Friday, 22 August 2014

The Forgotten Lolita Lifestyle

When I first got into lolita, things were very different. For one thing, lolita was generally considered to be more than just a fashion style, but a lifestyle, too. There was even a blog (hands up if you remember The Princess Portal!) which was devoted to the lolita lifestyle. I adored seeing posts on the egl livejournal about lolifying your life, and the things you could do to make your home more lolita influenced and whimsical. As well as the beautiful clothes, these were the things that really captured my attention and made me want to be a part of the lolita subculture.

Kamikaze Girls (2004) where Momoko takes the lolita lifestyle to the extreme!

In recent months, I've been seeing a lot of people shooting down the notion that there exists a lolita lifestyle. I have to say, this baffles me somewhat. I don't think any of us really expects someone to change their entire personality and behaviours just because they're wearing a frilly dress, or to pretend they live in 18th century France like Momoko in Kamikaze Girls, but can you really deny that becoming a lolita is in itself a huge lifestyle change? 

Unless you were already into expensive fashions before, or were used to buying designer clothing, it is a transformation of your idea of clothing's worth. Of course, lolita can be bought secondhand and often for affordable prices, but  before I got into lolita, I had never had to be thrifty or buy used clothing. If I needed new clothes I could replace old items in Primark for very little. I'd never had to save up money for a single item of clothing before, and I had never bought an expensive dress, apart from my prom dress when I was sixteen. I assumed that was ok-- you were meant to splash out for special occasion clothing. But not everyday items, surely!

Thus, becoming a lolita completely changed how I lived my life. I became more interested in clothing quality, learning about different types of lace, coordinating outfits, making accessories... None of these things had mattered when I was decked out in jeans and a t-shirt. I began to show clothing a new sort of reverence. It became a hobby.

I definitely felt encouraged by the fashion to explore my creativity. Before, I had been convinced that academia was the only way in which I would ever be able to prove my worth to the rest of the world. But lolita changed my mind. I realised how important fashion and creating things were to me. I gained a new interest and respect for the art and fashion world, and realised that this was a way in which I could make life fulfilling for myself, regardless of what others expected of me. Indie brands are everywhere in lolita. This idea that anyone could start their own brand inspired me in a large way, and I have found that the community in general is full of artistic talent and interested in crafts, moreso than in most other fashion styles I should think. I know I never would have challenged myself to do what I love had I never gotten into lolita.

There's a certain self assuredness that comes from lolita fashion. Whenever you wear it, you know people you encounter on the street will do double takes, comment on what you're wearing, ask questions, laugh, smile, point, stop in their tracks to stare. Once you get over the initial discomfort that comes with this, there then comes a certain confidence, and a thick skin develops. Through lolita I found that I changed my view of how I should react to others' opinions. I value those of the people who care about me for sure, but I found myself realising how insignificant the negative thoughts of a random person I may never see again are. I found myself prioritising my own happiness.

Lolita changes not only your personal lifesyle and thought processes, but also those of how you approach your social life. Most lolitas have lolita friends they spend time with, often through lolita meetups. Before lolita came into my life, it never occurred to me that I could go out and spend time with people due to a shared interest. I became a meetup regular starting in 2013, and now I have a group of best friends I never would have known had it not been for lolita fashion. Lolita has its own social club aspect to it-- you go and meet people regularly, and eventually, friendships form. That's not to say that all lolitas will get along just because they wear the same clothes. But lolita does give you the ability to get in touch with people you might never have had the opportunity to otherwise.

Other fond memories I have of my early days in lolita are the personalities who used to be so important. Everyone knew who Moon Kana was, and everyone owned Kanon Wakeshima's Shinshoku Dolce. Both of these women were considered to be lolita icons; for the former's constant appearance in the Gothic and Lolita Bibles, and both of their contributions to what we all considered to be lolita music. Novala Takemoto was iconic for his writings on what it meant to be a lolita. There was a gentle side to the fashion in which no-one was afraid to identify with poetic, quaint interpretations of the reasons this fashion had spoken to all of us in some way.

A typical Moon Kana photoshoot from a Gothic and Lolita Bible

Certain aspects of lolita fashion today bother me. In some ways, its steadily growing popularity is a good thing. It means the clothing is more accessible, and people are more likely to understand what you're wearing and why. But newcomers are not finding out about the fashion through the egl community on livejournal. Newcomers are missing out on not only an invaluable resource chock full of information collected over the years, but also a kind of lolita culture that is no longer prevalent. It's not a terrible thing, but it still makes me a little sad. 

