The Gothic and Lolita Bible is over – could the west save it?

As someone who owns at least 15 copies of The Gothic and Lolita Bible (GLB) I’m obviously devastated to hear the announcement today that the magazine will be suspended as of May 24th.

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J-Fashion at DokiDoki in Manchester

A couple of weeks ago myself and a couple of the girls from my J-fashion community represented J-fashion at DokiDoki festival in Manchester. We were really keen to get involved with the fashion side of the convention, especially since it’s in the local area.

Our table at DokiDoki

It was actually my first time properly being behind a stand at a convention and I really enjoyed it! I drew a lot of pictures, had really nice conversations and raised a good bit of money for charity.

Our table was absolutely piled up with wigs, accessories, hairpieces, necklaces and clip on things by the tonne in lots of different styles because we wanted to give people lots of different styles to try.

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I also brought a couple of my GLB magazines with me, including the one that has my photographs inside! I still get to be proud of that, you know?

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Hosting a Great Lolita (or general) Meetup!

I’m one of the admins/moderators for my area of the UK Lolita fashion community, so I get a lot of questions about Lolita fashion all the time. I know there’s lots of amazing, in depth resources out there,so over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a few requested posts, compiling a bunch of resources and food for thought in general about Lolita fashion that new members can learn from, and more experienced members can hopefully enjoy.

Today’s topic is: Hosting a Lolita Meet. (But it could be applied to any hobby meetup) This was a requested post, since many girls are new and want to host meets, but feel a bit shy about doing so.

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Outfit Post: Lolita Fashion Show at The Atkinson Gallery

Despite being incredibly ill over the past few weeks, I’ve managed to drag myself out of bed enough days to plan a whole fashion show and display. It took place at The Atkinson Gallery on the Saturday that has just passed and I’m still feeling really surreal about it. I almost can’t believe it happened even though I planned the thing and also I was there?

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In which MCM Manchester was actually fun!

Last year I had a pretty miserable time at MCM; I didn’t have a really fun day, nothing at the stalls particularly interested me, I kept ending up lost and alone and I just generally didn’t have a fun time. This year was incredible in comparison! I went with way better people and had an amazing time. I also got to wear dark night guardian! I feel like we’re not seeing much of this print yet so it was fun to wear it, even if the outfit itself isn’t perfect.

My favourite part of the con, apart from hanging out with some really cool folks, was seeing Sarah Graley! (http://sarahgraley.com/) I just discovered her art a few days before the actual con so it was such a good surprise to see her there. Whenever someone makes cute webcomics I tend to assume they are American for some reason?? I ended up buying her adorable take me out pizza print!

I also bumped into this adorable steampunk couple a few times and they were so cute I just had to get a photo with them! Steampunk had such a strong showing this year and what I particularly liked were the sheer variety of people wearing the style! There were people of all kinds of ages and backgrounds and bodytypes wearing really creative handmade pieces. I thought it was brilliant to see, I love a good bit of subculture. I would love to know what it is about steampunk that appeals to people in particular about steampunk, is it the elegancem the nostalgia? Does the industrial theme appeal to us up in the North? I’d love to know more, steampunk fans please contact me and chat!

I spent the day hanging out with my lolita friends and just generally enjoying a good old love of candid photos. Conventions are a great time for these kinds of photos because you can have someone super strange and ornate sat next to someone who just came in their normal clothes just to see what all this was about.

I also saw some friends from other communities who I haven’t seen in far too long! Michaela and Beccy looked amazingly cute in these matching sailor outfits so we got a photo next to the big octopus at the CEX stand. I think these two would look great together doing a photo shoot here at the Albert Dock. It also reminds me that I need to get my own sailor outfit together.

I am having so  much fun playing about with my new lens too! I took this picture just for fun but I love all of the different textures and it really reminded me of Marylin Minter’s work with the rough and close quality of it. I love the reflection in the glasses, the messy purple strands of hair, the dusty grey of the eye shadow, the slight peeling on the lips. I’d love to do a series of really close up textural things like this, yes please!

Lolita Fashion History – Social and Cultural Influences in Japan

I think I’ll also make this post in video form, so if you’re not much of a reader please stay tuned, I’ll probably record it next week because I basically have all the info ready! I actually wrote my masters dissertation on Lolita Fashion in the UK so I have a lot of the history books sat around my bedroom; I don’t claim to be any sort of expert but I have read a lot of books so I’ll do my best to pass on what I’ve learned. I particularly recommend “Fashioning Japanese Subcultures” by Yuniya Kawamura. Her writing style is so intuitive and easy to get into you’ll find yourself getting through the whole book in no time. (Links to some books you can read on line at the bottom of this post!!)

