Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Lolita Fashion and Minimalist Lifestyle

Something that seems to be gaining a lot of traction in blogger and vlogger circles is minimalism-- that is, getting rid of anything that isn't essential to your day to day life in order to simplify it, thus encouraging you to live life more fully than you might if you're heavily focused on your possessions. As soon as I heard about this lifestyle I was very interested in it, and immediately began applying its principles to my life.

I have been watching a lot of extreme minimalist YouTubers lately, trying to decide how I feel about the lifestyle on that level. Honestly, while I am totally behind the idea of simplifying your life (last year it was a series of de-cluttering videos that inspired me to get rid of a load of junk, re-organise my clothing, and feel a lot better for it) I'm not overly impressed by a lot of what I've been seeing these days. Perhaps it's because I sense a certain undercurrent to their life philosophy that seems to say: "if you don't follow this lifestyle you are inherently less enlightened and probably don't lead a fulfilling life." Or maybe it's because it infringes on my lolita sensibilities. By their definition, the fact I own an array of clothes isn't very minimalist of me.

In my opinion, extreme "hipster" minimalism is just the cousin of materialism, only this time with a pseudo-intellectual mission statement. I have felt this more and more as I see videos dedicated to getting the number of items a person possesses down to a specific amount, like 50, and a constant showing off of how few things they own, and how easily they can be transported. Rather than sticking to what I assume the initial purpose of minimalism was, it's become entirely about numbers and one-upmanship for some people. Are they really much different to those who like to have a lot of possessions, who want to complete certain collections or aim to have x-amount of a particular item? I'm not so sure. Taking anything to an extreme level tends to be a bad idea.

Still, I think it's perhaps the excess of materialism that is the more immediate, dangerous cousin of the two, and lolita fashion is something that seems to drive a lot of people towards it whether I like to admit it or not. Discussions in lolita Facebook groups about shopping addictions, getting overdrafts to pay for dresses, and other financial irresponsibility with regards to acquiring new releases are worryingly common. I can't help thinking that some of these people would benefit from applying minimalism to their life.

Despite all this, I don't believe that lolita is completely at odds with minimalism if you go into it with the right mindset. Lolitas get a bad rap at times, and are often described as being materialistic or spoilt by outsiders. It probably doesn't help that some of the most popular lolita videos out there are unboxings, haul videos, and wardrobe tours; these are all very much focused on possessions and acquisition of said possessions, which can cause viewers to feel inadequate and thus view such content as something to aspire to. There are so many lolitas who are incredibly visible and popular online, presenting very attractive, luxurious lifestyles, which seem to have spawned a competitiveness, and a need to "keep up" with other lolitas that was never previously present to this extent.

Interestingly, though, lolitas are often very fluid when it comes to possessing clothing. The secondhand marketplace has always thrived, and many lolitas will sell off items after a mere season, so they can afford new releases from the next one. In this way, wardrobes don't become out of control, pieces get re-used by other lolitas rather than ending up in landfill, and a lolita's life isn't ruled by their possessions as they have no intense emotional connection to them. Some lolitas really do have huge collections, but they are often daily lolitas/lolitas who are able to wear the fashion very often. If all of your possessions have a purpose, aren't taking over your life, and aren't causing you financial instability, I don't think it's necessary to downsize for the sake of a minimal aesthetic, and I believe it's possible to be passionate about lolita without it leading to your eventual downfall.

There are lolitas like myself, for example, who rarely sell off their pieces, and don't really keep up with acquiring new releases, or adopting current trends. I have been building my lolita wardrobe for 6 years and it now fills up a free-standing wardrobe. It's not big. I am not a shopping addict, am pretty frugal when it comes to treating myself to physical items, and have always added to my wardrobe at a very slow pace. When I see something hung up that I'm not into anymore, or I haven't worn for a long time, I sell it. My pieces get a lot of love, and I wear them in heavy rotation. I own a fair amount of miscellaneous junk outside of my lolita collection, but I know that those things are replaceable (and I don't even think I want to replace most of it. I've got so much crap to get rid of, and am looking forward to the space it will free up afterwards, both physically and mentally) and therefore have no control over me. It's funny really-- I actually think getting into lolita helped me to conquer a hoarding mindset I used to have in other areas of my life, because my new focus became quality, rather than quantity. Maybe being a lolita minimalist isn't quite as far-fetched a concept as one might initially think! As with anything in life, it's what you bring to it that counts, and if what you bring to lolita is a healthy mindset towards your possessions, I don't see why it isn't possible to create a lifestyle complementary to both lolita and minimalism.

While I disagree with the increasingly popular, extreme version of minimalism presented in certain circles of YouTubers lately, I think the re-evaluation that minimalism encourages is something that should be a regular part of our lives, and can be really useful where a lolita wardrobe is concerned. As an exercise, I would suggest you take a look at your wardrobe. Is your spending getting out of control? What do you hope to gain by making your next purchase? Are there pieces you never wear? Are there items collecting dust that you keep for "sentimental value"? Do you feel overwhelmed when you think of your possessions? Sometimes we need to be a little drastic with ourselves, and make sure we are not hoarding things or making bad financial decisions just to fulfill what is really a mental or emotional void. Or, quite simply, it might just be time for a spring clean.

