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definitive guide to wearing lolita at work 
16th-Sep-2010 02:20 pm
As part of the lolita_handbook rewrite I put together a set of recommendations for wearing Lolita fashion at work that I'd like to share with you. It's electronically published so there's no such thing as a final draft, so suggestions and crit are welcome, as always. I hope you find it amusing or helpful.

definitive guide to wearing lolita at work

These are guidelines and suggestions, not gospel. Use your common sense and good judgment.

"How can I wear Lolita to work?" is a frequently asked question, but there's an equally important question that isn't asked: "Should I wear Lolita to work?"

While it's tempting to completely immerse in a beautiful fashion like Lolita, it's not always appropriate for the workplace. Whether it's fair to judge others by appearance is immaterial: it's going to happen. 

We do have the ability to control our appearance so far as grooming, hygiene, and professional attire are concerned. In a world where appearance matters and fitting in may mean wearing mass market ready-to-wear, clothing and personal expression take a backseat in favor of being noticed for the right things.

Your image is your personal brand. How you carry yourself, how you react in situations, your accomplishments, your skill set, and your appearance are parts of it. When people think of you, what should stand out in their minds? It's important that your good reputation reflect your talent and abilities, and not just your fashion sense. 

It's also important to remember that while you are at work, you are acting as a representative of your employer. What does your clothing say about business, and what is it saying to clients, guests, and customers? 

If you work behind the scenes and only ever have to interact with your colleagues, establish your reputation as a hard and excellent worker before focusing on bringing Lolita to the office. If you work with clients or the public, comply with any guidelines dictated by your company so you remain approachable and customers are confident you can help them. No one wants to be known as the disorganized, scatter brained employee who can't even show up to meetings on time, despite looking fabulous!

Sometimes wearing Lolita in the office just doesn't work out, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's a time and a place for everything and Lolita doesn't have to fit into everyone's career plan. Honestly assess your situation and see if Lolita is right for your workplace. If you think you can make it work, read on...

Getting Started
Right off the bat I can tell you that OTT sweet won't work in the work environment. The easiest styles to wear to work are classical, old school sweet, and toned down goth. "Toned down" is really the central concept in transitioning Lolita from tea party to office: somber colors, low volume petticoats, discreet hairbows, reserved embellishments, and limited accessories. This may sound boring, but the goal is to strike a balance between indulging fashion preferences and fostering a professional image at work.

Brands like Innocent World are a wonderful resource for mature elegance that transition well from meetup to workplace. When selecting work friendly Lolita clothes choose items with less over the top decoration and instead seek refined embellishment. Simple rows of lace and other muted ornamentation will be less distracting.


Jobs to look for
Sales at a Brand boutique
Academia (universities, libraries, but also book stores)
Industries that expect you to express creativity (design, fashion) and
Industries that expect you to be a bit offbeat (web development, IT in general)
Entrepreneur or self employment
Ballerina, princess, virtuoso, mostly kidding
Anywhere dressing professionally is not a priority

This isn't to say you should choose a career from this list so you can wear whatever you want. That would be silly! Most people choose careers based on their talents and passion, and what the dress code will be is an afterthought. Don't give up a valuable internship or coop experience in favor of a job with fewer opportunities but loliable dress code.

Practicality and Considerations
Is heavy lifting or sweating going to be a part of my work?
Will I come into contact with mustard, bleach, chocolate, or blood?
Does the company have a preexisting dress code? 
Will I be required to wear a certain kind of footwear? 
Will I have to be on my feet all day?
Does my job include crawling around under desks or on the floor?
Will I interact with clients? 
Do I need to look polished but mainstream?
Is my work more behind-the-scenes or front-facing?

Carefully consider what stresses your outfit will face at an average day at your job. As much fun as cloning frogs all day is, it also has a lot of potential for ruined prints.

See what other women in the office are wearing. Where do their outfits lie on the spectrum between casual and business? Is there a Casual Friday policy in effect? Do you see any other alternative fashionistas, perhaps a goth in accounting? When first starting out, mirroring the organizational culture you find yourself in is an effective strategy for discerning appropriate dress, especially when a dress code isn't formally provided.

