The Gaijin’s Conundrum

March 23, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Posted in fashion, Life, Lumpy | 4 Comments
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These past few weeks I’ve been having a total love-hate relationship with brand. I go from daydreaming about a closet full of Innocent World and BABY to slamming my wallet closed in disgust &vowing away from the expensive things multiple times a day. Why do we do it? Look at the sales community – there are girls (myself included) spending whole paychecks on clothing other people have sweated in. Hopefully they’ve been dry-cleaned or at least aired out, but who even knows? This is the gamble we take for brand, to look the way our souls feel (or maybe that’s just me – is my hippie showing?).

But why? With so many talented seamstresses and stores in our own countries, why do we bother exporting overpriced dresses and skirts, saving up for weeks for a single item, when we could pay a fraction of the price for something that is beautiful, personal, and actually sized to Western bodies? Let’s start it, ladies – the anti-brand revolution!

Maybe that’s going a step too far. After all, the reason brand names are so expensive is because they’re usually so ornate, delicate, and creative that we can’t really find exact substitutes elsewhere. And that’s great – there’s no better feeling than putting on a dress you’ve been saving up for and looking at yourself in the mirror. That’s why we do it. We like feeling that way. Whether they’re just clothes or more of a lifestyle, you have to admit – you wouldn’t wear these ridiculous, expensive things if you looked in the mirror &didn’t feel awesome about what you saw looking back at you (Would you? I’d love to hear some opinions – being a lifestyle loli myself I can’t really imagine what it’s like not to be one).

But who says brand is the only way to feel like that? Okay, lots of people. However, I think that’s because those people have never really seen what American designers (Or Australian, or Swedish, or Brazilian, or…) are really capable of. That’s the gaijin’s, or foreigner’s, dilemma: Buy from Japan expensive things that may not even fit our body types, or do we buy from smaller Western brands without the big name &quality guarantee? I’ve seen both – on top of owning pieces by both American and Japanese brands, I’ve modeled for both BABY, the Stars Shine Bright and American lolita designers, and I can honestly say, I felt layers upon layers better in clothes by the latter. I felt so much more connected to the clothing knowing it that had been designed not to make money but specifically for the event I was modeling it in and feeling the soul of the seamstress who poured her heart into producing it. There’s something to be said for mass-production, and I love Forever 21 as much as the next girl, but once you feel something so personal, it’s hard to find a good Methadone to take its place.

There’s also a very different style and look to American lolita brands. I think this is necessary – the things they’re exposed to are so different from what affects Japanese lolita designers that anyone who tries to emulate what they do, in my opinion, doesn’t have a very high chance of success. I see this especially in designers from New York City and other urban areas – exposed to such a harsh, concrete-and-steel landscape every day crafts citydwellers into unique people, and lolitas are no exception. The beauty that we obsess over seems to be almost rougher in NYC – maybe this is my country-mouse coming through, but it seems to me that there’s just some sort of discernible edge that comes from Manhattanites that they bring to their coordinates that always takes me by surprise. How exactly that shows is dependant on the individual, and yes, I’ve seen plenty of girls in the city rocking cookie-cutter styles and making it look right off the pages of the GLB, but I think more often there’s a certain je ne sais quois that permeates their attitudes and fashion sense. I’ve seen it in other places, too, but never as strongly. There’s such an energy to people who frequent the Big Apple that I’ve never seen replicated. Maybe therein lies my deep adoration for the city – while every metropolis has its own unique story and energy, I’ve never encountered one as intoxicating as New York’s.

But I digress. The point I’ve been trying to make is that lolita is not something that you need to pay customs for. There are some amazing designers in our own countries that need their economy stimulated, and we’re just the people to do it. Here’s a list of some of the American brands that I find most stimulating:

Any other suggestions, American lolitas? And for you non-American lolis, who are your favorite designers from your country?

On Being Beautiful

October 6, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Life, Lumpy | 4 Comments
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Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.
– Confucious

What is beauty?  This is a question humanity has strived to answer probably since the invention of language. All those silly ancient geniuses – they didn’t know what I know. For every person the definition of beauty is different – maybe beauty is making men want you, or being lovable or loved, or just being happy with yourself. What is beauty to you? Here’s my opinion-

Beauty lies not in the body but in the heart &soul. This beauty we express with our bodies, but we can only do that by tapping into the beauty in our soul. A lolita spends hours getting dressed, coiffing, making-up, and then stands in front of the mirror and smiles. This happiness that is welling up from inside her – this is her soul set free and expressed in her body.

By today’s standards, thinking like this probably makes me a “hippie.” I have no problem with that – there are worse fates, worse labels society could have inflicted me with. Some of you will not like what I’m saying because of that – many people are made uncomfortable by talk of the soul these days. I don’t understand it, but I don’t have to. I don’t live for them. It’s for those of you who are smiling right now, who are reading and nodding and smiling in agreement – it’s for you that I write (I speak, I document) for, not for those who are snickering and shaking their head in disbelief or even disgust.

Part of beauty, probably the most important part, is acceptance. Accept that your soul may not want you to look like other people’s (or that maybe somedays it does – some days it may beg you to leave petticoats forlorn and comfort it in sweats or jeans or Uggs). I think that lolitas have gotten past this hurdle simply by being lolitas, by accepting that they love a sweet, frilly fashion that much of the outside world finds ridiculous.

We’re used to not being accepted. We face it every day by the outside world – and occasionally in our own world, too. It is beautiful to accept that even the people you identify with may not understand or accept your beauty, whether these people are your family, your friends, or even our online lolita communities. It is beautiful to accept this with grace &dignity but to still express your beauty. However, it is important to respect yourself enough not to show this inner beauty to those who will not respect it. Sometimes it is more honorable to keep your beauty inside to protect it and yourself.

Beauty offends. Lolitas know this well. Offense is dangerous. While it is important that your body reflects your soul, protecting your mind &body are most important. An illustration of all these points would be the girl who posts to daily_lolita in a less than perfect outfit. She is trying to show the beauty in her soul, and she is calling that beauty lolita. It may not fit the rules we all follow, and many of us will tell her – not necessarily rudely (I’m not going to go into THAT here), but we will give her tips on how she can mold her internal aesthetic to fit this label more. She can choose to follow these rules or not – if she chooses to alter slightly her aesthetic and be approved of by the community (in which there is no fault), she will be accepted. If she does not, she doesn’t need to expose herself to the community anymore. It’s as simple as that – if you want to be accepted by certain people, cater to fit their ideas. If those ideas aren’t something that sit well with you for whatever reason, distance yourself from those people and continue living as you feel you should. In this case, our “ita” can either conform to the rules of lolita and continue posting without complaint, or she can continue to dress as she wants but keep it to herself &for herself &not post it anywhere.

Though it hurts my Taurus (by which I mean my internal aesthetic &also my sense of justice &what is right or wrong) to admit this, sometimes internal beauty must be stifled for the health of the mind &body – but we must ask, what is the point of a healthy body if the soul ails? Therefore I leave the final decision up to you, as it often is circumstantial. Will you honor your mind, body, or soul? Is there a way to honor all three? Or, really, is there a difference between them?

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