Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Frills and Photos - The Perfect Marriage

Lolitas attract lenses.
The first time that I went out in lolita in a large group, it was for a meet-up at a zoo. Until that point, I had worn it only with one or to other girls at a time, or else by myself. The day we went to the zoo, there were approximately ten girls in all in our gathering, and we drew quite a lot of attention. During the day, we became something of a tourist attraction, drawing as many photographers' lenses as the animals did in their enclosures.

As more and more people asked us for photographs, I knew that it was because we were so much out of the ordinary, and I began to wonder if there was some way to make use of that "strangeness" in photography. Since then, I have discovered others who have done so, and to great effect (but that's a subject for another article).

So why combine lolita fashion and photography?
What makes them such an ideal match?

By now, much of mainstream western culture has some idea of what lolita fashion is. Many do not recognize it by that name, however. It is seen as cosplay by those who know something of Japan but little of the style, or as a sub-branch of goth fashion due to the proliferation of black and white garments early in its history.

Large communities exist online for lolitas world wide, in nearly every language imaginable. There are countless blogs run by lolitas, focusing on everything from their daily coordinations and activities, to their favorite recipes and flavors of tea, to lolitas who follow and promote a massive variety of lifestyle choices.

There have also been articles in mainstream news sources, with varying degrees of accuracy on the subject of lolita fashion, and more than a few negative reactions to the connotations of the style's name.

Even The New York Times has taken a crack at the subject, which received quite a bit of praise from the English-speaking community (A New Generation of Lolitas Makes a Fashion Statement, photos, interviews).

The key to all of these is that they rely heavily on photographs to portray the fashion and to make their points. You cannot possibly discuss lolita without visual aids, and the internet has made it incredibly easy to access illustrations and photographs to do just that.

The process of describing a lolita would require far too many adjectives to get the precise visual image into your reader's head. For example, when a lolita blogger writes about a coordinate that she has worn, she will typically post a snap-shot of the outfit with a break down of where each piece has come from. This practice of sharing finds and unique outfit combinations has become so popular that an entire community on Livejournal is dedicated to it (see: Daily Lolita).

From the beginning, lolita has been a highly visual style of clothing.
While all clothing is meant to be seen when it is worn (with the exception of underwear, which we leave to the discretion of the person wearing it), lolita is intended to be particularly visible and eye-catching. I suppose that this is to be expected when one of the key proponents of the style in the 90s was himself a visual kei artist.

The different sub-styles all have particular motifs and numerous themes that fall within the overarching umbrella (or parasol if you'd rather) of the fashion's aesthetic. It is a thing of luxury and frivolity which lends itself well to a wide variety of colors, textures and shapes.

To put it more succinctly, lolita is eccentric, bold, and visually interesting, all of which lend themselves well to photography. There has been a fine tradition of alternative fashion photography for quite some time, and lolita has settled itself neatly into a niche of its own. Many lolitas dabble in photography or modeling, and some have managed to achieve professional success in one or the other.

So I suppose the real question is: why not combine lolita fashion and photography?
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