Talk to your boss about the dress code if you have any questions. In many cases your supervisor will appreciate your directness in learning more about the dress code and office culture, and will have useful insight on how to proceed. Your HR representative can also clarify any uncertainties you have about management's sartorial expectations of you. If you have a colleague, mentor, or even an objective friend you can talk to, get in touch with her for an honest opinion on how your Lolita clothes will affect the way people look at you.


Introduce any changes to your wardrobe slowly, especially if you're already established in your current place of work. Coworkers may view sudden changes as a problem at home (and many managers are trained to recognize issues like this) so easing into a more elegant wardrobe should be done in stages. 

If out of Lolita you dress like a tomboy, one or two of these suggestions over the course of a week or two would be your first step. Fitted jeans with a feminine blouse and a delicate hairband would be one way to start. Your coworkers may fuss a bit over your appearance but take in stride and accept compliments graciously (a simple "Thank you!" is all you need.)

If you're starting out from a business casual position, increase the amount of skirts in your rotation. They don't all need to be bell shaped: A line, pencil, and even appropriate length jumpers are workplace friendly.

Try incorporating a few of the following suggestions to increase the loli factor in your outfits:

  • Clothes
    • Include skirts more frequently in your outfits. Built in pettis or low volume are best for the office.
    • Try wearing "normal" blouses and tops with bows, ruching, and other elegant touches.
    • Smart blazers with feminine details like puff sleeves, ribbons, ruffles, in natural looking fibers pair well over a cami.
    • Wear solid tights or socks as weather and temperature conditions permit. Avoid exposing too much knee.

  • Accessories
    • Elegant jewelry (pearls, cameos, non-plastic jewelry) adds class to any outfit- don't overdo it!
    • Small or discreet low contrast hairbands are less distracting, but helpful in keeping hair out of one's face.
    • Floral hair clips are easy to find and add a bit of sweet sophistication to your hair style.

  • Shoes
    • Swap sneakers for comfortable flats.
    • Shop for sensible, sweet shoes like Mary Janes and ribbon pumps.
    • Update any existing footwear with bow or flower clips.

  • Coords 
    • Pair a fitted JSK with a cardigan. It's very easy to pare up or down to accommodate temperature changes.
    • The traditional blouse + skirt combination can be improved with a vest or belt.
    • Modified T-shirts (bonus points for one with the company logo) are great for casual days.

Working within the dress code
Bummer! You have to comply with your company's dress code. Depending on what it dictates though you may have some leeway to interpret it with more elegance than your coworkers.

If you're working in one of the big box stores that requires khaki or khaki colored bottoms with a work polo, wear an appropriately colored skirt with a row of ruffles at the bottom. You can modify a larger polo shirt to your size and puff the sleeves, perhaps adding a row of ruffles in the same material along the hem. If any shirt of appropriate color will work, choose one with more loli potential.

If your company has a strict dress code (and doesn't require uniform appearance like Victoria's Secret or other stores may), it may be worth it to work together with your coworkers to lobby your manager for a Casual Friday policy, or a seasonally relaxed policy for winter.

Lolita Elements
If you work an environment where Lolita is completely, irrevocably, unforgivably incompatible with your job you don't have to give up the magic. Incorporate your favorite elements of the style into your work life in other ways:
  • Deco a few of the items in your bag (makeup mirror, phone, DS case).
  • Unobtrusively decorate and personalize some of the tools of your trade
    • Decoupage your hard hat with a crown, survey princess.
    • Commission a set of scrubs with a loliable print.
    • Your network port tester will look cuter with stickers on it.
    • Embellish your name tag with a bow, or use quality ribbon as a lanyard for your ID badge
  • If you have an assigned locker at work post pictures of your next dream dress inside to remind yourself why you work so hard for the money.
  • Keep a teapot, teacup, and other elegant accoutrements on your desk. Don't forget to take tea during your breaks!

