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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