As far as I can see, I have three ways to get your attention for this: explain the Lolita fashion in a nutshell (which I already did in my introduction to my binder post) and go into more detail later , deny some misconceptions about it and tell you all the truth (the most important one of which I'll cover right now: the name is all it has in common with the book; the meaning has been adapted in the Japanese language to mean (more or less) “little girl”), or show you pretty pictures of Lolita dresses. I will go with the third one because, let's face it, that might actually get a few of you interested.
That dress I just showed you is a Lolita dress of the gothic sub-variety, made by Metamorphose (a Lolita brand) in October of 2009, features a reversible hood, and (probably most importantly to many of you) is a Nightmare Before Christmas dress. Also, it is only available in Meta's shop in Shinjuku, Japan, and it costs 36,540 yen (roughly 475.87 USD). While the exclusiveness isn't common, the steep price is among brand items. I don't know enough about money saving tips to include them in this essay, but if you're reading this, you must have access to the internet. I'll try to stay away from talking about the various brands and their costly but lovely items, in an attempt to not scare anyone more than I already may have. I will, however, talk about the influence that fashions of the Victorian era had on it (as well as what those fashions and that era basically were), the ideals the fashion is based around, the “Lolita lifestyle” (completely optional from the fashion, but I feel obligated to mention it), the different kinds of Lolita, and how to avoid being an “ita”/“cosplay Lolita” or, in (mostly) common English, how not to fail at Lolita fashion. So let's get this show on the road!
First, let's start with the older fashion that had the most noted influence on Lolita: Victorian. The Victorian Era lasted from 1837 to 1901 in England, was named after Queen Victoria (which I hope would be at least somewhat obvious), and included a wide variety of historical events, including the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (a novel that has greatly inspired Lolita fashion, and a personal favorite of mine), and On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, as well as the industrial revolution. The fashions of this era, in a nutshell, are best defined as rapidly changing. A few common pieces that live on today in Lolita are bell shaped skirts with petticoats underneath, often seen as Lolita staples (most common in the 1840s and 1850s; also, Victorian era women wore many petticoats at the same time while most, if not all, Lolita girls wear one at a time).
Next, I'll cover what ideals the Lolita fashion is based around and the completely optional “Lolita lifestyle”. First is possibly the most important ideal: modesty. The general rules connected with this are that very little skin is shown, the shoulders should always be completely covered, and the skirts are typically about knee length. The other major ideal is politeness. Now before any of you complain about how you'd have to be an angel to be perfectly polite to everyone: no, that's not what this is about. Most of my readers who know me personally will think I'm so nice to everybody, but even I have come across people who I purposefully don't talk to unless it's absolutely necessary because they aggravate me that much. What I'm actually trying to say is that in order to fulfill this, which shouldn't even be necessary if you're already an good person in regards to basic manners and caring about people, is that you just be more self-aware about what you're doing. Lastly, the Lolita lifestyle is just living your life according to these ideals and adopting various hobbies befitting an elegant lady of the Victorian time period, like sewing. Now, like I said at the beginning of the paragraph, the lifestyle is not at all necessary to wear Lolita clothes, nor are you required to wear Lolita if you are polite and enjoy things like sewing just because that's who you are. I simply felt obligated to mention it because some Lolita choose to do it, and I think that the part about trying extra hard to be modest and polite would do some people (not necessarily ones who go to my school, or are even in high school at all, but if you felt insulted by that, you either need to work at being a better person or are way too sensitive and/or paranoid) a world of good.
(wolfypuppy.deviantart.com's take on a steryotypical lifestyle Lolita, which she admits to drawing inspiration from herself for)
Next, I'll be giving a quick summary of a few of the different kinds of Lolita as described by lolitafashion.org, along with some pictures of them. One of the two most well known to those who are neither Lolitas nor have an extereme intrest in the fashon is Gothic Lolita. Like the Gothic fashion most of us (and by that I probably mean everyone reading this except me) are familiar with, it has a lot of dark colors like black and darker shades of red or purple. It also follows the Lolita guidelines of covered shoulders and puffed skirts generally in a bell shape, and also contains contrasting colors like the combination of black and white, only recommended for those very experienced in this specific type of Lolita.
Next is the the type you are second most likely to be familiar with: Sweet Lolita. The popularity of this sub-style is sometimes seen as a setback for adults wanting to get into Lolita, and I really don't blame them. Sweet Lolita is probably the style that most takes the adapted meaning of the word into consideration, barring an actual little girl dressing in Lolita (which, for those who like looking at pictures of cute kids, I'd really like to see). Sweet can be considered “girly” and “childish” much easier than other types of Lolita, due to mostly using white as accents to light shades of pink or blue, generally having “cutesy” prints featuring things like pastries, fruits, toys, and hearts, and (excluding ita) is the only kind of Lolita that can get away with having a bag that doubles as a stuffed animal.
Given that I've already managed to reach 6 pages in OpenOffice (not counting the works cited and counting the pictures), I'll be pretty surprised if anyone but Ms. Transsue actually reads this far (and considering that she already approved the introductory paragraph itself for publication, I doubt she'll get to this point in the first day), and I'll be especially surprised if any boys managed to get this far. Also, if any guys did manage to survive so far (and I apologize for using both an internet meme and a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic reference in my essay on a fashion): you are either at least 20% cooler than the guys I know personally or I don't know you as well as I think I do, and you all win the internet. The next style I'll talk about is more likely to be something you'll be interested in- Kodona (referred to as “Ouji” in Japan, which translates to “prince”; also I've heard that guys who dress in this specific variety refer to it as “Dandy”) can be considered Lolita for boys, but seems to be more commonly worn by girls (go figure). Typically the outfit seems to (I don't know this style nearly as well as the others) consist of a dress shirt (for girls, any blouse that can be worn with a Lolita dress or skirt would probably be acceptable) and either “prince pants”, which are similar to capris and cut off at the knee (I'm guessing these are more common with girls simply by the description), or usual dress pants. Usual accessories include ties, bowler hats, and long socks (in order to adhere to the “very little skin showing” guideline), or things like top hats or capes if you're feeling really fancy.