And what if you don't want to get rid of rarely worn items? Then wear them! Push yourself to come up with a new way of coordinating your pieces. Show them some love. There's nothing wrong with having a lot of things if they all have a purpose and bring happiness to your life. I haven't yet had a chance to read Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (which I'm told is a good read if you're in an organisational rut), but I do know of the main KonMari principle: keep only the things which spark joy. That seems like a good motto to live by, in addition to all things in moderation.

Do you consider yourself a minimalist, or the complete opposite? I'd love to know about your relationship with your possessions, and how it informs your choices when it comes to your lolita wardrobe!

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Another Hilarious Cocktail Catch-Up

On Saturday 2nd April, I met up in Reading with my usual partners in crime, Sammi, Luna and James for an eagerly anticipated debriefing session on certain things happening in our lives!

Since the last time you saw me, I've had my hair box-braided. It's been really nice not having to think about what to do with my hair. Now I can just get up and go!
It had been really nice and sunny that week so I was in a springtime sort of mood. I opted for Meta's Gingham Cherry Ladder Lace jumperskirt, and a cute Baby cardigan with a hood and bunny ears! The hairbow is Sugar Trampoline, of course.

My soundtrack for getting ready that morning was Foxy Shazam's The Church of Rock and Roll. It was a fairly unusual Saturday morning because I went downstairs for my usual bowl of cereal only to be greeted by my mum telling me she was doing a fry up. I waited around for that, savoured it, and ended up making myself an A+ cup of loose leaf Earl Grey (probably the best cup of tea I've ever made. I actually needed a moment of silence). By this point I was running late.

After missing my bus, running back home for my petticoat (a first, and I'm still not sure how I forgot it-- why didn't the fact I had to pull my skirt out in the mirror picture indicate to me that something was missing!?), and a strange man who kept trying to make eye contact with me on the bus... I finally made it to the train station where my friends were waiting for me. After the briefest of discussions, we headed for the pub.

Since we had so many things to catch up on since our last day out, the hours we spent discussing everything simply flew by. While this happened, they all bought various lunches while I just had an Appletiser and some chips that Sammi didn't want as I was full from breakfast. Later on I indulged in a slice of chocolate fudge cake.
So good!

Before we knew it, it was 4pm. We decided to take some pictures before it got dark. I suggested this solely because I had lugged my Instax Wide along with me and wanted to get something for my troubles. On our way to the pub around midday, it had been sunny and quite warm, but now it was cloudy and starting to get rather chilly. We took a few awkward pictures on a bridge, and then managed to get a nice picture of us together on the riverside. We ended up all wearing fruit prints with a red theme going on. Completely unplanned, I might add!

It was coming up to five when we headed to the Slug and Lettuce, which was already surprisingly busy, and went in for drinks. It was a completely different experience to our last cocktail session in Oxford. This branch was much smaller and way more crowded, and initially seemed to be less private due to the lack of booths. However, we found that as it was so bustling and animated, nobody paid any attention to us at all. Pretty soon, we'd settled ourselves down to make the most of the 2-for-1 offer, and gotten our first round of daiquiris.

Mine and Sammi's were both sickly as the bartender had made them too syrupy. Undeterred, I had another one, this time made by a different guy who was really adorable, particularly when he made the drink levels really uneven and literally had to splash some of the drink from one glass into another to even them out. He seemed embarrassed and apologised but I said he needn't worry. He might have been bad at halving liquids but he made a really good strawberry daiquiri which made up for the overly sweet one I had before.

And, this is probably where I should have stopped. I should have gotten a bit of lunch at some point and just didn't, because I wasn't noticeably hungry. My first mistake. My second one was the third daiquiri which sent the room swaying while I talked enthusiastically about my love for Fall Out Boy and how I would be emo for life. Sammi could relate to this! It was around this time we stopped for a toilet break, and while we stood around, we ended up chatting to a couple of other people there who liked what we were wearing, and politely asked questions about it. They said "you're probably sick of people asking you this stuff!" and we said it was fine, as they'd at least approached us respectfully. We filled them in on the times where we'd had people take pictures of us and then walk away and they were hilariously shocked.
After the random friendly chats, we took some cheesy mirror pictures. I love the fact that the entire wall was mirrored! Also, those toilets were really nice.

Next came the third and final mistake: daiquiri number four. Oh, daiquiri number four. One minute I was engaged in the conversation, and the next minute I was resting my head on the table because I'd decided sitting properly was far too much effort. That's the thing about cocktails. They are so sophisticated and aesthetically pleasing, but utterly lethal. I figure a lot of lolitas are the same way.

Seemingly all of a sudden, it was 8 o'clock and my friends had places to go and people to see, so we called it a night, which was probably for the best, all things considered. I accompanied them to the station, where we couldn't help briefly marveling at how we were able to talk about anything with one another. I saw them off and finally, I took the bus home, where I ate fish fingers with baked beans, drank lots of water, and mulled over life until 3 am.

