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.



  1. Beth said

    Ahaha I think people need to stop trying to put their deffinition of a lifestyle onto other people. I consider myself a lifestyle lolita but what it means to me can be Vastly different from somebody else. Doesn’t mean they’re not lifestylers themselves. Just a different version than mine.

  2. Sora said

    Good questions! If only we could reach to a simple and clear conclusion for those who can not live without answers… as for me, I completely agree with beth 🙂

    Pretty blog by the way!!

  3. ra said

    I think the lolita ‘lifestyle’ idea is very interesting. In some ways I think it is used to try to make lolita a ‘subculture’ rather than just a ‘fashion’. Most of the alternative subcultures I know anything about are based around music (goth, metal etc) but lolita doesn’t really have that and therefore doesn’t have an external base for authenticity.

    I’ve only just found your blog but I am really enjoying your posts!

    • Mary Magdalia said

      I agree with you, Ra. I think lolitas long to find more to tie us together as a subculture, but unfortunately, any criteria that people attempt to establish as a non-fashion staple of the lolita subculture tends to get quickly drowned in cries of “but I don’t like that kind of music/anime/book/art/tea/food!” And since we would be retroactively adding in these other forces, such as what kind of music or food to indulge in, rather than having the fashion organically grow from them as in punk and goth, the effort feels hollow.

      Thanks! I hope to make this a more interesting place to visit.

  4. Aimee said

    Interesting post! I have to start out by saying that I am not a lifestyle lolita and probably never will be. I like a lot of different fashions and I think different fashions show different aspects of what I like, and also my personality.

    However, I think it’s very interesting for someone to like a fashion and be brave enough to wear it most of the time, despite what those around them will think of them. I think it’s a very romantic idea to try to live a life similar to Momoko.

    but for most people, in reality, it’s not very feasible, or even desired. I’m not sure if I would want to wear lolita 24/7 even if my job didn’t have a problem with it. Sometimes I just want to wear a tshirt and a comfy skirt, or a tshirt and jeans. Sometimes I don’t want EVERYONE to be staring at me.
    But it’s a romantic notion. In my head, I think “that would be so much fun to wear nothing but pretty things all the time”…

    Lolita has gradually made me braver about wearing more feminine items in my everyday life. I used to never wear skirts, now I wear skirts a good 70% of the time, and I love it. I feel like now, I’m CHOOSING my style instead of simply choosing a tshirt.

    “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?”

    I wish that more people thought that!
    Lolita clothing gives me SO MUCH JOY. I see a new item, or I wear one of my items, and it just fills me with glee. Total innocent glee.
    But the community itself is so snarky and judging that it just makes me sad. Such a beautiful fashion and such hurtful people. Obviously this is not the case with everyone… Perhaps it stems from the inherent partial goal of most people in fashion communities? ie, the goal is to look beautiful (or cool, or whatever)… so perhaps that brings out the worst in some. I know I can’t expect everyone to be encouraging of others,… but it seems like at the very least people could try not to cut others down. I’ve seen it in other fashion related communities, too…. so it’s not just Lolita.

    I’m very grateful that I’ve found some friends that I can share the fashion with in a true sense, that I can truly share with them. It keeps the ugliness from taking the beauty out of the fashion for me.

    • Mary Magdalia said

      I agree with you. If somebody is willing to put in the time and effort to wear lolita 24/7, good for them. It IS a romantic notion, even if I don’t think I personally would even want to do it.

      Lolita clothing gives me SO MUCH JOY. I see a new item, or I wear one of my items, and it just fills me with glee. Total innocent glee.

      😀 Me too! I think that is what’s so wonderful about it. I count myself lucky too, that I have amazing friends in the fashion.

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