Hey Everyone, sorry for the delay in posting this. I said that I would do a rough overview of the talk I did at S-Con which mostly covered key points and basics so that anyone who missed the talk or who forgot certain things can find the information they need. My talk was about 30mins long so obviously I’m not going to include everything in here, just the important bits 🙂
What is Lolita Fashion?
Lolita is a type of street fashion that originated in Japan around the late 1980’s. Influences for the style originally came from the Victorian and Rococo period but nowadays it is heavily influenced by European fashion, fantasy and fairytales too. Lolita as a fashion is very feminine, elegant and cute. It is characterised by its historical influences, frills, lace and a full poofy skirt.
Lolita fashion is not about being provocative, in fact it’s a very modest fashion. The word lolita here in the west has very negative connotations and I need to stress that it has nothing at all to do with that meaning or the book/movie of the same name. No-one is exactly sure where the name came from but I think when the fashion was developing in Japan it was probably a misinterpretation of what the word meant. It also is a FASHION and not a Cosplay, maid outfit, fancy dress or anything directly related to Anime and Manga. Just because an outfit is lacey and has a poofy skirt does not necessarily make it lolita.
What makes an outfit lolita?
When researching the fashion you will encounter lots of rules and arguments about what is and isn’t lolita. This isn’t necessarily about elitism or even about putting limits on the style or person’s individuality or creative flair but more a case of being able to define it as a style. The general lolita silhouette is fitted in at the waist and has a full poofy skirt or dress which is knee length. Necklines are usually quite high and at least the top part of the arm is covered. There should also be some form of headwear (for example a headband, bow or fascinator) and the overall appearance will be neat and polished. It will look like a lot of care and effort has been put in to the overall look. Makeup generally is kept minimal looking as the aim is to look like you have fresh, young flawless skin – a bit like a porcelain doll. Co-ordination is a key part to lolita, balancing colours and accessories correctly is what makes a successful outfit. Lolita clothing is all about good quality fabric and lace, well constructed clothing and attention to detail.
There are 3 main clothing options within lolita, there’s a One Piece (usually referred to as an op) which is basically a dress that has some sort of sleeve. The sleeves can be either short or long or sometimes are a short sleeve with a detachable part so they can be worn as either long or short sleeves. The sleeve is the key characteristic of an op. The dress itself can come in all sorts of styles and cuts.
A Jumper Skirt which is usually referred to as a JSK is a dress is that is worn with a blouse under it as it doesn’t have sleeves. Again they come in a range of styles and although most commonly they have two straps and fit more in the natural waist this doesn’t always apply. As you can see from these pictures the first has a much lower neckline and is designed to look more like a skirt and top. The second is more of a halter neck style and the third has broader straps.
Your third option would be a skirt which would most commonly be worn with a blouse but can also be worn with a cutsew which is a bit like a fancy t-shirt. Like with dresses they come in a range of styles too. The most common is like the first two were you have a fitted waist band that would sit in your natural waist. You can also get some that have an elasticated waistband or part elasticated and then like the third some have a high waist band and starts more under the bust.
Lolita Styles – Sweet Lolita:
Characterised by its cute prints, pale pastel colours and fancy accessories. Its very sugary sweet and a younger style. It often has a lot more frills, lace and bows than other styles. You can usually get the sweet prints in black too, its doesn’t have to be all pale colours, some people term this as ‘bitter sweet’ but its not a recognised term. Sweet lolita brands include: Angelic Pretty, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Emily Temple Cute.
Classic lolita is more of an elegant mature style. Its all about keeping things simple and is generally characterised by wearing darker and more natural colours, (red, brown, beige, cream, dusky pinks etc) not too much lace or bows, floral patterns. Hair and makeup is usually kept simple and minimal accessories are worn. Classic brands include: Innocent World, Victorian Maiden, Juliette et Justine, Mary Magdalene.
As you would expect gothic lolita involves wearing a lot of black but also dark reds and blues are very popular. You can also wear shades of dark green and purple too. As a style it can be more mature and elegant or you can make it more cute. Gothic brands include: Alice and the Pirates, Atelier-Pierrot, Moi-même-Moitié.
Lolita Fashion for the Boys.
Brolita is a western term (I don’t know if there is one in Japan) and basically means a male that wears lolita fashion. All the same fashion rules apply the only difference is that the wearer is male. There are not many Brolita’s around, I think this is partly because the super feminine style of the fashion is difficult to pull off but also getting clothing to fit correctly is hard. I feel the need to stress again here that lolita is all about fashion and not anything fetish, cosplay or fancy dress, unfortunately some so called Brolitas out there are not really a Brolita at all and they can ruin things for others by giving out the wrong impression and behaving inappropriately. Also to be honest if you have no interest in ladies fashion in general you will really struggle to pull this style off, if you want to pursue it then a lot of practise and studying makeup and style videos is a good idea. As is starting to build a wardrobe of simple things like tights, socks, accessories, handbags, shoes etc otherwise putting together more than one outfit will be a nightmare. The most famous male lolita is Mana who was originally a Visual Kei musician but also launched a Gothic Lolita fashion label.
Lolita Fashion for the Boys and None Girly Girls : Boystyle
That covers the lolita side of the fashion so I’m now going to look at the male counterpart. If lolita fashion is too frilly for you or you are a guy who wants to attend an event with your lolita girlfriend but don’t know what you can wear then these styles are probably more your thing. These male fashions loosely come under the heading of boystyle. Now these styles aren’t lolita but they share similar aesthetics and influences and are basically the male equivalent of lolita fashion. They are actually worn more often by girls but I would really like to see more guys take up the fashion as I think it looks lovely on them! (I will do a more indepth post on this subject, this is just basic stuff I used in my talk so it could appeal to everyone at the convention)
Ouji and Kodona
This is your younger cuter style. Ouji means prince in Japanese. I’m sure you are familiar with it as lots of Anime/Manga feature similar clothing style. The difference between these fashions and Cosplay would be that one you weren’t dressing/being a character and the second would be the quality. A few of the lolita Japanese brands like Baby the Stars Shine Bright/their sister brand Alice and the Pirates make clothing in this style too. Mini top hats, puffy shorts/short trousers and over the knee socks are common in this style. Usually paired with a fancy shirt and sometimes a waistcoat or nice jacket/coat.
Aristocrat also known as gothic aristocrat is worn by males and females. Some lolitas choose to go to this style when they feel that knee length poofy skirts are no longer right for them. It’s a much more mature style but still incorporates the fine fancy details that is so important in lolita. It clearly also has historical fashion elements but given that fantasy modern twist that is also present in lolita.
Where to start:
So, you’ve decided what fashion style you like and you want to start wearing it, where do you start.
Well firstly I would strongly suggest doing more research first. Finding websites that have more information about the fashion, look for reviews of clothing sites, tips on where to or not to buy. Try sourcing the magazine Gothic and Lolita bible but remember that really old versions of the lolita bibles wont represent the current style trends so look at brand images too on their websites. These will give you a better idea of how to co-ordinate an outfit and how the overall look should be. There are also various groups and pages on facebook that you can join to get more information and advice. Practice with hair, makeup and putting together outfits as that’s the best way to learn. In some groups you can post images of your outfit and ask for feedback or constructive criticism which will help you to improve. At the end of the day the fashion should be fun so wear what you enjoy and don’t let others get you down.
See my ‘Shopping – UK’ page for a list of places you can buy from here.
On my lolita fashion style introduction post I covered non-UK based places to buy from.