How To Adapt Japanese Lolita Fashion | CoolJapan

Recently, we've explored the colourful world of Tokyo Street Style, with its bold and adventurous vibe piquing the interest of today's global fashion scene. Now, we decided to dig even further and take a peek at one of Japan's biggest style subcultures that have grown chapters beyond the East and have captivated even Western fashionistas: the Lolita style. 

Inspired by Edwardian and Victorian kids fashion — emphasis on 'kids' — Lolita lives and breathes for the kawaii (cute) aesthetic, mixing historical inspirations with exaggerated motifs. This is in reference to many fashion movements in Japan centring on romanticised child-like vibes in the '60s up to the '80s, until it was adapted by mainstream artists, grew in the Harajuku district as a fashion subculture, and has captured the curiosity of fashion enthusiasts and designers to the point that it expanded to the U.S. and Europe. 

Often distinguishable through the use of petticoats or crinolines, not a lot of people are aware that Lolita fashion is more than just an interesting subgenre, but in a way, also one of the biggest social movements there is. Wondering how and why that is? Read on to find out more about Lolita style and how to adapt its curious aesthetic. 

Know its philosophy

One of the pet peeves of people who actually understand Lolita fashion is that it's perceived as cosplay (costume play) by those outside of its community. Many Lolitas even find the confusion insulting as it is a lifestyle and fashion choice, in contrast to cosplay that is meant for role-playing. To those who practice this fashion subculture, it's a known fact that it is actually motivated by fighting against gender-roles and stereotypes by exuding child-like wonder and innocence. Much like Alice In Wonderland, its initial purpose is to portray imagination and playfulness in a very vivid manner and even provide temporary escapism.

As it evolved, it transformed into an empowering movement, with Lolitas simply enjoying the comforts of bold and expressive beauty through the Lolita aesthetic. It is also related more to cuteness and elegance than sultriness and provocativeness, which are some of the typical misconceptions and misinterpretations about this style. With this in mind, treading into this fashion subculture should be treated mindfully before you even think about finding the pieces to fit your Lolita fashion journey. 

Find the substyle that suits you

If its prime ideology ignited your interest even more, then it's time to think about the substyle you want to adapt. Lolita fashion encompasses many subgenres, but its three most famous manifestations are the Classic, the Gothic, and the Sweet Lolita. 

Classic Lolitas are those who follow a classic vintage appeal, focusing more on a structured Victorian/Edwardian look that's toned-down compared to other Lolita substyles. Its inspirations often present the ideal look for high afternoon tea gatherings, bordering on aristocratic. 

Meanwhile, Sweet Lolitas fully embrace a doll-like style, mostly banking on a lot of pastels, bows, and frills. Accessorising can also separate the Classic Lolita from a Sweet Lolita, as the latter incorporates a lot more whimsical pieces into their outfits. 

As for the Gothic Lolita, this takes on an edgier aesthetic, mostly heavy on blacks, reds, and purples and focusing more on darker elements such as crosses and skulls. 

Treat it as an investment

Unlike Tokyo Street Style, which can easily be channelled using one's existing wardrobe, Lolita fashion not only requires understanding its backstory but also invites its patrons to indulge a bit when it comes to the pieces that they own and would sport. It's definitely an investment that you should not treat lightly — unless you opt to sew your own pieces, which many Lolitas have learned to do — as it inevitably requires money and effort to pull off even just one look. 

Join a community

With the previous point not meaning to discourage or disappoint, there are other ways to support and adapt to the Lolita lifestyle slowly yet immersively. Many Lolita groups all over the world are always looking for new people to meet, make friends with, and educate about the Lolita lifestyle and one simple Google search will easily lead you to most of them. For one, Angelic Pretty, a Japanese Lolita fashion brand with branches across the globe, forged its own community by organising meetups and fashion shows to strengthen the bond of their Lolitas. 

(Cover photo from: @rinrindoll)