Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Journey: On Getting Out of Your Own Way

Ladies, gentlemen, I think it's time we all got out of our own way.

That's right, you. You, there, reading this on the internet and coveting the clothing. Also, you, the one who already dresses like you want to but who doesn't really feel comfortable branching out from a single brand of crazy and trying something new. Also, me. All of us.

Step aside, we're coming through.

This is so important that The Lady of the Manners has it tattooed on her arm.
And, yes, I find her to be an excellent role model and she will appear frequently in this blog.
You are, all too often, what is stopping you from doing what you want to do. And I get it. I've been there.

I spent years being afraid not of what other people would think but of them noticing me at all. Then, my freshman year of college, I had a few very bad experiences with the people around me (I won't get into them here; this isn't the time or the place) and decided that, whether I liked it or not, people were going to notice me. People were going to like me or dislike me as they pleased. I couldn't blend in to the background; I had tried and failed. What, then, was the point of stifling myself?

I needed to get out of my own way.

And so I did. You can, too.

It takes a long time for some of us. We don't all pop, fully formed and clad in frills or armor, from the brow of society. Some of us have to work, ever-so-slowly, toward expressing ourselves. And it takes a long time. We are bombarded by images of what is and is not okay for us to be.

So let's get out of our own way.

The only advice I can offer you on actually getting out of your own way is this: stop taking in negativity. I know it's everywhere, but stop. Don't watch shows that make you feel like you aren't pretty or confident enough. Don't read magazines like that, either. Surround yourself, as much as possible, with what you love and with what makes you feel worthwhile, confident, and beautiful or handsome.

Be defiant about yourself. Tell the world, in the way you walk and the way you dress and the way you hold your head, that you are awesome and you are worthwhile and to hell with them if they can't see it.

Tell yourself that you are worth it. I don't care if you have to stare for hours into a mirror to do it. I don't care if you have to say, "I am worth it. I am awesome. I can do this," every day for a month, out loud, before you can believe it.

I believe it about myself. And, to be frank, I believe it about you, too. Everyone deserves to be whoever makes them happy. That is the most basic belief within me.

So get out of your own way. I want to meet the person you want to be, and the world deserves to know them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Outfit of the Day: Pink and Fawn for the Office

So, as anybody who read my apology for not posting in July knows, I got a new job. It's a blessing that my new place of work is pretty free with the dress code, because it means I am afforded rather a lot of self-expression in my office attire. This is what I wore today (please forgive the funky paint job; my current place of residence has a rather eccentric design).

The style is otome kei largely informed by my interest in lolita fashion, classic lolita specifically. In fact, I'd have worn my petticoat with it if it weren't for the fact that my petti doesn't fit in my office chair. Likewise, I'd have worn a blouse with fuller sleeves if I didn't have to deal with the strange temperature control.

Here's what I wore on my head today. The flocked fawn barrette is handmade, and if you can't see the bit of white peeking out past the pink rose, I am wearing a sort of headband with all of this. My real favorite is the "antique gold" floral hair clip which looks like I'm wearing a hen and chicks plant on my head. I can't say enough positive about that.

For jewelry, I have a rather eclectic mix today.

I picked up this locket a few years back in a thrift store. It's pretty large, and my friends joked that it must contain a soul if it's that ornate and large. I don't know about that, but it sure is pretty.

I know it's hard to read the bracelet here. It says "like gold to aery thinness beat." It's a quote from one of John Donne's poems, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," which expresses the strength of the speaker's connection to his beloved although they are parted: like gold, it can be beaten and stretched to an airy thinness without breaking. As I am currently in a long distance relationship, the quote is comforting to me. I wear this bracelet almost every day.

The ring is handmade with an Arthur Rackham illustration. I love Rackham. His stuff is absolutely mad.

And, moving toward the feet, here's a closeup of the texture on the tights. These were purchased off the clearance rack at Target and are like a mashup of vintage-y polka dot pantyhose and fishnets.

And, last but not least, my shoes. Let it never be forgotten that I love this pair of shoes. They're holding up quite nicely considering how often I wear them.

Outfit Rundown:
Locket: Secondhand
Bracelet: Custom made by Lauren Elaine Designs on Etsy
Ring: Handmade
Flower Barrettes: Claire's
Deer Barrette: Handmade
Vest: Maurice's (Secondhand)
Shirt: Mossimo (Secondhand)
Skirt: DownEast Basics via Modcloth
Shoes: London Underground
Headband: Just a scrap of lace I wrapped around my head
Tights: Target

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lolita Ladies: Building a Personal Brand of Strange Through Prints

Loli enthusiasts, let's face it: prints get a bit weird.