The first thing to understand about the origins of Lolita fashion is how the Japanese fashion system works in comparison to the western system.

Trickle Down Fashion System = Class Based

The western fashion system is what we call a trickle down fashion system. That means designers pull their inspiration from a concept, design this concept and present it on the runway. From there, it will literally trickle down designer collections until it eventually reaches the consumer on the high street. By this point the concept is usually watered down to a level that is socially acceptable for everyday wear. The aim of trickle down fashion is that you should aim to climb the social ladder, adhere to trends and aim to appear as someone higher on the social scale.

Bubble Up Fashion System = Personal Identity Based

The prevalent fashion system in Japan is a bubble up system that works in the opposite way. It can be a bit difficult to understand from a western perspective because a bubble up system takes influence from the streets and feelings around what people are already wearing or a general social mood on a consumer level to design the collections. Sometimes this can travel up to high fashion; such as punk style leather jackets appearing on the runway, but then the idea of class and aspiration is given to items which did not initially represent that system. Bubble up fashion is about people trying to find their individuality outside of moving up a class system and instead moving around their personal identities.

I cannot speak for how Japanese society runs day-to-day, I can only talk about what I have heard and read from Japanese authors so please excuse me if I am a little vague writing the next part since I don’t feel as though it’s appropriate for me to speak with any level of authority. However, Japanese society seems to have very rigid rules for behaviour and social etiquette and many have said that the old adage “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is still relevant. However, the youth of Japan have decided that they wanted to take their lives for themselves and not fit into the rigid roles society had set out for them.

I feel as though this is encapsulated particularly well by the adoption of “maru-ji” handwriting; cute, round writing which was quickly banned in schools for illegibility. Japanese writing is a lot about using the correct forms and strokes in the right order, so to deliberately misuse the forms and “write badly” was very rebellious.

There are a few reasons why cuteness might have become a form of self expression for Japanese people:

1. Innocence and youth are considered virtuous and good in society – You might have noticed in Japanese media such as films or even pop groups, people will “graduate” from subcultures or groups in order to move on to a more adult life and perspective, or to settle down and have a family. Until that time of graduation they are allowed that youth and that is accepted as part of the society.

2. The island itself is small, peoples’ general living spaces are small so perhaps they feel an affinity with small items – I am slightly critical of this theory because I live in the UK, which is also a small island, similar island and there are a lot of resplendent mansions and huge buildings here and seemingly no urge for anything to be small. Unless you consider actual body size, where there is a lot of pressure for women to be small sized.

3. Women suddenly had a lot of buying power – Apparently Japan is still quite a sexist society in that there is a lot of workplace inequality and fewer benefits for women to start families. Upon realising this, women felt less pressure to fit into the roles that were previous prescribed to them and instead started to explore their identities and buying the things that appealed to them. They could just enjoy being girls and they bought a lot of girly stuff to appeal to the new lives they wanted to live.

4. The demilitarization of Japan – It would be impossible to say that nuclear bombing did not affect Japan in the slightest. Some Japanese authors have suggested that after the bombing of Japan, and the fact that the country was no longer allowed an army they felt infantile and stripped of all their power. Since then it has reformed its identity as a child nation, attracted to childish things. Not entirely relevant, but interesting nonetheless; the reason we like babies and cute things is because cuteness is ingrained in our brains in some way as a defence measure, we don’t really want to destroy cute stuff.

5. The opening of trade to the world after years of seclusion –  Japan closed its borders for a long time and their culture developed independently from things that were happening in the outside world. When they opened again, lots of new and different things rushed in and lots of exports rushed out and people had to change their identities to reflect this changing society. People had money and buying power and instead formulated their identities around consumerism, as said before. Currently, the “Cool Japan” tourist initiative makes over £240 million per year for the Japanese economy when I last checked. It’s not only the Japanese who like cuteness, it’s the rest of the world too, so it only makes sense for the country to keep pushing it out.

This post has already taken me a longer than I would have liked to write, so, given that we now have a kind of understanding of the atmosphere in Japan when Lolita fashion was being created next time lets talk about the start and evolution of the style!

If you’re interested in this post and want to find out more, here are a couple of books you can read partially on line to get you started:

It’s not available to read on line but I would also recommend “Kawaii! Japan’s Culture of Cute!”
I hope you’ve enjoyed a more formal post from me and feel free to drop me a comment if you have any questions, arguments or suggestions for further posts!

Post-Chester Wipeout

So the reason I’ve not posted is because I am rubbish and I couldn’t be bothered to unpack after moe moe con, and then I couldn’t bring myself to work in my incredibly messy room. Today I’ve finally tidied my room rather than sitting around procrastinating so back to what I suppose is my actual job at the moment, blogging.