Miscellaneous Guidelines for Dressing up at Work

Just a few more notes that are applicable to most other working environments but cannot be neglected:
  • Skirt hems should fall at or below your fingertips when your arms are resting at your side. 
  • For both tops and bottoms: there should be no more than four fingers of space between the top of your knee and your hem, or your collarbone and blouse.
  • Sheer blouses can be worn with lacy, full-coverage camisoles underneath.
  • Undergarments are worn under clothes. Your bloomers, petti, corset, garters and slips should never be visible at work.
  • Limit the number of neutral colors you employ in an outfit, e.g. do not wear black, brown, gray, navy, khaki, and white at the same time. Two or three (situationally) of these can look smashing together though.
  • Keep your makeup sweet and simple. Save false eyelashes and stickers for meetups and photo shoots.
  • Leave the wig at home too.
  • Avoid frumpiness by wearing fitted clothes in appropriate lengths.
  • Basic grooming always applies: bathe, deodorize, and maintain your dental hygiene.
  • Avoid clothing choices that can be misconstrued as the other kind of Lolita, such as white knee socks, too short skirts, and school girl inspired outfits.

The most important thing to carry with you always is your confidence. Show it off with excellent poise and posture, and treat others with the respect you expect to be shown.

PS: If you have reasonable quality pictures of yourself in Lolita at work you feel comfortable with sharing, I'd like to get a gallery started for this guide! Thank you.
16th-Sep-2010 06:40 pm (UTC)
I have a suggestion for the "Jobs to Look For" if that's ok. I am not one myself, but I work for a company that is primarily telemarketers. While they telemarketers do have a few rules they have to follow, they get away with a lot more than they don't (a few examples: purple hair, flip flops, leggings as pants).

Of course, they all work on commission, so it's not a job for the faint of heart or the weak willed ^_^
16th-Sep-2010 06:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks-- I'll investigate the telemarketing angle. :)
16th-Sep-2010 06:55 pm (UTC) - Great guide, sorry if I overlap your information with my own personal experience-
Self employment is fabulous when I manage to go beyond the typical t-shirt. ;)

I was in in the process of adding more feminine touches to my wardrobe when I stopped going in to an office. I saved the hoodies for home, dressed up t-shirts with cardigans. Tennis shoes became more rare, sometimes I'd wear my BL red mary janes. Sleek headbows and small bow clips really helped me to finish off my lazy non-morning-person ponytails. I got comments a lot at first as my wardrobe began to change, but within a couple months it calmed down. Just expect it at first.

I found fruit and gingham prints to work well with cardigans in the spring time, so you can spread out from the usual neutral tones. So long as it's not too full of juvenile themes like unicorns, teddy bears or kittens. The right pastel colors can work - but they should be muted and not too candy sweet, ie. Dusty rose, greyish lavender.

Good job and I'm sure all those just entering the workforce will be glad for your information!
17th-Sep-2010 06:32 pm (UTC) - Re: Great guide, sorry if I overlap your information with my own personal experience-
Thank you for your input!
16th-Sep-2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
I have some pictures that may help you:

and I also have some coordinates here:

I work in a very formal enviroment (coperate banking/business development) and every day = office wear = skirt suit/dress suit only. Your guidelines are really helpful though! I think if possible, maybe add a note about blouses? If you're really stuck for choice, wearing a lolita blouse = perfect for most formal work days. Look for blouses that cut perfectly on the shoulders, and sleeve cuff should exceed no more than 2 fingerwidths from the wristbone. Tucking out your blouse also makes the outfit less lolita and more work friendly. Innocent World/Mary Magdalene are great for these since they have less lace and smaller collars. Avoid BTSSB collars/anything too large. Avoid blouses that are of funny colours too.

I don't know about other people, but imho petticoats (even small ones) = absolutely NO. I'm perfectly serious..... my boss's idea of casual Friday is to wear trousers instead of skirt suit to work.

Oh yeah, be careful of prints! florals or dull low contrast prints only (exception is black/white). Really. I have seen a receptionist sent home for wearing a bright blue skirt with printed boats.

Best places to buy work-friendly lolita clothes: Jane Marple (BEST!), Emily Temple cute (they make office suit sets! I have a ribbon blazer+skirt set) Excentrique (blouses/cutsews - avoid corsets), Innocent World (blouses, skirts + shoes), Mary Magadelene & VM (blouses/jackets only), Moitie (blouses/skirts only).

