On Being Lolita: Traveling Light

On Being Lolita: Traveling Light

(This post was originally begun in mid-2016… I’ve been meaning to post it all this time! Yikes!)

In early May of 2016, I was lucky enough to do something I have dreamed about for a long time: visit Japan! 💖 There were many things I wanted to do and see, but something that always remained in the forefront of my mind was my strong interest in lolita fashion. Shopping in Tokyo seemed like an obvious and essential part of the trip. Considering my travel companions and our shared interests, perusing clothing and accessories was assured.

Another important question became “what should I wear?” There are some for whom the answer “lolita fashion of course!” is an immediate response. Not so for me.

When I travel, I typically pack the minimum possible, always trying to fit my things into a smaller and smaller bag. I don’t enjoy dragging a heavy suitcase behind me or worrying where it’s going to fit. I rarely check luggage when flying, preferring to carry on what I must have. I feel secure enough without planning for every possible need, and I don’t mind improvising if plans change. I typically bring clothing that folds up to a small packet and doesn’t require ironing. (I’m also not a fan of space bags or packing cubes, although I know there are travelers who swear by them.) For these reasons, I rarely wear lolita when traveling.

Japan, however… to not wear the fashion I love so much in the place it originated… that seemed like a poor choice. So I set about to reconcile two somewhat-opposing desires: wear lolita fashion and bring minimal luggage.

Planning, Planning, and More Planning

jumperskirt, blouses, skirt, one-piece, and shoes selected for travel

I considered my goals for the trip. I knew that I’d be bringing things home with me, as I aimed to purchase clothing and other items, so it was important that I have enough room in my suitcases. Also essential: avoid airline overage charges related to baggage size, weight, and quantity. To do so, I needed to determine what must be packed versus what could be purchased at our destination.

The suitcases were my first step, mostly because my selection depended on what I already owned: a carry-on, a backpack, and a collapsible duffel bag. The collapsible duffel bag was purchased years ago to take to a doll-related event, and it has come in handy several times since. It fits nicely in the bottom of my suitcase, folded up into a pouch about as big as a folded pair of jeans, but when expanded it is large and durable, without running afoul of airline luggage policies. The duffel allowed plenty of space to bring souvenirs/etc. home.

That meant that the rest of my things needed to fit in the suitcase and backpack. Our trip involved 10 full days at our destination, not including the in-air travel time for our flights. Even though I hoped to buy frilly clothes in Tokyo that I could wear immediately, I planned for 10 days of outfits based solely on what I brought with me. I was very lucky to have access to laundry facilities during the trip; that made it much easier. (I’m not a big fan of washing things in a hotel sink; etc. My garments never seem to dry in time or launder well that way.) In fact, the neighborhood laundromat became a staple of Japan that we took full advantage of on this trip and the next!

As I wasn’t sure of the weather, I selected a jumperskirt, a short-sleeved one-piece, a skirt, a long-sleeved blouse, a blouse with detachable sleeves, and a bolero to coordinate during the trip. I packed a pair of pink lolita flats and a pair of low-heeled ankle boots, as I knew we’d be doing a lot of walking. Although some people recommend wearing one’s petticoat on the plane to save space in luggage, I packed mine in the zippered mesh pocket located on the lid of the suitcase. It compacted just fine! On the plane I wore a comfortable non-lolita dress that I thought would be easy to sleep in.

In Practice and Thoughts for Next Time

Lolita Packing - Ready for Purchases

(I didn’t know it at the time I started writing this article, but I went back the next year and was able to test some of my “planned improvements”, and they worked! I’ve done the same since then.)

