This essay is meant to be informational with the target audience of people new to Lolita, but I'm aware it is still opinionated. However, I feel most Lolitas share the same opinion, particularly to those who believe Lolita is "more than a fashion" and who want it to be portrayed accurately.
This essay, while negative, is not meant to be offensive or wanky. If you feel like saying something lulzy or rude, please do so in my LJ post. (I don't screen or delete, fo feel free to express yourself.)
Please do not go spam La Carmina in response. It doesn't help the cause, and doesn't work anyway.
Thanks again, egl_mods, for letting me post this.
La Carmina Is Not a Lolita Expert.
This is a popular myth that is damaging the reputation of the Lolita community. Members of the press, before you publish an article about Gothic Lolita, a former Japanese street fashion now gone worldwide, please read further for the truth.
La Carmina is a published author and fashion designer who graduated from Yale Law. While these are impressive accomplishments, she discovered her true love was for alternative Japanese subculture, and became truly well-known blogging about it. She has set herself up as a leader in one of her favorite fashions, Gothic Lolita.
It is acceptable to say that La Carmina's clothes are inspired by Japanese street fashion. This does not make her a leader in Lolita fashion. She is not recognized by the Lolita community as a whole.
To understand how detrimental this is to the public image of Lolita, one must first understand the Lolita community. Lolita does not function as simply a fashion - it is a combination of fashion, hobby, aesthetic, and lifestyle. Women and men who consider themselves "Lolita" identify with outward statement Lolita is making - finding value in being feminine because one enjoys it, not because of men or society thinks so. To put it bluntly, it is a rejection of the societal misconception that women only get dressed to please other people. Frequently it is considered an aspect of the modern-day Punk aesthetic.
Lolitas come together for support, not just because they have similar tastes in clothes or the same favorite hobby, but because they share this core belief, and the willingness to stand up for it. When looked at in this manner, it is easy to see the appeal of Lolita, taking the best of collecting, fandom, fashion, and subculture lifestyle.
Due to the importance of common identity among Lolitas, the fashion itself has extremely strict rules as to "What Is Lolita" and what is not. While these are frequently up for debate among the hard-headed Lolitas, they are typically as follows:
- Achieving the appropriate "silhouette" sported by all Lolitas is a must. In basic terms it is the fitted top with the bell-shaped skirt made puffy with petticoats.
- The clothing takes its inspiration from eras of historical fashion when feminine elements were most extreme: Rococo France, Victorian England, idealized 50's housewives, and even the pop-and-glitter of the 80's.
- Overt visual sexuality is to be kept at a minimum - for many Lolitas, it means showing as little skin as possible. This is in part to emphasize the fact that a Lolita is dressing for herself and not to attract men.
- There must be a feel of Romanticism. This is seen in everything from idealized sailor outfits to the dark Gothic aesthetic of decay, to dresses for a full-blown fairy-tale princess.
- Elegant extravagance is a virtue and goal to strive for, even at the cost of practicality.
The online epicenter of Western Lolita culture is Livejournal, with dozens of related communities centering around the hub EGL. EGL was founded in 2001 and currently has over 10,000 members, and continues to be growing and active every day. Not everyone who participates in Lolita fashion is a member, but any bit of Lolita-related information can be found in EGL.
Surprisingly, La Carmina does not outwardly participate in the EGL community. One would think that a person with their finger on the pulse of the fashion would be an active part in the largest community. There are a number of reasons for this.
She first began to be rejected by other Lolitas due to the quality of her clothing. One of the core Lolita rules - elegance - dictates that only the best fabrics be used, and that quality should not be sacrificed for price. Most Lolitas disapprove of La Carmina's fabric and lace choices, since she uses cheap polyester lace and satin fabric, both considered no-nos by the community. Complaints arose shortly after about the quality of purchased items.
A second issue concerned the concept of "What is Lolita". La Carmina combined Lolita elements with other Japanese street fashions, and in doing so broke the unspoken Lolita Rules. Too much sexuality, too little elegance, and an apparent misunderstanding of the heart of Lolita beliefs. La Carmina considers Lolita to be just another "fashion", a concept that "true" Lolitas find insulting.
Thirdly, and more personally, Lolitas have found La Carmina's online behavior to be consistently poor. For example, there are numerous incidents of La Carmina simply deleting the comments of those who disagree with her, even politely. Others take offence at her self-proclaimed descriptions of having "the biggest EGL site" and being a "Lolita expert", as well as her reference to Sweet Lolita (a popular sub-style) as "mincing pink dollies".
The final ousting, if it could be called that, was when La Carmina leapt on stage during a Lolita fashion show at the NY Comic Convention. The fashion show had been meticulously planned by budding Lolita designers, with important companies watching in the audience. An "edgy" gothic person jumped on stage in the middle to prance around, interrupting the show in the name of cool gothic rebellion.
There was mass outrage. If a random angsty teen had disrupted the show, there would have been annoyance and eye-rolling. How any person who considers themselves a professional can behave in such a way would have caused upset by itself. To treat fellow members of the community she claims to represent in such a childish, ignorant, disrespectful way was unacceptable. Not only that, but it is false "proof" for anyone who is looking that Lolitas are nothing more than young shock-value rebels without causes, with no beliefs of value."
However, since La Carmina continues to receive positive press for her books and designs, misconceptions about "What Is Lolita" continue to spread. It is sad that someone with so much potential power is misrepresenting what it means to be Lolita. Attention-grabbing has made La Carmina a spokesman of Lolita, not skill, not knowledge, not activism, and not the members of the Lolita community.
If you are a member of the press and are looking for information on Lolita, or are looking for a designer to interview, here are some suggestions.
- The Lolita Handbook has everything you would ever need to know about how to dress Lolita, and where to find it.
- LolitaFashion.org is another great place to learn the basics of Lolita fashion.
- EGL is always the best place to ask questions, but try checking the FAQ, Memories or using the Search Function first.
- Megan Maude is the founding member of the EGL Livejournal community, as well as a respected designer of Lolita clothing. Contacting the other Moderators of EGL is another good resource.
- La Dauphine, Candy Violet, In The Starlight, and Blasphemina’s Closet are other well-known and respected "Western brands". You can find many more Western designers and seamstresses on EGL.
- Avant Gauche contains detailed links and galleries for inspiration.
I am also available to answer questions, and though I consider myself no Lolita expert, I am active in the community and happy to point you in the right direction.
Also, please keep these tips in mind while researching Lolita:
- Do some research among the community about anyone claiming to be an "expert" or a "Lolita designer". You may find these claims unfounded and not recognized by the community.
- Be aware that there are many Cosplayers who cosplay as Lolita. This does not make them Lolitas. Frequently they do not understand the background or reasons behind Lolita and are often misinformed.
- Take published articles featuring Lolita with a grain of salt. Historically the media has usually misrepresented subcultures that are not understood – the same is true with Lolita. Attempts to “mainstream” the fashion by combining Lolita-esque elements with Western ones are by and large rejected by Lolitas themselves.
- If you participate in the community, you will start to get a feel for who is known and respected. If you're willing to be patient, you can learn who they are.
I hope that people who read this article take it to heart, and that when Lolita is represented in future publications, it will be true to the Lolita spirit.
Fellow Lolitas, if you agree, please cross-post this article as you see fit.
EDIT: Note that I am indeed making corrections to things that need fixing up.