Thursday, 31 March 2016

Lolitas in Love: Wunderwelt's New Ad

For those unaware, Wunderwelt is a secondhand clothing shop similar to Closet Child. I've never purchased from them myself but have lusted over many of the lovely old school pieces that constantly seem to pop up on their website, and been pleasantly surprised by how reasonably priced much of it is (I promise this is not a sponsored blog post). They recently released a pair of video adverts for their shop. On a whim, I decided to watch one of them. I happened upon the "dark" one first, and when I did, I felt kind of emotional a sentiment I've not seen expressed by anyone else thus far. I'm not even sure if I can articulate my feelings properly, but I'll do my best because I absolutely adored what I saw for a multitude of reasons.

I found this advert beautiful. sensual, and incredibly romantic. A few people on Rufflechat (and one particular prat on YouTube) expressed their disdain for the lack of chastity displayed in this advert. I wonder if the outrage is purely because people are desperate to separate lolita from anything relating to sexuality, or if it's the lesbian overtone of the advert people are really taking issue with. Perhaps nothing too deep was thought about in the planning of the advert... and yet I find there is so much in it to take notice of and analyse.

The advert is very simple, depicting two young women taking part in a series of activities together, such as eating, playing with teddy bears, laughing, applying one another's makeup, and sitting together to share loving moments. The overly romantic tone of this video is something I really appreciate, as I feel that lolita is an incredibly romantic fashion on a merely aesthetic level. With this in mind, it only seems natural that this romance could then work its way into the social dynamics between those who wear the fashion. I like the dark, disconcerting moments in which the eerie music almost clashes with the gentle interactions between the two characters. The footage is shot beautifully, and filled with rich, jewel tones. This makes an interesting contrast to the "sweet" Wunderwelt advert, which uses a lot of the same footage, but applies a lighter colour filter and music. 

The tone of this version of the advert is more child-like and typical of what we tend to see in lolita fashion advertising, which generally seeks to reinforce the idea that lolita clothing is used to unlock a sense of childhood wonder. I dislike the music chosen for this advert, as I find its circus theme a little too infantile. The relationship between the women in the advert comes across as being a platonic but nevertheless close friendship, and is fairly free from sapphic undertones. I came away from watching it with no real reaction to it because it didn't grab my attention, or do much more than maintain the "kawaii" status quo. This advert is purely an advert, with an obvious focus on creating a lolita-influenced, whimsical atmosphere to reflect the chosen outfits, rather than telling any particular story. Despite being predominantly a sweet lolita, I did not connect to this version of the advert at all.

The "dark" advert, however, was able to draw me in due to its focus on characterisation and context, consistently suggesting that while the two women enjoy spending time together because they share a love of dressing up, they also do so because they are romantically connected to one another, and are in a loving relationship. This adds a whole new dynamic to the proceedings. There is a scene in particular in which one of the women places her arms around her presumed girlfriend from behind, in an embrace that is delicate and protective.

This scene is so beautifully done, with the couple sat in a large cage, with the embraced lolita holding a skull. I see the cage as indicative of them caught in this budding romance, which is set to be lifelong, as implied by the obvious image of death represented by the skull. The slight morbidity also provides a refreshing nod to lolita's once heavily gothic and visual kei influences.

The next scene finds them looking directly at the camera, where the same, gothic-clad character (as before) takes the lead and gently, with a tender caress, turns to face her girlfriend, suggesting they are about to kiss. I found myself watching with bated breath—not only does this scene remove all doubt as to the nature of their relationship, it also implies a sense of rebellion and provocation. Their direct gaze suggests that although they are fully aware they are under the scrutiny of others, they refuse to let this affect their bond.

The advert ends with a few shadowy moments between the two characters, in which they place their hands on top of one another's, and then gently touch one another's faces before the implied kiss is cleverly obscured by a bonnet due to the camera angle.

This is all, of course, just my take on the advert and how I’ve chosen to read into it. The wonderful thing about art is that every person who experiences it adds their own meaning to it. I don't really know what the initial intended message of the advert by its creators is supposed to be, or if there was even supposed to be a message at all. What I do know for certain is that I really love the fact that a lolita consignment shop would present a story of romance between two women as a way of advertising their company. While it's possible they took this approach solely to seem edgy, different, and effectively set themselves apart from their competitors, I still appreciate their decision to include representation for women-loving women (and to use an interracial pairing, to do so, no less).

I think it's best that the lack of sexual undertone to lolita fashion is emphasised, but I do think it's necessary to accept that those who wear the fashion are in fact real people, with their own lives that are likely to involve romantic (and even sexual) exploration. To acknowledge this is not going to be detrimental to the image of lolita fashion as a whole. I like the advert's delicate suggestiveness, such as the slowed down clips of the women feeding one another, and doing one another's lipgloss. I find it an adorable depiction of exploring your feelings for someone else after having been brought together by the same hobby. Had the advert gotten in any way sexually charged, with the two characters undressing one another for example, I would probably have a different view of the advert, and would be more receptive of people's concerns. As it is, I don't see a gentle depiction of two women in love as being particularly risqué or negative.