Frankly I would avoid dresses (even IW/MM ones) because they are cut differently. If the dress does not look good with a petticoat, it is obviously not meant for office. The other option is to buy the dress in black/brown.
16th-Sep-2010 07:31 pm (UTC) - photo dump
This topic is pretty close to my heart, so here are some pictures of stuff you could probably wear to work:
16th-Sep-2010 07:19 pm (UTC)
It'd depend on the office policy, but as long as you don't over-accessorize you should be able to do your hair however you want (but NO wigs).

You can accessorize but then you want it to be minimalist and not attention grabby.
17th-Sep-2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
Accessories are pretty standard in my office; women wear rings, bracelets, necklaces, and up to six earrings, but it's not strawberry shaped plastic that looks like it came from a cereal box. Over accessorizing is a great way to add like 10 years. XD
16th-Sep-2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
Great article! In all we always what our work to speak for itself. I would rather people remember me mostly for being good at my job and not because I what I wear. At the very least I would want them to say she always looks to nice.

I'm a librarian for an academic college so I have a little bit more freedom in what I choose to wear but would never go in with full on sweet lolita.
17th-Sep-2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I think a lot of people miss the point about getting dressed up to work in lolita which is why I went on for so long at the beginning. Some people just get really into the fashion and it becomes their whole identity to the point of subsuming other valid identifiers, like work, school, family, church/whatever responsibilities they have. :q

Where do you work? I'm from "NRC" if you speak interlibrary.
16th-Sep-2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
"Will I come into contact with mustard, bleach, chocolate, or blood?"

I had to LOL, for some reason I imagined jobs that involved all or the above elements:

-UFC Backstage Waitress?
-Rodeo Patissiere Janitor?
-Dry Cleaner?
16th-Sep-2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
Or any medical profession!

Patients come in and cough, sneeze, and bleed on me all the time. ;_; If I wore lolita to work I'd be in huge debt with the dry cleaners...
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16th-Sep-2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
yeah I should probably add a note that I'm in a business formal enviroment, but I figured anyone reading it would realise that not all offices (especially those creative types) require a skirt suit everyday.

..... the only upside to working in an office like mine is EVERY DAY without fail, all the guys turn up at work in jacket suit and tie. It's like total eyecandy lol

plus the paycheck + benefits is unbeatably amazing *o*
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16th-Sep-2010 10:02 pm (UTC)
Seconded. I work for a nonprofit, and I can wear whatever I want to work. :)
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16th-Sep-2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
I was totally kidding about that one, but I appreciate you reading in detail. Whenever I see a thread about wearing lolita to work a lot of NO DUH goes into planning your outfits. I'll put in an "at your own peril" or sarcasm alert as appropriate. Thank you!
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16th-Sep-2010 11:27 pm (UTC)
17th-Sep-2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :)
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17th-Sep-2010 08:07 am (UTC)
totally! I wouldn't wear tea parties either :x Some IW and BTSSB shoes (like this one: is perfectly fine though)
17th-Sep-2010 05:58 am (UTC)
On the list to work, I'd add the medical industry - as long as you are seen to wear the white lab coat (or scrubs when you are in surgery) and sensible rubber-soled shoes, they literally don't care what you actually wear underneath.

