Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lolita: More than a Fictional Character

A week and a half ago, we went to the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and I've been writing about it ever since. I lived in Japan for nearly three years, right after college, and I experience enough nostalgia for it that getting a big cultural fix was soothing.

One of the things I really wanted to see was Taiko drumming -- big drums, lots of them, and impressively coordinated people wailing away at them. The event was packed, and we picked our way along the back of the crowd until we found a spot against the fence with a decent view.

A little while later, two frill-bedecked young women walked by, and I immediately knew what their deal was, though I couldn't recall the name for it. Here they are, from afar:

After a while, I realized I was excited to see two intrepid Midwesterners taking fashion chances at an event that's not necessarily crammed with open-minded people. Recalling an early photography teacher's advice that it's always better to get your subject involved in a shot by (gasp!) talking to them, I worked up a bit of courage. I said I liked their outfits and asked them what they were called. Lolita, they said, and they seemed both excited and envious when I mentioned I'd lived in Tokyo and seen the groups of people that hang out in Harajuku park in their Loli outfits.

Despite the name, most Lolita practitioners will tell you that dressing this way has nothing to do with Nabokov's book or anything sexual. It's a way to escape, indulge a love of fashion, and express themselves. There are clothing lines dedicated to this mode of dress, and there are sub-modes: Gothic, Black, Elegant, and so on. Outside of Japan, followers often make their own outfits because ordering these items online is time-consuming, expensive and fraught with size-translation peril. I wish I'd asked these ladies about that, because I'm betting that made at least some of what they were wearing, and they'd have been really happy to talk about it.

Well, the one on the left, anyway. The parasol gal was less enthused, though she was pleased about looking tall in the photo.


  1. That's amazing. I had never heard of this practice. Thanks for the neat info!

  2. Yeah, it's pretty amazing. Thanks for the comment!


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