Today is my birthday, and I thought today would be a good day to do a little blog post about my lolita beginnings. I’m 22 as of today, and I was 19 when I wore my first coord, but I’ve been in love with lolita fashion since I was 15. I already did a post on the picture that first made me fall in love with lolita, but this is where I’ll share my full story.
Basically, I got into lolita through trying to find out stuff about goth. I had loved the goth aesthetic for ages by the time I was 14, but only certain things. I was trying to figure out why I really loved some things that were labeled “goth” and really hated others, so I turned to the almighty internet to answer my questions. (This was before I realized that marketing people could label things whatever in order to drive up sales, you understand.) I searched and searched for answers the summer I turned 15, but I didn’t know how to search for what I wanted. Instead of finding goth substyles (I think my life would be very different if I’d found any information about Romantigoth), I found styles that were somehow related to goth, like punk and gothic lolita.
Now, gothic lolita spoke to me in a way that nothing before ever had. Here, I thought, was a way to reconcile all the conflicting ideas I had about the aesthetic that I kept trying to love, but could never quite manage to really do wholeheartedly, and a confused sense of femininity. It may seem a bit crass to talk about, but it’s important to say that I’ve had very large breasts since I was very young. They are/were always well out of the standard deviation that regular clothing was meant to fit. As a result, from the age of 12 or so, I was left with two options by mainstream clothing: I could look frumpy and lost in ill-fitting clothing that I thought was hideous anyway, or I could dress in a very sexual/sexualized way. I was very uncomfortable looking sexual at that age, and I’d already been dealing with older boys — and older men, even — looking at me and talking to me like I was some sex object that they could conquer (even though I wore baggy clothes and have a really young-looking face!). This was way before I had ever come across anything that would even suggest that this behavior was not okay — even if I had been as old/sexually mature as they apparently thought I was — and so I just felt very sad and isolated. None of my friends dealt with this, and they were all able to physically fit and look nice in clothing that reflected their growing senses of style and identity.
I wanted to look cute and feminine (not sexual), but it felt like mainstream clothing had no options for me. I can’t even imagine how hard that struggle is for young girls now, because I’m always very concerned when I see how sexualized most clothing seems to be that’s marketed at little girls.
(A brief note here: there is absolutely nothing wrong with being or looking sexual, if it’s what you want. There is everything wrong with being or looking sexual when it isn’t your choice and is forced or projected upon you by other people.)
When I found gothic lolita and oldschool lolita (at the time, I lumped the two together under gothic lolita, which I thought was the only style of lolita), I was overwhelmed. The girls wearing this fashion looked both absolutely beautiful while also looking completely and totally weird. They looked like they were dressing for themselves, and I got the idea from all the pictures I saw that these girls felt beautiful in these clothes. They had hardly any skin showing. They were all in dresses or skirts and covered in so many markers of femininity. (A lot of them had big curly hair, too, which was an entirely separate personal issue for me.) These girls’ aesthetic was exactly what I had been searching for: something that was delicate and feminine, and also dark with gothic tones.
I tried to go all in, but my clothing didn’t change really. I obsessed over pictures of lolitas I found online, I consistently checked out and re-checked out the first four Gothic & Lolita Bibles from my library. I tried to figure out the sewing patterns in the back of the mooks to be able to make my own lolita clothing. I took tons of internet quizzes about what type of lolita I was (always gothic). I continued to mostly wear regular, boring clothes that didn’t fit right until I finished high school.
In high school, I made a failure of a mini bat hat, a terribad headdress, and one sad, floppy skirt that I wore once. I did not consider myself a lolita. My love of lolita did influence me through those years of high school and college. I actively tried to find dresses I liked that would fit me, which was a bit more successful than trying to find pants/shirts. I fell madly in love with black and white lolita coordinates, and I tried very hard to get as many blackxwhite options into my wardrobe. One year, I made a lolita-inspired Queen of Hearts costume for Halloween and the premier of the Tim Burton Alice movie.