I think the rule should be definitely no petticoats with work. I really can't see the place of a petticoat in any work setting - you are effectively creating a hazard for yourself and other people that can be bumped into, caught up or snagged, and depending on what material your pettis are made of, the rustling can distract and annoy others around you.
17th-Sep-2010 07:49 am (UTC)
Personally, I don't see the point in wearing lolita to work (unless you actually work at a lolita brand boutique). To me, wearing lolita is about dressing up for a special occasion, not something that's really meant to be practical as everyday wear.
17th-Sep-2010 08:09 am (UTC)
I can kinda see the point in that, but I'm really big on value-for-money. I wouldn't buy a 300dollar dress and wear it only once a month y'know? If I wore it at least once a week/once every two weeks then I can justify the cost of spending so much on an item
17th-Sep-2010 09:23 am (UTC)
I support your "academia" suggestion. I'm a university student and as far as I know there's not really a dress code for anybody involved in teaching etc. If going to a job interview it's something else of course, but at the university no one cares.
One of my jobs is working at the information at the main entrance and someone explicitely asked about the dress code when we started out. The answer of the boss of the department was "There isn't one. this is a university, you're students, people don't expect you to dress up. I don't see anybody dressed inappropriately here." I have never gotten any bad comments about anything I wore. The only thing I keep in mind when dressing on a day I have my shift is not to wear anything too low cut, but that's for me, because I don't need anybody staring on my breasts when I'm explaining them something. I've only gotten positive comments about my outfits and once, when there was some party my boss was going for which she needed a petticoat she actually asked me where she could find one.
The other job I have is at a publishing house where the only customer contact I have is by phone or e-mail. The office I work in is on the same floor as a university department, since my boss also does IT for said department. No one ever cares about what I wear.
17th-Sep-2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
Tell me about it! It's easy to feel overdressed when people around you are wearing pajamas but I'd rather be more polished than not.

Many years ago when I started working in a library I asked my supervisor about the dress code-- she laughed at me! :)
17th-Sep-2010 11:00 am (UTC)
I love this subject <3 Thanks for opening it!
I work in lawyer environment, and it is really difficult to bring even points of fashion :-(
I had to teach a few monthes at Law University, which is a definitely strict department. Here, in France, some of the academics still teach in traditional costume (red dress with fur scarf, a bit like advocate), and other are just everyday in suits.
Now, I work in a lawyer office, so, this is the same problem.
Anyway, I try to incorporate some loli stuff in my casual wear.
Like Tsu, I sometimes wear some simple lolita blouses with a skirt suits. Or Lolis skirt with a really simple A-line shape. But if you wear a loli blouse, avoid the loli skirt. And the contrary is true to: if you wear a loli skirt, avoid the loli blouse.
To give an idea, I sometimes wear:
- This IW skirt, without petticoat (on more relax days, with opaque tights and really simple outfit):
this IW dress (without petticoat, but with a really light underskirt, just to avoid the totaly flat look):
This IW bolero, over a really plain turtleneck shirt and with a suit skirt:
This blouse from VM:
I use to wear balerrinas, simple, but with a tiny bow.
Don't always were full black outfit, like I tend to do: it must be noticeable and seen as a problem. Pump up with a kakhi jacket, or a simple coloured little scarf.

Sorry, I have no pictures of my work outfits, since I don't really find them interesting, usualy!
Perhaps this one? (not really nice face, but...anyway) -->IW skirt shown above, BPN shirt:
Even a bit to fancy!

I also play a bit with my hair, trying to make some buns: lovely shape without to much volume. Old style but discrete ^^ It can brings a stylish touch to a plain suit outfit.

But what is written is totaly true: your self-confidence is really important. If you come with a new thing you're not totaly sure it fits the style of the office, wear it whith style. Be sure and wear it as it was an evidence of class and fashion. If you come in the morning lurking your own outfit every minutes with a clumsy attitude: everyone will notice there is something changed, and it will become a problem.
17th-Sep-2010 12:14 pm (UTC)
that's cool. I also work in a law firm, but not as a lawyer ^^
17th-Sep-2010 12:12 pm (UTC)
I try to add lolita also into my work-life... i start buying more "easy-going" brand items, like pencil skirts, blazers and cardigans!

i also own this, but I think I will never wear it in the offie. it's too much XD
17th-Sep-2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
i really like your work cords!
17th-Sep-2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
first paragraph is awesome!(commenting as i read)

social services would work too. i myself haven't done loli yet(graduted in 2009 and still looking for a decent company that isn't shit so fashion is taking a backseat professionally) but if people can wear baby phat and jeans to work i would believe loli would work and make you actually look professional in that manner. though i'd warn based on your clients be careful because you might get something on it.

