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Lolita Fashion and the Japanese "Cute Dresses" Phenomena

Apr 11

Lolita fashion is a Japanese subculture inspired on Victorian-era attire, yet the trend has spread far outside the country. The Lolita aesthetic originated as one of modesty, with a concentration on quality in both fabric and clothing construction. The initial style was a knee-length skirt or dress with petticoats to help create a "cupcake" form, but it has now extended to include corsets and floor-length skirts. Blouses, knee-high socks or stockings, and headdresses are other popular choices. Lolita fashion has grown into a variety of sub-styles, as well as a worldwide subculture.

Although many people credit Japan with starting the Lolita fashion movement, the genesis of the term's meaning is complicated and uncertain. The movement most likely began in the late 1970s, when well-known brands like Pink House, Milk, and Pretty (later known as Angelic Pretty) began selling clothing that would be classified as "Lolita" by today's standards. Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Metamorphose temps de fille followed shortly after.

The Cute and Sexy Look

Lolita fashion became more well-known in the 1990s, thanks to the popularity of bands like Princess Princess. These bands used elaborate outfits that followers began to imitate as their own. The style quickly expanded and eventually reached Tokyo, where it was adopted by Japanese youth culture. Lolita fashion has grown in popularity to the point where it can now be found in Japanese department shops.

Although the origin of the fashion is unknown, it was formed at the end of the 1970s by a new movement known as Otome-kei, which had a little impact on Lolita fashion since Otome means maiden and the maiden style seems to be a less developed Lolita style. Before Otome-kei, there was already a growth of the cuteness culture in the early 1970s, when Japanese schools placed a strong focus on adorable and infantile handwriting. Sanrio started experimenting with charming designs as a result of this. In the 1980s, the cuteness style known as the kawaii style became popular. Do-it-yourself behavior grew popular after Otome-kei, resulting in the birth of a new style known as 'doll-Kei,' which was the forerunner of Lolita fashion. Collectively this is all known as "Kawaii Clothing".

The Jingu Bashi (also known as the Harajuku Bridge) became recognized as a meeting spot for teenagers who wore lolita and other alternative fashion in the late 1990s, and as lolita got more famous, the number of lolita Fashion selling warehouses increased. The Gothic & Lolita Bible (2001), a spin-off of the iconic Japanese fashion magazine KERA (1998), and FRUiTS were important periodicals that helped promote the fashion trend (1998). Around this time, interest in Lolita Fashion began to spread beyond of Japan, with The Gothic & Lolita Bible being translated into English and published outside of Japan by Tokyopop, and FRUits producing an English photo book of Japanese Street Fashion in 2002. More stores opened overseas as the style got more popularized thanks to the Internet, such as Baby, The Stars Shine Bright in Paris (2007) and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright in New York (2006). (20134).

The youngsters that gathered in Harajuku or at Harajuku Bridge gradually faded away. One argument is that the arrival of fast fashion from companies such as H&M and Forever 21 has resulted in a decrease in street fashion consumption. In 2018, FRUiTS halted publishing, and Gothic & Lolita Bible was put on hold.

Is Lolita Fashion Controversial?

Lolita fashion did not exist until after the publication of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita (1955), with the first Japanese translation arriving in 1959. Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged guy, grooms, and abuses a twelve-year-old girl named Lolita in the novel. Because the novel dealt with the contentious issue of pedophilia and underage sexuality, the name "Lolita" quickly acquired a negative meaning, referring to a young girl who was improperly sexualized and connected with unwanted sexual preoccupation. In Japan, however, the novel's discourse was based on the country's idealized girls' culture (shjo bunka), and it became a good term for the "sweet and charming" adolescent girl, with no perverted or sexual meaning.

Lolita was adapted into a film in 1962, which was sexualized and did not reflect Lolita's indifference to sexuality. In 1997, a remake was produced. The Long Island Lolita was the 17-year-old Amy Fisher, who attempted to murder the wife of her 35-year-old boyfriend and whose crime was dramatized into a film called The Amy Fisher Story (1993). These flicks emphasized the sexual connotation. Lolita Nylon commercials (1964) and other media that exploited Lolita in sexual circumstances contributed to the creation of additional racy meanings. Another problem is that wearing attractive apparel as an adult is considered infantile in Western culture, equating lolita with pedophile fantasies. Cuteness, on the other hand, is more accepted as part of fashion in Japan.

In Japanese culture, the name is associated with sweetness and elegance rather than sexual beauty. Many lolitas in Japan are unaware that lolita is related to Nabokov's work, and they are appalled when they learn about it. lolicon (from "Lolita Complex"), a word related to Russell Trainer's novel The Lolita Complex (1966, translated 1969) and associated with otaku (anime and manga fan) culture, also uses the Japanese meaning of "Lolita." The idea and genre of media depict a fusion of kawaii aesthetic with sexual themes in literature.

Another widespread misunderstanding is the distinction between the Lolita fashion style and cosplay. Although both originated in Japan, they are distinct and should be viewed as distinct from one another; one is a fashion trend, while the other is role-play, with clothing and accessories used to portray a character. This does not rule out the possibility of some crossover between members of both groups. This is evident at anime events, such as the one in Götenborg, where cosplay and Japanese fashion are blended. Some Lolitas find it offensive when people refer to their attire as a costume.