22 Mar 2016

Misako Aoki Lolita Fashion Book

Being a Lolita is so much more than just what you own and who you hang out with (although the latter is very important). Like with anything in life, you can't just assume that there's any mystical point in a Lolita's life when she finally knows everything - you always, always learn new things throughout your entire life. I believe that what marks smart people apart from the silly ones is that they actively look for another source of knowledge and/or inspiration, a new place to enrich them as a person and as a Lolita (or a scientist, or a geek, or fan, or whoever you consider yourself to be).

Therefore, I decided to start a new tag on here where I will talk about the things - books, websites, films etc. - which I used and engaged with to become a better, more rounded Lolita. Whilst I will avoid the most obvious things, like EGL's Livejournal or the Gothic Lolita Bible, I am sure you'll find here both things you're familiar with and those you might not have heard of. And although those posts may often take the form of a review, I'd suggest treating them more like suggestions and pointers - after all, just because something might not be for everyone (I might not even like it myself), it doesn't take away from its value as a place to inspire you and deepen your knowledge of Lolita.

So: let's get started!




As the first thing I picked Misako Aoki's Lolita Fashion Book. Misako is probably one of the best known Lolita models, having been a so called Kawaii Ambassador an travelling around the world to promote Japanese street fashion and Lolita, and I think this book is something a lot of newbies to the fashion would naturally drift towards. As well as something that attracts seasoned Lolitas who just want to get a bit more. One downside to it: it's available in Japanese only, so even though there's probably just as many pictures as text, it's still better suited for those able to read Japanese.

The first thing that will probably strike you is that it definitely is made with beginners in mind. That's not to say that others can't find anything interesting there, but it may be smaller things that will prickle your interest if you've been into Lolita for a while.

Left to right, top to bottom: Lolita timeline,
Chapter 1: The Story of Lolita and Western Clothing,
Punk Lolita, and Main substyles of Lolita
However, for beginners or those who may not have a lot of background knowledge I think it's great. Misako explains Lolita basics step by step, from its origins and inspirations, through explaining some of the more popular styles (namely Sweet, Classic, Punk [?], Gothic and Casual) and suggesting hairstyles and make-up for each, all the way to what I'd call further learning, i.e. book and film recommendations for Lolitas. Especially all the middle bits, which are to do with clothes, are thorough and well set out: there's explanations of every possible item in a Lolita wardrobe and various suggestions of coordinating things, from those based on colours and styles to cuts and fabrics, although these can feel a little bit like ads in the magazine they're so brand-heavy. Fair enough, the Japanese Lolita brands had a part in creating this book, if I'm not mistaken, and it is good advertisement for them, but even including some Japanese high street brand pieces would've been a welcome change.

I like that the coordinate suggestions do essentially teach you how to put things together and what generally goes with what. Every now and then there are a variations of "1 dress X coords", which put emphasis on versatility rather than accumulating dresses, which is a good thing to know when you're just starting out (how many of us made that mistake?). But from the point of view of someone who already has been into Lolita for a few years and starts to develop or already has their own style, the outfits pictured feel a bit boring. They're what you'd see on display at brand stores and don't deviate much from the fairly narrowly defined boundaries of Sweet/Classic/Gothic. Safe is the word I want to use most here, no surprises. If you're looking for inspiration as a more matured Lolita, you're better off experimenting and browsing through Closet of Frills.

Misako's book and film recommendation, and
a glossary at the end
What might appeal to the more seasoned Lolitas are the parts nearer the end. There's a neat summary of the development and history of Lolita fashion, accompanied by a timeline. It puts things into perspective a little, whilst giving a glimpse into what Lolita fashion looked like at the very beginning and when did it really take off. For those who have been into it pretty much from that beginning, it'll probably give you a big dose of nostalgia! And seeing as Misako was a Kawaii Ambassador and toured the world a bit, it's interesting, if a little brief and almost repetitive in its lack of details, to read about her experiences of various places. As I mentioned, would be nice to read more, after all she would've experienced quite a culture shock in places like Brazil or Russia, but - spoiler alert - she sticks to being a Japanese young woman and mostly commenting on how great Lolitas in that country look and how nice they were to her. I was more interested in her observations on how the fashion may differ in those places or at least her recollections of the most interesting questions she was asked, seeing as she most likely delivered the same talk at each event.

Some of the Engrish you'll find in the book.
A big let down for me was the amount of Engrish that was there. It's hard not to notice, as it appears mostly in big letters, titles and subtitles, and while they can be funny, in the grand scheme of things they just make the book seem put together carelessly at best, and unprofessionally at worst. This is not necessarily a mistake on the author's part, after all nobody who isn't a native speaker is obliged to be fluent in English, but when publishing a book it's the editor's job to catch any mistakes like that and correct them. These things reflect on the person responsible for proofreading and editing the book, and if they were adamant about keeping the English words there to keep it fresh and representing the jargon of the fashion more, then they should've ensured that they had everything spelled correctly and used as it should be used, rather than write out the katakana word in Latin letters (e.g. アレンジ, arenji, suddenly making an appearance as arrenge) and hoping for the best.

Overall I'd say that it's not a captivating read, but is good to keep either as a reference point, especially for the vocab or origins of the fashion, or as an introductory guide for beginners and people wishing to learn a bit more about the fashion. It wasn't written with in-depth analysis and more accurate representation of variety in styles that we can see in Lolita, but if anyone would like to learn some basics of putting together balanced Lolita outfits or needs some pointers on what the fashion generally is - this book is comprehensive and accessible enough for that. As well as visually appealing, so if you want a pretty picture book with pictures of brand dresses and/or Misako, then you go for it too!

2 comments:

  1. You must have really good Japanese! Whilst I can read most of it, I admit I need a dictionary to help with the longer passages.
    I really agree with what you say about the book, some of the observations really opened my eyes however sush as the collar types and what kind of look they would lean towards.
    I look forward to having abut of time in future to read the longer passages in the book.

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    Replies
    1. I've done Japanese as my degree, so 5 years total, including 1 full year in Japan. I still need to look up the occasional word, but overall it's a lot easier than the stuff I had to cover at uni. You'll get there soon, if it's only an odd sentence now I'd say you're a good intermediate level now. :)
      I agree, the collars and styles part was mostly new to me too. Just that often this read like a Rules of Lolita thing rather than suggestions.

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