The carry-on suitcase and backpack have been my traveling companions for years, and they worked just as well on this trip. I think what really mattered in this case was that I was familiar with them; I know their dimensions, pockets, and the right angle to roll the suitcase! (That’s what always trips me up when I help pull someone else’s wheeled suitcase!) We absolutely used the duffel, which we didn’t have any issues checking. An exciting bonus was that it was long enough to fit umbrellas! There was plenty of rain and some of the umbrellas/parasols we bought were too cute to abandon unless we had to. They survived the return flight just fine because they’d been cushioned with clothing.

slightly underestimated just how much clothing I’d be buying… and when reviewing, decided I would have been better off if I’d packed fewer items initially. (I never even wore the long-sleeved blouse or the skirt… I should have been more honest with myself about the coordinates I prefer to wear when given an option.) This varies for everyone, but I found plenty of new-to-me things to purchase, especially at secondhand shops. On our next trip, I packed fewer lolita clothing items (a blouse, jumperskirt, cardigan, and one-piece) and made stopping at Closet Child a priority upon arrival. I also didn’t pack accessories (hair accessories or jewelry) on the subsequent trip; I bought things when I found them and didn’t worry too much if I’d have worn something differently had I been at home. We were so busy with activities—museums, excursions to cultural sites, and meeting friends—that I found I was too occupied to fret over a bracelet or bow. I certainly restocked during the days we were there!

On a separate trip that also involved lolita fashion, we traveled somewhere with fewer laundry options and no clothes shopping, I packed an additional jumperskirt, two cardigans, and two short-sleeved cutsews. I did not bring a skirt, bolero, or a long-sleeved blouse. Having two jumperskirts, a one-piece, a blouse with detachable sleeves, two short-sleeved cutsews, two cardigans gave me plenty of options for a trip slightly under a week. I was able to do some spot-cleaning,  airing, and ironing to keep my clothes from looking or feeling “dirty”, but this might not be possible for everyone depending on the climate. If it’s too hot, too cold, or too dusty/gritty, it may not be possible to wear a limited wardrobe comfortably. That’s one of the reasons I don’t wear lolita every time I travel; I value a smaller suitcase over a full selection of clothes.

I realized that I needed to pack my camera in a slightly more easy-to-access part of my backpack, even though it’s very snug at the bottom. Some airports require that larger cameras are removed entirely from the case during security.

We got a lot of use out of laundromats and looked forward to them for the next trip. Even if we stayed somewhere with a washing machine, if the laundromat had a drier it was often beneficial to take the wet clothes over for a tumble if they could stand it. Sometimes there was too much humidity for air-drying to be prompt. When the temperature soared and threatened to roast us, having freshly-washed clothes felt like a luxury!

Lolita Packing - In the Suitcase

I didn’t follow a particular packing procedure (such as cubes, rolling, unique folding styles, etc.) for the suitcase… I tend to visualize the upright suitcase and aim for weight-distribution when it’s being rolled. I like to have shoes and heavier items near the “spine” of the handle and down by the wheels. I tuck grooming items (hairbrushes, etc.) along the sides and fill in spaces between shoes with small clothing items, with the goal of creating a flat layer that I can stack folded garments on top of. I use my suitcase’s built-in straps to help corral garments and winch a taller pile down to a shorter height, and I have more success with this if the item on top is roughly the size of the suitcase opening; I think of it like a tarp on a flat-bed truck! It worked just as well with lolita clothing as it does with anything else, and I was happy to find I didn’t unpack the most wrinkly stack of clothing in the universe.

With the ubiquity of 100-yen shops and convenience stores, as well as the novelty of 💕being in Japan with all the fun sparkly things💕, on our next trip I packed very few toiletries and consumable items. We purchased what we needed, and either left things behind or brought them home as “souvenirs”. When we purchased laundry detergent, we left what remained in the apartment for the next occupant or the property owner. When we needed first aid items, we brought the extra bandages and dressings home in the duffel bag. Buying cosmetics felt particularly thrilling despite the risk that they might not play nice with my skin; some of the packaging is so pretty that I couldn’t resist! ✨ Doing this wouldn’t necessarily be enjoyable or useful to everyone, but it made things easier for us.

