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Lolita (ロリータ) is a Japanese fashion inspired by Victorian-era clothing and styles from the rococo period. It grew from young women's desire to dress for themselves in a way that disregarded men's opinions. The style is characterized by a distinctive silhouette, achieved from wearing petticoats underneath dresses or skirts with a specific cut.

A full Lolita outfit is called a "coord" or coordinate. Every outfit will include a dress or skirt to achieve the proper lolita silhouette. Dresses are made with very full skirts to accommodate a petticoat. Lolita dresses are categorized as either JSKs or OPs. JSKs, or jumperskirts, are sleeveless dresses normally worn over a blouse, and OPs, or one-pieces, are worn without a blouse.

The tops worn with JSKs or skirts are either blouses or cutsews, tops made of jersey fabric. If the sleeves don't reach the wrists, it's customary to wear wrist cuffs or bracelets. Shoes known as "tea party shoes" are the most popular option for footwear, but Mary Janes, boots, low heels, and Rocking Horse Shoes are worn just as often. Socks or tights keep the outfit balanced from head to toe. Lolitas wear many different styles of headdress and hairstyles to balance out their skirts. Many other accessories can be worn with the fashion- other items include bloomers, wigs, jewelry, gloves, coats, capes, parasols, or bags.

It is unknown where the fashion gets its name. Many Lolitas suspect that a writer decided the Spanish name Lolita complemented the feminine and whimsical fashion and it just caught on. It, unfortunately, shares the name with a controversial book by Vladimir Nabokov about a young girl who is preyed on by an older man. The book and fashion are unrelated (for more information on that aesthetic, feel free to look at the Nymphet page).

The fashion has its roots in the 70s and 80s with Otome fashion and Natural-kei. Lolita as we know it came about in the 1990s, where it was photographed on the streets of Harajuku and featured in magazines like Fruits, Kera, and eventually Gothic & Lolita Bible. Lolita was worn by members of Visual Kei bands in their performances, notably Mana of Malice Mizer, who created the first Gothic Lolita brand, Moi-même-Moitié, in 1999. Due to the growing popularity of Visual Kei and widespread publication of street fashion magazines, Lolita was introduced to the world outside of Japan.

For more information on Lolita, feel free to visit the Lolita Fashion Wiki.

Note

Lolita is more associated with fashion and borrows non-clothing imagery from aesthetics associated with a person's choice in substyle. One is not considered a Lolita without owning the necessary garments, which differs from other non-fashion related aesthetics. Participating in lifestyle elements is less popular and considered unnecessary from 2018-2020 onwards, contrasting the past's heavier emphasis on assuming princess-like hobbies and activities. And as a fashion subculture, there is a more tight-knit community in comparison to internet aesthetics with a shared history, inside jokes, and multiple debates that take place on Facebook groups. A person should also never come into these spaces with the intent on sharing sexual feelings associated with DDLG, as the aesthetic is trying to escape sexualization and has had multiple encounters with daddy doms and sissy harassment.

LOLITA_FASHION_EXPLAINED_in_5_minutes

LOLITA FASHION EXPLAINED in 5 minutes

Subgenres

Lolita can be divided into different substyles, notably Classic, Sweet, and Gothic, with multiple minor styles.

Classic Lolita

Classic Lolita is a more mature style of Lolita that focuses on elegance rather than cuteness. It is much more historically inspired than the other substyles.

A-line skirts are more popular in this style for their more demure shape. Colors and patterns used in classic Lolita are more subdued than the other styles. Popular colors are brown, wine red, sage green, cornflower blue, and ivory. This style features lots of solid colors but floral themes are popular, as well as prints of checkers, nature, tartan, and historical art.

Popular headdresses include bonnets, bows, and berets, although any accessory is possible as long as it complements the coord. Shoes and accessories are less whimsical and more functional. Bags tend to be simple, but it isn't unheard of to see a purse shaped like a chess piece or a violin.

The makeup used in classic Lolita is often more muted and natural, highlighting the Lolita's natural features.

