Archive for April, 2009

Beneath the Frills

Kamikaze Girls

Originally uploaded by Loving Bryan Adams

There is a reason why I don’t end up writing a lot of lifestyle articles on this blog. I’m not one of those people who thinks that “lifestyle” is a dirty word in the lolita world, but I do feel that the concept is somehow overblown. I guess you could say I sit somewhere in the middle of the lifestyle debate. After all, any lolita who claims not to be somehow changed by their fashion–whether it’s in how they act, in their interests, or simply their makeup and hair care habits–probably wasn’t all that devoted in the first place. You would not be here if something about this fashion did not get under your skin.

On the other hand, I think it would be a shame to completely form one’s own identity around a single interest. Isn’t that the very definition of “otaku” in the original, derogatory sense? Why limit yourself so much that you must eat, sleep, and breathe lolita when there are so many other wonderful things in the world?

And what is a lifestyle lolita, anyway? I have seen lots of interesting articles related to the topic, but never a firm definition of “a lolita lifestyle means this.” In debates, I have often seen lifestyle lolitas claim that the anti-lifestylers have the wrong idea about things, but my requests for an explanation were never answered by any.

The result is that I often hear mixed messages. Should all lolitas listen to classical music or to J-rock (and does this mean electric instruments are only okay if the lyrics are Japanese)? Should lolitas never work, or should they be completely independent? Should she act like a little girl or like a demure young lady? Should she be confident or helpless? Should she sew her own clothes or be a complete consumer?

And who decides these things, other than a handful of bloggers who are every bit as human as we are, who buy the same brand and follow the same trends? Novala Takemoto? I often see lifestylers quote Novala to me, but have they already forgotten that his character Momoko was anything but a role model? Momoko begins the story as selfish, shallow, and bitchy. Her personal lolita “rules” are over-the-top and ridiculous–such as refusing to work or eat anything other than sweets. Her growth as a character throughout the book and movie is marked by a relaxing of her rules as she learns to value friendship over her ideal image of herself. And in the end, it is not Momoko who becomes a model for Baby the Stars Shine Bright, but crude, violent yankee Ichiko.

But in their own personal lives, people can and should do what they want. If following a lolita lifestyle, however you define it, makes you a better, more fulfilled person, then that can only be a good thing.

I do, however, feel that there is a more insidious consequence of pushing lolita as a lifestyle. The moment you begin to say “lolita is about the person, not about the clothes,” you are opening up a Pandora’s Box of questions about who this person is meant to be. Not only how she should act, but what about everything else about her as a person? What race is she? How tall and how thin? What sort of hair must she have? Must she be rich, educated, and privileged? Must she be a (biological) female and heterosexual (or asexual)? Must she have perfect skin, lacking in glasses and visible disabilities, with the voice of an angel and the manners of a saint?

The fact is, the vast majority of lolitas agree that people of all shapes and sizes and colors are worthy of their frills. And in the end, isn’t it better to be welcoming than exclusive, to accept people no matter who or what they are, or where they come from? This may be a solitary fashion, but it’s a community, too, and I would pick an interesting, diverse one over a boring, clonelike one any day.


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