The online community doesn't feel as tight knit as it once did, and the decrease in livejournal presence is upsetting. I have fond memories of some of the really interesting discussions that took place there. Tumblr is fast and great for exposure as we all know, but it's not a discussion platform. It doesn't allow for any dialogue to be set up between a group of people, and I feel disconnected from the lolita community outside of reblogging coordinate photos (and even then, I believe daily_lolita was much better for receiving feedback on your outfits). I used to participate in the egl tinychat, which was basically an opportunity to talk to any livejournal lolitas who happened to be online at the time the link was posted to the main community. We'd talk about clothes, our lives, musings on the world around us... it was relaxing and it made me feel like I was part of something bigger than just a fashion style. Nowadays, the lolita community at large feels incredibly fragmented, and its migration from livejournal to tumblr and facebook are most likely to blame. 

As you can see, I have a lot of nostalgia for how lolita used to be. People just entering the fashion must be having a completely different experience to those who entered it years ago. I try to move with the times, and yet it is very hard to see the aspects that made lolita lolita for you being wiped away and considered passé.

I myself agree that you cannot be a "lolita at heart" if you don't wear the fashion, and that in principle, playing a classical instrument for example is not a "lolita activity". However, as far as I'm concerned, there is a lolita lifestyle, and it is simply made up of aspects of your life that have been influenced by the very fact you wear lolita fashion, and to shut down anyone who agrees with this is unfair. We are all entitled to our own interpretation. It may not be something you agree with or get. But if you've been wearing lolita for years, are still active on egl, or simply aren't afraid to consider how lolita is so different from other fashions and has its own influences on your daily life, you'll know what I'm talking about. And this is for you.

To end this post, I'll use the words I wrote as a seventeen-year-old about my feelings towards lifestylers:

I firmly believe anything that can have such a huge impact on a person's life is indeed, a contributing factor to their lifestyle. You don't have to sit around drinking tea, playing with dolls or flower-arranging to be a lifestyler. You simply need to have a special place in your heart and in your life for the beauty and magical things that come with being a lolita.

I am a lifestyle lolita. Are you?  

10 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this post! I can see myself in everything you wrote and I completely agree with you!

    I think most people don't want to say they are a "Lifestyle Lolita", because it is a really strong term in Lolita Fashion. A "Lifestyle Lolita" is seen as someone who dedicates their whole life and excistence to Lolita fashion, and who never does anything which doesn't fit to their lifestyle, like Momoko. But since many Lolitas also do unrelated things (like going to clubs, eating steak xD) and don't dedicate 100% of their life to Lolita, they don't want to call themselfes a "Lifestyle Lolita", even if Lolita is a big part of their life.

    But even if for example I don't call myself a "Lifestyle Lolita", I still think that Lolita IS a lifestyle. Because I spend so much time with Lolita every day, like reading blogs, searching for dream dresses, thinking about new coordinations etc., that I think you can't spend that much time for Lolita if it's "just clothes" for you. There must be a deeper connection inside you. Any Lolita who tells me "it's just clothes" can't be a very active or dedicated Lolita.

    I feel the same nostalgia. As Lolita fashion is growing, there are more and more places were you can get information about Lolita, so people don't join a community anymore. 4 years ago when I started the fashion and went to conventions, I knew all the Lolitas personally as they weren't many. But this year I saw sooo many Lolitas at our local convention which I have never seen before and probably will never see again because they will not join our local Lolita community.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, thank you so much for your comment! I am so pleased you liked this post! <3

      I totally understand what you mean. The phrase does seem to connote the idea of someone completely immersing themselves in lolita to the point it seems unrealistic and obsessive, so I understand why people might avoid it. For me, I am just acknowledging the fact lolita is an important part of how I live my life and is a bit more complex than putting on the clothes. I completely agree with you-- if it is really "just clothes" to you then lolita cannot be something you wear often or have a whole lot to do with!

      It is unbelievable to see how the number of people who wear the fashion has grown, and in such a short space of time! There are many positive things about that, but I don't think I will ever truly curb that nostalgia I have for when we were all a tight-knit, united community.

      Thanks again for your comment! It makes me really happy to see someone who feels the same way I do about it :')

      Delete
  2. This is such a well written post, thank you so much for writing it!