Classic Lolita brands include Juliette et JustineInnocent WorldVictorian Maiden, Triple Fortune, and Mary Magdalene.

Sweet Lolita

Sweet Lolita is one of the most popular lolita substyles. This style is characterized by lighter, brighter colors and more whimsical motifs.

It shares the same shape as other styles but is generally known to be "poofier", with larger petticoats. This style will often contain more trimmings, like lace, bows, and ruffles. Popular colors are baby pink, light blue, yellow, and white. Prints often feature fruit, flowers, lace, bows, sweet foods, candy, cute animals, and ribbons.

Headdresses, bonnets, and bows are a popular hair accessory to the sweet Lolita look. Shoes are typically tea party shoes because of their cute design. Bags and purses will often take the shape of fruits, crowns, hearts, stars, and stuffed animals.

Makeup for sweet lolita is very whimsical and pretty. Pastel colors and subtle glitter are popular elements to balance out the decadence of the dress.

From 2009-2014, sweet lolita was all the rage and it was very popular to wear multiple hair accessories, a wig, circle lenses, fake lashes, deco nails, and wear more elaborate makeup. That style is now called OTT (Over The Top) sweet lolita.

Examples of Sweet Lolita brands are Angelic Pretty, Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, and Metamorphose temps de fille.

Gothic Lolita

Gothic Lolita is characterized by its darker aesthetic. This substyle is a fusion of lolita fashion and the Japanese gothic subculture of the 1990s.

Gothic Lolita fashion is characterized by darker colors and themes. It tends to be more experimental. Popular colors include black, grey, navy blue, dark red, purple, white, and ivory. It is common to see motifs of crosses, gothic architecture, bats, coffins, and chandeliers.

Gothic lolita accessories can be more experimental. Rectangle headdresses, bonnets, and bows are popular, but you can also see wide-brim hats, crowns, horns, or antlers. Shoes vary widely- Mary Janes, boots, and platform shoes are all acceptable. Bags and purses can be simple or shaped like coffins or bats, etc.

Makeup for gothic lolita can be dark and dramatic. Black is popular for the eyes and lips, but there is no end to what matches a black dress.

Brands that exemplify the Gothic lolita style include Atelier-Pierrot, Atelier Boz, Alice and the pirates, and Moi-même-Moitié.

Moi-même-Moitié was the first gothic lolita brand, founded by visual kei rock musician Mana in 1999. Mana was the first figurehead of the fashion and is often jokingly referred to as a god. His brand released two lines of clothing, Elegant Gothic Lolita (EGL) and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat (EGA). EGL has still used as a label for the lolita community and the EGA line started Aristocrat fashion.

Punk Lolita

Punk Lolita is a sub-style of Lolita that is inspired by Western punk. It uses similar motifs such as tartan, deconstruction, chains, studs, safety pins, asymmetrical hemlines, rips, grommets, buckles, and spikes. It is inspired by Vivienne Westwood and her influences in the UK. Unlike the Western punk style, Punk Lolita can consist of frilly skirts paired with cutsews or a more delicate blouse with a tougher skirt, and then accessorized with feminine accessories to lighten the look. Print motifs are crowns, butterflies, roses, playing card suits, skulls, and grungy or slightly creepy cute characters.

Country Lolita

Country Lolita is a Lolita style inspired by the vast open countryside and often, Victorian farms. It is often a mix of Sweet Lolita and Classic Lolita. The Country Lolita style is often marked by the use of wicker or straw accessories such as basket purses or straw hats. Sometimes the addition of straw accessories is the only defining feature between Country and Classic or Sweet Lolita. Gingham and food prints are popular for this style. It's also common to see straw hats or wicker bags. Think Anne of Green Gables or Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

Common Coordinate Themes

These styles of Lolita are based around certain motifs that often connect to the substyles above. They are different from substyles in that they are themed around a certain profession or persona, with a more limited color palette and coording capability in comparison to the broader substyles.

