So you're dating and in lolita


In case you didn’t know - ya girl is back on le dating apps. The subject of dating in lolita hasn’t been needed in my life for a while and we all know the levels of preconceptions, objectification, and fetishisation that are prevalent for merely existing in frills. But I realised that all of my fun pictures are in lolita. Unless I want my profile to be all selfies (face or mirror) and look like I have no life, I’d have to use what I have. So whilst I cannot say that my experience in this field is particularly extensive, I thought I’d share some of the thoughts and observations that I’ve had so far. Of course, these will be heavily subjective, most relevant to others like me for whom lolita fashion is a big and regular part of their lives, but also potentially pretty Britain-centric. I cannot vouch that my experiences would be reflected even in other English-speaking countries as there may be other cultural differences and other factors at play. So even if none of this could ever apply to you, I hope that at least it satisfies some curiosity.

Picture by cottonbro studio on

1. Having lolita fashion photos on your profile

This was the immediate first obstacle - online dating relies on uploading pictures. And almost all the pictures that I have of myself are my coord shots. Not only is there not necessarily a lot of variety, it’s also very lolita-heavy.

At the same time, lolita fashion is a massive part of my life. Whoever will be with me will encounter me in frills somewhere on the scale of (my) casual to OTT. They have to be comfortable with that because this is one of my non-negotiables. If they can’t handle my toned down (and some people really are that self conscious about even second hand attention), then it’s unfair on both of us to ask them to handle all of my other levels of nonsense.

With that in mind, I aimed to pick some photos that aren’t too, for lack of a better word, costumey and which showed something else besides just me in the clothes. Whether this is down to the specific app that I’m using, the type of people its algorithm pushes my profile to or just people being nicer than I anticipated, I’ve only had to deal with one creep so far (and by deal I mean that they made themselves instantly known as a creep, so I just blocked and reported them). Hand on heart, I have had more creepy/inappropriate/explicit messages on Instagram than I had when online dating. My experience up to now has shown that the men I interact with either don’t comment on my clothing at all, wait until much later into the conversation to do so or ask very tentatively and hesitantly, clearly with no intention to offend and treading a territory that is unfamiliar to them (and that, let’s be honest, even normies don’t always handle well, so they may have had mixed responses to the same sort of comment already depending on the person). Every time the topic came up, it was either in a complementary context or a genuine curiosity, no unsavoury follow up.

Genuine example from my profile and the most OTT coord to feature, but this photo is gold and I think that I'm hilarious with picking that caption. The cat and the faces we pull seem to be distracting enough so far.

And as for the men that I don’t interact with (i.e. those who match with me, but whom I don’t match back with)? Only a few pick the lolita pictures to like or comment on. My profile picture seems to get the most reactions, followed by the two photos I have of me wearing Son de Flor dresses (respectivly second and last pictures on my profile). Each time in the past that I’ve been on the same app, whatever the profile picture I had set, that was the one to receive the most reactions. This (and many other things) leads me to believe that men don’t always scroll all the way down through the profile before deciding whether to match or not. Alternatively, based on the conversations that I’ve had, they are aware of how men’s behaviour overall right now is scrutinised and in an effort to not come across as creepy, they pick what they feel is the most ‘safe’ picture to react to, unless they have something specific to say.

Again, this is likely very heavily influenced by my location and the app that I’m using. My experiences might not be reflected elsewhere, be that in another country or even on another app (and actually, ‘fun’ fact: way more weirdos on a supposedly established and paid site than on a free app that gets just as many horny students as it does actual serious people). Nonetheless, the neutral-to-positive responses together with a genuine absence of actual predatory behaviours, especially compared to what I experience just by existing on social media, was refreshing and… well, just nice. As lolitas we are constantly on our guard and I too was very apprehensive, at times even downright worried about what to expect - and none of that has come true so far.

2. The conversations that stem from that

Once a match is established, the subject of my clothing choices does still come up at some point or other. Not always immediately, but inevitably it will. It’s the same thing as when you’re walking down the street in frills - people will stop you and comment on or ask about it. And just like in those situations, my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive rather than negative.

