What is Lolita Fashion?
Lolita (ロリータ) is a street fashion and a subculture in Japan, known for its intricate and delicate doll-like look. The clothing is inspired mainly by the Rococo and Victorian eras, but also take influences from current fashion trends. The fashion covers a large variety of sub-styles, and is generally worn by females as there is no male counterpart of Lolita. Men who desire to participate in the fashion often turn to Ouji (a unisex fashion related to Lolita), or Japanese gothic fashion. However, cross-dressing males (also known as brolitas in the west) do exist. One of the most famous Lolita icons, Mana, is a cross-dressing male.
The Name: Lolita
Lolita is a term that refers to a sexually precocious young girl by dictionary definition, a term that is based on Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita (1955). However, this definition does not apply to Japanese Lolita fashion.
The origin of the fashion name has not been confirmed, but it may be a case of wasei-eigo (Japanese pseudo-anglicisms). While the western adaption of lolita is sexy, Japanese Lolita fashion strives for the opposite. It's a very modest look that the majority of Lolitas would describe as elegant and cute, rather than sexy. As such, Ero Lolita may be seen as controversial within the own subculture, as it's the only style to lean towards sexiness; although it remains modest compared to the majority of western fashion styles.
No one is exactly positive when the fashion appeared, but it's commonly believed to be back in the late 1980's with the emerge of brands such as MILK, Pink House and Pretty (now Angelic Pretty). Early Lolita fashion was largely influenced by natural-kei, and would hardly be recognized as Lolita by today's standards. The fashion was relatively unknown, until the early 2000s, when it got it's big boom through visual-kei bands, such as Malice Mizer. Malice Mizer's guitarist Mana fronted the fashion scene, and popularized the term Elegant Gothic Lolita when he opened Moi-même-Moitié, a Gothic Lolita brand. Lolita began to gather worldwide support as the fashion became more accessible through physical stores outside Japan, and online webshops.
From 2000 to present, Lolita fashion has undergone an extensive metamorphosis. Early designs were rather simple, and often in the now infamous black and white color scheme. Gothic, Kuro and Shiro were incredibly popular, and Ama Lolita was very toned down. Up to 2005, clothing prints were relatively rare, and the few that existed consisted of simple motifs. During 2006, the brand Angelic Pretty introduced the beginning of the Ama Lolita style as it looks today. The prints got more intricate and detailed, floral prints became more rare. The style changed from a more classic look, to a more childish and cute over-the-top look. Ama Lolita is presently the most popular Lolita style.
Lolita as a Lifestyle and Meet-Ups
While it's safe to say that the majority of Lolitas just happens to like frills and historical clothing, a few prefer to lead a "Lolita lifestyle". A lifestyle Lolita generally dresses daily in the fashion, interacts with the local Lolita community and may have feminine hobbies such as baking, sewing or embroidery. Some lifestyle Lolitas adhere to the ideal of leading the life of a princess, and surrounds themselves with beautiful things and adopt certain mannerisms (such as extreme politeness or "ladylike" behavior).
Community interaction is a large part of being a Lolita, and is something that is enjoyed both by general fashion fans and lifestyle Lolitas. Local Lolita communities often arrange special meet-ups, where Lolitas of all ages participate in activities such as picnics, tea parties and visits to museums, amusement parks or even art galleries. Every meet-up has its own specific rules and clothing codes. Many Lolitas who don't dress in the fashion on a daily basis, sees meet-ups as a perfect way to go over-the-top with their outfits and show their love for the fashion.