    The latter part about the community really struck a chord with me. Although I've been wearing Lolita since 2007, I never really tried to immerse myself into the community until just recently, and wow is it a challenge. I'm used to large, central forums for the hobbies I'm engaged in, and the fact that Lolita has no such forum is really mind boggling to me. The set up of Livejournal, while being extremely dated, is also so needlessly complicated compared to a simple forum. Conversations can't be bumped back and easily searched for for newbies, and the many different communities leaves things feeling fractured as opposed to a forum divided into sections. Now that LJ is dying and Lolitas are moving to Tumblr and Facebook which is even LESS ideal for conversation, it sometimes feels impossible to really get to know others Lolitas unless one happens to live very close by to a friendly comm.

    I think that's what makes blogs like this so important! In any case, it's a large reason why I started mine. I feel like by reading them it's so much easier to get to really know people and feel involved as opposed to constant reblogs that are so quick and impersonal.

    Anywho, I think I got a little sidetracked. Point being-wonderful post!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot for your wonderful comment!

      I completely agree. It is so hard to be part of the community now when there just doesn't seem like there is one anymore. Somehow, even though facebook should reveal more about me and my personal life, I felt so much more connected to the people I became friends with on livejournal. I agree-- livejournal isn't exactly the best format for a community forum but despite its difficulties in terms of navigation, it still has so many helpful links, "memories", and tags. It's a whole experience that doesn't exist elsewhere on the internet, and is such a huge part of what shaped the lolita community. To see it dying is awful for me to witness.

      I participate in meetups in two different local communities. Everyone is really lovely but so many of them are much newer to the fashion, and I find we don't have as much to talk about as I do the couple of close friends I made, who have also been lolitas for years. I think that's sad, too-- lolitas used to have so much more in common because of the lifestyle aspects but now that the people entering the fashion are treating it as nothing more than an aesthetic they saw on tumblr, they are less likely to have similar interests to you.

      Someone created the lolita-devoted site, Lacebook, but I found it pretty pointless once I'd finally managed to get an invite code. I believe a lot more effort should have been made to simply revive the existing egl community, instead of creating yet another alternative space to go to that would fragment what's left of the subculture further.

      I am so happy you too feel inspired to keep a blog going! I agree with you-- they feel so much more wholesome to me than quickly thrown together tumblr posts. I am glad that there's a few of us at least who feel the same way about all this :)

      Delete
  3. oh man, this post makes me achy with nostalgia, haha :'D I honestly really miss the community from like 2007-2010 (maybe before that, even.) I feel like nobody would even think of "lifestyle lolita" unless they were active on LJ, but now there are so many people who have probably never looked at EGL or lolita_handbook or anything like that, and that is so incredible to think about! (also, I always wanted to be a ~lifestyle lolita~ when I was a young teenager, like wearing lolita 24/7 and only drinking tea and eating macarons, living the Momoko life, you know how it is...)

    Honestly I feel like a lot of people, on tumblr for instance, know about lolita and even wear lolita, but maybe only have one or two outfits and don't really care past that and reblogging some AP ads, and stuff like that; maybe that's just how I see it, but I feel like a huge disconnect between people who wear lolita and people who are involved in the subculture has been created in recent years, maybe due to the lack of organised communities plus the increase in easiness of actually getting the clothes (so there's not as much of discussion and helping each other out! or something like that...)

    Basically yeah, I totally miss LJ and old Gothic Lolita Bibles, and Novala and Moon Kana and Kamikaze Girls and everything, ahhhhh ; v ;

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww :')

      I know-- it really is hard to fathom just how much difference only a few years have made to the lolita community. I know I keep bringing up tumblr but I do feel as if a lot of the watering down of the subculture is a result of that site!

      I really couldn't agree more with your comment. People are finding lolita through reblogged images and for them, it is merely just clothes. I have seen people claim to be lolitas but they only wear the fashion maybe twice a year for conventions, and have absolutely no involvement with lolita as an actual subculture. It often feels like it's just an edgy addition to their catalogue of ~alternativeness~, and they will "leave" the fashion after only a short period of time.

      You have no idea how happy it makes me that you have nostalgia for all of this, too! I mean, look at us in the first place: we became friends through daily_lolita! I can't imagine forging a friendship with someone on tumblr because I reblogged their coordinate and added a nice comment XD

      I guess all we can do is try to keep the subculture going in our own little ways. Those older aspects of the lolita community will always be important to me and I'm going to do my best to make sure they're not forgotten, even if the only way I can do that is by continuing to write this blog :)

      Delete
  4. I think that this is your best post yet :) It's always so impressive to see someone's writing continue developing to new levels. This topic really struck a chord for me, too.

