Archive for December, 2008

Review: Sucrerie Magazine

A few weeks ago, a new indie lolita magazine by the name of Sucrerie was unveiled for the lolita world. Since it’s not too often that we get a brand new, free publication in our midst, I thought a review was in order.

When the concept for Sucrerie was first suggested, the editors were considering releasing it as a series of .pdf files, and I admit that this immediately turned me off to the project. As somebody who deals with them regularly for research papers, I find .pdf to be extremely awkward and not at all user-friendly. Any content that requires your viewers to download a file before viewing it is going to turn many away.

As such, I am very pleased that they decided to go with a Flash version of the magazine, provided by FlashPageFlip allows the reader to view an entire two-page spread at a time, as one would a real magazine, and on clicking forward, can see and hear the page “flip” to the next. You can even grab the corner of the page and “flip” it yourself. The reader does not have to download the magazine, and loading times for each page are relatively quick. As well, the reader has the ability to flip between pages, or jump directly to a page number. Each two-page spread can be viewed as “fit to screen” to see the full layout, or as “actual size” to zoom in and read the content. Another bonus of this format is that links may be embedded into the pages. This is particularly cool in how you can click directly on a section in the table of contents to reach the page you want, or click on an ad to go straight to the online store.

This format is not without its drawbacks, however. Many readers find that they must zoom in after each page flip, as it automatically reverts back to “fit to screen,” which, with the thick toolbars above and below the magazine, is too small on most screens. This can make the process of reading the magazine rather slow, as one waits for each page to load, then zooms in. I also found it awkward to have to grab and drag the page around in an effort to read it all when it is at “full size.” I wished for multiple zoom options, but on reading, found that the free version does not have this feature, and it is unlikely that this magazine will make the funds it would need for the $49-$99 USD full versions, on top of the cost of their webspace. For the reader, there is a bit of a learning curve to this format–it took much experimental clicking for me to figure out how to zoom, how to flip between pages, and that links were actually links. The fact is, it just isn’t the same as a print magazine, but for a free online one, it’s likely the best that could be done at this point.

Layout and Editing
Like a real magazine, each page gets its own unique formatting, except for the occasional two-page spread. There appear to have been multiple artists in charge of creating the pages, making for a slightly inconsistent feel and look. Sometimes the layout is awkward and crowded. Other times it is really quite lovely to look at. As the magazine is not limited by the cost of printing, the editors were free to spread out, filling whole pages with single photos or poems.

What I found most bothersome were the colors and fonts used. The Courier-like font used for most articles, while clear and easy to read, is distracting and unattractive on the page. My aunt, who is considering doing a master’s thesis on typography, once explained to me that the ideal font is one that is invisible. It should be so perfect at conveying its message in context that you do not even notice it. This font is jarring on the page, and the editors would do well to read up on fonts a little. As well, the font is almost too small to read in places, and feels squished together.

Colors are another issue. The Contents page, for example, is typed entirely in baby blue on a white background. I had so much trouble reading it that I skipped right past it. A section titled Beauty and the Body Image features tiny white text on a pale blue background that grows progressively lighter. This is a shame, because both the article itself and the rest of the page layout are quite endearing. The Artist Gallery, in addition to rendering the artwork rather small compared to the space available (surely a second page could be afforded for artwork, and they could do without the heavy, distracting frames), makes the light blue-on-white text so tiny and unreadable that I almost did not realize the names of the artists were listed at all.

I found that some pages seemed to have too little information. For example, a section called Charmed, a lovely full-page spread displaying handmade accessories by various artisans, lists the artists’ Etsy names, but not their store URLs or even any evidence that Etsy is the place where they can be found. Only when I had read through the entire magazine did I find the back page where the lengthy item URLs are listed. I found later, through some experimenting, that links to the stores are embedded in the artists’ names, but nowhere is this made explicit. Including a blurb directly on the page mentioning Etsy, or one mentioning that the URLs could be found in the back, or that the artist names are links, would make things much clearer.

While we’re on the topic of links, it was probably on my third time flipping through this magazine that I began to really pick out all the places where I could click to find things (the first time, I did not even realize this was possible). I would suggest that the editors make links more explicit, perhaps by associating them with a particular color, or by inserting a very small, cute graphic beside links. Since we’re not dealing with HTML here, we don’t have to settle for a boring underline for every link, but we don’t have to treat them as a treasure hunt, either. Not only would this be more user-friendly, but it would tie in some kind of overarching theme from one page to the next.

Another example of “too little information” is the interview with musician Stephanie Yanez. Even when interviewing the biggest stars, most magazines begin with a brief explanation of who the featured individual is, what her accomplishments are, and why we should care about her. I found myself skimming through the interview, trying to determine who she was, and found that the interview questions continued to assume the reader was quite familiar with the artist’s work. It seemed like an odd way to introduce what is likely a little-known musician to her potential listeners. It would have been nice to see the interview coupled with a review of the artist’s music (hopefully by somebody other than the interviewer), as I’ve seen some music-focused magazines do.

