Life as a Lolita: ‘I’ve been verbally and physically attacked’
Petticoats and pastel wigs
It’s no secret uni is the place to be when it comes to self-expression. Most people tweak their looks while being here, whether it’s subtle changes or a complete 360. But is there a limit to how much young people are socially allowed to express themselves?
There are some people who are fearless when it comes to dressing how they want to, regardless of the consequences: Lolitas. “Lolita?” you ask: isn’t that the novel about a 12 year old and a perverted poet? Well, rest assured, there are no Humbert Humberts in sight, just guys and girls with a passions for Japanese fashion and the confidence to rock it in public.
Lolita is a Japanese street fashion, originally based on Victorian styles of dress. It gained momentum in the late 1980s and 1990s, and with the sheer popularity of other aspects of Japanese culture, including anime, manga and sushi, the style has become increasingly popular.
Some local Lolitas from the community lovingly known as the “Pretty Petticoats” agreed to talk about their experiences with the fashion and the backlash it sometimes inspires.
Q: So, how did you first get into Lolita fashion?
Zoe: “Through seeing it in anime mostly.”
Jade: “Yeah, definitely through manga and anime, but I’ve always liked gothic fashion. I found gothic Lolita when I was around 13.”
Emma: “I got into the fashion a long time ago, but only recently started wearing it because it’s so expensive.”
Rhi: “I also discovered the fashion through Gothic subculture, back when Lolita was still mainly known as ‘Gothic Lolita’ and darker styles were more popular than the sugary sweetness or classic florals you commonly see today. Being a little baby bat, but still a princess at heart, I instantly fell in love. I also have this odd little obsession with Marie Antoinette.”
Q: Have you ever gotten any negative attention due to the way you dress?
Emma: “I have only ever gotten negative attention from dressing in Lolita online. When I wear it around town, or when seeing family, I always get compliments because it’s ‘different’ and ‘cute’. It feels good to hear these compliments because a lot of people online have only heard of the book Lolita and tend to believe I’m pretending to be a child for the pleasure of old men. It hurts to hear because that is definitely not the intention of the fashion.”
Rhi: “I’ve had plenty of negative attention. I’ve been both verbally and physically attacked, had objects and food thrown at me, been laughed at by people of all ages and had the song ‘Barbie Girl’ by ‘Aqua’ sung at me more times than I can count. Some things are easy to brush off, others not so much.”
Q: What’s the best thing about being a Lolita?
Jade: “Being an every-day princess and meeting lovely people through the fashion.”
Zoe: “Yes, I love being able to feel pretty for one, and look fantastic. Also meeting new friends is the most wonderful part.”
Rhi: “I adore the way it makes me feel like a princess. Now I just need a beautiful castle and a pet dragon or three.”
Emma: “For me, the best thing about being a Lolita is I feel like I can be myself. I never felt comfortable in jeans and t-shirts. I feel happier in Lolita: cheerful. Dressing this way also brightens peoples’ days.
“I get a lot of positive attention from young girls, and older ladies specifically. They tell me I look like Alice in Wonderland or Little Bo Peep. It’s sweet, it makes me smile and I hope I can inspire a younger audience to wear what they want, even if it’s different. Different is not a bad thing.”
Q: What’s the worst thing about being a Lolita?
Zoe: “Mostly not being able to go out in public without being looked at or people saying negative stuff. Also, online there’s a lot of bullying by other Lolitas. Most Lolitas who do say things often do it behind everyone’s back and post in anonymously on ‘Behind the Bows’ (sort of like an online social networking platform for Lolitas). They won’t say it to your face.”
Rhi: “Lolita has several negatives,. It takes a lot of time and money and meetups can be a little stressful. But I think abuse from strangers on the street (or even people you know) is the most horrible, especially when you don’t know how to respond to it. I guess it’s better to ignore it, but at the same time I hate not sticking up for myself.”
Jade: “Wearing so many layers in the summer is also pretty bad. It gets really sweaty.”
Q: Have you ever made any sacrifices to be able to afford the clothing?
Jade: “I don’t socialise at weekends, because I work eight or nine hour shifts. I would work more but I’m in full-time education.”
Zoe: “Yes, I’ve done a lot of over-time at work. But I’ve also had a lot of luck getting dresses I want for a good price. There are lots of Facebook groups, such as Lolita Sales UK, which let people sell their clothes second-hand.”
Rhi: “Working six days a week doing eight or nine hour shifts gets very tiring, and then it still usually takes me three months to have the money for a complete coordinate. After bills, food and other essentials, Lolita is the only thing I really spend money on frivolously. I try to keep my other pastimes cheap, like reading library books instead of buying new ones.”
Q: Thanks girls. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Zoe: “I would love more people to be into Lolita fashion. I would want to see Lolita as commonly as you see ’emos’ and ‘chavs’. It won’t happen, but I can dream.”