For a long time I was thinking about how I have a group of friends and acquaintances who are all into lolita, but maybe not everyone here can say the same thing for themselves because they do not personally know anyone who is interested in lolita. As such, our perceptions of lolita ideals and lifestyles are probably different.
What made me think of that were the arguments long ago (which have probably popped up here and there since) about whether or not there is a "lolita lifestyle". This recent cosplay lolita issue reminded me of that.
I think that whether or not we have friends into these fashions and what kind of friends we have influences how each of us perceives certain aspects of gothic and lolita culture. Nobody's perceptions are 100% correct or incorrect, because no one person can define an entire body of people. One can only make generalizations that are right for some and wrong for others.
For example, I once viewed the typical or ideal lolita as somebody who is independent and in love with freedom, self-interested (in a positive way, as in they don't sacrifice their every need and desire for the sake of others), solitary, and anti-mainstream or pop culture.
This describes myself and my friends (and of course, we each have our own personal traits besides those few mentioned), but when my views started to contradict the views other people had about what an ideal lolita is--frail and gentle and hardly able to care for herself, for example--I realized that I could only gather my own observations and theories by being with the only lolitas I knew, and of course I would get along with people who were like me, and not necessarily because they liked lolita.
So my views had/have a bias based on the lolitas in my area, AND the fact that I know real people who are lolitas and share traits. (I hope anybody who thinks that lolitas are too frail to care for themselves came to this conclusion through imagination and not by observing their friends!)
As for the lolita lifestyle, that is something that can bring up a heated debate, and when I tried to make a point about its existence once, I received many heated disagreements, but I discovered that everyone who disagreed with me thought I was referring to the fairy tale lolita. What I call the "fairy tale" lolita is the ideal lolita who sips tea and eats sweets all day long, reads girly books and listens to classical and baroque music, and acts extra polite to everybody--basically lives as the Princess of La La Land.
I'm sure people like that exist in some sense by sharing some of those traits, but nobody does and likes ONLY lolita things ALL of the time NATURALLY, without forcing themselves. So of course this ideal fairy tale lolita does not exist in the real world. This is an imaginary ideal, a fairy tale character. This is not what I believe the lolita lifestyle is.
I believe a girl who is living a lolita lifestyle doesn't do so consciously. She just is who she is, and because a large majority of other lolitas are like her, they create the typical "lolita lifestyle" together.
She is a girl who saves her money to buy lots of beautiful clothes, or who makes her own garments on a regular basis. She wears her clothes whenever she feels like it and hangs out with other lolitas once in a while, if there are any in her area. This is the most definitive part, because lolita is first and foremost a fashion. And fashion is a lifestyle choice.
She probably is or used to be interested in Japanese culture or some aspect of it, since gothic and lolita still hasn't quite broken away from the Japanese attachment and she was more likely to find out about it through that interest. It also seems that music is very important to lolitas. I have found that lolitas tend to like some kind of rock, alternative, or goth music.
And then, because it is fun, many lolitas like to include in their lives little bits of that fairy tale lolita's hobbies--having tea parties or learning how to sew and knit lolita things, collecting recipes for lolita-ish foods or titles of lolita-ish books and movies--but if they did not already have some interest in those things, they would not have the desire to pick them up.
In short, the "lolita lifestyle" is literally and simply the lifestyle that a girl who is or likes lolita comes to have BECAUSE of her interest in lolita. It is not some special term used to describe someone who chooses to live as a "true lolita".
So I thought, if someone doesn't really hang out with other lolitas, or doesn't pay attention to what the people online are talking about and doing, they won't see these patterns, and thus think that a true lolita lives a lifestyle of sweets and fairy tale happiness. Then they will either struggle to embrace this lifestyle, or decide that it is just pretend or doesn't exist and anyone who claims it does is stupid and crazy.
So, this is how having or not having lolita friends, and what kind of lolita friends you have, might influence how you perceive lolita beyond the fashion--if you think of lolita beyond the fashion at all.
And how this relates to cosloli is...well, first I need to give you some background about my ideas on that.
I don't think of cosloli as bad wannabe lolita, which seems to be the general consensus. I understand that there are many cheap and tacky lolita costumes on the market, but overall, the aesthetics of lolita can be used to create beautifully elaborate creations that are far too impractical and/or unusual to wear as a regular outfit. After all, haven't we all been there when people who know nothing about lolita or cosplay assume we or our friends are dressed up for a play? (I certainly have, more than once. How does everyone assume that same thing??)
The idea of costuming or cosplay is to save such outfits for special occasions, and these occasions give costumers the thrill of imagination or a game, something that is special precisely because it does NOT belong to real life.
But cosplay is only part costume. The other part is the PLAY, the idea that you must act according to your costume. A cosplay lolita PRETENDS to be a lolita, an utterly IDEAL lolita--that is, acts super polite and such, but only when wearing a lolita outfit.
So to relate this cosloli idea to the rest of the post, perhaps some people embrace what I call the "fairy tale lolita" as a fun escape from reality, akin to getting lost in the world of a fantasy novel after a hard day's work or a rough week at school. They know that it can't exist in the real world, but that is exactly what makes it so appealing to them--it is so otherworldly and perfect.
Because like I said earlier, everyone's perceptions of the lolita life will be different based on experience and no one will ever be 100% correct or incorrect. There are just too many lolitas.
And in case anyone is curious, this all comes from about 5 years of being obsessed with lolita fashion and lolitas. I just mean that even though you probably don't recognize my username and might think I'm just saying all this because I'm new and impressed, I'm not!