I've written and rewritten responses to this and find myself rather at a loss to put what I wish to say into words. There are just too many issues that I take with such thoughts and so much heartbreak felt for the people who are potentially missing out because of such thoughts and then on top of that just a smidgen of anger for the way they are often stated... it made for a rather difficult topic. But eventually I came to the brilliant idea that it would be words that were far more appropriate coming from another's point of view.
Hello and good day. First, introductions. I’m Matt, husband of the wonderful and tiny Phe who authors this blog. And, that’s pretty much the most interesting and salient thing, I s’pose.
I was asked by my wife to contribute an article for her blog regarding, I suppose, the external perception of Lolita fashion by non-Lolita friends and family, particularly from the perspective of someone who dislikes the fashion. I shall try my best to communicate my thoughts on the subject. As the readers of this blog are, I would assume, largely fans of the Lolita style, I don’t expect everyone (or even most) to agree with my statements. I would even wager that some of my statements may be taken as offensive. Please note that I do not mean them to be so; rather, I simply hope to provide some insight on the way the fashion (and its wearers) are perceived by outside viewers.
First, the name is obviously somewhat unfortunate. I understand that no Lolita worth her weight in petticoats would want to associate herself with Vladimir Nobokov’s infamous novel of the same name. But please understand the discomfort caused when the word “Lolita” is brought into conversation. The vast majority of the English-speaking world does not associate that name with a Japanese street fashion. Instead, the immediate image brought to mind is that of a hyper-sexualized prepubescent girl. There’s simply no getting around this. It’s rather like deciding one day that rather than calling an elephant an elephant, you’re going to call it a trombone. When you mention a trombone to other people, you must forgive them for reactively conjuring the mental image of a musical instrument. It’s simply the default. Time may change that, and words evolve...but as of right now, that’s simply the status quo.
What issue does that raise? Personally, Phe looks very, very young. She’s been carded when trying to get in to see PG-13 rated films (no joke). While there are only three years’ difference in our ages, bringing up the word “Lolita” easily causes discomfort amongst all involved, for obvious reasons.
Which leads to my next point: obvious reasons. Lolita is a fashion, and fashion is literally about appearance. When I was younger, less mature, and more selfish, I constantly pushed the bounds of what constituted “appearance” vs. actual impropriety (I wasn’t then, nor frankly am I now, a big fan of authority). I would act a certain way, making sure that the actions could be misconstrued as being one thing, when they were in fact not. I dared people to react to my supposed actions, as opposed to my actual ones.
As I grew older, I came to realize that while that’s fine for immature children, in the real world, appearances do in fact matter. First impressions matter. And while I’d never intentionally change my actions to better my impression to another person, one of the hard lessons to learn is that judgment from others is real, and it impacts not only you. Were I to do something that was perceived to be wrong, it would reflect on my parents (then) or my wife and my employer (now). While one can debate whether or not the world should be this way, the immutable truth of the matter is that it simply is.
I’m not a fan of the Lolita style. And my wife and I base our relationship on honesty, I have told her this. She knows full well my opinions on the fashion. Not only do I not like what it represents (perceptually, to others and thus reflective of both of us), but frankly, I think she just plain looks better in jeans and a t-shirt, or a nice evening dress.
Now, however, we get to the most important part of a non-fan being in a relationship with a Lolita.
I love my wife with all my heart. I would never consider myself above her, or tell her what to wear (I’ll chime in if I think a planned outfit is inappropriate, as she would do the same for me, but that’s hardly comparable, and she has far too much class to be inappropriate in the first place). And while I can’t stand the fashion (in general), wearing it makes her happy, and making sure she’s happy is my greatest priority in life. Additionally, Phe is a “lifestyle loli,” so it’s not just a “costume” style to her. She wears it to work, when we go out, to events, etc. Not every single day, mind you; what I’m saying is simply that she doesn’t treat it as a “special event” wear, or cosplay.
So how do we/I reconcile my distaste for the fashion, the uncomfortable environment it creates, and Phe’s desire to wear it? Compromise.
As I said, it’s everyday wear for Phe. So, thankfully, she doesn’t have much in the way of over-the-top outfits (A) because of her blessed practicality and B) because her tastes just generally don’t run down that path). As an outsider, I consider virtually anything “sweet Lolita” to be over the top. Too pink, too frilly, too silly, too childish. Phe has one or two of these sweet Lolita outfits, and she decided to not wear them when we’re out together, saving them rather for Lolita meetings (Lolitings?) or just girls’ nights out. Another part of my discomfort with the sweet Lolita style is that I feel it presents (again, perceptually, which is the salient point here) something of a vulnerable target for a predator. Pedophiles, bullies, mountain lions, etc. As I said before, this Phe is a tiny Phe, and being a loved one, I worry about her (don’t you worry about your loved ones)? Phe is smart, and strong, and cognizant of both that fact as well as my concern, so again, she’s picky about where and when she chooses to activate sweet Lolita Phe.
So what does that leave? Phe and I both enjoy steampunk, and she’s put together a large number of outfits that reflect that style. These, as well as the bulk of outfits she buys/creates in general, are more subdued, more tame, and more (in my eyes, at least) mature. The effect is one of wearing the Lolita fashion, but mitigating (or even eliminating) the more uncomfortable outré elements of the fashion. This is Lolita fashion that may be appreciated by both Lolitas and the general public, with neither taking issue but both simply viewing the outfit as a unique but interesting addition to their own cultural norm.
Compromise means that if I truly have a problem with an outfit she’s going to wear, I tell her. Compromise means that if she truly wants to wear an outfit, I say no more. Compromise means that if we’re going to an event that’s about me (say, a birthday party), she chooses to wear what she knows I like. And it is to Phe’s great credit that she does all of that, and more. She knows my feelings on it, and she’s worked long and hard to craft a personal style that we can both enjoy, that is acceptable to both her peers (other Lolitas) and mine (friends, coworkers, etc.).
I know this is already a very lengthy post, so I’ll wrap up now. The crux of all of this is simple: Perception is a valid concern. After all, as Lolitas, are you not concerned with how your own outfits will be perceived by other Lolitas? Whether they’ll be accepted, or shunned, appreciated or ridiculed? I’ve seen many argue that you shouldn’t care about perception and you should just do what you want. That’s something with which I’ll readily agree: you should never make yourself into someone you’re not to please another, and no one should tell you what you can and can’t wear. But there’s a difference between someone attempting to control you in that way, and simply appreciating the plight of someone with whom you’re in a relationship. This is the real world, and while it can be dull and boring and frustrating as hell, it’s where we all live, among other people who justifiably may not understand or appreciate your particular style. There are Lolitas of all kinds, and likewise there are those who love Lolitas for who they are, not what brand of dress they wear. I love my wife, not because she’s a Lolita, but because she is who she is. One of those things happens to be that she’s a Lolita. It may not be my favorite part of her (as “horror movie aficionado” is certainly not one of her favorite parts of me), but with some simple consideration and compromise, all parties can walk away from any disagreements with grace, dignity, and strengthened love. Don’t reject someone just because they don’t appreciate Lolita: find a compromise and work together to get the best of both worlds.
Thanks for reading.