In the time that I’ve been into and wearing Lolita fashion I was extremely lucky to not have anything majorly unpleasant happen to me. This doesn’t mean that Lolita fashion doesn’t come with its fair share of difficulties and here are some of the biggest ones that I’ve been working through so far. These aren’t things that can simply be wholly overcome and I doubt that this is everything that I’ll face. I had been thinking about writing up a blog post on similar lines, but my ideas haven’t quite clarified yet, so this is perfect timing. It is going to be a serious post and it will discuss topics that some may even find triggering, so if you find topics such as body image or comparing yourself to others triggering, I suggest you give this one a miss.
The greatest difficulty that I have had to deal with in Lolita fashion is definitely body image. Many of us have been or are struggling with our body image outside of Lolita fashion too, but wearing a fashion that is primarily aimed at the East Asian market (Japan, China, Korea), the sizing of which can be extremely challenging when this is not your body type, can exaggerate the struggles that you may already be going through. Now, Lolita fashion can also have a positive impact on our body image: it can give us confidence, make us feel beautiful in our own eyes (because we dress like this for our own pleasure, not anyone else’s), it can even accentuate some of our best features or make us feel better about our ‘imperfections’ (those of us who are small breasted now enjoy being able to fit into brand blouses, while those with great calves can show them off in all kinds of lovely OTK socks). But the fact is for many Western Lolitas this fashion tends to accentuate the downsides, not the upsides, when it comes down to body image. Unfortunately, there is no remedy for it either – this will be a long journey towards self-acceptance and it will not be easy. What has helped me on that road was cutting out most of the mainstream media targeted at women, where body shaming is prevalent, but also immersing myself in two quite different worlds: burlesque and Japanese onsens. Both allowed me to see women of different body shapes and sizes in the nude and realise that no shape or size is less beautiful than the other and that our body never stays the same, it is natural for it to change over time. I still have moments of relapse: when I struggle with the zip (not even because of size, usually because zips just get stuck at the waist seam), when I have to put a sports bra to do a garment up, when I’ve eaten and feel bloated, when I’m taking all my Lolita gear off and see where it dug and left red marks… But for most of the time Lolita gives me confidence and I accepted that I won’t fit into certain things not because I’m the wrong shape or size, but because the company aims their products at a different kind of customer and had them, not me, in mind when designing this particular garment. It’s not easy to tell that to yourself, but eventually it will help.
Secondly there is that strive for perfection, especially pushed through by social media. There’s nothing wrong with being a perfectionist, as long as it doesn’t overcome your life or end up having a negative impact on your mental health. To try to use an example, it’s ok to want your outfit to be perfected to the last detail, but it’s not ok when that perfecting process makes you think that without this one last detail your outfit is horrible or ruined, that you can’t wear it now and end up not going to a meet as a result. A different one: it’s ok to take a couple of outfit shots to get the one that’s just right, but it’s not ok when you end up spending literally hours on this and still find something to criticise in every single photo. Although Lolita is a fashion, so it’s natural for us to want to look good and have great outfits, at the end of the day these are also just clothes and sometimes it is more important that we have a good time at a meet, compromising on the perfect outfit for the sake of practicality. I said that social media pushes that image of perfection through and it’s true – we watch dozens, sometimes even hundreds of carefully curated feeds which show us a glimpse of someone’s life and without seeing the behind the scenes it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these people lead perfect lives every minute of every day of their lives. Remember, if you took a while to get a perfect outfit shot or the right photo for your Instagram, then so have these other people. If you struggled with your outfit not coming together quite like you had hoped it would, then so have your social media idols. And in between posting on Instagram, they have been to work or school or grocery shopping, doing similarly ordinary and unglamorous things as you have, but haven’t posted about those on their social media. Sometimes I have to actually repeat that to myself out loud, but I know that if I didn’t, I could land myself in quite a dark place and ruin years’ worth of work in terms of confidence-building. If you have to, it’s better to turn your phone off and talk out loud to yourself than to constantly feel inadequate and ruin your mental health because of striving for a superficial perfection that never extends beyond that one snap on Instagram.
Both of the above are linked to the difficulty of trying to avoid comparisons. We start feeling worse about ourselves when we compare ourselves to others, which we’re perfectly aware we shouldn’t do, but sometimes can’t help. To me it’s important to remember to draw the line between admiring and comparing, and to cut any comparisons as quickly as possible, before they grow into self-doubts. If distracting/changing the topic doesn’t work, I tend to use a few internal mantras. For example, to ‘I wish I could wear makeup like her’ my internal response is ‘You can – but it’d look different because your facial features are different and you can’t change that’. To ‘I wish I could wear her coord’ I either say ‘You wouldn’t feel like you then, that’s her style, you have your own’ or, in rarer cases, ‘Do you want this dress badly enough to alter it? Then it won’t be that exact same coord’. To all the ‘I wish I could put a coord as nice as hers’ I go ‘You can! Just look at how she’s done it and then try with your own stuff’. And to any comparisons regarding body size and therefore relating back to my previous point of body image, I will remind myself of how unhappy I was that one time I had to diet (I had put on weight and felt very miserable about not fitting into some of my favourite clothes) and that all the clothes I currently own fit me well, so is there an actual need for me to go through that process again and will it actually make me feel any happier? The point is, the sooner you stop the comparison brewing the better for your mental health and the better for you. Remember that there are people who appreciate you and your Lolita style because it’s you – if you stopped being you for the sake of trying to be like someone else, who would you be then?
Last but not least is the battle between wants and needs. You could argue that since Lolita is a fashion, and not necessarily the most practical one, there aren’t any actual needs within it, but that would kill all the joy, so I won’t take it that far. However, even when regularly checking where my wardrobe gaps are and what bits I am in need of adding, it’s always a choice between waiting for that to appear (since my needs got quite specific now) and buying something I want and like now. This involves additional balancing of one’s budget and storage space, none of which are limitless, but I’ve also learnt that it very quickly becomes just a buying habit, addiction in extreme cases. Yes, because this is a fashion, then the majority of ways to participate in it will involve buying things to wear, but once you’re in the habit of buying new things quite regularly, it’s not easy to just stop. Lolita fashion requires constant exercising of one’s self-control and finding ways to distract yourself from buying things when you can’t afford them, don’t have room for them and don’t even need them.
These difficulties I talked about are probably fairly common within the Lolita community, however, they are not often addressed, or at least not very loudly or publicly. It’s important to talk about them in order to make others aware not only that Lolitas are humans too, but also that going through these doesn’t make you a lesser person or a lesser Lolita. You don’t have to copy someone else’s looks or constantly have to have something new to enjoy Lolita fashion (unless that’s what you really want and what will make you happy). Also, the first step towards overcoming a problem is acknowledging that there is one and many may not even realise that, for example, they excessively compare themselves to others or that their perfectionism is getting a little out of hand until it’s pointed out to them. Remember, it’s ok to be imperfect and it’s perfect to be who you are.
What are some of the difficulties that you have had to deal with in Lolita fashion? I sincerely hope that you all avoided the really nasty ones (e.g. bullying) and if you feel like reading more relatable stories around this, check out what the other bloggers have written: