Aug 25, 2011

Pretty of the week: New Dear Celine Dress

I'm a fan of vertical stripes. Something about them is just so classy and cute. Combine those stripes with some really special but understated details like those on this dress and I'm going to love the result.  What's more, I've been wanting some soft purple in my wardrobe. Needless to say this is a super tempting dress, despite saving for a Disney trip at the moment.  But my favorite part?

Oh my gosh! It's just so adorable!

Aug 23, 2011

Books for Lolitas: A Great and Terrible Beauty

This book feels like a good follow up to the previous two reviews. It's not a childhood classic and it deals more with true magic, but it has the same underlying flavor to it and recalled both of the other books as I was reading it.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

The basic story is that of a girl raised in India sent away to boarding school after her mother's death. There, she is not overly welcomed but finds a place and friendship through powers she discovers and shares. It's an interesting story with well rounded and interesting characters and beautiful writing.

Which is why I am utterly at a loss as to why I didn't love it. It's such an absolute perfect mix, as it crafted for me specially as a more mature fantasy filled version of loved stories, that by all rights I should be positively gushing about it. It's certainly more solid than other books I've posted with a rave review, and my general disinterest in no way comes from an inability to connect to the characters and voice of the piece. It's an anomaly that's rather troubling.

It likely boils down to timing, I suppose. I ready the book near the end of my last semester of college, when I was also planning a wedding and a move and trying to feel around for work. Needless to say, it was a busy and stressful time What little down time for reading I had came in moments that could only be justified as times I should remain awake by being to short for a decent nap. It's an environment that could easily rob most books of emotional impact. So that I felt strongly enough to complete the story and liked it despite a lack of connection speaks, I think, rather highly of this story.

I do intend soon to read the sequels, once I've worked through a few of the books that have waited much too long in the pile. And I do recommend this book (though I can't speak yet for the series as a whole) because the atmosphere is perfect and the story is very good. But perhaps it would be best read during calm times rather than exams and wedding planning.

Aug 19, 2011

A Different View

A while ago, there was a post on EGL asking how far one would go for lolita, especially in matters of relationships and jobs. I was rather surprised at the amount of responses declaring that someone not ok with lolita would not be worth dating. The responses used words like controlling, shallow, narrow minded and superficial.

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.

Craft Project: Poofs

I bought a new wallet at the Sanrio store last month that came with a large pink poof on the zipper. Poofs are adorable in every way, but the wallet itself was a little on the chubby side as far ar wallets go and such a large poof made it difficult to get in and out of my purse. So I replaced it with a pink crystal heart and then had an adorable poof begging for crafting. I made a charm for my DS, which had been charmless for far too long, and fell in love with poofs. After a bit of asking I was told how to make my own poofs. While I had no fur to try this with, I did have some left over wooly backed sued from making my bear hat. And the poof mania set in.

I stuck to charms for the first two trial poofs, but then was unable to help it. And I made brooches. I love making brooches.

This one was really simple and I'm planning to make a tutorial soon. After my fingers recover a bit - forcing the needle through the fabric was a bit hard.

This one is a new take on the wire wrapped steampunk keys I've been making for the past few years. I really like the way it turned out and am already planning to make more of these.

Aug 18, 2011

Pretty of the week: Oxford Heels

I've developed a recent obsession with oxford heels. I'm not normally a fan of heels as they make a tap-click instead of the dainty click-click and the sound normally makes me feel the shoes think they are far too important for the likes of me. That, and my balance isn't the greatest the world has seen. But it's mostly the sound thing.

But I started seeing friends post pictures of oxford heels last week and fell, forgive the pun. head over heels in love with them. Not only are they completely charming, but they so easily transition into and out of lolita in a way that's super stylish and elegant and just a little bit grown-up while still being fun.

Is that not the most lovely shoe?

This one is more what I think of first when I see the name, though. Black and white just looks so sharp.

I love the summery feel of these!

Pink, anyone?

I got my first pair over the weekend in a bribe to sit through a scary movie. They are so very worth the sleepless week I know is coming, though. They even make a clap-tap that doesn't sound at all self important! And as a bonus I get to show off my husband's taste in shoes. <3

Totally worth it.

Aug 16, 2011

Books for Lolitas: The Secret Garden

I apologize for the break. Matt and I had house guests for the week and while it was great fun and we were sad to see them go, I didn't have a great deal of time for writing while they were here. As a warning there are several similar situations arising through the end of October, but now that I've realized how little time I will have, I'll attempt to have entries written in advance.

The week before the break I wrote about A Little Princess. In my head there is another book I have always looked upon as a companion to that story. So it only feels right that I speak on this just a little.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I say I think of the books as companions, though it is probably more accurate to say they are similar opposites.  Both are stories of girls in a similar situation, but the girls in question are very different girls. Where Sara is a kind person at the start, Mary has a rather sour personality and little idea of how to interact with others. Still, I rather like Mary as a character.

At the beginning of the story she isn't anyone I'd particularly wish to meet. And that is, I think, the beauty of this story. It's a story about learning to be kind. No matter the circumstances you can become a better person by finding something you feel worth working for.

Aug 4, 2011

Pretty of the Week: Seriously Creepy Clowns

I don't know if I love this or if it will haunt my nightmares. My first reaction was that I loved the dress. Then I looked at the close up of the print shown above and... why? Why make creepy clowns a thing?

Later on I saw it again and it started to remind me of the dark/dead moon circus. I started liking it after that, but it still creeps me out.

What are everyone else's thoughts on this new print?

Aug 2, 2011

Books for Lolitas: A Little Princess

I hope everyone enjoyed the special theme last month. I had fun writing a bit about it. This week I'm reviewing a book that hadn't been on my list until just the other day.

Since moving, I've befriended a wonderful woman who is a lot of fun to talk with. The other day conversation turned to A Little Princess and we each had nearly the same reaction to the story. This made me want very much to share these thoughts with my dear readers, even though I expect it is largely unnecessary.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is likely the most quoted book on lolita blogs and forums. And who doesn't admire Sara Crewe, the very most princessly princess of all time? This isn't one of the novels I mark among those most influential in my life, and I think that it's a poor estimation on my part that this is so.

When I was very young I was introduced to the story through the Shirley Temple film and the Illustrated Classic version of the book. Though now these are my least favorite versions, they did prompt me to read the full novel years later and the 1995 version remains one of my favorite films even now. I'm not sure how much of this story informed my personality, but it certainly inspires me to be a better person each time I revisit it.

For those who have overlooked this novel, it tells the story of Sara, a wealthy girl who is sent to a boarding school for young ladies. There, her kindness and spirit win her both a large number of friends and the disdain of the school's director, Miss Minchin.  However, due to her greed, Minchin is still kind to Sara up until the girl's birthday when news of her father's death and the disappearance of her family's fortune arrives. Sara is then forced to work as help, loosing her possessions in the process. This new life is very hard for Sara, but she remains kind and still believes she is a princess on the inside. She becomes close friends with the servant girl, Becky, and an Indian gentleman living in the attic across from her own. The end of the story varies depending on which version of the story you favor, but the moral is that remaining a good person will pay off in some way at the end and that, yes, all girls are princesses if they choose to be.

I think the reason the story is so very inspiring to many is the idea that you can be a princess no matter what. You can be the better person in any situation, and that no matter how bad life gets this will be rewarded in the end. It inspires girls to be kind and to continue dreaming even when it's difficult to do so. For girls in bad situations if offers hope of something better if they just stay true to themselves.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, I urge you to read or watch it. The form you pick to do so does not matter, as the underlying messages are the important parts.