great suggestion of other items! i bought a hello kitty 2010 planner and i bring my bodyline folder to work as well as reusable bags if need be. i think little hints of your outside life are great for finding others that are similar.

i personally find some of the misc guidelines more personal than in general. such as some black women might wear wigs as their daily hair style. so leaving it at home isn't really necessary. basic gromming for people is relative. if someone wears neutral colors the world isn't going to implode or they won't be fired. they might look boring but neglecting it because a client was in the hospital and you need to leave the house asap(along with frumpiness) or because you say might be in a group home and had to stay in it 3 days due to weather can be neglected imo.

other than the misc i really like it. :) where was this added? i tried to look but i couldn't find it.
17th-Sep-2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
I think the disclaimer re: common sense should cover where to wear it. Social services covers a broad and diverse range of working environments and wardobe flexibility usually comes from a manager or local culture so many times. ^^

I'll edit the wigs to specify the unnaturally colored wigs-- good wigs don't look like wigs and wouldn't be the same as the two tone cotton candy colored pigtail monstrosity that is perfectly suitable for the weekends. Four+ neutral colors is considered a sartorial faux pas; my wardrobe is mostly neutral but I don't rock beige, charcoal, navy, and cream at the same time.

I haven't posted this anywhere but here to get crit (thanks for providing it!) to improve it. It'll be posted to in its Good Enough For Now form as the handbook is updated.
17th-Sep-2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
It reads well, but I think there does need to be something like:

Bottom line, you may need to accpet that its just not possible to wear lolita in any way to work. It can be better to accept this and look forward to the times you can wear it that dwell over not being able to.
17th-Sep-2010 06:27 pm (UTC)
Good looking out! I'll use it.
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17th-Sep-2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
I JUST TAGGED that entry a few days ago. D:

That was a pretty sad case. I agree for teachers and other public servants who are under so much scrutiny, that it's best to wear completely unremarkable clothes. In that case there were other contingencies (super conservative Utah, and I think the user's mom had also commented on it being too desperate for attention) that influenced the situation. But I agree that when certain standards of dress are required, it's just best to comply with them. People are rightly protective of their children and teachers have to work hard to foster and preserve an image if responsibility (among other things) so parents can feel confident leaving their children at school with people who will be shaping their minds.
17th-Sep-2010 09:07 pm (UTC)
I don't see why wigs would be a problem. I've worn some wigs to work and my co-workers and boss were completely fine with it outside of questioning how in the world I dyed my hair so often. The key point is that wigs are fine as long as they look natural. If you are wearing wigs that are in the himegyaru style and/or an unnatural colour, that is a no-no. But if your wig is very simple and a natural hair colour, everything is fine. Note though that if you are Asian, don't go to work with a blonde wig unless your work place doesn't mind unnatural hair colour. I always stick to dark brown and black for hair colour since I'm Asian and wear wigs that were very simple in design like a bob, long straight wig, or a long or short wig with some cute curls.
18th-Sep-2010 04:59 am (UTC)
I work at one of those khaki pant box stores, and I actually just ordered a skirt from dear celine in a a sort of cream color that I'm going to try to get away with :3
18th-Sep-2010 01:51 pm (UTC)
I'm sooo lucky to have it easy. I work as a makeup artist inside a makeup store and I am allowed to wear whatever I want as long it's clean and 100% black. (Some of my coworkers will wear see-through tops with their leather bras fully visible. Lol.) Once every couple of months, I'll bring out my 1 all black outfit, on a Saturday, when i feel most comfortable. The clients in the store are much different on a Saturday (younger--going out crowd). Everyone loves it. I won't do it on a monday afternoon when clients are mostly older working women. I keep a very professional image then (even though no one has to ). I would definitely say the fashion industry (makeup artists, stylists, etc) has the MOST forgiving dress code.
31st-Mar-2011 02:50 pm (UTC)
I just found this guide now and I want to say THANK YOU because it's awesome! :D I actually bought an Innocent World suit (the lotte deer one) in hopes of wearing either the skirt or the jacket to work. I doubt I'd wear it all together because of the explosion of pink, lol... but I think it could work with like...grey or brown coordinated. 8-)
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