One criticism I do have is that the romantic relationship is only properly explored in the "dark" version of the advert, which could imply that lesbianism in lolita is taboo, or a secret that must be kept behind closed doors, enveloped in darkness. It’s something we find in modern cinema, even, where films will be given higher age certificates if there is any mention of homosexual romance, as though homosexuality is inherently a sexually explicit, mature concept that younger viewers must not be exposed to while, any heterosexual pairing is acceptable for all the family to witness.

I would like to believe that the darker tone is being used merely to indicate that it's aimed at a gothic, or more elegantly-inclined audience than a sweet one, and the characterisation has been upgraded from a one-dimensional “cutesy” narrative to illustrate this.

I have always struggled to relate to mainstream depictions of what romance and relationships should be due to their heteronormativity. I remember being in my teens and trying so hard to fit in and be like all of the other girls at school, who would talk endlessly about their crushes, who were of course boys—the more “masculine” the better. Admitting that I didn't really have those feelings was a no-no, and I spent years hiding my genuine feelings, which swayed much more heavily towards femininity. Maybe my emotional response to Wunderwelt's advert is influenced by those experiences, and how validated and normal I know I would have felt had I seen it then.

One thing that drew me to lolita fashion in my newbie days is how completely acceptable it was to openly admire other women, and to be part of a community where the vast majority of members were women. Although I have never sensed any kind of homoerotic atmosphere at a meetup, there is sometimes a romantic feeling that none of us even stop to think about, seen in the way we are comfortable fixing one another's hair, adjusting one another's skirt hems, and complimenting one another’s appearances. There is absolutely no shame in any of this, and I am proud of be part of a subculture where people are secure enough in themselves to not flinch away at any same-gender contact while wildly declaring "no homo" an unfortunate mentality I've found in other spaces, such as education or the workplace.

Those who were upset by Wunderwelt's advert seemed to equate implied lesbian romance with excessive sexiness, or they felt Wunderwelt was pushing some kind of erotic, fanservice agenda. I understand these viewpoints. Due to how unusual this advert is in the realm of lolita advertising, it is unsurprising that some would react with suspicion, and assume the lesbian love story was created merely as a pandering device. Those who praised the advert seemed mainly to be those lolitas identifying under the LGBT umbrella, or simply unconcerned about how outsiders might view our subculture should they stumble upon the advert.

I do not think anyone outside of lolita who chances upon this advert is going to jump to any bizarre conclusions as to what the subculture is about. I think they will merely see a romantic video where the leads happen to be two young women wearing pretty dresses. But honestly, at this point, I don't really care what people outside of lolita think about lolita.

What did you think of Wunderwelt's advert? I'd love to know how you reacted to it! Thank you so much for reading and I'll see you next time 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The day that Spiffy got a bit squiffy.

On Saturday 5th March, I met up with Sammi, Luna and James for the first time in what felt like ages. It snowed a little as I was getting ready, and was set to rain later on so I knew I had to shoe-horn some black into my outfit lest my legs get sprayed with dirty rain water.

I didn't have a clue what to do with my hair, which I've not chemically relaxed in 8 months and is in an awkward in-between stage of super curly roots and straight ends. I kinda feel like giving up already as it's only grown 3 inches in that time and it's so bloody thick it takes an hour to blow-dry. Still, I know it'll be worth it eventually, and I really don't miss pasting dangerous chemicals on my scalp every 8 weeks. In the end, I blow-dried my roots as straight as I could get them (not very, as you can see), put my hair in two bunches, plaited them, and tucked them under to make little buns, then added a candy hair clip for good measure. Time to go!

We met at the train station as usual, and started off the day trying to kill time until our 2:30pm afternoon tea booking at a hotel. We got some (incorrectly spelt) macarons from M&S and settled ourselves down at the pub. We timed this well as it began raining outside while we chatted about superheros and anime, prompted by the cosplayers we could see wandering up and down outside. It was the same day as Oxford's first ever comic con, so things were pretty hectic in the city centre.

After our little snack, we made the trek to the hotel. The decor was really nice, but the atmosphere was decidedly stuffy. It was very quiet and the person serving us was incredibly awkward to be around, as though she didn't know how to act around us. It was a relief whenever she left our table. But even then, I could see her hovering around a nearby bar and staring at us, which was uncomfortable to say the least. We found ourselves accidentally talking in very hushed voices because even though there was only one other table of diners at the opposite end of the room to us, we were made to feel like we were interrupting something. Very odd. I also wasn't impressed by the fact they served us the (bagged) tea in these grubby metal teapots that burnt us so many times because they were of course scalding hot. At least the food was good, I guess! I'm not usually into anything related to mayonnaise but I genuinely enjoyed my finger sandwiches. And of course, I like the calm, ritualistic nature of afternoon tea sessions.

We'd been there all of an hour when the staff rather pointedly kept asking where various members of our group were (using the toilet, obviously!?) and asking about four times if we had finished paying for the bill. It was really rude. Afternoon tea is supposed to be something you take your time with, so to be harassed into leaving after an hour was kind of ridiculous to me. Unsurprisingly, we didn't leave a tip, and I can't picture us going there again.

