October 20, 2021 7 min read
In the Harajuku district, lolitas and their ruffled dresses stroll through the streets of Tokyo.
The Lolita style is an elegant and refined clothing trend, looking like Victorian dolls. This childish look consists of puffy clothes, lace and many accessories. More than just a simple trend, the lolita fashion style is a subculture in Japan that follows very precise dress codes.
Discover our tips on how to adopt this kawaii style, as well as its many variations.
Ruffled dresses, puffy skirts, lace blouses and pastel pink colors... Lolitas do not go unnoticed in Tokyo.
Lolita fashion has its roots in the alternative culture as did the punk movement. In the 1980s young Japanese people with unconventional looks would gather in the streets of Harajuku, a fashion-forward district of Tokyo. Their extravagant style of dressing aroused curiosity and was the subject of photo exhibitions. These pictures were exported to the West to illustrate the Japanese street fashion.
Among the different trends of urban fashion in Tokyo, the Lolita look emerged in the Land of the Rising Sun. Later, as several brands of clothing for teenage girls and young Japanese women were inspired by this trend, the whole world followed suit.
This style was inspired by the Victorian era and 18th century Western fashion, with Rococo and Baroque influences including elegant skirts, lace, ruffles and ribbons. Outfits were based on children's clothing and accessories such as strappy shoes, knee-length skirts, and of course, the bow in the hair. The aim is to look like a pretty and innocent porcelain doll.
At the origin of this subculture was a protest movement in response to the oppressive attitude of Japanese society towards women. Young Japanese women were expected to marry and become mothers quickly. In response, the Lolita style expresses the desire not to become a woman and the refusal to bend to the social norm through a childish and modest clothing style.
To adopt the Lolita look, you must respect some dress codes. Because when you're new to this style, you might easily fall short and be labeled as an "Ita Lolita" - the biggest insult in the Lolita community.
First of all, you'll need to find the right clothes and accessories, not to mention the right underwear and wedges. For that, go to thrift stores and find nice retro models at lower prices. You can also go shopping in clothing stores or order directly from the Internet if you have a bigger budget. The keywords are elegance and refinement.
The must-have piece of the Lolita style is, without a doubt, the puffy dress. 👗 Opt for a skater skirt that is cinched at the waist and flares out at the bottom to create the illusion of wearing a petticoat. Regarding the length, it should reach the knee or slightly above. Floral patterns, lace and ruffles are a must.
Pair your skirt or dress with a pretty white lace blouse. Prefer a model with long sleeves and a Claudine collar for a wise and elegant look.
To avoid making a fashion faux pas and turning into an Ita Lolita, simply avoid cheap clothes and fabrics used for disguises. Instead, always opt for lace and quality fabrics. If you're just starting out, the black and white combo is a no-go, as it's way too cliché.
Get yourself a pair of knee-high or mid-thigh length tights or socks. Once again, lace and ribbons are perfect.
If possible, wear a petticoat or a crinoline to add volume to your skirt or dress. In Japan, girls wear bloomers (a sort of long panties) under their petticoats for modesty's sake.
The choice of the shoes is also important. Keep the wise look of little model girls of the past in mind. You can opt for platform shoes with a Mary Jane or Babies style strap or heeled boots. Ballerinas with a rounded toe and Rocking Horse Shoes are also great options. Don't forget the bows and ribbons that go up on the ankle.
Choose simple hairstyles worthy of your most beautiful dolls. Pigtails, curls or straight hair. Don't hesitate to wear a wig to get the desired effect quickly without damaging your hair. Go for a nice fringe and don't forget the headband with a big bow to hold your mane. You can add some barrettes or flowers to accessorize your hairstyle. The Lolita fashion style also values small hats or berets.
Lolitas love to wear an umbrella to protect themselves from sunrays. 🌂 They also wear cuffs or lace gloves for a more sophisticated look.
In Tokyo, they occasionally wear dolls, stuffed animals or sweets to accentuate the childish side. Heart-shaped or bow-adorned handbags and clutches are also common Lolita style accessories.
Be careful with the makeup, as it should look natural. No need to overdo it. Just powder your face with white to get a porcelain complexion. The look will be soft and the complexion fresh.