    I've always felt strange trying to place myself in the transient categories accepted by the community (and worse as it dissolves). It's not a subculture as I'd define it, revolving around a cause or unifying purpose outside of aesthetics, but how is it not a lifestyle if your whole life revolves around it? So it doesn't fit someone else's schemas or cliches, you are living and breathing lolita!

    A single hub for all things lolita was a wonderful thing. In fact, the last great conversation on lj was about the death of egl com and how many of us wished that livejournal would improve or another site would come along that didn't force us to give out so much of our personal information (fb) or be practically incapable of having group discussions (tumblr). Blogs seem to be the last piece of the old days, and I'm glad for the few lolitas who have kept posting, whether it be journal entries, how-tos, or brand updates. Thank you for being one of them! (us?... my blog had a three year dry spell >.<')

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is such a great compliment to hear :') I am so glad you enjoyed this post! I must confess, I have never spent so long on a blog post before, but I felt compelled to write about this topic.

      I understand what you're saying. If we take it as simply a fashion then it is by no means a subculture. But I feel as if it did have the makings of one, and it certainly is a lifestyle if it is something you wear regularly, and invest a lot of your time (and money!) in, which I certainly do. I can't help but feel irked when people brush it off as "just clothes" and expect everyone to have this mindset. Yes, they are clothes, but I never had my lifestyle, social life, or deeper feelings influenced by mainstream fashion, which is what the difference is for me.

      I remember that very conversation XD The solution someone came up with was Lacebook, but I have to admit, I got absolutely nothing out of that site. Some people seem to use it and like it, but from what I saw on there, it was just another place to post pictures of yourself, with the added competition of people being able to rate your coordinates, which isn't really for me.

      For now at least, I am pleased to see the amount of participation in the current egl theme, and I'm hoping that fun things like that will continue to keep the community active. I comment there as often as I can, though I could probably contribute more by creating posts or conversation starters. I'll try to work on that.

      I've decided to do my best to keep this blog going, and to hold onto those older aspects of the subculture/fashion/lifestyle/whatever you feel comfortable calling it :) From the comments on this post, it seems like there still exists a community of lolitas who see that there's more to the fashion than "just clothes", and I'm so happy to be a part of that!

      Delete
  5. I'm a goth and have been for over 10 years now (oh god when did I get old?) so to me it seems strange that some people don't think that what you wear has an impact on your lifestyle! Yes listening to goth music is the defining feature of goth, but fashion is a big part of it too - and that spills over into the rest of life - home decor, choices of literature, films etc. When I got introduced to steampunk and found that the strong community spirit there was very appealing, I hoped that lolita would be the same, but it seems I came too late to the party and everyone is fragmented.

    I've been wearing lolita for a little over 12 months now - and already some of what you said strikes a chord with me too - I have new friends because of lolita, and the change in attitude towards clothing (even for someone with a decades worth of black decadence in the wardrobe) is huge! I love egl and don't want to see it die - I like following blogs and my local comm on fb is great - but the global picture that egl can bring is something special. I wish there was a better forum format available - like Brassgoggles is for steampunk, but it would be sad to lose egl!

    Thanks for the great post =]

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, time sure does seem to fly! I think the reason why more and more lolitas don't view it as a lifestyle is that they're not very invested in it, and simply see it as just another style they can wear on the odd occasion. I really admire the way in which goth is still considered a way of life. I am pretty unfamiliar with the steampunk community but I like the sound of that. Unfortunately I do feel that if you've only gotten into lolita recently you will find there aren't many subcultural aspects being observed right now. For me, though, in the same way you've experienced with being a goth, lolita does pour into pretty much every aspect of my life.

      Oh, I know! egl is just so special to me and I would like more effort to be put into preserving it for as long as possible. If a new forum was made for lolita I am not convinced people would use it seeing as egl was so popular and yet has somehow been fizzling out the last few years with the growing popularity of tumblr. Lolita seems to attract much younger people than other alternative subcultures, so I think that in itself has caused an influx of people who are used to quick, impersonal exchanges rather than a discussion based platform.

      Thanks for leaving a comment! :)

      Delete