On the way back into the city centre we had to pass the university parks, so I suggested we stop there quickly for some photos before it got dark.

I made sure to get some print detail shots, as I love street snap style photography!

I'd lugged my Instax Wide along with me and was happy to get a couple pictures with it. We had just finished a quick bit of regular digital photo-taking and sinking into the mud when the clouds rolled in and it began to chuck it down with rain. We scurried off back towards the train station, as there was meant to be a bar close to it that served a selection of 250 cocktails. Well, we got to said bar... and it turned out to be a tiny, grotty dive pub with just a few burly middle-aged men playing pool and watching the huge TV blaring out a football match, smack bang in the middle of the only seating area available for our group. We stayed for a grand total of about 30 seconds before getting up and leaving. We were so confused by the whole thing because the bar's website looked super flash and fancy, giving the impression it would have sophisticated, modern decor, as opposed to looking like a worn down scumhole in need of serious renovation.

We decided the best thing to do was head to a reputable chain, so we went to the Slug and Lettuce, where we'd had a recent meetup with our comm, and knew to be a decent place. It's a really big building, with a huge number of seating choices and a long, fancy, mirrored bar. Basically, it looks how we'd expected the dive pub to look! We found ourselves a nice booth, and started ordering cocktails as there's a 2-for-1 offer on those. There was the occasional interruption from the next booth along who wanted to ask us questions and take pictures of our outfits, and kept telling us "well done!!!" because we looked so great. Haha. It was a hen party group, and they were taking lots of selfies and having a grand old time. The general atmosphere was really nice, and was complemented by a lot of early noughties/"blast from the past" hits like Maroon 5's "This Love". I sung along, of course.

We each tried some mojitos in varying flavours (I got apple and passionfruit), and they were OK, but I didn't really feel like I got my money's worth from what was mainly a glass of crushed ice and mint leaves (which kept getting unpleasantly stuck in my mouth). After sampling one another's drinks, we decided that James had definitely made the best decision by trying the Long Island Iced Tea, which was a lot sweeter and smoother than what the rest of us ended up with.

Sammi and I spent the rest of the time drinking strawberry daiquiris which, as well as going really well with my outfit, were incredibly strong and much less of an obstacle course to drink than the mojitos. Aaand that's when the conversation took some hilarious turns. I'm a bit of an over-sharer anyway but apparently it's even worse after five cocktails, which caused me to get legitimately drunk for the first time in my life. "It's fine," I remember saying before launching into one of my anecdotes, "we're all friends here." The music got turned up really loud past a certain time (I'm not entirely sure why. It's not like it's a nightclub, or that people are actually going to start dancing) so we all ended up with our heads huddled together in the middle of the table so we could hear about one another's life dramas and experiences.

I spent the train ride back in a great mood, which then continued for all of Sunday. This fun day out was just what I needed after what had been a trying couple of weeks, and as ever, I can't wait for our next adventure!

Have you had any nice days out recently? I'd love to hear about what you got up to!
Thanks for looking and reading, and I'll see you next time 

Monday, 7 March 2016

The Dream Dress

Lately, I've found myself really revisiting the first themes and dresses and prints I loved in lolita, inspired by the wardrobe posts being shared on egl in January. I always had an old school, more toned down sensibility about things, but I was also a die hard fan of sweet lolita, and the style of it that emerged around the late noughties. After dabbling for a year or so with high street loliables, Bodyline and finds from Sai Sai in Camden, I really wanted some brand. The first item to go onto my wishlist was Angelic Pretty's Miracle Candy. I wasn't sure if I wanted it in red or black, and if I wanted the jumperskirt or the OP. After a while, I decided it was too over the top, particularly in red, and I'd surely feel too self conscious to wear it outside even if I did own it. This was 2011. 

Fast forward to 2016 and I am a lot more confident in myself, and way less bothered about what people think about how I dress. I decided that if I only bought one dress this year, it had to be a game changer, and Miracle Candy was the only one of those I could think of, and there was only one colourway I could accept. It recently came up on Lacemarket. I pounced, and on Friday 4th March 2016, the dress was finally in my possession.

This is the only dress I've ever tried on that made me feel emotional when I looked in the mirror. I had gotten it into my head that there was no way this dress would fit me. I figured it would hit me mid-thigh and look terrible. But it didn't. The bodice, with its adorable candy brooches and pearl chain, sat where it was supposed to, and the skirt length was just right. I spun around a few times and watched as the glitter in the print sparkled as it picked up the light. What a moment.

The waist bow on this dress is obscenely perfect. 

 I love the detailed hem. Candy patterened broderie anglaise, candy striped ruffle, and adorable dot tulle.

It's funny really, because I don't even like sweets very much. I'm more into fruit and desserts, and I have a few prints with those themes in my collection. I wear a lot of black and tend to shy away from anything with too much oomph to it. But somehow, this dress is so inexplicably "me". 

The bottom line is, I have my dream dress and we're going to run off together to get married.

Do you have a dream dress? Do you own it yet or are you still on the hunt? I'd love to know which pieces get you going. Thanks for reading and see you soon!