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.


  1. Yay, I'm glad to see such a lovely and accurate post about Lolita fashion. Most people outside of the scene tend to skew it pretty badly one way or another. So kudos!

    That being said, I'm a Lolita myself and I run my own blog here. Looks like I'm gonna be a new follower for you, since your blog is pretty sweet too!

    1. Also, you're from MN! I've been trying to get involved with the local comm for a while now, but I've just never been able to make it to a meet.