A Note or Two in Closing

My traveling method won’t work for everyone. I’m related to a few people who can’t imagine not checking a large suitcase both ways and some others who can’t relax if they don’t have layers that accommodate all possible weather at their destination. I received peace of mind because I didn’t have to worry about how to physically carry my luggage (even the duffel is not so huge that my husband and I can’t maneuver it on trains or buses) and whether I’d be charged extra fees. We stayed in populated areas of Japan that made it possible to buy toiletries without spending a fortune and use laundromats.

I was, however, happy to find that it was possible to pack and wear lolita (including bringing clothing home) without requiring huge bags and strategy-related devices like packing cubes. It made me feel more confident about packing the clothes I enjoy wearing, and I’ve taken a few initiatives to wear them on other trips! ✈️

I’ve shared my thoughts here in the hopes that someone else may find it useful! Bon voyage! 🗼

On Being Lolita: Flying the Frilly Skies

On Being Lolita: Flying the Frilly Skies

When I went to New York City for the doll event in June, I had only a vague idea of what it would be like to travel wearing lolita fashion. I’ve gone on a few overnight trips where I’ve worn lolita, but for those occasions I had my suitcase in the trunk of a car I was driving. I ride public transportation while wearing lolita fashion on a regular basis. I’ve also packed a lolita outfit or two for a few trips where I flew. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good starting point for my very quick overnight trip, and for the most part, I was right.

Traveling while wearing lolita fashion and having luggage packed with more outfits is not extremely different from traveling otherwise. You want to be comfortable, you don’t want to have luggage that is too heavy, you don’t want to over- or under-pack, and you want to get through security as fast as possible.

Plan Your Outfits
This is helpful for any trip, so that you can maximize the space in your luggage, but it’s particularly important for a fashion with garments and accessories that can take up a lot of space! It’s better to have assessed your options few nights before packing your bags, rather than standing in the hotel room trying to find another way to coordinate a certain skirt or jumperskirt. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wishing you’d brought that cutsew you didn’t pack or the brooch you forgot about.

The current size and weight restrictions on luggage make getting the most of your clothing extra-important. You can’t always fit a week’s worth of dresses into a carry-on suitcase, and what if you plan on doing souvenir shopping at your destination? Prevent these problems by laying out your outfits in advance. Pick a few “key” items–such as jumperskirts, one-pieces, or skirts–and try to think of as many varied coordinations with that item as you can. (When selecting the “key” items, make sure to pick those that don’t require very gentle care. Sturdier garments that can be worn for more than a day without looking dirty or very wrinkled are better options–although most hotel rooms do have an iron that will do in a pinch.) Pick blouses, cutsews, socks, and accessories that make each outfit distinct–you don’t want to look like you’re always wearing the same skirt, even if you are! During the trip, space out these outfits–wear dress A on day 1, skirt B on day 2, jumperskirt C on day 3, then skirt B on day 4, etc.

Once you’ve settled on what you’ll wear during your trip, make a packing list! You don’t want to fly 800 miles and suddenly realize that you needed your blue shoes, but they’re sitting in your front hallway. It also helps prevent the horror of boarding your plane, buckling the seat belt…and realizing that your brand new parasol is still in the closet of your former hotel room! Make a packing list, keep it updated (if you buy something new on the trip, pencil it in at the end of your list), and use it when packing for departure and arrival.

Travel is also a good time to leave unnecessarily bulky items at home. The dress with the mega-ton of built-in petticoat and yards upon yards of lace on the skirt might be gorgeous, but if it takes up an entire suitcase it is wasting space. Structured bonnets are also difficult to travel with, unless you plan on wearing it the entire time. Extremely delicate items should also be avoided, unless a specific occasion makes the garment necessary. If your bag is selected for a random search, the employees may be very rough with the contents!

