What is Lolita Fashion?
Lolita fashion is an alternative fashion that was born in Japan in the late 80s.
A typical Lolita “coord”, or outfit, consists of a One Piece (sleeved dress), JSK or skirt with a blouse, matching legwear, and a petticoat for shape.
Sweet Lolita coordinates, featuring a JSK and one-piece
The look is inspired by historical Western clothing, taking notes from Rococo and Victorian aesthetics, and fairytales such as Alice in Wonderland. It often incorporates motifs from the Gothic and Punk movements and is not cosplay or a costume.
Lolita very rarely shows the wearers’ shoulders, chest, or upper thighs. Despite the overall modesty, the style defies the societal norms of demure women by being flashy, hyper-feminine, and “unattractive” to the typical man.
Related styles included Ouji (princely fashion) and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat.
Unfortunately, nobody is 100% sure where the name came from. All we know is that the name is not intended to refer to the book Lolita, with some Japanese lolitas using an alternative spelling (ロリィタ instead of ロリータ) to avoid any misunderstandings.
It is unrelated to “Loli”, a phrase which is directly linked to the book.
An example of Lolita in the 90s
A Brief History
While the look was gradually formed over the 80s and early 90s, it didn’t become the “Lolita Fashion” we know today until the 90s.
The girly Sweet and Classic lolita styles evolved from romantic and doll-like styles that had become trendy with young women in the 70s and 80s. Brands like PINK HOUSE, Angelic Pretty, and MILK lead the movement.
Gothic Lolita was inspired by Visual Kei bands such as Versailles and Malice Mizer, with their flashy aristocratic clothes and glam makeup. The guitarist of Malice Mizer, Mana-sama, went on to make the brand Moi-même-Moitié.
Modern lolitas look quite different from the Lolitas you’d find in the 90s. The skirts have gotten bigger, the prints have gotten busier, and while the style has lost some of its popularity in Japan, there are lolita tea parties being held around the world. The basement floor of the trendy Laforet mall in Harajuku is filled with Lolita brands, both major and indie.
You’ll often see a stereotypical Gothic Lolita in anime but in reality, sweet has overtaken gothic in overall popularity.
Well-known brands include Angelic Pretty, BABY, The Stars Shine Bright, Atelier-Pierrot, Moi-même-Moitié, Metamorphose, and MILK.
Gothic lolita brand Moi-même-Moitié
More and more “substyles” have evolved, but most of them come under one of the big three:
Sweet – Candy, frills, cute animals, bows, doll-like shoes.
Classic – Florals, dusty or jewel tones, princess sleeves, dainty shoes.
Gothic – Black, elegant or edgy, cross motifs, chunky boots, or heels.
Nguyen, An & Mai, Jane. “So Pretty / Very Rotten: Comics and Essays on Lolita Fashion and Cute Culture”, 2017, Retrieved 19 June 2020.
Sakata, Ayumi. “ロリィタファッションに関する研究 ―着用者の視点から―”, 2017, Retrieved 19 June 2020.
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