We do not notice most people. They pass us on the streets and we barely even register the gust of wind they brought with them. But it’s hard to miss someone wearing Lolita fashion.
Lolita fashion is a subculture of fashion most popular in Japan. It is influenced by Victorian and Rococo era fashion. Many subcategories exist within Lolita. Some dress more cute, some dress more gothic. The silhouette is an important aspect of Lolita. The volume of the skirt is created with a petticoat. The skirt creates a classic A-line or bell shape.
Kyra Thomas, second-year student at Colorado State University, has been dressing in Lolita for years. She said she had friends in high school who dressed in Lolita, but she did not explore Lolita until after high school in 2018. Thomas said that she always dressed a little “weird.”
Lolita came to Thomas at a point in her life when she wanted to reinvent herself, and she started with her wardrobe.
“It’s rooted in feminism. The point of it is, not dressing for the male gaze, but for your own self, and I really resonated with that,” Thomas said.
Thomas said that Lolita provided an outlet for her. She could wear fun, frilly, feminine clothing for no one but herself. Thomas said that she felt pressured by social media to dress a certain way. She said she no longer wanted to be sexualized by her clothing, and Lolita fashion gave her an escape. Thomas said she would not call Lolita “modest,” but it is covered up and not form fitting.
Julia Jester, known by her Instagram handle @theruffledrose, is a Lolita fashion influencer. She has been dressing in Lolita since 2014. Jester enjoys the modest aspect of Lolita. She dresses the way she wants, and does not care about how others may judge her fashion sense.
“It’s very frilly and dainty, and I think that’s what drove me to it,” Jester said.
Thomas describes herself as an artist and Lolita has helped her find her style. She can create art and wear it as well.
“How I see it is, I like to dress up in artwork, instead of showing off myself. I want to show off the designer’s talent,” Thomas said.
Thomas has also been documenting her journey with Lolita fashion on her blog, Bibelot Rose. She said that with her blog, she hopes to inspire others to find self confidence with Lolita. She documents her coordinates, or Lolita ensembles, and says what she likes about them and where she could improve. She also lists where she got her the pieces for her coordinates, so that readers can buy them themselves.
Thomas’ blog also features a link to her store. Thomas makes and sells Lolita accessories such as resin earrings, rings and necklaces, as well as rosettes and keychains. Thomas said she started the shop to give a little piece of herself and style to others.
She also has Lolita starter boxes. These boxes are tailor made to the person who ordered them. She hopes that these starter boxes help those who are unfamiliar but curious with Lolita start on their journey. The box includes everything from a petticoat to the main dress and accessories. Thomas said that while her profit margin is low, she does not do it for the money, but rather because she enjoys doing it.
Lolita is not very accessible. Most of the clothing comes from Japan and China. But there is a large second-hand community in Lolita. Dresses are resold online, making them more accessible to a Western market. Another aspect of Lolita is the quality of the clothes, making Lolita an expensive style. Thomas and Jester said that just one Lolita dress can be $300. Lolita also features many accessories to add to a coordinate. She also said that some Lolita brands are not size inclusive and oftentimes sold in limited quantities.
Thomas has also found a community within Lolita fashion. Thomas said that she is grateful for her local Lolita community in Colorado, where she has come upon some of her best friends. Before coronavirus, the group would have events, such as tea parties or picnics at botanical gardens.
Wearing Lolita is a statement, and one that gets people’s attention. Thomas said that it is now normal for her to get stared at in public. She said that she has learned to ignore the stares, and she is thankful most of the interactions she has are positive ones. Thomas said that the stares mean she did something right. She gets attention from her outfits, on her own terms.
“It’s usually not a malicious stare,” Thomas said. “It’s usually a curious stare.”
Going out with her does come with some stares towards the group. It is easy to feel underdressed standing next to her.
Jester also said that she ignores the stares.
“I’m like ‘normies’ don’t quite get the concept of dressing because you feel like it. They’re like ‘oh, you need a special occasion,’ or like ‘you must be up to something, because why would you want to dress like that?’” Julia said.
Thomas said she does not wear full Lolita ensembles every day, but at least once a week. But she incorporates her Lolita blouses and jewelry into her day-to-day life.
Thomas said that anyone can dress in Lolita. She encourages others to do research and understand the rules and guidelines of Lolita. But mostly, she wants others to feel as comfortable in their own style as she is.
“I love to help people find an outfit that makes them feel beautiful,” Thomas said.