What is Lolita?
First of all, the term “Lolita” as it refers to fashion has nothing to do with the wearer dressing up like a sexually precocious child. Instead, it describes the child-like appearance of the clothes, and how those clothes make the wearer look elegant, cute, or doll-like.
“Lolita” may also refer to the lifestyle of living beautifully as well as dressing beautifully. The person surrounds herself in luxury and lives like a princess. Those who identify as female immerse themselves in “women’s activities” like embroidery, baking, sewing, and other traditionally feminine pastimes.
Lolita is a fashion trend that started in Japan’s Kansai region in the 1970s and gained popularity in the 90s, when the Visual Kei bands started dressing in clothes that emulated those of the Victorian and Rococo periods. The trend spread out across the country until it hit Tokyo and really exploded into the youth scene.
The early Lolita was based on modest, high-quality garments that generally consisted of a knee-length dress or skirt that was pushed into a cupcake shape by petticoats. Thigh-high socks or stockings were worn to cover the legs. A button-up blouse, some accessories like lace gloves and maybe an umbrella, and a head covering of some kind finished off the outfit.
The Evolution of Lolita
Lolita fashion today still revolves around the Rococo and Victorian periods, with an emphasis on high-quality fabrics, designs, and accessories, but there are many variations to the original Lolita style.
The main styles are Classic Lolita, Gothic Lolita, Punk Lolita, Aristocrat Lolita, Boystyle/Kodona/Ouji Lolita, and Sweet Lolita.
Classic Lolita features the same basic Lolita silhouette in Victorian, Regency, or Rococo styling, but some outfits do deviate into A-line dresses and Empire waists. This style tends to be more functional than whimsy, with muted colors and smaller patterns on the fabric. Classic Lolita isn’t as “cutesy” as Sweet Lolita but not as dark as Gothic Lolita.
Gothic Lolita is likely the most well-known style outside of Japan. This style is a nod to the Victorian gothic fashion with darker, richer colors and white accents, and should not be confused with the “Goth” fashion of the West.
In Punk Lolita, the outfit includes themes of the Eastern punk style of clothing.
Aristocrat, also called Elegant Gothic Aristocrat or EGA, is a more mature, less frilly Goth-type Lolita. This style may be worn by males or females.
Kodona or Ouji Lolita, also called “boystyle” or “prince,” may be worn by males or females. The wearer uses more masculine –but still boyish – clothing that may be either casual or extravagant.
Sweet Lolita uses over-the-top design such as bows, pastel colors and ruffles. Most use powder blue, white, and pink, but any light color is okay. Fabric prints featuring fairy tales, candy, strawberries, cakes, candies, cherries, toys, flowers, or hearts is often worn.
Sub-Styles or Themes
Many sub-styles and themes have evolved and emerged due to the originality and creativity of individual Lolita wearers. Some of the sub-styles are Casual Lolita (basically what a Lolita would wear when not dressed up, but still follows certain fashion rules); Country Lolita (a further evolution of the Sweet Lolita style); Ero Lolita (a little more mature, and a little more erotic – although nothing overly provocative); Guro Lolita (aka Gore Lolita – portrays a gory yet still-innocent Lolita); Hime Lolita (aka Princess Lolita – involves a more royal set of clothing and accessories); Kuro Lolita where the outfit is all black; Shiro Lolita (the entire outfit is all white/off-white/cream); Sailor Lolita (the nautical-themed style); and Wa Lolita (Kimono-esque dress).
The Future of Lolita
It is very likely that the fashion will spread from Japan and become more of an international sensation. Larger cities like New York City and San Francisco in the United States, Toronto and Vancouver in Canada, and London UK are probably the first that will see an influx of this doll-like style. Boutiques that sell Lolita fashions will pop up and make the trend more available to potential Lolitas. More Westerners will pick up the trend, and it will become commonplace to see a group of Lolitas strolling down the urban streets.