Broadly speaking, comparing those conversations to the interactions that I’ve had with normies on the streets is the most accurate one. Even in a text message it’s immediately clear who is asking out of curiosity and who out of a place of judgement (which I’ve not encountered on the apps). I have had people ask me whether I make my clothes, in exactly the same vein as randos on the street do when seeing something they have never seen before and they can’t fathom that it is possible to buy clothes that look different. Every now and then someone might get a little too hung up on the clothes and that’s your sign to choose between giving them the benefit of the doubt by calling them out on it to establish that boundary or by exiting the situation entirely in favour of something that doesn’t make you feel so uncomfortable.

Another one taken straight from the profile. Most people who react to this do so because they recognise the place (Bury Arcade Club), but this undeniably gives them a flavour of how I dress.

As I already said, the men whom I’ve been talking with have been complimentary. Some take the cautious approach, to acknowledge the thing that stands out about me the most, but keep it to something quick that they can move on from. Those ones strike me as testing the grounds, as well as concerned with not coming across as creeps. They may be curious about it, but seem a little scared to ask in case the question comes out not the way they intended. Some of the more ‘normie’ ones (i.e. no signs of any special interests or anything out of the ordinary anywhere in their profile or in the chat) have told me that they got told off by (presumably normie) women for similar comments about clothes and appearance. Most of them, especially if they’re neurotypical, cishet, and coming from backgrounds with little exposure to anything non-mainstream, will not know how to navigate the conversation and as a result will shy away from engaging until you give them a clear sign that it’s ok to do so - but you will also need to do a lot of the heavy lifting in steering the conversation too.

In some cases, and this goes especially for men who have been exploring their softer sides, who may be neurodivergent or actively mingle within LGBTQIA+ circles if they’re not LGBTQIA+ themselves, you may find yourself in a broader discussion of fashion and how femme presenting people are granted more freedom to explore self-expression through clothing than masc ones. Or any sort of other more thoughtful topic about clothes, fashion overall and alternative fashion, body image, confidence, anything that isn’t just a ‘you look different’ type thing. In my experience the ‘I wish that I could’ type things were the most common threads of conversation. And those ones, whilst I had to restrain nearly all of myself from launching at the poor soul to shake them and shout something along the lines of ‘you can wear whatever you want too, reject the patriarchal expectations of what you’re supposed to look like and join us, comrade!’, always fill me with a lot of hope - and joy when the person has shared some of their own experimentations with clothes. Spend 10 minutes on a dating app and especially during those first few profiles you will see all that our society expects men to be like before the algorithm catches on to any alt thing that you may be into. So to see, in real life and real time, that we are making that progress with some of them, that more men are sticking a middle finger at the box they’ve been confined into in favour of exploring what brings them happiness, is beautiful. Whilst this will be much too heavy a thing to bear for many lolitas out there, since we’re not signing up to dating websites to act as guides for people unfamiliar with presenting themselves in any kind of an alternative way that hasn’t already been accepted as ‘masculine enough’, it means that you’ll find yourself having much more meaningful conversations with people about who they are all as a result of the one prompt that is your own style.

And the best thing about all of this, both the more and the less normie scenarios I outlined above, is that especially if you’ve been wearing lolita for a long time, the chance of you being caught off guard will be next to zero. You’ve had these exact same conversations with other people. Some of these you’ve had so many times that you may run off script (and the familiarity of that may conversely put you at ease with your own nerves), others may have been rarer to you but still things you may have thought a lot about. There probably isn’t a question that they could ask that you don’t already have an answer to. And hopefully, if that person makes you feel really comfortable being a lolita around them, they will like the infodump that you may end up throwing their way - that’s a big green flag for me.

3. Wearing lolita to a date

This is the point where the style that you wear will have the biggest impact on the response you get. Because if we’re assuming that men will behave in the same way as normies on the street will, or even similarly to others on social media, then you know that my classic arse is dealing with a lot less mess than goths (so objectified and just seeing men who explicitly put that they’re attracted to goth girls gives me the ick) or sweets (the most out-there of us all and the ones who deal with arguably the most yuck in the restricted messages folder of their social media DMs).