The Lolita style itself comes in several genres: gothic, classic, sweet, punk...
Each style corresponds to a personality and conveys different values. It's up to you to find yours!
The focus here is on the kawaii side. The look is particularly childish with puffy outfits adorned with ruffles, lace and teddy bear, flower or candy motifs. Sweet Lolita is recognized by its pastel colors such as powder pink, light blue and white. Accessories such as plush, umbrellas, bows, ribbons, headbows or hats are used. The childhood universe is omnipresent. 🍭
This style inspired by the Victorian era is easier to wear, because it is a little less extravagant than the others. Dresses have less ruffles and frills and the tones are more sober (brown, old pink, beige...). The Classic Lolita is suitable for women who are a little more mature.
Between black magic and enchantment, this style is adorned with dark colors and lace. Black dominates with punctuation of white, purple or red. The Gothic Lolita style features Western symbols of cross and skull ☠️ while keeping the naive side of childhood (bows, puffy dress ...) The Elegant gothic on the other hand, is a more refined style that claims the use of the corset. Lastly, the Elegant gothic aristocrat is distinguished by the wearing of the collar and the Jabot.
The girls who adopt this style wear outfits with fruity patterns. They follow the same dress codes as the sweet lolitas but with more acidic colors and cherry, strawberry or watermelon patterns... 🍓
Ideal for summer, the Country Lolita is dressed in country patterns and straw accessories 👒 such as hats and baskets.
The Punk Lolita style can be recognized by its ripped clothes and plaid-like patterns that counterbalance the refined and wise style of the lolita.
This is a mix of traditional Japanese clothing and the Lolita style. Ruffled skirts are paired with a kimono top 👘 or a yukata embellished with an obi. Wa Lolita women often wear red, white and black.
This is a discreet Lolita look that can be adapted to everyday wear, however the dress codes are definitely present. Although minimalist, this style adopts the outfits, accessories and patterns of the Lolita.
These are school uniforms, inspired by Lolita fashion and Victorian influences. Featuring trapeze skirts, adorned with ruffles and bows in a vintage, very schoolgirl style. 👩🎓
As you can see, there are many different Lolita styles. Maybe you'll also hear about Guro, Pirate, Hime, Kuro, Aka, Shiro, Sailor, Ero and Cyber styles... each of them as wacky as the other. Naturally, these clothing styles are not to be confused with Japanese cosplay.
As we saw earlier, the Lolita movement is a gentle protest against the traditional and conservative culture that reigns in Japan. In Europe, it represents a refusal of violence and hypersexualization of women.
More than just a fashion phenomenon, the trend does not stop at clothes and we even talk about the Lolita Lifestyle. It is a whole way of being and thinking based on values of generosity, pacifism and romanticism.
Thus, under her wise girl appearance, the lolita advocates elegance and refinement in her look as well as in her lifestyle. She aspires to artistic activities such as drawing, singing or music. Likewise, she religiously practices the tea ceremony and likes to cook pastries.
Sociable and creative, lolita's get together at tea parties... They also like to surround themselves with artists by organizing events. Sometimes, the lolita makes her own outfits thanks to her sewing skills. Her bible: The novels of Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll and A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Tea Party organized by the association French Café. Source Flickr.
In everyday life, it is not always easy being a Lolita and even less if you are in Europe. Stares in the street can be hard to bear. Besides, it is a different way of life that is not always well understood.
The first thing to do when you are new to the Lolita world is to identify the Lolita style that appeals to you the most. To do so, you can identify the major brands on the Internet and research the different trends that exist.
If you are not used to wearing an atypical style, we recommend you to go gradually. Start with a discreet Lolita style by opting for an outfit consisting of a classic floral skater dress or a bell skirt paired with a white blouse, and some minimalist accessories. You can then invest in a petticoat and other more elaborate pieces in order to achieve the desired look.
To immerse yourself in the world and the offbeat culture of this style, you may join Lolita communities.
Lastly, if you want to organize a Lolita tea party with your girlfriends, the easiest way is to use social networks like our good old Facebook.
Now that you know all the subtleties of the Lolita fashion style, from the origins to the dress codes, culture and lifestyle: you have all the ingredients to become a perfect Lolita. So, treat yourself by immersing yourself in this magical universe.
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