Frilly and fabulous: Meet the Oxfordshire Lolitas

‘It makes me feel like a princess’


Brookes second year Beth Knighton and Buckinghamshire graduate Shalisa have two things in common: a hella cute wardrobe and membership to the Oxfordshire Lolita community.

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They share an interest in Lolita fashion, a Japanese trend all about petticoats, bows, ribbon and lace.

Shalisa describes the Lolita subculture as: “Unapologetically feminine, modest, whimsical, and daring. It takes elements from Victorian, gothic and 1950’s fashion to create something imaginative and modern.”

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Some of Beth’s many OOTDs

Beth discovered Lolita fashion via tumblr.

The Japanese student said: “It was around the time I was getting into Japanese stuff in general and already liked things like fairy kei so it really interested me”.

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Some of Beth’s many OOTDs

Shalisa commutes to Oxford when she can to attend the meet-ups.

She said: “I used to spend a lot of time in my early teens social networking on sites like Bebo and Myspace. I stumbled upon profiles of girls who wore the fashion, and was immediately enamoured with how pretty and unusual it looked, so I decided to find out more about it.

“Watching ‘Kamikaze Girls’ for the first time pretty much sealed the deal, and I knew I couldn’t stop until I too owned a wardrobe of beautiful dresses I could wear whenever I wanted to.”

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Shalisa in Lolita

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Shalisa in Lolita

Beth doesn’t wear the fashion as often as she used to, preferring to save it for meet ups or special events like conventions.

“It’s a bit of a hassle to put on when you’re just going to the shops to pick up milk or something.

“I like expressing myself through many different styles, so I think I would get a bit bored of it if I wore it every day. Also it’s such a hassle to walk around in sometimes.”

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Shalisa on the other hand dresses in decadent Lolita fashion nearly every time she leaves the house.

The Buckinghamshire grad explains: “Lolita clothing makes up the majority of my wardrobe, and influences my lifestyle on a daily basis. But I have a strong interest in alternative fashion in general, so every now and again I think it’s nice to wear something different.

“Lolita is very much based on a set of strong stylistic guidelines, so occasionally it’s good to break away from it and throw whatever I want together without having to worry about doing it right.

“I also think if you always do the exact same thing, your creativity can stagnate.”

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Parts of Beth’s Lolita wardrobe

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But why bother with the intricacies of the style every day? Beth says she likes it because it’s different.

“It’s a way to express yourself and honestly it’s nice to wear something so apart from jeans and trainers most girls seem to wear, it makes you feel like a princess.”

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Shalisa agreed: “I wear it because it makes me feel happy and completely myself. Before I got into the fashion, I never felt truly happy with how I looked, and while I knew I wanted to wear alternative fashion, none of the bizarre combinations of clashing colours and mismatched items from an experimental period of my life ever created a look which felt right.

“Now, simply getting dressed in the morning is a fun, positive thing, and now I like how I look, and I feel like the best version of myself.”

Both have worn Lolita to uni before, Shalisa said for the most part nobody batted an eyelid: “Very occasionally I would get a positive comment from someone, but nobody made a big thing of it or saw it as particularly odd, which was nice, if totally unexpected.”

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Shalisa posing in a shoot for the Lolita Calendar

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Beth also said she got mostly positive and complimentary responses from people in her Japanese lectures, but puts it down to the course she’s on.

She said: “Everyone is obviously already interested in Japan and may have heard about the fashion already.

“I wouldn’t wear it to my English lessons or if I did another course because I think it would ostracise me a bit.”

Despite the overall positive responses they have received in the past, they’re both aware some people might find it weird outside of Japan.

“I’m told the majority of people in Japan think it’s odd, too.” says Shalisa, but adds:

“Anything which isn’t what the majority of people are doing will immediately be deemed strange. Lolita has an unusual aesthetic—it’s so eye catching, and yet it’s incredibly modest.

“People find it difficult to understand why Lolitas would intentionally prioritise cuteness and whimsy over the sexiness and sultriness which are often the prerequisite for being considered fashionable. Lolitas’ dismissal of the mainstream ideas of beauty is quite punk if you think about it.”

Beth says that it stands out from other subcultures or styles that people in most countries are used to: “It’s overtly feminine, which isn’t a common thing today I think.”

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The Oxfordshire Lolitas

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The Oxfordshire Lolitas

But despite the OTT fashion, the local Oxfordshire Lolita community is “quite chilled out”, friendly, and usually involves taking photos and chatting in the pub.

The community hosts “meet ups” for anniversaries, and big events like Alice’s Day in Oxford.

Shalisa explains: “Lolita meetups act as a social club, with the fact we all like the same fashion as an ice breaker.”

The Oxford community has even featured in yearly national Lolita calendars, and certain members have frequented several fashion-based events around the country.

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The fashion has also inspired both girls to pursue Lolita careers after uni. Beth’s dream is to move to Japan and do “something fashion related”, while Shalisa has started her own clothing brand.

Most Lolita clothes need to be imported from Japan, meaning an outfit can cost between £100 and £1,000, but Shalisa’s brand “Sugar Trampoline” has brought the fashion to the UK.

“Maybe one day I’ll be a major UK Lolita brand. A girl can dream.”