Last time I was on the apps, I wore lolita twice to first dates. Back then I approached the entire subject of dating with a lot more hesitation, so whilst I still wore cute things to other dates (namely my retro-inspired dresses, so still wearing a petti), there were only two guys who made me feel comfortable enough to do that for the very first time we met. And I was more comfortable because of the sort of conversations that we’d had leading up to the dates, which included discussing what I wear, why, and that there are levels of fanciness to what I wear.

Right now, as my general attitude towards dating has shifted (it sounds horrible, but I’m effectively playing a numbers game and getting to the first meeting much sooner than I would’ve before), so has my level of care for what these people see me in that first time. Arguably, some dates where I was in “just” a retro dress I was more dressed up than in some of the frills when we factor in overall styling. And a bright pink dress with curls and flowers in your hair attracts just as much attention as a layered classic lolita coord.

The one thing that I’ve kept consistent between then and now is that the frills I choose for dates fall within my ‘more casual’ zone. To use the scale from my Advanced Coordinating #7 post, I kept those looks around a 3-4 out of 6: good enough for my own solo outing or maybe even a chill, non-themed meetup, but leaning just enough to the casual side that I wouldn’t have felt too self conscious wearing that to work if I had to. Ultimately, that first date is to get a feel of the vibe that you may have with the other person. So far I’ve found that the men I was meeting were much more nervous than I was - throwing too much at them would’ve bordered on cruel. And thankfully, classic lolita already blends in with just fancier, but recognisable styles, so especially if you tone it down a touch more, you just look like the sort of person every conservative family would absolutely love for their son to bring home for dinner. I sincerely doubt that sweet or gothic, even in their toned down forms, would get the same kind of a neutral reaction, so for anyone reading this for advice - take that into consideration and maybe really try to ensure that you have ‘the clothes talk’ beforehand to feel where that person might be at.

A coord I wore to a first date recently with someone (and to cinema beforehand, let's be honest, cinema was the more important inspiration). Btw, not a single comment from the guy on my style at any point during or before the date. Only one stray comment from a somewhat hesitant fellow cinemagoer.

The upside, however, is that by the time we had met, there was usually enough to prepare them for what to expect, if not through conversation then through the pictures that I uploaded. As a result, once it actually got to the meeting, the reactions tended to be milder. One guy said nothing about my coord, even though I did not tone down from the cinema trip that I went on earlier that day. Whereas another one, who only saw me irl in the aforementioned pink British Retro dress, felt like he used the compliments to mask some of his own nervousness or awkwardness, and in the process came across as a dad would when they’re trying to be supportive, but they really don’t understand what they’re seeing at all, so they just keep sticking to complimenting you because that’s the only thing they can think of that seems safe and end up overdoing it a little (I hope you get the picture). Most who were in-between usually managed one comment, typically a complimentary one, that either led the conversation to another topic or was almost like an opener to the whole date.

So again, to anyone reading this post in search of advice for themselves, I’d say be true to yourself, to your comfort levels (it sucks when something causes you pain or distracts you by pinching/rolling/digging in/whatever while you’re trying to politely listen to a new person), and keep your fanciness level at roughly what you’ve shown on your profile pictures or more casual than that. This is a good middle ground between giving them a flavour of yourself and what that feels like (because they might not expect you to be stopped by randos to compliment you, even if you’re very used to that), as well as giving you a measure of their reaction and how comfortable you feel with that. Because if they can’t handle you at your ‘I’m just throwing this on to get bubble tea’ casual, do you want to be dealing with their reactions to your biblically accurate angel level of OTT?

4. The L-word

Finally, the stage which I have not gotten to yet this time round. Had our fashion been called something else, we’d probably all be a lot more open about what we wear with strangers. And everyone who’s been to a meetup or who’s been a lonelita has those answers drilled into their heads like a reflex: What are you wearing? It’s Japanese street fashion. We don’t say “it’s called lolita fashion” until we either really know we’re with some safe folk or until we really can’t stop the person pressing us for a name.

