Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lolita Style - Alive and Living in London Ontario

When I decided to interview some of the uniquely stylish people I've met in the course of doing my blog, one of the first people that came to mind was one of the young women who appeared in this photo on my blog as part of group of friends who like to dress in the Japanese Lolita style.   Zoe, a Grade 11 high school student here in London, is a creative and self-possessed young woman, with a sweetness that is evident in her style choices.  She studies art and is an aspiring model, and volunteers with the Roller Derby leagues in London and in Woodstock.  I was curious to know more about Lolita style, and how she became a fan.

Have you always enjoyed dressing in unique outfits?

Up until around Grade 10, I was very self-conscious about what I wore and always tried to blend in.   When I got into Lolita and Rockabilly,  I would dress up all the time at school and on weekends. Now I don't dress up as often but I love to put together a simple, cute outfit for school and I leave Lolita for the weekend.  When I get enough dresses, I would love to be a lifestyle Lolita, dressing up all the time.

Zoe wearing one of her Sweet Lolita outfits.

Where did you first learn about Lolita Style, and what about it appealed to you?

I used to watch a lot of anime (Japanese animation) and I was really obsessed with Japan.  I was walking through Kensington Market in Toronto with my dad a few years ago, and found a store that sold Lolita dresses.  I fell in love with them - the prints were gorgeous and I loved how poofy and frilly the dresses were, so I had to try one on.  At that moment, I decided I wanted to wear these dresses.  I had ordered my first dress off of Ebay, and didn't really know anything about Lolita, so I thought I had the best thing ever, but later found out that it was more of a cosplay (costume play) dress than a Lolita dress.  I wore a dress from the store in Kensington Market to Anime North, when I met one of my Lolita idols, Cadney.  At the time I was so happy with my dress, but I know now that I looked ridiculous because I hadn't done my research and instead of the real deal, I had an overpriced replica that was poor quality.  At the time I was happy, and felt like I had a moment of fame, but I've since done my research.

Tell me a bit about Lolita Style

Lolita is a fashion subculture that originated in Japan during the 70's of Harajuku.  It's inspired by the Victorian and Rococo era, with a bit of 50's, and was completed with some child-like attributes. In the 90's Lolita started to be seen overseas and now there are hundreds of Lolita communities all over the world, the largest being EGL on Livejournal, which is an international community where Lolitas from all over the world can communicate. 
There are three main styles of Lolita: Sweet, Classic and GothicSweet Lolita has more cutesy prints, such as pastries, cats, flowers, fruit, and usually has a theme. The skirts of the dresses are a bell or cupcake shape, knee-length, and are very poofy.  The colour pink is a large part of Sweet LolitaGothic Lolita is the opposite of Sweet with prints that include crosses, bats and other creepy themes.  The colours are dark with a lot of black, and the dresses are either bell, or A-line shaped.  Classic Lolita is mid-way between Sweet and Gothic.  Dresses are usually a bit more modest, with a longer length and A-line shape.  The colours are more subtle than Sweet Lolita, and although some have prints, there are dresses that are solid colours and quite plain with simple ribbon or lace detail.   There are many substyles of Lolita as well, and both girls and boys dress in Lolita.

A Lolita outfit includes a headpiece (bonnet, bow, crown, etc.), a blouse, a proper dress that is big enough for petticoats, bloomers for modesty, socks and a pair of shoes.  Mary Jane shoes styles are popular.  

 This outfit on display in Zoe's room incorporates one of her favourite skirts.  She found the blouse at The Sentimentalist

Where do you get your Lolita outfits?

I buy my outfits online, but I rarely pay retail price; I always wait for sales or for something to be sold on EGL Sales, which is a Lolita sale community on Livejournal.  Lolitas from all over the world sell things there, whether it's a brand dress they are re-selling, or a dress they made.   Most of my dresses are from Innocent World, which is a Classic Lolita brand.  I make a lot of my accessories, but I don't know how to make any dresses (yet).  I also get a lot of things from vintage stores and thrift stores, and a few dresses that I have purchased at regular stores as well.  My friends in the Southern Ontario Lolita Community also trade and sell some of our dresses.

When you dress in Lolita Style, do you feel that you are taking on a different persona, or is it just another aspect of you?

This is one of my favourite parts of the fashion;  when I wear it, I feel amazing - I feel like myself!  When I am not wearing Lolita, I feel plain and boring.  I love dressing up, and every outfit I wear reflects my personality.  Sometimes when I wear Classic, I will have a big bonnet (like the one in the photo above) and be very over the top.  When I wear Sweet, I like to be a bit more subtle - I'm not a fan of the prints with teddy bears and toys. 

Zoe in a Classic Lolita Style dress

  Zoe's mother made the headpiece she's wearing

The dresses require a number of petticoats to be worn underneath to get the necessary fullness

How do strangers react to you when you are dressed in Lolita?

I've been wearing Lolita for almost two years now, and sometimes I'm still nervous to leave the house because of some situations, but there are definitely more good reactions than bad.  When our London community has meetups, we always have people staring at us.  Sometimes people will come up and ask why we are dressed this way, or ask to take our photo, and a lot of the time people won't even ask and just take photos.  (Note from me -  this is rude folks, if you want to take a photo of someone, ask them first)

I've had people yell at me and insult me when I've been dressed up, and sometimes will make rude comments about how "It's not Halloween yet".  When I am at meetups in  Toronto I take the subway and sometimes we get people asking how old we are.  I've heard some horror stories too, which scare me a bit, but over all we get so many nice comments, with people wanting to know more about the fashion so the negative comments don't frighten me away.

