Thursday, 30 December 2010

Gothic and Lolita

Japan has its own Goth scene, which is relatively small compared to the large Goth communities in countries such as America, England, and Germany, and lacks the popularity of other Japanese alt cultures such as Lolita. As I have mentioned Lolita briefly in previous posts, I thought I should expand on it a little and explain myself a little better.

Lolita is a fashion community whose followers enjoy appearing reminiscent of Victorian children or porcelain dolls. It is usually a modest style, and Wikipedia claims that it developed partly to combat the growing exposure of the body in today's society - although there is a subset of the style, ero Loli, where the focus is on appearing 'sexy' rather than 'cute' or 'elegant'.

Within Lolita, there is a strong emphasis on DIY - many Lolitas make their own clothes and accessories, although there are also many Lolita-centric brands such as Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, Angelic Pretty, Victorian Maiden and Metamorphose temps de fille.

Like Goth, Lolita involves several subgenres or substyles, each characterised by its unique twist on Lolita fashion. I will describe a few of them here, but it would probably take me all day to list all of the subsets associated with Lolita!

Source: Google Images
Gothic Lolita is influenced by Victorian, Goth and Rococo fashions, and like other styles of Lolita can usually be recognised by the bell-shaped skirt and puffed sleeves. Unlike styles such as Sweet Lolita, Gothic Lolita outfits are generally comprised of dark colours such as black, burgundy and purple, although white is also often seen. Make-up can be either soft and natural, or more dramatic, incorporating black eyeliner and red lipstick, although it is rarely if ever as heavy as the make-up looks seen within Goth.

Goth Loli is often confused with the Goth subculture - if a Japanese national talks about 'Goths', they are probably referring to Gothic Lolitas, because the Goth scene in Japan is quite small and just as misunderstood by the general populace as it is in the Western world, whereas Gothic Lolita is very popular amongst Japanese youth and often seen on the streets of Tokyo and, famously, the Harajuku district.

Sweet Lolita is the most childlike of the Lolita substyles, and common colours used are pink, white and other pastel tones. Sweet Lolita often uses cute motifs such as cupcakes, strawberries, toys, hearts and flowers. Bows, frills and ribbons - and lots of 'em - are used, as well as bonnets and bows. Accessories may include bags shaped like soft toys, e.g. teddy bears, or may have a 'princess' theme, such as a crown-shaped handbag.

Classic Lolita is a more 'grown-up' style of Lolita, using inspiration from Baroque and Regency styles. It is simpler in style, and may feature A-line or empire-waisted garments. It is less whimsical and more functional than many of the Lolita styles, and may also suit those of taller or broader stature (for example, wide shoulders) due to its general lack of ruffles and more classic lines.

Punk Lolita unsurprisingly adds punk elements to Lolita fashion, such as safety pins, ripped clothing, chains, ties and heavy boots.

Other Lolita fashions include:

Casual Lolita - a simpler, toned-down version of the style
Wa Lolita - combining traditional Japanese clothing styles with Lolita fashion
Qi Lolita - like Wa Lolita, but using traditional Chinese clothing
Hime, or Princess, Lolita - a princess-themed look based upon the European aristocratic style
Gore Lolita - the portrayal of a 'broken doll', incorporating fake blood and bandages to give the appearance of injury
Country Lolita - derived from Sweet Lolita, incorporating gingham, straw baskets and hats to reflect rural themes
Sailor Lolita - nautical-themed, inspired by Japanese sailor uniforms
Elegant Gothic Lolita and Elegant Gothic Aristocrat - terms coined by Mana of the Visual Kei bands Moi Dix Mois and Malice Mizer to describe his Moi-Meme-Moitie fashion lines. EGL applies to Gothic Lolita styles; EGA is considered to be more androgynous and 'mature'.

Whereas in the Goth scene 'weekenders' (those who only get Gothed up at weekends or for Gothy events) can often be frowned upon or considered 'tourists', Lolitas generally do not turn out in full-on frills and petticoats every day. However, a few Lolitas do choose to live a 'Lolita lifestyle', adopting elegant behaviour and mannerisms and the etiquette of a historial time period, usually the Victorian era.

Rather than having a thriving club scene like Goth, Lolitas often socialise via meet-ups, arranged between different Lolita mini-communities such as those living in a particular area or members of a particular online forum.

Can you be a Goth and a Lolita? Certainly. Many Goths, although they may not consider themselves part of the Lolita community, dabble in or have an interest in Lolita-inspired fashion (particularly Gothic Lolita, surprise surprise), and there are definitely some common elements between the two subcultures - elaborate and beautiful clothing; attention to detail; accessories such as parasols, crosses, mini top hats and lace gloves; aspiration towards elegance; appreciation of beauty and a certain theatrical flair. No small wonder that a fair few people have an affiliation with both scenes.