As well, I habitually looked for the names of contributors for each article, only to come up disappointed almost every time. In fact, at this point I do not have a clue how many contributers are involved with Sucrerie magazine, or whether the editor does it all herself. If this becomes a regular publication, I want to become familiar with my favorite writers, as I do with other magazines. As well, it would be nice to have a page devoted to the Sucrerie “staff.”

Aside from these issues, while a variety of spelling errors tripped me up, I found it overall to be quite well-done for a start-up amateur work, and one can only hope that they will improve with time.

Here is where I feel that Sucrerie truly excels. At this point in time, English-speaking lolitas have already been gifted with two other magazines: the English Gothic and Lolita Bible, and the now-departed indie publication La Vie en Rose. As the new kid, Sucrerie had to bring something a little different to the table if it was to gain any notice at all. We already know all about tea parties, J-Rock, cupcakes, Alice in Wonderland, and who Mana is. Now we crave something more. Sucrerie chose to present a wide variety of features that are a mix of old standards and interesting new ideas.

Want a handy French manicure tutorial? How about a (mostly fictional) history lesson in aristocrats? Or tips on how to be an eco-friendly lolita? Or a guide to beginner photography?

Carrying on the tradition of the travel feature that was so popular in La Vie, this issue of Sucrerie features the beautiful city of Victoria in BC, Canada. I have an admitted bias for this article, as Victoria is currently my hometown (and for the record, it is every bit as charming as they say). Maybe they’ll let me do a follow-up piece on living in Victoria. 😀

Other fun features include the Ask Alice page, which is kind of a “Dear Abby” for lolitas, as well as the In My Closet section, where we get to take a voyeuristic peek at the contents of another lolita’s closet. The charming final page of the magazine (before credits and the back cover, that is) features 10 Things to do in the New Year, and makes such positive suggestions as learning a new craft or becoming a volunteer. In addition to the articles, the magazine is dotted throughout with poetry.

One area in which Sucrerie does not skimp is in its photography. Street snaps, that old lolita mook favorite, return in the form of Western Lolita Style Watch, a full four pages of reader-submitted shots of single outfits. In addition, this issue features three stunning professional photo shoots. I actually have difficulty choosing a favorite between the three shoots, and again, the format allows the editors to lavishly offer each photo a full page or two-page spread.

Overall, I found Sucrerie to be a valuable addition to the lolita community. Rather than rehashing what’s already been done, the contributors offered up new ideas and interesting discussions for old and new lolitas alike. Sucrerie feels authentic and heartfelt in ways that a corporate publication would have difficulty achieving. I encourage any lolita to take the time to flip through it. With some solid support and enthusiastic contribution, it can only get better.


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Our Lady of Preteens

lolita from Agnes B.

Originally uploaded by alex itin

When I started this blog, I kind of went in with the misguided hope that only those with a knowledge of and interest in lolita fashion would find their way here. Sure, there would be some foreigners casually wandering into our safe fairy tale castle made out of sugar and lace, but they would be harmless beings who quickly found the door when they realized their mistake.

I don’t cater to the uninitiated here. You may notice that I lack the usual disclaimers proclaiming “lolita is not a fetish,” “lolita is not cosplay,” and “lolita has nothing to do with the Nabokov novel by the same name” (although that last point is debatable and very intelligently explored by Yumemiru). After five years in the fashion, it seems silly to still tag this disclaimer onto everything I do. I have no interest in educating the masses.

And then a few days ago, as I was casually skimming my blog stats, I came across a recent search engine term used to find this blog. It went like this: “preteen little nymphets.”

Of course I’m not naive enough to be unaware of people in the world who may be Googling sexually precocious preteens, but the idea of being associated with such gives me the sudden pressing urge to vomit on my shoes. Imagine: my writings, my thoughts, my personal emotions on a page, being read by some creepy pedophile who unintentionally found his way here thanks to some unfortunate wording, when in fact he was looking to get his jollies.

I have had people tell me, “well if you don’t want people to think that, you should have called yourselves something else!”

“But,” I insist back, “it was named by a bunch of Japanese teenagers in the 1980s who probably had no idea what they were talking about. It’s not my fault!” Well, but is it?

Alright, so one of my favorite dorky pleasures is linguistics, so lets take a look at this word objectively as it is used by western lolitas. It is true that western lolitas inherited this name from their Japanese aunties in the lolita world. But it is also true that there are two alternative terms that I have seen used for the fashion, both of which have been employed by western lolitas but are currently shunned by the community at large.

