I went to the V&A’s late night Loli-POP! event Friday evening, which celebrated Lolita fashion.
It had somewhat of a magical fairy like atmosphere, as it was held in the museum by the pool with everyone dressed up and made up so beautifully.
And the grande finale REALLY made it magical, with ballet dancers dressed in Baby, The Stars Shine Bright, dancing their way through the museum to a violin piece.
The event also had a “Lashes and Lips” section by Shu Uemura, a Nail Bar, Kawaii illustration workshop, documentaries to watch, a photo trail and more.
So what is Lolita fashion? What does it all really mean? Is it a fad like many others that come and go? Or is there an underlying message beneath those bright dresses and the wigs?
I attended a talk on Lolita as a subculture, which raised several interesting points. First of all, they talked about the emergence of lolitas which began as far as the 70s believe it or not?! At that time, it was purely a Japanese fashion. But even the Japanese found it slightly odd. For that reason it was uncommon to see a Lolita walking around on her own, and they would often carry suitcases to harajuku so that they could change once they had met up with their other Lolita compadres. The Lolita look is certainly not an offensive one, but one that is indeed quite loud, and most definitely stands out in a society where people tried not to stand out. That may be the reason why as a subculture, lolita is quite a sociable one (they even hold brand tea parties together!). It’s only in the 90s that this style became more prominent. And whereas before it was really hard to have access to all the brands, nowadays it is more widespread.
In the discussion, Harriet Hall (“Nostalgia, Innocence and Subversion: Kawaii and Lolita Fashion Subculture in Japan”, Cortauld MA dissertation, 2011) described Lolita as the flag bearers of feminism in Japan. Especially sweet Lolita, perceived as “extreme femininity”- the bright colors, pink everywhere, and that docile and submissive almost doll like look; all of which may only be a means to scare away a patriarchal Japanese society. Because, although the Lolita may appear docile and submissive, she does not dress up to impress men. She dresses up for herself, which in my opinion is a demonstration of independence and strength. I thought this was a very interesting take, as I had never thought of Lolita in this way.
But perhaps, it is simply fashion…? どう思いますか…