An Introduction to Lolita Fashion by Hira…
While walking down the streets or in air-conditioned malls you may have seen one of these beautifully dressed girls or women. They're bedecked with frills; wear long sleeves, high socks, multi-coloured wigs, high collars and an overload of accessories.
Are they cosplaying? Are they mad? In a country where the default female fashion has been for years, a t-shirt and short shorts, these ladies certainly stand out! These fashion rebels sport a Japanese subculture fashion known as Lolita.
I'll spare a sentence here just to say that the fashion is in no way related to the novel of the same name. I'll spare another two sentences to let you know that Cosplay is different from Lolita - Cosplay entails taking on the persona of a character along with the costume, whereas Lolita is a fashion. That means nice clothes you wear out, to a nice dinner, to the library, for a date, but you probably can't be bothered to put on for a trip downstairs to the mama shop.
So now that I have your attention, what exactly is Lolita fashion? The definitions and boundaries are vague, because Lolita is a fashion that has evolved drastically since it began in the 70s in Japan. Originally the fashion emphasised on modesty, with blouses always worn under jumper skirts, bloomers, and longer skirts and the colours were restricted to mostly black-white-blue-pink.
With the fashion spreading to warmer countries, the rules became more relaxed. It now encompasses several subtypes and going sleeveless is not necessarily a faux pas, especially here in eternal hell summery Singapore. Although there are many different sub-styles, most fall under the main parasol terms of Sweet, Gothic, and Classic Lolita. (One could also categorise Lolita by colour, degree of modesty, whether or not it looks like a pirate, librarian, sexy nurse, bloody doll… I could go on, but no one has to read or type this).
The exact borders of Lolita fashion differ from person to person, so what I say here should not be taken as a textbook description. In my opinion, what ties all the different forms of Lolita together is silhouette.
The most vital component of any Lolita outfit is the petticoat. Some dresses or skirts even have inbuilt petticoats to give the skirts extra 'poof'. A petticoat or pannier is a clothing item meant to be worn under skirts or dresses to give it a bell-shape. They may be made from tulle, organza or chiffon, and may sometimes be A-line shape when worn in Classic or Gothic Lolita. In any case, no Lolita outfit is complete without poof. A skirt can have lace, Lolita-esque motifs such as gates, unicorns, ponies, teddy-bears or florals. But if it doesn't have enough fabric to accommodate a petticoat within to poof it is not Lolita. You may debate this point. Write your own introduction. ;)
Other than poof, what else does a Lolita outfit usually have? A basic outfit comprises of a blouse, worn with a skirt or under a jumper skirt, knee-high or over-the-knee (OTK) socks, covered shoes or cute sandals, and a headdress of some sort. Headgear for Lolita is widely varied and ranges from small head bows, to elaborate bonnets. Sometimes a one-piece (dress with sleeves) may be worn, and this eliminates the need for a blouse under the dress. A nice addition to any outfit is a lace parasol, wrist cuffs, sock-toppers, cute rings and bracelets and other accessories. Lolita clothes are generally made from cotton or polyester-blend materials with minimum shine.
What kind of Lolita did I see walking down the road last week?
The main umbrella branches of Lolita at this moment (March, 2013, 9.56PM GMT +8) are Sweet, Classic, and Gothic Lolita. There are other subtypes with a number of followers such as Shiro-Lolita (fully white) or Kuro-Lolita (fully black), but they fall under the Sweet or Gothic Lolita category.
In brief, Sweet Lolita is a cuter-style of Lolita. Colours tend to be pastel or white, and cute motifs such as teddy-bears, cupcakes or various animals may be seen. Appliqués and prints are also not uncommon. Skirts are usually bell-shaped rather than A-line.
Gothic Lolita kind of mashes Gothic and Sweet Lolita fashion together. Colours are usually darker, such as black and navy-blue, but may be simply white. Cream and beige is not normally used in Gothic Lolita. Common motifs include intricate iron gates, bats, stained-glass windows and thorny roses. Embroidery is sometimes seen in Gothic Lolita, usually done in gold, silver or blue metallic thread.
Classic Lolita tends to have more neutral tones such as cream, ivory, browns and dark greens. Skirts tend to be - line shaped, and accessories are more mature and elegant than cute. All styles may be worn in a toned-down fashion or 'Over The Top' (OTT), the latter being more suitable for special occasions or photoshoots, and the former for a shopping trip to Bugis.
Lolita is a diverse fashion worn by people from all walks of life if they can afford it, differing from cosplay since no one has to do a personality switch once they put on a frilly dress.
Congratulations, you now have a (very) basic understanding of this beautiful fashion. Go forth into the world with your new-found knowledge!