Oldschool lolita vs the 'old money'


 Whoosh, life’s kicking my butt and I have so many thoughts, but so little energy to express them. So stealing time when I can here is a write-up of some of those thoughts that’s slightly salty at both sides.

Image by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.com

Two things have happened within the last week or so: someone has made a TikTok to the extent of ‘why would BtSSB release their original early designs when they can do more of the super OTT contemporary ones’, then later I finally caught up on a video by Mina Lee, a creator whose video essays I enjoy, about the ‘old money aesthetic’. Much of my feelings that stemmed from the first one were already within me prior to even seeing the TikTok (which has since been taken down), however watching Mina’s video has helped clarify and name some of what I was feeling about the discourse at large.

As someone who doesn’t wear oldschool lolita and was not into the fashion when that was the dominant look, I don’t hold that many opinions about it. It’s not my cup of tea, so if a particular piece or outfit doesn’t appeal to me I respectfully move along. By virtue of when my journey with lolita started I’m also somewhere in between the ‘oldschool is the best, most practical, comfortable and highest quality’ and the ‘oldschool is dated and no different in spirit than wearing 40s fashion in 2022’ debate. Whilst I know people, both personally and overall, who really love that time of lolita fashion, enabling me to hear and understand their point of view, equally I like to think that I am relatively up to date with the current trends and opinions within our community, despite doing mostly my own thing.

Because of being in this position, observing the various discussions that stir up around the topic of oldschool lolita can feel like being the devil’s advocate for both. On the one hand, I understand the frustration of those oldschool lolitas who have lovingly looked through old magazines and are actively aiming to emulate the look of the early 2000s with the current trends of mixing some parts of the aesthetic with completely modern styling (particularly makeup). At the same time, I’m all for people taking what they like about a look, such as the colour palette and overall feel, and adding their own thing to it, whether it be the style of makeup they feel more comfortable in or accessories that were easier/quicker/cheaper to obtain that still give them the look they wanted. Like with so much in lolita fashion, most arguments or dissatisfactions boil down to the labels applied, with the odd sprinkling of airing out personal frustrations, hopefully in private settings.

That TikTok I mentioned? Yeah, I also don’t personally care for designs like the Shirring Babydoll JSK. Does that mean that the Dear Rose JSK is any more valid or that BtSSB should only focus on one style or the other? Absolutely not. The majority of our community, particularly those who have been active in it for a few years, and especially those who got to be active before the pandemic, understand that brands are allowed to try a variety of things, always have been, and won’t stop doing so anytime soon. This may sometimes be controversial in the ‘is this still lolita’ way (like AP’s Milkshake series), but when those concerns don’t enter the equation, what a brand releases isn’t really our business to question, we can merely make our opinions heard as consumers by either buying those or not.

BtSSB's Shirring Babydoll JSK re-release vs Dear Rose JSK.

However, between the comments specific to the video, pointing out how not understanding the above point is a clear sign that the creator’s own knowledge of the fashion is very limited and severely based on what is the dominant look now, and the more generic ones like those about ‘inauthentic’ makeup or the desire for oldschool-inspired pieces to stop because they do not adhere to the original principles of the fashion (higher quality materials, simpler designs, a particular way of putting them together etc.), the lolita community is coming across as a bit too conservative at times. Once I saw Mina’s video about the ‘old money’ aesthetic, all of those comments immediately made sense to me in the context of oldschool lolita acting like the old money vs the nouveau riche.

For one, despite a dominant look that we can confidently identify as oldschool lolita, there are plenty of ideas about it that are given as if no other look of lolita existed simultaneously. This is one that Bunny Valentine broke down very well in her most recent post, which I also recommend you check out. But going beyond what is oldschool and what isn’t, it’s the difference in attitudes and the parallels between the two seemingly unrelated worlds that really made me feel as if we’ve entered the stage when we can even talk about the OG oldschoolers as ‘old money’. Anyone can get rich, but the old money is inherited along with a set of values and expected behaviours, as well as a heavily coded lifestyle that those on the inside absorb by osmosis, while to the outsiders it becomes a thick book of petty rules. How different is that from lolita, where those in the early days worked hard to learn and establish the rules, who are now watching the newcomers come in to a ready made cushy place full of options, then listen to those same newcomers either shout about the superiority of cheaply made lower quality items over branded or indie pieces or to the disses thrown at the look that isn’t current? How different is our ‘admiring the models and designers vs admiring the TikTokers/YouTubers/social media lolitas’ to their ‘admiring people of this heritage with years of building their empires vs admiring celebrities, influencers and other fast-made personalities’?

When ‘old money’ became a look, first understood as preppy, which anyone could simply purchase once average household disposable income in the global North increased in the 1980s, the actual ‘old money’ probably too felt some resentment. Something that they have cultivated and that was part of their identity has now become a commodity that anyone could purchase and pretend like they were something they were not. Of course, that never erased the difference between the two, socioeconomic differences still dictated what label the polo shirts were and what access to other resources people had. Nonetheless as disposable income grew on average and as other means of success allowed those from other backgrounds to attain riches quickly, the wealth of the old money was reduced from an unattainable goal to just an aesthetic. Even if those who always belonged to it retained their air of superiority and still kept their noses stuck up high.

To me lolita fashion, as seen from the way the community approaches oldschool, sometimes feels the same. Oldschool lolita comes with a set of values, an attitude that favours the slow ways of obtaining pieces and knowledge of what makes something lolita and what doesn’t. From that point of view the more fast-fashion-like instant accessibility of not only the learning resources, but the clothes themselves can feel like the nouveau riche of lolita fashion are reducing those values to an aesthetic that can be adopted and then discarded. But just like those embracing the preppy styles or getting inspired by the ‘old money’ aesthetic don’t have to actually desire to be a part of that world or culture, neither do newer lolitas who enjoy the look of oldschool lolita style clothing. Yes, it would probably be more accurate if they tagged some of those looks with a more generic ‘lolita fashion’ rather than ‘oldschool lolita’ - but people mistag things all the time, with more or less upsetting results. At the end of the day, the resources to learn more about that style remain available to those who truly wish to wear that look and adopt it as their style. You can take a horse to water and all that.

Obligatory cheesy catchphrase that matches the tone of what I'm trying to say.
Image by Meruyert Gonullu from Pexels.com

Is all this just another rant to say ‘let’s not be elitist, but also let’s not shove everything into the lolita fashion bag even if it doesn’t fit’? Not quite. If anything, then for once I am standing with those newer lolitas and asking that our resident oldtimers and experts extend a bit of understanding for wanting to create their own look based off a pre-existing one and for enjoying the fashion in their way. There is certainly room to be salty about mistagged things and definitely legitimate reason to be frustrated with people like that TikToker who try to pass off their preferences as a justifiable dissatisfaction with a brand catering to more than just their favourite look. But there is also plenty of space within our fashion to grow and change, to create new looks, push the limits, and still exist without raining on anyone else’s parade. And considering how at the very least we can say that our OG oldschoolers haven’t built their legacy on active oppression and exploitation of others, like all of the ‘old money’ wealthy have, then we’re really better off enjoying our version of the ‘new money’. They help to keep this fashion alive and we can support them by pointing to further resources and focusing on the good that they can offer to foster a growth mindset instead of further perpetrating silly divisions. Even if that means doing certain things harmlessly ‘wrong’, like having too modern of a makeup with an older style of this fashion.


  1. I read this first thing in the morning and my brain is too properly grasp the nuance, but I still enjoyed reading this and the parallels you've drawn.

    1. It's also equally possible that my rambling is completely off the mark and I'm just seeing things that aren't there ^^"""


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