Striding gracefully down the street with exquisite bows, frilly skirts, lethally cute shoes, and elegant parasols, she shatters the mundane. Lolita fashion. Rising rapidly in popularity in lands far from the streets of Japan where it originated, the movement is often combined with the atmosphere of elegant Gothic culture for the most common form we call Gothic Lolita or “GothLoli” to use the Japanese construction. Gothic Lolita spans across the Lolita and the Gothic subcultures.
There are common motifs that help define the style, including skulls, bats, crosses, roses, tiny coffins, and other supernatural references but fans of the style will import other subgenre to keep the look fresh and unique. In reality, there are no hard lines in fashion. This sometimes lead fans to argue passionately about what to label a particular outfit, approaching religious fervor in fights over taxonomy. GothLoli manages to combine a Victorian “Alice in Wonderland” mood with both classic Elegant Goth and whiffs of Japanese flair.
The style originated in its current form in Japan, largely a spinoff of the styles made popular by J-rock bands such as MALICE MIZER and its leader Mana. Every Gothic Lolita fan has at least access to a magazine from Japan called THE GOTHIC AND LOLITA BIBLE to help them create their own personal styles as well as find resources for the pieces and clothing. Elements. Mana even has his own label, Moi-même-Moitié, to propagate the fashion.
The Gothic Lolita reminds many Westerners of the classic ornate dolls popular to collect. Concepts of ‘sexy’ are heavily muted in favor of ‘cuteness’. In fact, the fastest way to infuriate an aficionado of Gothic Lolita is call the fashion sexy or erotic. They are striving for a cute elegant appearance, striving for beautiful. The outfits are modest. Extremely modest. Any mental baggage, as usual, is in the mind of some viewers. Lolita style has nothing (Got that?!) to do with pedophilia. The fashion and the lifestyle contain no sexual connotations. Instead, most women present themselves in young Victorian or Edwardian looks, very modest and reserved. Bell-shaped petticoats are common, as are flared skirts with thick ruffles. Blouses are long-sleeved and buttoned up. Naturally, these rules flex at the edges where other styles incorporate Gothic Lolita elements to build a hybrid style.
So what can we characterize as Gothic Lolita or GothLoli?
The images in this issue are a great start to understanding the fashion style and culture. It must be stated that there is are styles parallel to Gothic Lolita which some call Gothic Doll. That style has some sexy elements but still focuses on beauty in a delicate form. From the Gothic Doll arena, Gothic Lolita fits in as a sub-genre. Complicated, of course, and guaranteed to ignite debate.
In GothLoli mode, hair styles vary but the “twin-tail” style is almost signature. Bangs, curls, and ornate ribbons are often used. The classic Japanese look of long straight hair with bangs isn’t unusual. Small decorations known as fascinators are very popular, made to look like tiny top hats or floral arrangements. They range from the very simple to the incredibly ornate.
Shoes are often variations on Mary Janes, but Victorian boots are also common. Sexy is muted in favor of styles considered extremely cute, so there are no stiletto heels. If there are heels, they are of the large blocky platform style. It is not unusual to see the shoes festooned with small chains and charms.
The Gothic sub-mode of Lolita trends to darker colors. Black, royal blue, red, deep purples are common colors used in the fabric, along with prints in those color themes. More rarely, controversial imagery might be used but is usually eschewed as no longer Lolita.
Stockings are the most common choice for legwear, especially thigh-highs with fancy lace tops. The stockings are usually opaque but at the edges of the style one may see intricate hosiery patterns including web, cross, or spider patterns. Fishnet is rare and considered “not Lolita” by most.
Chokers are almost required, the more intricate and elegant the better. Chokers may be adorned with tiny chains, jewels, more charms, and may feature a large element on the front that integrates the overall theme, for example a spider or a jewel. Coordinating shoes, purses, and other accessories is vital. That can’t be stated enough. Outfit coordination is essential for a fantastic look.
There is some debate over what makeup constitutes “Gothic Lolita”. Some go with the “little vampire” motif. Blood red lips, dark eyeliner, perhaps a powdered face for the doll look. Others go with a more natural colors, dark with neatly defined eyes. Black lipstick is rarely used unless the overall look is extremely dark. Soft and natural is more common, in order to lure the viewer’s eyes to the outfit.
So what do Gothic Lolita fans do? They do what most people do, but they have tastes in music, often forms of metal music or dark melodic styles. They meet to go out, cake and pastry shops being a particular favorite destination. They put a lot of work into their passion. They have events where people meet to have pageants, swap clothing, and collect gear. In other words, they act like most any other social subcultures act.
Enjoy the pictures and learn more simply by searching on “Gothic Lolita” in your web browser.