No, really. If you actually think about some of the things we wear, without the cuteness-induced madness that is the Lolita mindset, it's pretty odd. We wear food. We wear florals. We wear art. We wear all sorts of things that confuse people.

Here's just a sampling of rather odd things that have been put on dresses:

 Hard to believe this is Angelic Pretty, isn't it?
Angelic Pretty's Honey Cake print. I love ya, AP, but this is... a mite odd... when I actually think about it...
Typewriting squirrels. I can't even... what is this, Meta?

But I think this is a good thing. Lolita is pretty tolerant to the weird. There isn't really a limit to what you can wear, and if you think it's cute, you can go for it. I've seen girls make skirts with cats eating sushi running along the bottom. Geek prints are beautifully made and rather popular from certain sellers on Etsy. You can take almost any idea and make it into a Lolita outfit if you're willing to put in the work to coordinate it.

We've got the freedom to get creative.

And I'm no exception to this, although most of my dream prints are concepts not yet actualized (I cannot thank my mother enough for the sewing skills she taught me). Currently, my dream prints are as follows:
  • Handwriting
  • Scarab beetles
  • Arthur Rackham illustrations
  • William Waterhouse paintings
  • Deep blue batik
  • Antique Maps
  • Weeping Angels (yes, those Weeping Angels)
  • Gears
  • Rouge Aerie's carouskel print
  • Antique book covers
  • Dulac illustrations 
  • Deer
 And yes, I'm rather insane. I'm proud of it. All of these things are items that I want on a skirt or dress (mostly skirts). Not that my crazy dream prints are for everyone. But they're for me, and, for better or for worse, Lolita is insane enough to let me pursue them.

Go forth, Lolis, and embrace the insanity!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We Interrupt Your Regular Frilly Broadcast for a Special Message

I've never really thought of myself as a particularly stylish person. I know, I know: I run a clothing blog and yet I think that. It doesn't jive. But the truth is that I jump headlong into alternative fashion, and I am used to people on the streets simply not getting it. If they do, great. If they don't, no problem. Not everyone is going to understand why I usually look like I do. I dress in a way that makes me happy, and that is honestly the closest I get to being what the rest of the world deems "fashionable."

Or so I thought.

As of today, I have had four very kind retail workers tell me, this week, that they liked an article of my clothing and wanted to know where I had purchased it so that they could get one like it.

I understand how working retail works. I worked a job selling fast food for seven-and-a-half years. I know the mind-numbing boredom that sets in when you're wage-slaving. And, yes, occasionally one chats with the customers. But it's not often that a retail worker walks up to a complete stranger and asks them where they got their tights, especially one who bustles quickly through the store like a woman on a serious mission, checks every single petal of the floral barrettes on the clearance shelf, and looks like she mugged a life-size china doll before getting dressed. And yet there I was, standing with a store employee in the Kohl's, the Target, the Shop-Ko, and another Kohl's explaining where I had purchased my frills.

It confused me, to say the least.

I was polite and answered them, though. Every time somebody compliments my clothing or asks me where I got it, I feel like it's one more person who will accept alternative fashion when they see it, and I don't want to screw that up for myself or for the next person by being rude.

I have this to say, though: all right, world, apparently the way I dress has become socially acceptable. Thank you. Please to be stamping my fashion card and show your appreciation for the way I dress by making ruffled, Victorian-esque blouses and full skirts available for cheap (or cheap-ish) in plus sizes.

And I mean that. I don't dress the way I do because it's unique or special or underground or whatever. I dress the way I do because I love it, and I would like for things that fit into my style to become more widely available so I didn't have to spend quite so much money or work quite so hard to find things I want to wear. And, as The Lady of the Manners says, "Mainstream culture shows its acceptance by easily available consumer goods."

I'm getting the acceptance and working to keep it. I'm ready to be rewarded with pretties.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lolita Ladies: On Perfection

Let's be frank here: Lolita is, in large part, about attempting to achieve what we consider aesthetic perfection.

If you're into Lolita and  have ever posted a picture of yourself on the wide internet, you know this. From well-worded and helpful constructive criticism to rude and snarky comments on one of the "secrets" communities on Livejournal, any imperfection will be identified and judged, analyzed in its most minute details until a solution may be found.

