This back-to-school season has me thinking about how I spent my last two semesters at my undergraduate university. I figured I’d share the classes I took since I love looking at other people’s schedules. Please keep in mind that I obviously didn’t take any of these classes because I thought they would give me “lifestyler points” or anything like that. I’m American, and I majored in English Writing (fiction), I minored in German Language and Studio Arts, and I got a certificate in Children’s Literature. I had a very diverse course load as a result, along with some wiggle room in my schedule.
My Last Year
- Indo-European Folktales (a fairy tale course in the German department)
- Painting 1
- Senior Seminar in Fiction Writing
- 19th Century British Literature
- Basic Japanese Language 1
- Ballroom Dancing 1
- Russian Fairy Tales
- Drawing 1
- Costume Design 1 (the only theater course I ever took)
- Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature
- Basic Japanese Language 2
I really loved how eclectic my last year was, and I adored all my classes. I put in 100% of my effort into all these courses, and it was probably the most rewarding year of my undergraduate career. Besides taking more literature and writing courses, I was able to start learning a new language, work on my artistic skills, learn about fairy tales and their importance to cultures around the world, and learn how to waltz. These are things that I will carry with me all through life. Plus, I was able to learn enough Japanese to justify a trip to Japan as my graduation present to myself.
* * *
If you have extra room in your college schedule, or if you’re not in college but have some time to take classes somewhere, you could consider taking a lolita-esque course. I love learning, and I’m always trying to discover new things. If you’re looking for a way to get more old-fashioned or lolita hobbies in your life, you could look at taking any number of appropriate classes. I broke some of them up into categories below.
I go into detail about three specific languages below, but you can really take any language if you have a personal connection to it or feel it’s lolita-esque in some way. You could take German because you like the sentimentality of The Sorrows of Young Werther, the German bisque doll makers, the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales, or the works of German composers. You could take Chinese to be able to handle Taobao better or get a better understanding of kanji. I don’t personally see a connection between lolita and Swahili, but you might, and you might enjoy learning that language. Ultimately, learning a new language in itself is a wonderful thing to do, and the process in and of itself always reminds me of times gone by.
You probably already know English if you’re reading my blog, but you may be using Google Translate. (Welcome, any non-English readers!) If you don’t already know English, it’s probably one of the most “lolita” languages that there is. So much of lolita fashion is inspired by Victorian fashions, but lolita is also hugely influenced by Lewis Carol’s 1865 novel Alice in Wonderland (although the visuals of the Disney 1951 animated movie might be a lot more influential than the text). I am a huge fan of Victorian literature, and I highly recommend reading those novels (untranslated). If you still don’t believe me that English is a lolita language, look at lolita brand names: Angelic Pretty, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright, Alice and the Pirates, Innocent World, etc.
If you already know English, you could push yourself and your appreciation of the language by taking a poetry or writing class.
Remember how lolita is extremely influenced by the Victorian era? Well, French was the language to know in the 1800s. A good education in Victorian England always included French, and the Russian aristocracy spoke French almost exclusively. Whether you think lolita fashion is inspired by Rococo fashion or not, the elegance and opulence of the era have certainly impacted our views on the clothing and associated lifestyles. Also, there is no denying that Marie Antionette herself is a major lolita inspiration. For those of you who like the look of antique porcelain dolls and like to emulate that look with lolita, the French were one of the major manufacturers/craftsmen during the peak of bisque dolls’ popularity. Let’s not forget the brands that love French, too: Metamorphose temps de Fille, Moi-même-Moitié, Atelier Pierrot, Juliette et Justine, etc.
If you like fairy tales, then you can read Charles Perrault’s fairy tales that were written down and adapted about 200 years before the Grimms started their work.
For a street fashion that originated in Japan, is there really a more appropriate language than Japanese? Besides helping you out a lot if you ever plan to go to Japan for a lolita holiday, I found knowing some Japanese was just useful for navigating brand websites. I also enjoy anime and Studio Ghibli movies, and it’s very fun for me to be able to pick out words and phrases I know or hear a more nuanced and layered meaning that I can’t get just by reading the subtitles. Even if you hate anime, you can do the same thing with Kamikaze Girls. For me, Lolita will always come back to Victorian England, and there was a huge Victorian interest in Japan and all things “Oriental,” so you might learn a bit of the language as a historical homage if you’re not interested in anything modern from Japan outside lolita.
For those of you who like things that are specifically feminine, you might really like Japanese. There are many different styles of speech in Japanese, but one of the big divisions is that there is a distinct difference between feminine speech and masculine speech (much more so than in English, where “talking like a lady” generally means “don’t swear”). Also, hiragana used to be “women’s writing,” and it was used for personal correspondences among women of the court. I think hiragana is also just lovely to look at, although I have a really hard time writing in it.