The first year of college passed by like those later years of high school with no change to my clothing. I got a tumblr blog, and I discovered all these amazing lolitas that shared their pictures on tumblr instead of on egl. I fell in love all over again with lolita, although I was horrified at what had happened to sweet lolita since the original G&L Bible publication dates. At the start of sophomore year, I decided that I wanted that to change. I felt like it was time for me to start becoming my own adult and to start looking the way I wanted to look. Also, I no longer lived with my parents, so it wasn’t like it would matter if they disapproved of my clothing choices anymore. After watching several tutorials, spending a lot of money at Jo-ann’s, and getting my own personal sewing machine, I made my first skirt.
It wasn’t gothic or oldschool, but I loved the fabric. I scraped by with just enough fabric to finish the skirt, but it was a mess on the inside. I had attempted to line it because I felt that all “real” lolita skirts were lined, and that was a badly executed failure. I only managed to do the ruffle because something was off with the tension of my machine and it kept sewing unevenly. Lucky me! I didn’t use interfacing for the waistband because I thought I didn’t need it. (I was wrong.) I knew that it was a happy accident that I was able to make a skirt at all, but I was so proud of this thing. I still am, even though I’ve come a lot farther in my sewing ability.
Even though I was limited to thrift stores for the other components of a coord, I don’t really think I had an ita phase, which I suppose is the benefit of having to wait a long time before you can dress in a certain style. All those years of pining prepare you a little bit for when you finally dive in. I definitely had plain coords — and one very bad outfit that isn’t even lolita, but I labeled it that anyway — but I think that they were nice anyway. I made an outfit tumblr to serve as a diary/archive of my progress with the fashion.
Confession time: I used the underskirt (made from an old, white sheet) from my Queen of Hearts costume as a petticoat for ages. It didn’t really work. I tried to make a “proper” petticoat out of crinoline, but that was a disaster and a waste of money.
At some point, I went to my first meet, but I showed up late and didn’t really get to know any of the girls. That put a damper on my drive for lolita, but then I discovered Fanplusfriend. (I’d known about Bodyline, but I didn’t like how any of their items looked in their stock photos.) I hosted a group order — and that was all manner of stress — and I was finally able to get a skirt that actually fit the aesthetic I loved.
This skirt. This was the one. It fit me wonderfully well, it was beautiful, and it has its own poof so that it actually looked fluffy if I was wearing my “petticoat” under it. Wearing this skirt, I finally felt like I thought I would when wearing lolita. It sounds cheesy, but it was like a magical girl transformation for me. This is the skirt that solidified my love for lolita and really started me on my journey.
Since purchasing this skirt, I’ve made more lolita clothes by hand, continued to haunt thrift stores without expecting any success, purchased Bodyline, purchased secondhand brand, participated in a Taobao group order (where I got my first real petticoat from Classical Puppets), and also bought a JSK directly from BABY. More importantly than just buying a whole lot of stuff, I’ve become better at coordination. I’m also much better at sewing, which makes me happy because the emphasis early lolitas especially had on making their own clothes was a big draw for me into the fashion. I also have solidified my style more so that I don’t make mistake impulse purchases. I’ve established a budget that enables me to indulge in my lolita frivolity without it ever taking money away from something “important.” I’ve gone to a few more meets and have gotten to know some of the girls in my local community.
I know that I can still improve (and I feel confident that I will continue improving) but I’m very happy with how my lolita journey has turned out so far.
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What I find ironic about all this is that I had a good, dear friend back in middle school who adored Mana and Malice Mizer, and she showed me pictures of him all the time and would make me mixed CDs with their music and other Japanese anime/videogame music. It never clicked that he was wearing something I wanted to wear. Then again, I still don’t like the Moite look most of the time, so I guess it was never meant to be.
I hope you enjoyed reading about how I got into lolita. Do you remember how you were introduced to the fashion? When did you start trying to dress in lolita? Please share your stories in the comments!