Archive for June, 2009

The Rule Book

Lolitas have a reputation for being one of the most elitist, rule-bound subcultures on the internet, and this reputation is perhaps not entirely undeserved. If you visit any lolita website or community, what are you likely to see? Extensive categories and sub-categories of styles. Endless guidelines about everything from skirt length to lace quality to the thickness of your shoe heels. Advice over how to wear your hair, how to do your makeup, and whether to tuck in your shirt. For the uninitiated, the world of lolita is a dizzying change from hyper-casual mainstream fashion.

What any seasoned lolita will tell you, though, is that the longer you are in the fashion, the more likely you are to bend, break, relax, and challenge those rules which we so greatly pride ourselves upon. You become less concerned about categories: after all, lolita is lolita, even if an outfit may be punk or classic depending on who you ask. You are less afraid to introduce elements into your outfits that are unexpected. You are less afraid to act “un-loli.”

I frequent a number of lolita communities, and the tone of those communities is dramatically different depending on the “age” of the majority of members (that is, how long they have been lolitas). Almost without fail, the communities in which the members are newer will be the most stringent, rule-bound communities there are. They are the ones who are most concerned about whether their hair is lolita. They are the ones who worry about whether their outfit can be classified as sweet or shiro.

I often see newbies warning each other over “purists” possibly attacking them for their ideas about lolita. What is funny is that the things they often warn about are those very things which most experienced lolitas are less concerned about. Crazy hair styles. Unusual shoe choices. Ironically, they worry about older members condemning them for breaking rules, when they are the ones who are far more likely to condemn each other for breaking those rules.

The reason for this is easy to see, of course. Newbies are still finding their way in this fashion. They are still grasping new concepts, still working out what looks good and what is better avoided. For a newbie, the easiest possible way to navigate lolita fashion is by following those rules to the letter. That is, after all, why so many sites go to such great lengths to set out as many guidelines as possible: it is simply the best way to explain the fashion.

Lolita will never be as relaxed as most other subcultures. There is simply no way to construct a lolita outfit without navigating a specific set of requirements such as skirt shape and length. But obsessive? Rule-bound? Elitist? Maybe those stories about us are just a wee bit exaggerated.

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Changing Tides

Various events have been preventing me from making a lot of updates to this blog recently, and for that I apologize. The good news is, one of those big events is that I have moved in with two of my very good friends–friends who are both lolitas.

Yes, I have infiltrated their natural habitat, all Steve Irwin-style, so that I may better understand the lolita’s elusive habits. Long has the academic community debated over such questions as, “What does a lolita eat?” “How does a lolita attract her mate?” “What are a lolita’s nesting habits?” and “How does she make her hair do that?” I feel that this is a most thrilling opportunity to find the answers to these questions, and report them to you, the reader.

On that note, this blog began primarily as a place to more formally discuss my thoughts and opinions, but I wonder whether it’s missing a more personal element. Perhaps I should be posting more about my regular lolita excursions, my outfits, my hair woes, and things of that sort. I don’t want to bore anyone with my mundane life, but I do think this blog might benefit from being able to put a face to my name. Any thoughts on what you would like to see here?

And just so this won’t be a text-only post, let’s talk about Polyvore. In case you have not yet discovered this piece of procrastinating fodder, Polyvore is a site that allows you to make collages from pictures you find around the internet. Specifically, it is intended to create outfit collages from store stock photos. This makes it, needless to say, lolita coordinate heaven.

The upside of Polyvore is that it does most of the work for you. With a few clicks, you can copy (or “clip”) the item photo, and with a simple drag and drop, you can place it in your new collage (called a “set”). If the photo has a neutral background, Polyvore can even delete the background color, allowing your item to float free. You can layer and arrange things however you like, something people like to take advantage of.

The downsides of Polyvore are the clipping limitations and the frustrations of poor stock photos. Some sites are blocked from clipping (such as the Jesus Diamante site, oddly enough). Polyvore also does not allow you to clip from image hosting sites such as Flickr, Photobucket, or Tinypic. As such, you may have the perfect item for your coordinate, but no way of getting it into the clipper. As well, some brands are notorious for their lackluster stock photos, which are small, blurry, and set on an overly-busy background. Sometimes, I find that my set looks better with a poorer item using a better stock photo, than an amazing item with a poor photo.

Still, one of my favorite aspects of Polyvore is the community part. There are various lolita-related groups to be found, including Sweet and Gothic, Pour Lolita, Gothic, Victorian, and Lolita, and my personal favorite, The Lolita Fashion 50, a group that challenges you to create a coordinate for each of 50 prompts. In addition to the communities, people can comment on sets and favorite them. The favorite system works as a sort of rating system on communities, allowing “popular” sets to rise to the top of the list.

My own sets can be found on my profile, but here is one of my personal favorites.

LF50: 9. Pirate
LF50: 9. Pirate by Ellorgast featuring All Saints accessories

Cheers!

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