Taking a class is a great way to jump-start a new hobby. If you’re looking for something new you can do with your free time, consider taking a class that will teach you something you think is useful or wonderful.
Drawing and Painting
Drawing sketches and making watercolor paintings was a major pastime of gentry women, and it’s a great hobby if you’re looking for something that allows you to take some time out of your day and slow down. You might not want to wear your finest brand or prints that run while working with watercolors, but that should be easy to avoid. Learning how to draw can also help you if you like to design your own handmade clothes, or you can make beautiful drawings of your coordinates and use those drawings to help plan new ones.
I took college courses in drawing, painting, and costume design (which helped my figure drawing), and these courses will probably not focus on painting a lovely rose garden or sketching a bowl of fruit, and they will probably include abstract styles that may or may not interest you. The good thing about these courses is that they will get you to experiment with different materials, even if you’re not interested in the projects. Then, later, you can draw and paint whatever you want with the techniques you learned.
Piano is the standard for Western instruments, and I’ve heard that learning piano is the easiest way to learn how to read music and understand music theory. However, I’m more interested in the social history of the piano and how playing the piano was an essential skill for educated women to have. It’s easy to imagine why learning how to play the piano was thought to make a girl more marriageable when you consider that there was no passive way to enjoy music before the radio. If you wanted to unwind at the end of the day, someone had to sing or play an instrument. There were lots of restrictions placed on musical women throughout time (playing a wind instrument was considered scandalous, as was playing a cello or a percussion instrument, and some regions would not allow women to sing in public/in front of men), but piano was supposed to be demure enough for women to play. This probably also had something to do with the fact that the piano is played while sitting.
While learning any instrument would have about the same modern value as learning to play the piano, I find piano lessons and classes much more easily than I find other instruments, except perhaps guitar.
Ballroom or Historical Dance
Dancing was an extremely important part of social etiquette, and balls were major social events. I feel like dancing is one of the areas of our modern life that has changed the most, and knowing how to do ballroom dances is a thing most people learn specifically for weddings. These dances are lovely, tons of fun, and a perfect thing to do while wearing lolita.
This is a more difficult skill to develop than some of these other ones because it generally requires a partner, but that’s why taking a dance class is great. It guarantees you a partner while you’re learning. If you have a significant other or a friend that wants to take a dance class with you, then everything is going to be a lot more fun. My university and local community college both offer ballroom dance, but you can normally find lessons in clubs or dance studios, too.
Sewing, Crocheting, Knitting, Millinery
I think being able to add handmade touches to your lolita wardrobe is an incredible thing, and learning these sorts of skills will let you do that. From a historical standpoint, I feel that sewing and crafting in general gives me a connection to the women who came before me and always had a box or basket of sewing work or made their families clothes. Plus, I really like that I know how to sew; it’s given me a much deeper appreciation for textiles and quality garments.
You might have trouble finding millinery classes near you, but my city’s public library system has tons of knitting and crocheting classes and clubs that welcome beginners. Once you know how to start with any of these hobbies, there are tons of free tutorials online to help you develop your skills and learn new projects. Knitting/crocheting is a hobby I would like to have just so I could be working on something I like while relaxing and hanging out with my boyfriend in the living room or watching Netflix.
If you’re not looking for a new hobby and don’t have the time to learn a language, you can take a general course in various fields that might be a part of the lifestyle you want to live.
Music or Art History
Pick and era that inspires you, and then take a music history or an art history class that focuses on that era. You can learn the history of the development of Baroque art and its characteristics, and also learn to identify pieces and artists. You can be inspired by vintage fashion and take a course on jazz music.
I really liked the art history and music classes I took during undergrad, but I know a lot of people hate these classes. It’s true that there is a lot of memorization of names and dates involved, but you learn so much. Maybe I really like these classes because none of their content was ever included in my before-college curricula, and I feel like cultural history is something everyone should be aware of. After taking these classes, I feel like I just have a better appreciation for what I see when I visit museums or hear when I listen to “classical music” playlists on Youtube.
Fairy Tales or Children’s Literature
My university had many courses that focused on children’s literature or fairy tales. I loved whenever I was able to take one of these classes because I was able to revisit familiar stories and books and notice things that had gone over my head as a child. It’s sort of the same feeling as when I re-watch a movie I loved back in childhood as an adult for the first time.
If this is an area of interest to you, you might also like to learn more about it in a formal class setting. I learned a lot about how childhood has been understood and thought about throughout cultures and time from taking children’s literature classes, and I loved that the fairy tale courses I took introduced me to a wealth of new stories that I hadn’t heard before (like the one that inspired this JetJ JSK).
* * *
So, readers, have you ever taken a class that you would consider lolita or appropriate to your lifestyle? What was it? Are there any classes you think I should have specified in my list? Let me know in the comments below!