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 


  1. I really enjoyed reading your interpretation of these two videos. I enjoyed them both purely on an aesthetic level but for me there was nothing more to it than pleasing aesthetics, which I supposes very much proves your point of how art is open for interpretation. I know I've had cases where I've interpreted art or poetry in a way that is completely different to he normal way, or have something really resonate with me but not with others.

    Wow. That was a long comment that didn't say much but I guess what I'm getting at is thank you for sharing, it was really nice to read your thoughts and feelings regarding this.

    1. Thank you so much for reading, and I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      Art (as with beauty!) is definitely one of those things that is in the eyes of the beholder. I can see this as a purely aesthetically pleasing ad, but I wanted to approach discussing it in the way I would an essay question asking me to analyse it! (This is what majoring in English does to you, apparently).
      I've definitely had that, too, where everyone else around me seemed really bowled over by something while I sat there feeling completely unable to appreciate or connect with it. My reaction to the advert is very much based upon my personal experiences. Seeing as we are all coming from different backgrounds and life stories, we are all bound to respond differently. One thing I do like to do is to let my imagination run away a little, and find meaning in even the most mundane things!

      Haha, don't worry, I understand exactly what you're saying :)