Lolita is a community about rules. Some people choose to believe that the rules of Lolita are biblical commandments set down by the gods of frills in order to define what is and is not Lolita, and a single broken rule means that you should be expelled from the ranks of the faithful lest your heresy corrupt the community. Others (and these, I am sure you will notice, are the ones I tend to agree with) take the position that the rules of Lolita are more like guidelines, a framework within which we build our rose-scented world; to these, the rules are less religion and more societal expectation, able to be bent or broken if the situation requires. Each of these opinions is derived from a different idea of what perfection is within Lolita, whether it be an attempt to achieve ur-Loli status by embracing the strictest definition or by working within the style to create something unique to the wearer.

But who is right?

Honestly, I don't think either of them are, not really. Perfection is a very personal thing. Myself, I see innovation and creativity as essential to the image of perfection. To become perfect is to do something nobody else has done, something unique and executed flawlessly despite the lack of guidelines. To others, perfection is more like passing a test, getting every question and factor right. And it's up to each Lolita which definition she will choose to follow.

Yes, I know that we are involved in a fashion that seeks almost inhuman perfection, doll-like images of young women with perfectly matched colors head-to-toe. But you know what? We're human. We're not perfect. Becoming a perfect Lolita is a process, not a state of being that can be achieved.

Yes, it's good to keep improving in our style. Yes, there is always some dream item we will be seeking, a dream print or a dream line or even just a hairbow. We will always seek to improve ourselves. But the image of perfection that we seek should be our own, because that's what matters. We want to look in the mirror and be able to say, yes, this is the best that I can be right here and right now. But tomorrow I will be even better, somehow.

And if somebody else doesn't agree?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Product Review: Eat Me Ink Me

I'm not going to lie to you: I love offbrand Lolita, specifically handmade items and indie brands. I've been a lone Lolita enthusiast for so long that the connection to someone else means a lot to me. I've also been sewing since I was six, and I appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating a garment. Finally, I've got some serious curves (42-30-48) and the best way to find something that will fit is to make it myself or custom order it; otherwise, I have to get lucky or tailor my clothing.

As a result, I tend to creep on designers on Etsy. I go through every two weeks or so and see what's new in the handmade Lolita world. As a result, I came across Latvian indie brand Eat Me Ink Me fairly quickly, and one of their skirts caught my eye.

This is what I saw:

It's mesmerizing, isn't it? My immediate reaction was to favorably compare it to Lady Sloth's cherubim skirt (which I covet like nobody's business), with the caveat that it is significantly darker in color and a fair bit creepier looking. Just the way I like it. It's a bit odd for a Lolita print, I admit, but that's how I like my prints. And I think it will coordinate quite nicely into Dolly Kei as well.

The price was ninety dollars, not including shipping, but it looked to be worth it. This was what I bought, right after I paid rent, with my paycheck.

I ordered the skirt on August first, and just got it today. I would have received it on Thursday morning, but I was not at the door to pick up the package and could not get to the post office until today. I really respect that turnaround; eight days from Latvia is rather impressive.

You guys. You guys. This skirt. The noise that escaped from my throat when I opened the package sounded like the battle cry of a demon. It's beautiful.

It's eerie looking; some of the faces have these eyes that feel like they're boring into your soul. The color isn't quite the same as I see in the picture; the image from the website looks more teal than green, and even my photograph doesn't capture the way the color actually looks. However, that doesn't bother me a bit. It's so darn colorful that I've got plenty of choices to match it with and plenty of accent colors to play with in my accessories, and having it be more green than teal doesn't change that.

The materials are lovely. The waistband is delightfully velvety; I even caught myself petting it. The chiffon is soft and shifty; the wind caught it after I'd opened the package, and the slight shift of the fabric made it look like the images on the fabric itself were moving and turning to look at me, which is the best effect to have on this sort of trippy looking skirt. The lining is substantial, which lends a nice structure to the chiffon.

The lining has lace trim that is quite nice. The lace is nicely substantial and intricate. It's not as plush as the lace on some of my skirts, but it's certainly not thin and itchy either. I quite like it.

It also had this darling little lace tag to mark it as an Eat Me Ink Me product, which is just the cutest thing ever, isn't it?

The skirt came with a detachable velvet bow that matches the waistband, which is delightfully versatile, and the only critique I have of that inclusion is that the bow's clasp is a safety pin rather than an actual pinback, but that's a minor thing:

A little smooshed from being shipped. Please forgive it.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but I'm a creeper and keep the notes I receive from sellers at EGL comm sales and from Etsy sellers. It makes me feel connected with the community at large when I don't have actual connection to them. It's habit by now, and I always enjoy it when I receive a note with my bits and bobs. This darling little note came with my skirt:

My last name blotted out for teh privacy.
The skirt also came with care instructions (so helpful!) on a handwritten little tag:

I tried the skirt on, and it came just to my knees, exactly the length reported. The skirt has plenty of volume, and the elastic in the back of the waistband stretches to accommodate without feeling uncomfortable as shirring sometimes does.

