Now, let’s start with digging through the Oxford Dictionary and Wikipedia (yeah yeah, not accurate/can be changed... This isn’t academic, and this is pretty sound and easily backed with a little cross referencing anyhow):
- the way in which a person or group lives: the benefits of a healthy lifestyle
...A lifestyle typically also reflects an individual's attitudes, values or worldview. Therefore, a lifestyle is a means of forging a sense of self and to create cultural symbols that resonate with personal identity. Not all aspects of a lifestyle are entirely voluntaristic. Surrounding social and technical systems can constrain the lifestyle choices available to the individual and the symbols she/he is able to project to others and the self.
The lines between personal identity and the everyday doings that signal a particular lifestyle become blurred in modern society.
Basically, looking just at the definitions of what a lifestyle is, both views are still lifestyles. You have your “lifestyle lolitas” and you have lolitas with a lifestyle that differentiates from the expectation of lolita from lifestyle lolitas and, often, outsiders. It makes a split down in the culture itself, which is not uncommon with other lifestyles, but I feel it’s a little curious, seeing as how it comes out of something that was just started as an aesthetic and not an ideology, like punk.
Thus, I’m going to look a little closer at what apparently defines a lolita lifestyle.
Alright, I actually found a Wikihow on lifestyle lolita!
Ok, aside from the historical research, this is pretty standard for all lolitas...
Gee golly, doodle me! Such fiendishly vulgar language!
Yeah... the rest is just common sense (hygiene), preaching and the basics of getting into your local lolita community.*
This is why a lot of people who probably actually are lifestyle lolitas will never admit to being lifestyle. Some people take it to a ridiculous level and are really not at all being true to themselves. If you want to honestly improve yourself through lolita lifestyle, that’s all fine and dandy. Congrats on working to not make yourself into a total miscreant mess, but please stop pulling the “I thought lolis were supposed to be lovelies/how crude and unloli!” card and do not look down on others. That kind of flat out snobbery is just simply antagonizing and puts a bad name on lifestyle lolita.
*(To be fair to those who’ve contributed to the WikiHow article, they do tell people to stay true to themselves, just be more courteous and feminine, etc. Still, though, I know a lot of people would halt right at “rebuild your personality.” I would contribute myself just on principle, but...then I wouldn’t have this blog post.)
On top of all this, I suspect that a lot of this behavior is based more on what one thinks a lolita should act from the perspective of someone outside of the lolita culture. For example: I smoke, and I’ve smoked in lolita on the street. I’ve had people see me smoke in lolita, compliment my outfit and then follow with, “But it looks awkward with you smoking. It ruins the image.” I ask if they say that about any well-dressed smoker they see and admit that it’s simply that the image my clothes give off is that of someone who...well, pretty much follow wikiHow’s steps 8-10. The last thing they’d expect from a picture perfect loli––regardless of whether or not they know about lolita fashion at all––is a smoking, swearing, drinking girl that, clothing aside, is more normal in modern society than the historical fiction fantasy that many lolitas romanticize. People of other alternative subcultures don’t go out of their way to satisfy stereotypes for non-goths or non-punks: why are we doing it?
Honestly, I can’t help but think that some lifestyle lolitas are really just trying to stamp themselves into Momoko’s personality while forgetting some very important facts:
-Momoko was already considerably different and interested in “lolita” hobbies well before she found lolita and Baby the Stars Shine Bright.
-Momoko is a horrible, horrible person (i.e. lying to her already financially troubled father for money) and she acknowledges this fact with little care.
-Novala, though he’s written works that are essentially lolita manifestos and the essay on becoming a proper young lady, has himself said in the English afterword of Kamikaze Girls that he is not the last word in how lolitas should behave.
When we see girls that take it so far that the lifestyle is something that they never were or wanted to be before, especially when it’s less who they were and more of a certain, fictional someone, I can’t help but liken it to doing something else...
Yeah, I went there. People forget that there’s a “play” in cosplay. When I cosplay, I’m wearing the clothes and mean of a fictional character. When I’m lolita, I’m wearing my own clothes and personality. Granted, I do carry myself different in lolita often from myself in tee-shirt and jeans, but it’s still me.
I feel a need now to remind people that I’m not insulting the lifestyle. Again, I consider myself lifestyle, for all my messes and swearing. The lifestyle is all about surrounding yourself with beauty, nostalgia, cuteness and (at least a sense of) luxury. I’m all for this and seek it in my daily life.
So on that note, I’m going to show those of you who sternly say it’s just clothes that you might actually be in what effectively is lifestyle lolita regardless.
Looking at what has lately become the definition of a lifestyle lolita, I feel that we forget that more of what makes a lifestyle is what we do in response to a certain aesthetic or ideology rather than how we fix out personality and demeanor because of a label. When I started lolita and started labeling myself as a lifestyle lolita, it was because of the fact that things I already liked and did fit in with the aesthetic of lolita, rather than liking the aesthetic and wanting to fit in related hobbies into my life. Ditching the newer WikiHow article, I was happy to see that the second Google result is the older post from the sadly often forgotten Lolita Handbook. It, to a certain degree, agrees with my opinion of doing more than simply behaving. Things that the article covers are enjoyment of the arts, nostalgia, going to meets and enjoying decadent/luxurious treats, goods and activities. It still sounds elaborate, but let’s look at it from a different, more simplistic angle:
Do you go to (or try to go to) meets regularly? Have you made lolita friends from said meets? Do you enjoy stereotypically cute/sweet “lolita” foods and drinks at said meets?
Do you (at least visually) enjoy films like Marie Antoinette and Dangerous Liaisons? What about fairytale movies? Do you try to see these movies with local lolitas?
Do you have a strong fondness of classic children’s literature with female protagonists like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Little Women? Do you like other pieces of classical literature or historical fiction with female protagonists in the upper classes, like Pride and Prejudice or a Great and Terrible Beauty?
Do you have interest in going to classy themed parties like Dances of Vice?
Do you have hobbies that you incorporate a lot of lolita into? (this can be anything from video games to writing to knitting)
If you answered “yes” to four or more, you probably actually are a lifestyle lolita just from these actions. That doesn’t make fake or prissy, and yes, you can still smoke and drink and curse if you want to. Hell, I do it. Once again:
Even if the majority of your “yes” answers were to the questions about community, think about it this way: before lolita, did you ever approach someone just because the were wearing the same shoes or a similar shirt as you and make an effort to find people to hang out with them? It’s a small step, but it’s still one in the direction of having a lifestyle based in your fashion choices. You aren’t letting the clothes define you, really... but it is definitely a bigger part of who you are at this point than you probably thought.
The key thing in the end is to not loose yourself in the whole of it, which ever end of the spectrum you lie. Do not fixate on trying to be a perfect image of lolita, and don’t fixate on trying to not look like a lifestyle lolita if it’s not something you are going for. The majority of us are still young: by that virtue, we’re all still exploring ourselves, even as we find ourselves getting married and having children. And it’s ok to not totally know who you are. The exploration gives you character.