Was That Expensive?
Consider insuring your luggage. Airlines lose or damage bags on a fairly frequent basis. If you have hundreds or thousands of dollars in clothing that is going out of your sight for several hours, it might be worth the additional expense. When buying insurance for anything lolita-related, always make sure you can get replacement cost if the item is lost or stolen. If your Milky Planet jumperskirt is in the suitcase that goes missing, you’d rather get the $500 it will cost to buy a new one rather than $100 or less on the basis that it’s “used clothes.”

Prepare for Takeoff!
Wearing lolita fashion in the airport definitely attracts attention. With the knowledge that travelers might be spending ten hours or maybe more in one airport or another, it isn’t often a place where elaborately-dressed people are seen. Make sure you are mentally prepared for the questions (and snickers) while waiting in line for the checkpoint or while seated at the gate. I found that most people gawked or whispered about my attire–no one simply pretended I was wearing “regular” clothes.

Ditch the Petticoat
If you’re going to be pushing your way through crowds, marching through a metal detector, and spending hours in a narrow seat, wearing a petticoat is not a good idea. (Particularly if you worry about it “deflating.”) For practicality’s sake, I packed my petticoat near the top of my carry-on bag and put it on at my destination!

Buckles, Straps, and Snaps
No matter how cute your shoes are, you’ll have to take them off at the security check point. This is a bad time to wear the boots that have to be laced-up just so or the shoes with thirteen buckles. You don’t want to hold up the people in line behind you, so wear shoes that aren’t difficult to take off. It’s also convenient to be able to take off your shoes without a fuss once you’re in the airplane, if the change in pressure makes them squeeze your feet a bit too much. Most Japanese shoes fasten with snaps under decorative buckles, so they’re easy to take off.

Also, don’t wear socks that you can’t wash easily! Airport flooring is usually not very clean–and there’s nothing you can do about it! Don’t ruin your favourite socks–pick a pair that won’t leave you in tears if you step in a puddle of muddy water from someone else’s shoes.

Be careful when taking off your shoes, too! It’s easy to be unladylike when you’re in a rush, but bend at the wrong angle and you risk showing the people behind you right up your skirt.

A Time and Place for Accessories
When you enter the airport and are preparing to go through security, don’t wear too many accessories. Those are best packed in an easy-to-reach spot in your carry-on, so you can put the finishing touches on your outfit when you reach your destination. The goal is to avoid setting off the metal detector and being further wanded or searched. However, you also have to worry less about losing items when you’re in a rush. There’s also a risk that some items, particularly jewelry, might catch on bags or seats.

Keeping Cool or Staying Warm
Airports and airplanes are notorious for having unpredictable temperatures. You might be shivering in one terminal only to melt in the next. Pack a sweater or parka in an easy-to-reach place in your bag or purse, so you can be prepared. Wear it if you’re chilly, shun it if you aren’t. It will be easy enough to take on and off, and can help you stay comfortable during you trip.

Overall, I had a lot of fun taking my trip while wearing lolita fashion! At the core, the traveling portion itself hadn’t changed, but I was able to wear the clothes I feel most comfortable in. I would certainly do it again–I’m just not sure when I’ll have an opportunity to do so! The stares and commentary weren’t enough of a deterrent, and I didn’t find it was too much more difficult than packing “normally.”

I breezed through security, although the other passengers waiting in line were really curious about what on Earth I might be doing while dressed like that, and managed to be relatively undisturbed while sitting at the gate waiting for my plane to board. Boarding was simple, as I’m a pro at hoisting my suitcase into the overhead bins. XD The gentleman next to me on my outbound flight was not very talkative. (I appreciate that a bit more than the type of person who wants to be your best friend for the flight.) When the flight landed and I zipped off the plane, I took a moment to put on my petticoat, hairbow, and jewelry and re-attach my waist ties. That was the only part that really felt “different,” and it didn’t even take 5 minutes!

Has anyone else traveled in lolita? What was your experience like? Do you have any tips?

Please note: I only have experience traveling from major airports in the United States. My tips might not be useful if you live in another country or choose to fly in smaller planes!