While I was at the Ikkicon anime convention in Austin, I had the pleasure of sharing my business booth with three Sweet Lolis (short for Lolitas). Their pastel cake colors and poofed out petticoats made them look like they had just stepped out of Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette. It's fitting considering that it was this era that gave the inspiration for the Lolita look that began in Japan decades ago.
It wasn't until the last decade, however, that the style became popular in the United States. I was doing Gothic Lolita in 2003 and even I felt late to party. I think it took so long to reach us because the style is such a deviant from what American media has taught us.
In contrast to the girls we see in music videos, the Lolita (Gothic or Sweet) allure is not rooted in blatant sexuality but in cuteness, mystery and elegance. The world of the Lolitas pulls from childhood fantasy - ribbons and bows adorn prints of sweets and pretty things; dark colors and gothic themes still look innocent and childish; and each girl looks like a storybook princess.
Despite the Book that gave them their name, Lolitas are not sexy, nor are they meant to be. A Lolita is feminine without the shackles of feminine expectations.
During the convention, we went out (into the real world) to get some food. There were women walking around in slinky New Years outfits looking appalled as human cupcakes walked past them. Is it so wrong for 20 year old girls to want to look cute instead of hot?
"I can't breathe anymore," said the Sweet Lolita next to me. Her corset was finally wearing her down after five hours at the convention.
That's one of the things the sexual revolution took from us in terms of fashion but these girls willingly put them back on. It's part of the look, part of the fantasy. It has nothing to do with liberation, restrictions or the masculine gaze. That's one of the things I love about Lolitas: they do not dress up to be eye candy - the shoes, corsets, make-up and hair is for themselves, their own personal aesthetic.
"Her skirt is too short." She pointed at one Lolita who was showing to much leg. "Not cute at all." The skirt, however, was only about two inches longer than the miniskirts at the mall. I should know - I was wearing one.
Thanks to Moral-Extremist for the Photos!