❤   ❤   

On Sunday morning, things felt very surreal. Did yesterday actually happen!? I couldn't help thinking to myself. Looking back on a whirlwind of a weekend is a fun thing.

Thank you for looking and reading as always! If you feel like it, do tell me about any fun things you've been up to lately, what your friends are like, which bands you're obsessed with... I don't really mind! See you next time 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

A Sewing Project!

Hey everyone!

For today's post, I thought I would share with you how I spent the 1st of April. 

I bought some fabric an absolute age ago with the intention of making a skirt. I pre-washed the fabrics and ironed them ready for sewing and then... that's as far as I ever got with it. I am a perfectionist and this in turn can make me a procrastinator, where I find myself not wanting to embark on something lest it doesn't turn out perfectly. I also become disheartened very easily when I don't understand things, and something I have always struggled with is following instructions. I have a sewing book filled with step by step explanations of various techniques and while I can tell it's a good book, the way things are explained in it absolutely baffles me. I'll look at the image for the first step of a technique and wonder "wait-- how did they get to that stage in the first place!?" My knowledge of sewing theory leaves a lot to be desired. The way I go about making things is to look at things I already have and study every detail, before (with the aid of having watched sewing tutorials or read sewing blogs and taken in the images as best I can) drawing up my own imagined pattern or plan of how that thing was probably made, and finally tweaking it to my current requirements. That's how I approached making the skirt.

I measured the hem of a skirt that I liked the fit of and used that as a guideline for how much fabric I would need. I think the most tedious part of the whole process was dealing with the lining, which my overlocker really didn't like due to me being too stressed to sit and figure out how much I needed to adjust the differential feed to cope with slippery fabric. I think I must have spent a total of about 8 hours making this skirt. The first time making anything is always the worst, I guess, but when I finally finished (well, there's still a couple of things I need to tweak and I have yet to make a matching hairbow), I thought to myself "is sewing really for me because right now I want to chuck my sewing machine out the window and watch it sail... sail down to the ground and before it shatters into a million pieces." I made so many mistakes along the way that I had to go back and correct that I was pretty sick of the sight of all my sewing supplies by the end of it.

Sewing the hem! I chose a super thick cotton lace for the job. I wish it were a little more detailed but I'm fairly content with how it looks.

The finished product! I really like fruit prints so this fabric spoke to me. I was somewhat inspired by Angelic Pretty's Drained Cherry series, and general retro fashion.

 Probably the neatest sewing of my life happened on that hem.

I somehow got the length of the skirt perfect for me. The lining came up a little short but I'd rather it too short than too long. I included a built in pocket on the right hand side (another idea that Angelic Pretty gave me!), and the back of the skirt is elasticated. I didn't include a side zipper because honestly, I think that would have pushed me over the edge. I don't find that I need one anyway, as the skirt stretches enough to just slide on. There's a few things I would change, such as making the elastic a little longer so the waist is more forgiving should my waist measurement fluctuate, and making the elastic for the top channel wider, but these are details that come with practice.

When all's said and done, this came out bloody well for my very first skirt. The aim of the project was to see whether or not this is something I could potentially offer in my shop in future, but honestly, even with improvement on the finer details and finish, and getting faster at making the skirt, I don't really see it being profitable. I would want to charge enough for the skirt that it would cover the materials but also pay myself a decent wage for my time, and I just don't think people would pay the figure I have in mind. My business plan constantly seems to be changing. This time last year I was planning on showcasing jumperskirt designs. Although I'm not glad that I went through a real motivation slump last year and didn't even finish putting together my mock ups, I'm kind of glad I never carried out that plan because I think I would have ended up with dresses I couldn't sell, or would eventually have to let go of for cheap. It's not as bold and varied as I'd initially planned, but I think for now, keeping the clothing I offer as being just bloomers seems to be the way to go because it actually fills a niche, and is going all right thus far.

Speaking of, I'll be doing my first big convention in July, an event called Hyper Japan. I have so much to make and do, but I know I can manage it if I plan it all out properly. It's going to be quite the financial investment (the cost of a weekend's accommodation in London is going to be particularly dear) but all I can do is hope that it will pay off. Wish me luck in selling a decent amount of stock so that I don't regret the "follow your dreams" approach to life I seem to be taking.

That's all for now. I'll save the rest of my weekend anecdotes for another day. Thank you so much for reading, and let me also take a moment to express my gratitude towards those who take time out of their day to leave me a comment as well! It means a lot to me. I don't have a large follower count by any means but I still didn't think it would ever get to this many, especially as I'm obviously a bit of an eccentric. I hope you will continue to enjoy my blog, and if for any reason you decide it's not for you anymore, thank you for the time that you did stick around and I wish you all the best. 

My ending question for you today is, have you gotten up to any sewing/craft/general life projects lately? I'd love to know how they went for you! See you next time