥

On Being Lolita: Your Attention Please …Or Not

On Being Lolita: Your Attention Please …Or Not

A few weeks ago, when I was waiting for a bus, a gentleman approached me and asked what I was wearing. My response in such a situation is always, “Oh, I just like to dress up.” He answered, “Huh. You must like attention.”

This seems to be a common impression of lolita by outsiders. It’s understandable–even a more subdued classic outfit or one in hues other than bright pink stands out in the crowd. When I look out the windows from my office, most people look somewhat the same: jeans and shirts, sometimes black or gray business suits, and the occasional person who lives in sweatpants. It’s rare to see groups in completely identical outfits, but other than very slight changes they seem to wear the same style. This is why I rarely notice what the person who passed me on the street is wearing–my senses are automatically filtering it out. However, the boy with neon pink hair or the girl with a halo of safety pins piercing her left ear catches my eye. Regardless of whether it is intentional or not, anything beyond the norm is attention-grabbing.

However, I don’t wear lolita fashion because I crave attention–and I don’t think most lolita do, either. I’m much happier when I glide through the crowds, passers-by turning a blind eye and pretending that I’m not pink and fluffy, than when there are stares, comments, questions, or blundered attempts at stealth-photography. After all, I’m not dressing up for anyone else–I’m dressing up because I like it!

It takes a certain type of courage to wear lolita fashion, because it isn’t often accepted or even admired. Strangers will puzzle over your “costume,” balk at the mere mention of the fashion’s name–immediately associating the style with the pop-culture interpretation of the famous novel, text candid pictures of you to their friends to ridicule, grumble if your skirt accidentally brushes into them when passing in a narrow corridor, or insult you to your face because you aren’t “fitting in.” Thankfully not all reactions are bad, but you can never gauge who will say or do what when you go where.

However, I’m sure there are some lolita who revel in the attention–whether it is positive or negative–and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Assumptions and stereotypes aren’t a reliable manner of reference, one way or another.

The stranger who approached me at the bus stop didn’t care enough to listen to any explanations on my part, so I let the topic die without protesting. It stuck with me, though, as something I mulled over during my bus ride. I do expect a different level of attention when wearing frills, although I don’t look forward to it. I get the impression that this is a common sentiment, but I can only speak for myself.

Do you wear lolita fashion because you want attention, or do you consider the attention a negative “side-effect” of wearing the style? Do most people you encounter think that you are trying to get attention?