Sailor Lolita

Sailor Lolita is a form of Lolita style incorporating Nautical and Sailor themes. This can include sailor collars and ties, sailor hats, and stripes.

Hime Lolita

Hime Lolita (or Princess Lolita) is a Lolita substyle featuring royal and elegant themes. The style takes inspiration from the Hime Gyaru fashion while still keeping the Lolita silhouette. It gets its inspiration from the Rococo period, which is known for extravagance and elegance. Common themes are miniature crowns, pearls, lace gloves, and high heels. Sometimes the dresses may be shorter than most Lolita dresses.

Guro Lolita

Guro Lolita is a style of Lolita that focuses less on sweetness or elegance and more on horror. Blood splatters, bandages, eye patches, and fake bruises are all common themes in Guro Lolita. The idea of the 'broken doll' look is a running theme.

Outfits are usually white and splattered in fake blood. Accessories may include medical themes, such as pendants shaped like syringes. Despite its gore and horror theme, it still retains its theme of innocence and doll-like look. An alternative to a blood-splattered dress is to be bandaged up.

Ero Lolita

Ero Lolita is a style of Lolita that focuses on outfits with a slight eroticism. It is considered a controversial style since a lot of unfamiliar people with the style of Lolita fashion may get it wrong. This style contains more fetish elements such as leather, collars, and corsets that one may not be able to pull off in any other Lolita style while still maintaining a fair amount of modesty. Skirts for this style may be a little shorter than usual, but nothing overly provocative.

Wa Lolita

Wa Lolita is a style inspired by traditional Japanese dress. Wa Lolita involves long ‘sode’ or, sleeves, and ‘obi’ or sashes taken from Kimono/yukata outfits, and fused with the bell-shaped skirt of lolita. Wa Lolita fabrics are usually very detailed, involving traditional Japanese art style. Traditional Japanese Kanzashi or flower hair clips are often worn with this style in the place of a Lolita head-dress.

Qi Lolita

Qi Lolita is inspired by traditional Chinese dress like the Qipao or Hanfu. Skirts are often panelled or slit-like a qipao. Bodices will also usually be modeled after a qipao, with a keyhole neckline and frog closures. Fabrics can be traditional Chinese prints or even more Victorian brocades. Traditional Chinese hair dressings and makeup pair well with this style.

Natural Lolita

Natural Lolita, also known as Mori Lolita, is the combination of Lolita fashion with Mori Girl which revolves around natural and vintage materials. The name and style were first coined by the brand MiELette Tautou.

Military Lolita

Military Lolita is a sub-style of Lolita that uses military themes in the Lolita fashion. Please note that some coords resemble Nazi and fascist uniforms and using replicas of real military medals is disrespectful to real soldiers.

Steam Lolita

Steam Lolita is the combination of Lolita fashion with Steampunk fashion which is a western-style that revolves around a futuristic victorian era.

Pirate Lolita

Pirate Lolita is a style popularized by the brand Alice and the Pirates. Similar to Sailor Lolita with its Nautical themes, but includes classic pirate accessories including swords, tricorn hats, long-coats, treasure chests, eyepatches, parrots, etc.

Cyber Lolita

Cyber Lolita is the combination of Lolita fashion with Cybergoth which revolves around futuristic imagery. Its visuals are often similar to Ero Lolita.

Nun Lolita

Nun Lolita is a theme that uses nun-style clothes that are often sold by Gothic Lolita brands.

Nurse Lolita

Nurse Lolita is a style of Lolita that is very much inspired by hospital imagery and generally falls under Guro Lolita.

Hijab Lolita

Hijab Lolita is a term used to describe the outfits of Hijabi, women who wear the Muslim head-covering, that follow Lolita fashion.

Shiro/Kuro Lolita

Shiro and Kuro Lolita are monochromatic styles of coordinate. Shiro means white and kuro means black. These coordinate styles are often done together to contrast with each other.

