I have this theory that there are two major generations of gothic lolita, and maybe lolita in general. The first generation is made up of teens who found it through Visual-kei. Most of these people are now in or nearing their 20's. The next and current generation is made up of teens who found it through anime and manga. Many people in both groups probably found regular lolita through gothic lolita and consider it to be a "step up" from or "more mature" than gothic lolita.
I personally am a Visual-kei gen girl :D Man I love that 90's Visual.
Different images of pop [mainstream popular] gothic lolita resulted from these two generations. During the Visual-kei one, it was all about MANA MANA MANA. Everybody wanted to do their hair and makeup like his, and platform mary-janes were the big thing. French maid outfits similar to something out of Malice Mizer were a hit. A lot of inspiration was taken from Visual stage costume.
During the anime/manga one, people have added a lot of cosplayish elements to the fashion. Oversized collars, bows, ruffles, etc. can be seen. Most obviously inspired by anime/manga are the cat ears, paws, wings, and other (if any) animal parts to the outfit. I was kind of shocked to find patterns for these kinds of accessories in the latest GL Bible...I mean, to each his/her own, but I thought the editors of the GLB took this stuff a little more seriously.
Furthermore, French maid outfits are still a popular poster child for gothic lolita (by now it's completely overdone), but it seems less gothic and more ruffly and doll-like--thanks to anime.
Maybe it's my imagination, but I have even begun to notice a huuuuge gap between the popular gothic lolita and the "real lolita," who is in the minority, thus less noticed. Since the "Visual-kei" gen. lolitas have been into it longer, they have had more years to make observations, learn, and improve upon themselves. So, I think they make up a large amount of the Lolitas who ostracize the newer anime-influenced styles.
It makes me wonder, when I tell people about the fashion, "Do I tell them about what's popular, what I observe in magazines and websites? Or do I tell them about what I hear directly from Lolitas whom I know and trust [and are in my generation/age group]?" Maybe that is not so much the difference between the anime-lolita group and Visual-lolita group at all, but the difference between Japanese gothic&lolita and American/English lolita?
Anyway...the point of this post was simply one of curiosity. Have any of you, or do you know anyone, who discovered lolita and gothic lolita through something other than Visual-kei or anime/manga? Did any of you ever just find it all on its own, through love of the Japanese culture/fashion/a friend?
Come to think of it, my boyfriend discovered gothic lolita by seeing them on the streets of Tokyo. I also met a girl once who discovered lolita through Dollfies and BJD. So what about you?