As it’s the 1st year anniversary of my blog I decided to write about my starting point with lolita fashion and my early experiences (it’s very long, I’m sorry!). I think when you are first starting out, especially if you have no friends who are in to the fashion it can seem a bit lonely and daunting. It’s also hard to meet people at first as although you want to go to meets or attend events you worry if your outfit is right and if you know enough about the fashion or whether they will accept you or not. There’s also the added risk about how your friends, family and strangers in the street will respond to the fashion and treat you. I had all these worries at the beginning, as did my friends. What I learnt though is that in most cases you are worrying over nothing. The UK scene on a whole is very welcoming and supportive. I decided therefore to share some tips and advice based on what I have learnt and experienced in my first couple of years of wearing lolita. I’ve also done a more personal post about how and why I eventually got in to the fashion. It is long but it documents lots of common problems and feelings that people have when they first start out and valuable lessons that I hope by sharing I can stop others having to go through.
My Experience Starting out in lolita
Discovering the fashion:
I can’t remember where I first learnt of lolita fashion. I’ve been trying really hard to remember or guess where it could have been but I really have no idea. I know it must have been around 2004/2005 but exactly where I first saw it is a total mystery. I’m guessing it must have been on a TV show, in a magazine/book or perhaps on some site online.
The early lolita fashion images I saw were like the ones found in the photo book ‘Gothic and Lolita’. The Japanese street fashions were just so different to the gothic and alternative fashion here, it was creepy, cute, flamboyant, inventive, creative and so individual. I just found it really inspiring. In terms of lolita I loved all the details and the full poofy dresses, it was so cute and pretty.
My first dress:
I’ve always been interested in alternative fashions and so enjoyed visiting Camden where there were loads of little stalls/units selling more Japanese street style clothing. Looking back it was mostly Visual Kei/gothic, though there were a few that sold what I now know to be badly designed and made ‘lolita’ type dresses. I loved the look of the styles and always admired the shop owner’s co-ordinates and any customers who were trying stuff on but I knew I just wouldn’t fit the majority of it so I didn’t even go in. I just felt too out of place. On one trip to Camden though I saw girls that were closer to my size and height trying things on and they fitted fine and looked so pretty so I decided eventually to venture in to the larger unit down by the docks and actually have a look around. I discovered that some of the dresses actually came in S, M, L and had shirring in the back so I tried a dress on that seemed like it might fit. It wasn’t one I really loved, all the things I loved just wouldn’t have fit me, but I wanted a lolita style dress because they are so girly and cute so I bought it anyway (see purchases post for more info). As soon as I purchased it I felt a slight regret though. It was a lot of money (£45 I think) for something that I didn’t love and that I actually wasn’t sure if I would ever wear as I had no idea where to wear it and thought I should maybe have picked something more fitting with my usual style.
After my mixed feelings about my first lolita dress and not really liking any of the loosely lolita based clothing that the alternative brands were making I pretty much just carried on with my interest in western alternative, punk and gothic brands. I was familiar with other street styles and briefly looked into lolita fashion as part of my University art course but it never occurred to me to wear it myself so I didn’t research any deeper. I think I felt it was a thing people in Japan do so it just never crossed my mind at the time to look in to it from an actual fashion point of view. I always liked looking at the photos from a creative, artistic and inspirational point of view because they just looked so pretty.
Attending my first lolita event:
It wasn’t until a trip to London in 2011 that my interest in lolita would be properly rekindled. I spotted an advert online for a small lolita themed event happening at the Resistance Gallery in London. It happened to fall at a time when I was actually in London doing some work experience. In fact I also went to my first Visual Kei live during that period too, it was a lucky 2weeks to have picked. I didn’t know anyone going and spotted it fairly last minute so I hadn’t had time to do much research about the event or try to talk to anyone on the page. It was called ‘Lolita in Wonderland II: Through the Looking Glass’.