Now, if Sweet and Gothic weren't really your thing, but you still want to wear dresses and dress in one of the more popular Lolita styles, Classic (the final one I'm going to talk about) may be the way to go. It focuses more on looking classy instead of Sweet's cute, and often has lighter colors unlike Gothic's dark palette. Typically Classic Lolitas sport dresses with floral patterns, muted colors, and A-line skirts as opposed to the bell shape common in both Gothic and Sweet.
Now that I've immersed you in a wealth of information about Lolita fashion, anyone who has made it this far is either going to want to dive into the fashion right away, wondering if I'm nuts for typing this much (the answer would probably be yes), or both. Some of you who fit into the first category will actually take the time to do more research about this topic, but the majority of you will likely not and will end up either forgetting about this completely or do some things that will cause you to be branded with the label of “ita” or “Cosplay Lolita”. So, from an article on fyeahlolita.com and my own mind, I've compiled a small list of how to avoid being an ita, along with some other general tips.
-Never say that Hot Topic sells Lolita cloathes. If any of you out there are familiar with the tumblr blog weeaboostories (EDIT: the blog is now closed, sorry folks; I would have told you earlier but I somehow didn't notice until a couple days ago), you should already know about this, but calling Hot Topic's more frilly items Lolita is a mistake a large (and personally discomforting) number of itas make. Don't misunderstand me, I love Hot Topic, but I have never seen anything that they sell that even remotely resembles Lolita other than the frills; and remember folks: frills =/= Lolita.
-If an anime character character wore it, you shouldn't under any circumstances unless you're genuinely cosplaying (dressing up as) that character. This next part should be somewhat self explanatory, and isn't exactly related to the topic, but I might as well get it out of the way: if you cosplay to school and it's not “dress up as a fictional character day” or you're in some sort of Halloween parade thing (which I don't think they even have in my high school), I will stop speaking to you.
-Materials can make or break the dress, especially lace. If you get a dress made of any shiny or stretchy cloth or with stiff, low quality lace, you'll probably be ridiculed the moment you try to wear it as Lolita.
-Don't make a Lolita outfit out of your own clothes. The good majority of clothes that work with Lolita outfits are specifically designed for that purpose and, unfortunately, are expensive. Bodyline's items are much cheaper than brand items, but are still probably more expensive than the average clothes you and I wear, and the communities view of Bodyline generally isn't too good.
-The internet is your friend. (Part 1- Reviews of items) Before you buy an item from the internet, be sure to find reviews for whatever it is (this goes for pretty much everything). Try to find both good and bad reviews, and weigh the pros and cons before sinking your (or your parents') hard-earned money into that beautiful dress.
-The internet is your friend. (Part 2- Communicating with other Lolitas) This may not be essential to avoiding the ita label, but when you're a newbie, being able to communicate with more experienced Lolitas, both indirectly (reading their blog or their review of an item) and directly (actually having a conversation with them through the internet) can help a lot.
-The internet is your friend. (Part 3- Buying things) In case you haven't figured it out by now, Lolita fashion isn't very popular in the U.S. so if you want to buy brand items (and, I must unfortunately note, Lolitas who don't own even one brand item are often looked down upon), you have to get them shipped from Japan. I'm not sure which brands offer international shipping, but for the ones that don't, there are people known as “shipping agents” (or something similar) who will have the item shipped to them and then get it shipped to you. Unfortunately, this increases the price by a certain percentage of whatever item you're buying... so basically what I'm saying now is-
-Be prepared to spend a lot. This is pretty self explanatory, right?
So there you have it folks. A combination of an essay on Lolita fashion and proof that, even with Drama Club after school everyday and getting home at about 6:00, I have way too much time on my hands. In case any of you forget what I talked about: the influence that Victorian fashion had on Lolita, the ideals that Lolita is based around and the optional Lolita lifestyle, explanations of the Gothic, Sweet, Kodona, and Classic varieties of Lolita, and some tips on how to avoid being an ita. If you'd like me to answer any questions you may have or have any suggestions for another one of my long and rambly freewrites, just leave a comment or e-mail me (my school e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org).
"Victorian Dress at the V&A - Victoria and Albert Museum." V&A Home Page - Victoria and Albert Museum. 18 Sept. 2011. Web. 21 Sept. 2011. .
"Gothic Lolita." Lolita Fashion - For Lolitas of All Styles. 27 May 2010. Web. 26 Sept. 2011. .
"Sweet Lolita." Lolita Fashion - For Lolitas of All Styles. 27 May 2010. Web. 26 Sept. 2011. .
"Kodona." Lolita Fashion - For Lolitas of All Styles. 27 May 2010. Web. 26 Sept. 2011. kodona.php>.
"Classic Lolita." Lolita Fashion - For Lolitas of All Styles. 27 May 2010. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. .
Bloggers..., Fellow Lolita. "How To Avoid Being An Ita." F Yeah Lolita. 2 Nov. 2009. Web. 27 Sept. 2011. .