The rundown:

Brand: Eat Me Ink Me
Type: High Waist Lined Chiffon Skirt with Half-Elastic Waistband
Print: Faces? Fairy Forest? I'm just going to call it "Trippy Awesomeness" and say that's a good summation.
Shipping: 10/ 10
Fit: 10/10
Length: 10/10
Quality: 9/10
Overall Score: 9.75/10
 The final verdict? Buy from Eat Me Ink Me if something catches your eye. The quality is wonderful, the shipping turnaround is great, and I absolutely cannot wait to play around with coordinating this skirt.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lolita Ladies: On Behavior

Oh, Lolita behavior.

Lolita is a crazy fashion in terms of expectations. I'm not sure why the way that I dress is supposed to have an effect on the way that I behave, but apparently it does. The message that I get from people is that if you dress like a demure princess, there is some expectation that you will behave like a demure princess. There is a strange expectation of weakness, of immaturity, of being out-of-touch with reality, or of believing that we should be treated like a princess.

And then there's Lolita on the internet. On the internet, Lolita can turn into an anonymity-fueled catfight.

That's not to say that every Lolita on the internet is an "Ita!" screaming crazy person ready to flay any beginner who comes near with the shards of a broken teacup. Many of the Lolitas I have spoken to on the net have been perfect ladies to me, welcoming and inviting and very kind about their constructive criticism. However, there is that small group of people making the fashion more difficult for us as a whole.

And where do I come into this world of proper behavior? Personally, I collect etiquette manuals. I read every single one of them (one day, I'll share their beauty advice because it is hysterical). I read Gothic Charm School regularly because it is gold mine of advice for good behavior while wearing strange clothing. I'm a Miss Manners protegee with a reputation around town for being helpful and kind. I hold doors open. I smile demurely and say "thank you." I don't cuss in front of children. I talk to puppies and chat with old ladies.

But I'm also a sarcastic creature with a blacker-than-black sense of humor, a great enjoyment of historical weaponry, and a tendency to speak my mind when I feel it needs speaking.

Ladies, I'd like to invite you to my idea of Lolita behavior: it's just like any other behavior, but in frills. Seriously. A good way to live your life is by being polite when you're able, decisive when you're not, and never rude without reason. That doesn't mean you can't be sarcastic or tell crude jokes. That doesn't mean you have to speak perfectly every time. It just means that you should follow the golden rule. Yes, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It works.

Because, really, Lolitas shouldn't be required to act in a way that is cuter or more refined than anyone else simply because of the way they dress. Just work on being a good human being and you'll be well on your way to being a well-behaved Lolita.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Styles to Seek: Lolita Fashion


If you're at all involved in the online alternative fashion scene, you've probably at least heard of Lolita. Young women dressing like Victorian dolls tends to attract attention. I know it certainly attracted mine.

I've been aware of Lolita since 2002 (that's right, OLD school) and have been wearing Lolita and Lolita-inspired clothing since 2010. I haven't had much of a chance to get involved in the "scene" at this point in time, but I certainly intend to.

Here's a technical definition, cobbled together from various definitions from around the web:
Lolita is an alternative fashion of growing popularity that is based upon European clothing from the Victorian, Rococo and Regency periods and seeks to emulate a Victorian child or young lady or a doll's appearance. The fashion features a highly feminine mix of poofy skirts, lace, ribbons, flowers and bows. There are a large variety of substyles. The name "Lolita" has little-to-nothing (depending on who you talk to) with the Nabokov novel of the same name, as the fashion has nothing to do with promiscuity and everything to do with modesty. No matter what the style of dress, the shoulders are usually covered and there is always a knee length bell shape or A-line skirt. Unlike mainstream clothing the goal of Lolita is to maintain a cute or elegant appeal.
But, really, if you're here for my quick introduction to Lolita, you're not here for the technical terms. You're here for the pretty pictures. Rather than finding commercial, catalog pictures of the different styles or street shots, I decided to use some shots from the Lolita community as posted on Daily Lolita, EGL, tumblr, and various Lolita blogs. When I say that there are a large variety of substyles (and even substyles of those substyles), this is what I mean.

First, we've got what I like to consider "the big three." These are really the major styles of Lolita and, with a few exceptions, most other styles are offshoots of these.