When I posted the photo of you and your friends dressed in their Lolita outfits, a few of my followers commented that they thought that the concept of Lolita style was creepy (we can thank Vladimir Nabokov for that) and they couldn't understand why a young woman would want to dress like a little girl

It's pretty common to hear things like that.  Lolita is very different and hard for people to understand.  We like being different and looking like dolls, but not children.  Dressing in this style does not change our ages or our views, and in no way do we feel like children.  If people find it creepy, well, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

One of Zoe's favourite hats

Has the Lolita Style aesthetic affected other aspects of your life?

It has had a big impact on my life.  I try to make everything cute - my bedroom is completely Lolita-fied!  I listen to a lot of Rococo, classical music, and music from Japan.  I have a soft spot for French culture too.  I like to go out and have tea and eat sweets.  There are a few movies from Japan in which Lolitas are the main characters, like Kamikaze Girls.  I do listen to "normal" people music and watch Hollywood movies too.   I like to craft and sew and some of my art is Lolita-inspired.

So it sounds like dressing in Lolita Style has had a positive effect on your self-confidence....

I used to have severe anxiety, and was always too nervous to dress up.  Lolita helped me gain so much more confidence and I started to feel better about myself.   When I dress up and walk around, I  kind of like the the attention I receive because it makes me feel unique and confident enough to do something so different.  Lolita makes me feel good about myself, and lets me be who I want to be.  I would never want it to be any different!

Thanks so much to Zoe for her time and willingness to share information and thoughts about her style


  1. Wow, that was interesting! I never knew there was such a specific style like that. It's nice to see pretty patterns and colors instead of logos and cleavage. And I love the bow on the bow!

  2. What an interesting, admirable young woman! Thanks for featuring her. Best of luck to her in her journey!

  3. This is a wonderful interview, thank you!! I love the way she is creative in her choices, willing to be different than the mainstream, and feeling good about herself. I also appreciate the headband her mom made. Very cool.

  4. Wow, that was interesting !

  5. What a cutie pie! Thanks for sharing her story, I have always been curious about these gals. What a joy that her age she already has a style that defines her.

  6. I love Lolita fashion and I've got a great book on that and Gothic street style in Japan. She seems really nice and I'm totally in love with all her outfits, especially the headband with antlers! You might both be interested in a post I did in November about Hyper Japan in London, I snapped loads of Lolita and Cosplay outfits! xxxx

  7. I love this interview! She really shares a slice of this fashion sub-genre and puts a (pretty) face on it. It's a way of thinking as well as a way of dressing. I appreciate the details, and the focus on quality which you'll get in a genre of style that doesn't come in and out over the months, like fast fashion, but will last for years and years. Rockabilly, punk, pin-up comes to mind. The people who get into it, are in it for most of their lives, so the clothing is usually of a high quality. I love how Lolita has trickled up, from a few Japanese teens to a world wide phenom and community. And not to mention it's very large impact on the industrial fashion world.

  8. I see them around, not too many around here, but they are so cute
    If i was 30 years younger i would wear that style!

    Ariane xx

  9. I think it's adorable. I love all the Lolita styles and clothes. That movie Kamikaze Girls was good :)
    Lovely interview!

  10. What a sweet girl. It's good to know there's a whole bunch of young folks not buying into the Old Navy/Holister fashion must haves. It's sad when the first week of Jan. rolls around and the campus looks like the Christmas Gap ad. Breath of fresh air.

  11. I like your post, very interesting and thoughful, and love that young lady attitude and cuteness!, love that she's staying confident and developing her own style in a supporting community of lolitas!

  12. What an interesting read. It's not my style at all but I'm intrigued & hugely impressed by the thought and care that goes into Lolita dressing! xxx

  13. Zoe is clearly a thoughtful young woman, and it's always good to see someone expressing themselves through the way they dress, and gaining confidence from doing so. xxx

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  15. I love hearing about someone's rise in self-esteem. We have to live with ourselves forever, we best make it good.
    Sweet photos and I love her headpieces.

  16. You were in my dream last night, darl,but I can't remember what was going on! Argh!
    O, this lassie is amazing! I love Lolita style; the Japanese are so incredibly creative! I'd love to see Zoe do a blog, it would be really inspirational.
    Excellent interview, with really well thought out questions AND responses!

  17. So gorgeous! I agree with Helga - great interview - THANK YOU Shelley!

    And I am going to make an antler floral headband STAT!!!

    Sarah xxx

  18. How cool is that headband? I find the whole Lolita thing fascinating, not my style, but great to see on other people. Great interview.

  19. I love that headband and want to make one but I live in a hunting community and could be shot. Rats!

  20. I loved reading this post - please tell Zoe that I think she looks beautiful and her skirts are fabulous. Having read quite a lot about Japanese Street Style it was nice to see Lolita fashion in a western country. I do not think Lolita is creepy at all, it is just very different and about personal expression. Great post, thank you !

  21. I love Lolita! I really want to wear a Lolita style dress for my graduation but I don't have time to order one and don't know where to buy one in Ontario.

  22. I love Lolita! I really want to wear a Lolita style dress for my graduation but I don't have time to order one and don't know where to buy one in Ontario.