I’ve found myself going through the same hoops when dating. Previously, of the two who have seen me in frills, one I can’t remember if I told him the name of the fashion, but he’s certainly seen all levels of the scale, at least in pictures. The other one, I never had to because he already knew of it, nearly causing me to spill tea all over myself as my jaw dropped and my hand slackened when he asked if what I wore was lolita fashion. (And yes, we dated for like 7 months after that - you can’t wave a green flag this big and not get snatched up.)

However, one of the things that I explicitly wanted to do better going back into dating this time was being more open about the fashion that I wear - hence showing more of it beforehand. So whilst I haven’t yet gotten to the stage where I’d either tell someone the name of the style or casually name drop it, I’ve gone through some of the other steps that we often suggest to newbie lolitas for broaching the subject with their loved ones. Informing them that what they see is only one level of my scale of how I look, explicitly calling it Japanese street fashion to legitimise it as a fashion and distinguish it from a costume, talking about the community aspect of it when the conversation steered that way. The closest I’ve come to actually saying “lolita” to someone was when asked what do we, as a group of enthusiasts of this style, call ourselves and since the guy is in Sheffield, I namedropped Frills of Steel. Whether he ever looked it up, I’ve no clue, he hasn’t mentioned, but considering that this is the actual name of the Sheffield comm, it is literally one Google search removed from finding the lolita aspect and finishing the puzzle.

The last of the lolita pictures on my current dating app profile. Of the three this is probably the most traditionally lolita and showing the most of the whole look in the process (as well as me in my natural environment of photographing myself), so it really sets the expectations quite openly.

Yes, this whole part really is jumping through hoops that we put in front of ourselves. Because I could’ve just ripped the plaster, said “the style that I wear is a form of Japanese street fashion called lolita” and dealt with the response accordingly: either unmatch with someone who proved to be a dick or a creep about it or moved on with the conversation when someone might not even have a shred of an association (because newsflash: some people out there genuinely don’t know about the book or the film). That in itself is just as telling as how someone reacts to seeing you in those clothes. But given that it’s a defence mechanism that we as a community have adopted for our dealings with the general public, it’s hard to just shrug it off. If anything notable ever happens to me in the context of me using the L-word with someone I went on a date with via a dating app, I’ll add an edit here. However, chances are that by the time any of us get to throw that word into the conversation, we’ll already have a good enough idea of whether we want to see where things go with that person or not.

In Conclusion

The absolute first draft of this post started in like 2021 when I was in my first round of online dating post-long term relationship breakup. I’m glad that I never deleted it and now had the chance to come back to it with more personal insight. Again, there are so many variables in the world of dating in general that there is no way that I could’ve covered everything or that everything that I have said would be relevant to all of you out there. Where you live, what lolita fashion means to you, the sort of people that you’re attracted to, what your priorities are in a relationship, what app you’re using, how old you are - those and many more will impact what sort of responses you may have if you put photos of yourself in frills into your profile. But I’d like to believe that the ultimate takeout is that, like with much of everything else that happens online, the reality is not as extreme as the visible and loud bad seeds make us think it is. There are enough people already in relationships where the partner who is a lolita thrives in the sense of security that comes from their significant other accepting them as they are. And there are plenty of people out there who are willing to offer that. You will need the same level of thick skin as what you need for wearing frills whilst out and about town on your own or to brave the weekend public transport in your ILD coord to be on dating apps. But it’s not going to be anything that you haven’t already dealt with some other time. And it most likely will be much nicer than what you expect it to be.


  1. I just want to mention that the paragraph about guys having a more broader discussion about fashion with you made me feel more seen.

    1. For all the negative stuff that still lingers around online dating, seeing how many straight cis men have started to embrace the different ways to reclaim the softer sides to their masculine identity has been really great to see. There is hope out there.


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