EGL – Ah, EGL. Remember the days when we all thought that this was the technically correct, full name for lolita? And then some smart people were swift to correct us that, in fact, Mana came up with “Elegant Gothic Lolita” to describe only his own line, and that it is simply a derivative term for the much older and more widely-used word “lolita.” True, the acronym involved “lolita” in it, but wasn’t it so convenient to not have to say that part out loud? But there are a few reasons why, even with this convenience, lolitas prefer not to use it. First, it is inaccurate. Lolitas are sticklers for accuracy, and to have their very name be imprecise is simply unacceptable. Second, it has connotations that every lolita is both gothic and elegant, when in fact 80% of lolitas would rather wear pink and baby blue than black. Last of all, it means pretending that all lolitas follow Mana. Non-Mana fans take issue with this, if only to stamp out excessive instances of whiteface.

Gosurori – Ah, this is a fun one. “Gosurori” is a romaji approximation of how the Japanese say and write “goth loli,” or gothic lolita. True, lolita is once again in the title, but how could anybody guess that when you mangle the word with a fake Japanese accent? In addition to that whole “saying we’re all gothic” thing mentioned above, “gosurori” sounds frighteningly weeaboo. If there is one thing lolitas as a whole hate, it is being accused of being a weeaboo. Better to be on nymphet searches than a weeaboo.

So then, we can actually say that, through rejection of the alternatives, the English lolita community did actually choose their name. That doesn’t mean that we can go and choose a different name now, because lolita is entrenched in the language–it is used in the Japanese source material we depend on, as well as our own “official” publications. But more importantly, it is used by the ten thousand or so members of EGL on LiveJournal, as well as the many thousands more who are not part of that community.

So we’re stuck with it–does that mean we have to like it? Maybe not. But maybe we don’t have to be ashamed of it, either. The Yumemiru discussion about the relationship between the fashion and the book “Lolita” makes an excellent argument about the character Dolores being an ordinary girl–not a seductress, as she is portrayed by contemporary media. And in fact, it has been suggested elsewhere that if people are getting the wrong associations from the name due to such misinformation, then why aren’t we talking about the need for society to change its perception, instead of about whether to change the name?

Why is a “Lolita” considered a nymphet, when the character Lolita was a sexually innocent victim? Why, indeed, is there a “lolita complex” and no “humbert complex?” Many girls see lolita fashion as an act of reclaiming femininity. Maybe, while we’re at it, we should reclaim the name lolita for ourselves. Instead of being ashamed of our name, why not celebrate it?

Lolita comes from the name Dolores, which is short for “La Virgen María de los Dolores”, or “Virgin Mary of Sorrows.” This is one of the titles granted to the Virgin Mary (another being the Latin “Mater Dolorosa,” or Mother of Sorrows), referring to the seven sorrows in her life. Whether you subscribe to a Christian faith or not, she is an undeniable symbol of grace and compassion. As the Mother of Sorrows, she is represented with seven swords piercing her heart–an iconic symbol of strength.

This is quite appropriate for lolita fashion, which aims to be nonsexual in appearance. Though perhaps “virginal” is a little too strong a word, there is a strong feeling that lolita should be, in some way, pure. Additionally, lolita is a source of strength–sometimes, it is simply a source of confidence (if only the confidence you need to walk down the street in those frills). Other times, it can be the thing you draw on just to get through your day.

This would not be the first time that lolita adopts a religious symbol for itself, either. La Virgen María de los Dolores is right at home among Moitie’s crosses, Baby’s stained glass print, and the brand name Mary Magdalene, not to mention that unfortunate Juliette et Justine dress depicting Jesus on the cross.

Maybe the symbol doesn’t stretch too far. But for myself, I’m pretty happy to call myself a mini-Our Lady of Sorrows.

And, Mr. Creepy Pedophile with a thing for preteens, I see no reason why I should adjust who I am for you.

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Intervention Time

AP Hilarity

Originally uploaded by spirit_seraphim

Alright, decora lolitas, I’m cutting you off. You’re hitting the decadence too hard these days. You’ve said that you could quit any time, but just look at you! You’re turning into Little BoFurry. You closely resemble a real live Minnie Mouse, complete with gigantic gloved hands. You’ve got pompoms for buttons, and I suspect you are a secret agent of the North Pole. The satellite dish on your head appears to be in place to receive instructions from the mothership. You are the Poster Child of the new “Spay Your Bunnygirl” campaign. You’re a mess!

You told me that it was only bonnets on the weekends. Just a few extra accessories after work to take the edge off. What harm could a few extra sweets in your hair do? But then it wasn’t just candy anymore, was it? You were wearing cakes on your head. I saw you last week walking around with a teacup in your hair. I asked you to take it easy with the animal ears, but you said “naw girl, it’s cool, I can handle them.” But the animal ears are growing, decololis. They are growing. Tell me, when will it end?

This is an intervention, decora lolitas. It’s for your own good. Put the BeDazzler down before it destroys us both.

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