Friday 19 January 2018

Lolita Blog Carnival: Key Differences From When You First Started Lolita To Now

It simultaneously feels like I’ve been into lolita both forever, and only for a few minutes. But the truth is I started buying and wearing the fashion in 2012, and had a vague interest in the pretty thing with the puffy skirts before that. Much like the passage of time seems all wibbly, living through changes makes them seem a lot less dramatic, but if I were to look back I would say there are a few key difference between then and now.

LiveJournal was still a hub
Even then people were saying it was dying, but the EGL community on LJ was active back in the day. People were posting reviews and questions, and other people were replying to the posts! You knew who the mods were and recognised usernames and icons. Sister sites like the EGL Comm Sales were booming.

And now there are basically just tumbleweeds there. I mean, I’m as much part of the problem as anyone, because I only log in during January each year now. But even January, the biggest month of the year, is now so quiet. I’m not saying this as a “woe is me” thing, but for example my wardrobe post this year has gotten 4 comments (and basically you get all your comments in the first couple of days) whereas last year I got 10 and in 2016 I got 16. And my standards both in terms of clothing and presentation it has not altered all that dramatically. I’m doing my usual thing and commenting on every wardrobe posted, but it’s so quiet in there. And that makes me sad, not because I loved LJ, but because without it we don’t have one central place for lolitas online.

Are reviews even a thing anymore?
Typing about LJ also made me realise on thing that has changed…reviews and lucky pack openings are hardly a thing anymore! I supposed it’s a inevitable side effect of the change from long-form posting, like blogs, to people just putting things up on Instagram or Facebook, where the information will generally be brief and also hard to find after the immediate time of posting. We’re moving away from permanent styles of posting, as a general rule, and with that a lot of the more informative online content is a dying breed.

Things were bigger and more central
Over the last year it just seems like everything is closing down. We’re losing magazines and we’re losing brands left, right, and centre. Many things spring up to take their place, but the overall effect to me is that though there is much more variety and options, the fashion as a whole has less big, grand, central pillars that people look to. The Gothic & Lolita Bible was the magazine and while there are other magazines now, none of them have that kind of stature. The casual, punky brands like Putumayo and Black Peace Now (that aren’t purely lolita, but are part of the scene) are gone.

To my mind, this is both a good and a bad thing, but mostly bad. I’m all for having multiple sources, both in terms of publications and places to get your clothes, but I feel that when we lose the things at the top we lose some of our structure. I’m all for diversity, don’t get me wrong. But at the same time, when you can’t point a finger and say “this is the lolita thing” you lose cohesion, to an extent. The illuminating lighthouse of identity provided by having a Bible is gone, and while that doesn’t mean the end by any stretch of the imagination, it leaves the waters murky and harder to traverse. And then when brands that have been a part of the scene for so long go away, it’s not a death blow, but it’s as if some of the bricks that make up the house that is lolita are removed. The house is still there, but as far as I can see we’re getting gaps and nothing is coming along to fill it properly just yet.

Simple lolita was in
Stepping away from thoughts of community to the fashion itself for a minute, as far as my memory (and google) tells me, in 2012 we were in a place between OTTs. OTT sweet was still around, but had mostly passed it’s prime, and we were not yet in the throes of OTT classic and chiffon everything. The lolita style when I started was bit more straightforward, for lack of a better term. We were embracing originality from the OTT trend, but behind that was a very well adhered idea of what was a proper lolita coord. I’m not sure how to describe it well, but I feel like it was a time where lolita was just lolita and lolita was something that we wholeheartedly embraced. Even prints were simpler. Decidedly modern in style, but not quite as crazy busy as a lot tend to be now. Dress cuts as well tended to fit the standard silhouette with not much deviation. I do very much enjoy the variety we have to chose from these days, but sometimes I find myself yearning after simpler things; both in styling and the clothes themselves.

Having written all this out, I suppose you could say that the main difference was that in 2012 lolita, both as a fashion and as a community, was far more centralised. Lolita was lolita, and we had our magazines and our online spaces and our rules. By comparison, in 2018 lolita is less pure (for lack of a better term) and more diverse. And having realised that I’m finding myself nostalgic for the time I started in this fashion. I don’t dislike what lolita is now, but I feel that we had something in 2012 that we don’t have now, and I have no idea if we will redevelop that sort of structure and community with time or if it’s gone for good.

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  1. Great post and great analysis. I feel like when reviews are a thing, they've mostly moved to YouTube (and a teeny tiny bit to Amino) rather than blogs, but even then they're not always the thorough review that we know from blogs, more of just an unboxing and first impressions. Very few Lolita YouTubers aim to give a good review of their purchases, so I treasure the ones who do. And I wholeheartedly agree with you that Lolita is a lot less centralised now. I would go as far as to say that the centre of Lolita fashion has shifted. While we still look at what Angelic Pretty or BtSSB are doing, they're not necessarily in that revered position that all Japanese brands once were and we watch Taobao releases with equal interest and respect, if not sometimes slightly greater. But also if you compare the four Angelic Pretty online store websites (Japan, US, Paris and Shanghai), you'll notice how in the Shanghai one almost everything is sold out (at least as far as main pieces go), whereas the other three have about an even split of sold out and in stock, although which series/colourways have been sold out varies. Even the magazines: of the new publications, Chinese "Girlism" is the only one so far that has lived past issue 1 and seems to be filling in that gap for a printed publication about Lolita fashion and Lolita fashion only. I'm not trying to say that the centre of Lolita fashion is now in China, but I think we can't definitively say that it's in Harajuku Japan anymore, because of how big the fashion has grown globally compared to when it first broke through abroad. And all of this is strongly linked with to the overall trend of decentralisation and spread of popularity/awareness of the fashion worldwide. So it's not just the community that has become fragmented and larger (multiple Facebook groups, blogs, Amino etc. now vs one EGL before), but the fashion as a whole is moving from something that was central, 'make a pilgrimage to Harajuku and Lolita fashion you shall find' kind of thing, to a model where we get it from everywhere: something from Japan, something from China, Korea, Brazil, US, Australia etc. For every one of those countries (and more), we can all name a product or outlet that is distinctly Lolita or very strongly linked to Lolita that we consider reputable and worth getting, even though it's not always Japanese Lolita brand (clothing from the Chinese and Korean brands, petticoats and shoes from Brazil via Me Likes Tea and Cotton Candy Feet, multiple accessory and clothing brands in the US, Australia and other Western countries etc.). And all of this is a lot and it is overwhelming, so it's natural that many people either long for a time when things were simpler and just about having fun in the fashion or actively engage only with select few outlets for Lolita (usually their local comms), because you could get absolutely knackered trying to follow and be up to date with all of that, which could lead to loss of enjoyment in participating in the fashion. But I do hope that with more people embracing Lolita as clothes again and wearing them in simpler ways to meet friends for coffee or run errands, we will reclaim and bring some of that simplicity back.

    1. Oh my goodness, you wrote a blogpost on my blogpost!

      I don't really have anything to say in response to your comment except that you nailed it really well and I agree.