Interestingly, within the Lolita community some prejudice against Goths has been known - possibly due to the fact that Lolita's current international popularity has led to many Goths borrowing from Lolita fashion without any knowledge or understanding of the style? OpiateVampire has written a post on this, which you may like to read here.

The Lolita subculture has no particular music genre, unlike Goth, although it is commonly associated with Visual Kei (more on this at a later date) bands such as Malice Mizer, Moi Dix Mois, Dir En Grey, Alice Nine and D'espairs Ray. RazorBladeKisses, a Gothic rock band, often appear clad in Gothic Lolita fashions; and the band Aural Vampire, who have toured with The Birthday Massacre, also wear Gothic Lolita-inspired clothing. Numerous Japanese pop artists also adopt a Lolita-inspired visual theme, such as Kanon Wakeshima, Nana Kitade (who is also a Gothic Lolita fashion designer) and Kalefina.

Listening to: Melt - I:Scintilla


Laurence 'The Beard' Williams said...

I was always fascinated by those outfits. When I was younger I remember watching anime series such as Cardcaptors, and wondering who the duece would wear that kind of stuff in real life. Then I learned more about Gothic Lolita, and I have the say the outfits are truly amazing pieces of craftsmanship. I love anything that draws inspiration for the Victorian era, so Gothic Lolita is ok by me :)

I've just read that article, and I find that any form of prejudice comes from mere elitism. Gothic lolita and regular goth share, mostly, the same ideals, interests and aesthetics, so there really shouldn't be any friction. Just my opinion mind.

Another band you might want to investigate is Versailles. I only know some vahue info about them, but when I looked them up their style was definately lolita inspired. Definately worth a look.

Thank you again for a great article :)

Regards, the Beard

Stefanie said...

I do remember coming across a website years ago which detailed different styles of Lolita and had tons of pictures of each, I remember my favourite was Punk Loli :D

Anonymous said...

If I was a bit younger I would go all out steampunk fashion.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say that Lolita crosses over many styles of clothing. If anything, the most common thing is the silhouette. the silhouette and make up makes a Lolita.
I could be said that goth and Lolita are definitely in the same family.

I myself dress in Gothic & Lolita and Goth clothing.

Eurofighter said...

Nowadays the Lolitas community has become too catty and arrogant to survive in - there are mostly brand whores who will spit acid if you don't follow the rules of true lolita and wear something that is not proper. What is more, the rising popularit of over-the-top sweet lolita styles has almost killed the goth-inspired looks.

For me Lolita has been an aesthetic and innocent version of goth free of any sexual messages so common and, sadly, appreciated in other goth styles. But now calling yourself Lolita involves too many rules most of which are fake as hell and seem to be an effective PR of some companies. That's why these years I dress the way I like, I still think it is lolita but call it goth so that the bitches wouldn't bite my self-esteem :))

akumaxkami said...

Eurofighter is definitely right about all the cattiness and elitism you find in the Western Lolita community these days. That's why I tend to avoid most of the big ones on LiveJournal and just stick to my own blog.

Thankfully, the OTT Sweet trend is dying and "Old School Lolita" is making a comeback, so hopefully we'll see more Gothic Lolita now too. ^_^

What I like is how easily Victorian Goth and Lolita fashion can go together. I adore the elaborate fashions of the Victorian era, but it's a LOT OF WORK putting together a great outift. With Gothic Lolita, it's a little simpler and you can still retain all the elegance.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that in the comments section there seems to be some sort of bitterness towards the "cattiness" and "brand-whoring" of the Lolita community, and that there are too many "rules" in Lolita.

Well, first of all, in every community and subculture there will always be some rude people who do nothing but gossip and bully others all day, but that does not necessarily mean that all Lolitas are like that.

Second of all, the "rules" of Lolita aren't really rules; they are for the most part what Lolita *is* and are sometimes just guidelines.

Third of all, "brand-whores" may or may not actually exist. What I mean is that the vast majority of Lolitas actually don't believe that you need brand in order to be a Lolita. Usually the ones that "spit acid" are either the elitists who take the guidelines far too literally, or the noobs who just discovered the style and want to show off how knowledgeable they are of the fashion (not that different than the occasional "gother than thou" goth). Or someone just doesn't know how to make constructive criticism.

If you do your research and you are friendly and you don't start drama, then you should do fine in the community. Also, stay away from gossip/hate sites, and stick to the main EGL community.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I thought Lolita was something very different. Oops. ^_^ I think I kinda had it mixed up with babydoll goth...

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