Kuro Lolita is the Lolita fashion of an all-black outfit and no other colors, while Shiro Lolita is the total color opposite, focusing on a Lolita coordinate done all in white. Like Kuro, hair does not need to be white, small accessories may be another color for added impact so long as almost all of the outfit is white, and most Shiro Lolita outfits tend to fit with the Sweet Lolita style.

Casual Lolita

Casual Lolita is a more toned-down version of the fashion, while still retaining the basic Lolita elements. It is very hard to put together a nice Casual Lolita outfit unless you have years of experience or are a natural at it.

Old-School Lolita

Old-School Lolita is the old (90s, early 2000s) version of lolita fashion. It is visually very different from modern lolita, so it is often referred to as a separate sub-style. Compared to lolita now, it was more "frumpy". Fabrics were often solid, tartan, or gobelin. Petticoats, matching, and a full coord of lolita pieces were unnecessary. Old school lolita is still frequently worn in this day and age, much to the delight of nostalgic veterans.

Deco Lolita

Deco Lolita, also known as OTT Lolita in the west, refers to Lolita outfits with an excessive amount of decoration. This style decorates the whole outfit from head-to-toe with a high amount of accessories, such as hair clips, ribbons, bracelets, and various other layers.

Boystyle

Boystyle, also known as Ouji, Dandy, or Kodona depending on the substyle, is a Japanese street fashion which, like Aristocrat, is frequently associated with Lolita; it is not considered a Lolita style but shares many aesthetics with Lolita since it is the masculine counterpart of the style. Despite being the male equivalent of Lolita, Boystyle can be worn by people of all genders, just as Lolita can be. It can feature a lot of elements such as flowers, makeup, and accessories, which are not seen as typically masculine, but can also have just as many substyles as lolita (e.g. sweet, gothic, classic, and more).

Clothing Brands

Japanese brands that manufacture Lolita clothing. Main brands are regarded as brands that have been around the longest and/or hold the highest value within the lolita community.

Main brands

Other brands/Indie brands


Media

This list contains both works that either depicts Lolitas or have the aesthetics related with the fashion. Many animes that do not revolve around the values and related aesthetics of the fashion are included in this list, as multiple Western Lolitas discovered the fashion through Japanese media's (often inaccurate) representations of a few Lolita characters.

Anime

  • The Rose of Versailles (1979) Anime adaptation of a manga
  • The Mystic Archives of Dantalian, an anime adaptation of a manga. Costume designs for the show were done by Baby, the Stars Shine Brights' subbrand Alice and the Pirates and physical clothing items inspired by the shows' characters were released as well.
  • Rozen Maiden, an anime adaptation of a manga. The "Rozen Maidens" in the series wear a variety of Lolita substyles.
  • Gosick, an anime adaptation of a light novel series. The main character, Victorique de Blois, wears outfits reminiscent of Lolita fashion.

Artists

Books

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Kamikaze Girls by Novala Takemoto. The book was later adapted into a film and manga.
  • So Pretty/Very Rotten by Jane Mai, An Nguyen, and Novala Takemoto. The book is a series of essays, comics, and illustrations that celebrates and criticizes Lolita culture

Manga

  • Plant Dolls (1995)
  • The Rose of Versailles (1972)
  • The Mystic Archives of Dantalian
  • Rozen Maiden

Movies

  • Kamikaze Girls (2004)

Music

  • Bonjour Suzuki
  • Malice Mizer


Outside Japan

Outside Japan, Lolita fashion has gained a strong foothold. Most lolitas gather together to form communities with other lolitas close to them. These communities gather together and wear the fashion in meetups, where they can enjoy the company of others who wear the same interests. Lolita communities also have a huge online presence, allowing people in rural areas to communicate, trade, and sell.

The style is not mass-marketed outside Japan, though small stores have emerged. Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, and Angelic Pretty both operate stores in Paris and San Francisco. Numerous indie brands and resellers have popped up all over the world. The Chinese site Taobao hosts scores of lolita retailers who are can sell their designs internationally with shopping services like Spreenow. The lolita secondhand market is booming on sites like LaceMarket and Facebook Marketplace.


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