Chester was a really fun day, even though it absolutely did not go as planned. Here’s how I looked:

Headpiece: Taken from my SurfaceSpell Hat
Wig: Gkyouko on Taobao
Necklace: Vivienne Westwood
Blouse: Atelier Pierrot Juliette blouse bought from Lorina Liddell
Dress: Pina Sweetcollection Chiffon Georgette OP
Tights: The only thing I will ever and have ever bought from Forever 21
Shoes: Jeffrey Campbell 
Gloves: John Lewis
I love this outfit so much and I felt like a gothic queen all day. I could have worn my natural hair with this but I do totally love this wig. I also walked around in those shoes all day, they’re actually pretty comfortable but my feet were very sore and torn up by the end of it. Worth it.

So, I’m one of the admins for my local lolita community and because of that we ended up being asked to do a panel for moe moe con. I was super excited and spent a few days last week preparing the powerpoint, which is why I didn’t blog so much last week. I’m also really sick!
The day before the presentation, so Friday last week, I woke up with an incredibly dry throat. My glands were swollen and I couldn’t even talk but I had really good plans with friends so I just drank 10 cups of tea with honey and carried on with my life without saying too much. I actually did drink 10 cups throughout the day, by the way.
On Saturday I woke up feeling marginally better, I could just about speak so I just kept well hydrated and hoped for the best. We got the convention a little bit early so we had a look around and went to the maid café. Maid cafés are such a funny import; I think we like them in the west because of the cute outfits and that general sense of moé but at the same time we’re creeped out by the idea of paying for company or conversation or fun because that seems a little bit too close to prostitution for us. I don’t know a lot about it but I guess in Japan they have a lonelier culture at the moment, I was hearing a lot about hikikomori/NEET types over the past few years and there is the stereotype that Japanese people work very hard and don’t have the time to socialise. Mix this with kawaii culture and I suppose maid cafés are what you get. I think this is a very shallow reading of it but maybe you get the point. I wonder, with the way employment is going in this country whether paying for socialising and companionship will become a thing here too. Regardless, we sat down at the maid café, had a few drinks and then went to do our fashion show.
I was really nervous because I was commentating for the show and had to really think about the charming, nice things about everyone’s outfit which actually was not difficult but it was difficult to do at speed off the top of my head without using any complex and fashion specific semiotics so I just ended up saying ridiculous things like “This dress has Usakumya! He is the official mascot of the brand Baby the Stars Shine Bright! He is very cute and working in a patisserie.” My plan for this week was, post presentation, to write some presenting tips and kind of review what I’d learned from the process. However, nobody came to our panel! So, the panel never happened and hence all my article ideas for this week went flying out of the window. Oops!
We realised that our panel was set for the same time as the announcement of the cosplay results and it was a really small con where cosplay was the main attraction so naturally everyone was at the announcement. I didn’t take any offence at this, it was just unfortunate on our part, but I was more just gutted that I’d put so much effort into making a presentation that nobody was going to see! I thought a small, local convention like this would be a great place to recruit new members and speak to people who might be interested in the fashion but too scared to try it out without some backup from a community. Luckily, slideshare exists and I can share my presentation slides with all of you:

Some of the slides are just images which were designed for me to talk over, so what I’ll do this week is write blog posts for what those slides were going to be about! Look forward to a post about a brief history of lolita and how to tell good lolita from the bad stuff. For now, enjoy the pretty pictures in the panel. My favourite slide is the anatomy of the lolita outfit illustration by lemontree11 on tumblr. 
Regardless of the panel not working out, we had a really fun day. The main thing that was devastating about that whole deal is that Georgia and I wore these kind of opposite twins outfits where she did white, gold and sweet and I did black, silver and gothic and I wish we’d got to present the panel because I felt it was a really good schtick! 
A new member of our comm also came to this meet which was great. Whenever we have a new member I spend the entire day lowkey worrying whether or not they’re having a good time and if they’re happy and comfortable etc. but I try really hard not to be a pest loom over them but rather just occasionally check up on them. Our new friend definitely left an impact when she said “guys I am English but what is a cheeky nandos?” I think she felt a lot of regret when we actually went for a cheeky nandos afterwards. Please enjoy our best cheeky selfies.
After that we just decided to loaf around and go feed squirrels in the park. I hope strawberries aren’t bad for squirrels because we gave them quite a lot. They usually eat berries so it seems like it would be fine? The thing I love about our community is that we can always make our own fun. When the panel didn’t turn out, we filmed some fake parody news reports, when the convention ended we went for a cheeky nandos on a whim. We have such a good laugh and nobody takes themselves too seriously. The atmosphere is so good. I did take video of some of it, so hopefully I’ll have that edited and up on YouTube tomorrow; if it’s not awful and cringey anyway.