This was the first time that I discovered there were girls here in the UK actually wearing and buying the fashion. I had kept an eye on various things online, researched a bit more about the fashion and checked out egl every once in a while but never with any real conviction until after this event. The event itself wasn’t great, it didn’t attract many people, was badly organised and didn’t seem to actually be starting properly until hours after the doors opened so lots of us left again. I didn’t wear anything remotely lolita as I had to pack my case for 2 weeks work experience and had limited what to take. Anyway, the fact is that it let me know there were lolitas here in the UK and that made all the difference. I only bought some accessories at the event, I didn’t find any clothing for sale that I liked. I found some photos and things from the event online, they help show just how much the scene, fashion and lolita events have changed and grown since then:
My second lolita event and 1st purchases:
On another trip to London I spotted a poster advertising an event called Hyper Japan. I thought it sounded really interesting and I had always had an interest in Japanese popular culture so I visited it just for the one day. It runs over a weekend and I think I maybe went on a Saturday but I really can’t remember. The year I went (which I think was Feb 2012) they had a bring and buy stall full of lolita items, clothing, accessories etc. I was so excited! I had a look through the items on the rail and the tables and picked out a £15 black op with pink polka dots (Bodyline), a £10 poodle print skirt (Bodyline) and a small poodle purse/bag £5 (off brand). I was so happy and excited, they were a whole world away from the poor quality dress I got in Camden and so much cheaper too. They looked like new even though I’m sure they must have been worn. I had a look at the brand dresses but I just hadn’t planned for buying anything in that kind of price range, I didn’t know beforehand there would even be a bring and buy. It was this experience mixed with me getting more in to Steampunk and gaining more confidence that led me to actively pursue my interest in wearing lolita and looking for other lolitas online. I also went to the Christmas Hyper Japan in 2012 where I wore a very simple (and not great put togther co-ord) but somehow made it on to Kawaii International’s feature anyway.
Joining the community:
Through Steampunk I found out that there were all these local groups on facebook based around the country where people into Steampunk from various cities would meet up and do stuff together. I did a search to see if the same was true for lolita and discovered this whole social network of lolitas holding events and smaller meets. I did more in depth research about lolita, what to look for, brands, styles where to buy etc. Bodyline didn’t have their set price air fee at this point so I looked at their site but just couldn’t afford anything with the added shipping cost. I discovered all these second-hand sales on facebook though and knew what to search for now on ebay. The search term ‘Lolita’ brings up way too many wrong things on ebay and means never ending searches but now I knew more I could use set key words and then only 5 or so items would come up and were usually relevant. I also found lolitas really local to me too which came as a surprise as I live in the middle of nowhere. I remember when I first found the girls in Lincoln, I was so nervous about the first meet even though there would only be 3 or 4 of us. I tried checking their facebook to see what clothes they had, the lolita style they were in to, how well they co-ordinated and what else they were in to. I got up early after barely sleeping due to a mixture of nerves and anxiety, curled my hair, put on a Vampire Requiem replica high waist skirt with black blouse. I decided to go for a more Gothic co-ord as it was easier with what I had and seemed like an easier way to break the ice as it was my first time going out in lolita to a meet and in to town. I met with Gina and Charlotte, Ari couldn’t join us and we went for tea and cake and they were lovely! Since then I haven’t looked back and I now regularly meet with the Leeds lolitas and ones from Sheffield too.
I still have a long way to go as my wardrobe is not very coordinated and my co-ords still need improvement plus there’s always more I need to buy but I’m slowly getting there and I’m enjoying my journey! I aim to go to more meets and events, to try and wear lolita on a more regular basis as well as other Japanese street styles. I really want to embrace fashion and do things that are fun, expressive and creative as you only get one life. My confidence has grown loads too! I also have met so many lovely people and had so much fun at events, I still hate travelling alone wearing lolita and often try to finds way of toning my look down so it’s not as obvious (like taking wigs & accessories with me to put on after, wearing a long coat etc). I also have pretty much run out of room in my wardrobe but I’m learning so much about putting outfits together, it’s all really good fun. I even got to do a talk about lolita fashion which was something I never expected would happen when I started in the fashion and I’ve just been inspired in so many different ways. It has had a massive positive impact on my life and I hope that continues. I also hope I can wear it for a lot of years to come but I guess only time will answer that one. Lolita makes me happy and that’s all that is important!