Classic Lolita on Aly Buttons of Her Lumpiness. Classic Lolita is the most historically inspired of the Lolita types. It's characterized by more traditional design motifs, color schemes, and lines.
Gothic Lolita, seen here done by porcelainsong, combines the shape and style of Lolita with traditional Gothic motifs like bats, crosses, vertical stripes, etc. Often you'll here Lolita as a whole referred to as "Elegant Gothic Lolita," but that is a misnomer as there are not necessarily gothic elements in all Lolita styles.
Sweet Lolita, on Victoria Suzanne of Parfait Doll. Sweet Lolita is, as it sounds, sweet. It's quite a bit of pastel with prints of fruits, cakes, candy, and all manner of very cute things.
Then, of course, we have other styles and substyles to choose from:

Wa Lolita as worn by Literary Eagle. Wa Lolita is a combination of traditional Japanese garb with the Lolita silhouette. Qi Lolita is a similar idea, but inspired by Chinese garb.
Iiraliina, Pigru,and Halktia as photographed by gaussianblur89 in ero Lolita. Ero Lolita, short for "erotic Lolita," is a tricky and more uncommon style that resembles normal lolita style but slightly more revealing. By revealing I do not mean exposing, the skirts are just shorter and the tops are a little lower cut, or ones that draw attention to the breasts. Corsets are often seen and usually without anything underneath. These three ladies really got the style down: it's still Lolita and classy, but scandalous enough to be ero.
Elfie in country Lolita. Country Lolita is usually a substyle of sweet (although it can be a substyle of classic) that accessorizes the clothing in a more "country" manner. Straw hats and baskets are especially common.
Sailor Lolita by Natitulia. Sailor Lolita is another "exactly what it sounds like" style: Lolita with old-school sailor uniform elements.
Hime Lolita as done by Pixie_late of La Petite Marionette. Hime Lolita can really be a substyle of any style of Lolita. It is exactly what it sounds like: a very princess-y version of Lolita. Expect crowns aplenty, bigger hair, and even more opulence.
Fanny Rosie and her sister in shiro and kuro Lolita (white and black respectively) to go to a performance of Swan Lake. Kuro and shiro Lolita are distinguished primarily by being a single-color style.
Punk Lolita, as done by mlle_chantily, is, as you have probably guessed, a blend of punk elements with Lolita style. Here you'll see chains and studded belts aplenty.
Steampunk Lolita as done by AyraLeona of Ruffles and Steam. Again, this style is exactly what it sounds like: steampunk meets Lolita. This one is often regarded as a more "trendy" style because of the recent surge in popularity of steampunk. It can range from costume-y to to classic depending on the accessorization.
Guro Lolita as done by Lovely Lor. Guro is another more costume-y style which juxtaposes the innocence of Lolita with grotesque, often bloody details. Usually, guro Lolita is done with a white dress, but I found this black coord to be very elegant while still getting across the contrast between the gore and innocence that is central to guro coordinates.
Casual Lolita as worn by HildeKitten. As the name suggests, it's Lolita worn in a more casual style: fewer accessories, a less poofy petticoat or no petticoat at all, knit shirts of various types, less extravagant hair and makeup. Casual Lolita can be done with pretty much any style and makes it easier to wear on a day-to-day basis. The most difficult thing about casual Lolita is making sure that it doesn't fall away from Lolita completely.
 Of course, this isn't the limit of what can be done with Lolita, not by a long shot. That's just a quick-and-dirty overview of the world of frills.

There are a couple of related styles to Lolita that are within the same "family," so to speak, that I would be loathe to forget.

Elegant Gothic Aristocrat, here modeled by Bonbon Maléfique, is a bit like gothic Lolita grown up. The skirts are longer if worn, trousers also enter in on occasion, the outfits are more like traditional Gothic, and the goal is to look like an aristocrat rather than a doll.
Boystyle (sometimes called kodona or ouji) by Senseless. Boystyle is essentially the gender-flipped version of Lolita. It involves a lot of cropped pants, frilled shirts, and vests, essentially emulating frilly Victorian boys' clothing. 
Aristocrat, here modeled by Technotropism, can also look like grown up Kodona. Slightly older looking, but still with the frills. Top hats are frequently seen.
Now, I know Lolita isn't for everyone. It tends to be a bit over the top, and if ruffles and lace aren't your thing you can feel free to go right past it.

But if you saw something that captivated you, inspired you, or made you want to see more, I wholeheartedly encourage you to look into it. It can take quite a bit of courage and research to get started, but if it is something you want to pursue, then do it!

The ruffly waters are fine.