Tag Archives: fashion

All Dolled Up: the Aesthetics of Lolita Feminism

1 Sep

Image via daily-lolita.

Yesterday evening I was fortunate enough to attend Loli-POP! at the Victoria & Albert Museum – a celebration of Lolita fashion and frolics. The event was free and curated by Rupert Faulkner of the V&A’s Asian Department, to whom I extend my thanks for hosting such a wonderful evening. If you’re interested in reading more about the night, rabucon has an excellent post with lots of pretty pictures!

I was first introduced to Lolita style by the baby-goths of Brisbane’s King George Square, but it wasn’t until years later, on my first trip to Harajuku, that I was able to witness it on a mass scale. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of lace, frills and bows on display, as well as saddened by the fact that I would simply never be brave enough to pull it off. Because that’s the thing. Despite its sweetness, it takes incredible balls to becoming a fully-fledged Loli.

I’d never thought of Lolita as a feminist response until last night’s Q&A panel on Japanese Fashion Subcultures, when one of the panel spoke quite articulately about the movement and its relation to the subculture. I can’t remember if it was author of Tokyo Look Book Philomena Keet, or Harriet Hall, who wrote her thesis on ‘Nostalgia, Innocence and Subversion: Kawaii and the Lolita Fashion Subculture in Japan’, but they were both very clever during the whole panel discussion and made a lot more sense than I’m about to.

Image via jeriandjapan.

Basically, I see Lolita fashion as hyper-femme. It takes the concept of femininity to the extreme – almost to the obscene. Bear with me here. There is something quite subversive about Lolita. It takes these traditional symbols of femininity – bows, ruffles etc. – and exaggerates their existence. Rather than being feminine in a passive way, Lolita fashion is extremely visible and in-your-face. The whole package is all so obviously artificial, so unattainable, that I think it can be read as a political statement. A statement against a society that teaches girls to be princesses, women to be beautiful, to be submissive, to be feminine. Out society ultimately measures a woman’s worth by her appearance. These dresses and wigs and false eyelashes and knee-high socks are a rebellious act. They seem to ask, “Is this what you meant? Is this what you wanted?”

If you have ever seen a group of Loli girls, you will know that this kind of aesthetic is confrontational, and can be unsettling.

Image from feministlolita.

Lolita is also a threat to traditionally patriarchal values because it exists to the exclusion of men. These girls/women aren’t dressing this way to ‘get a husband’. These costumes are not created to please others, dressing Lolita is an almost entirely self-indulgent practice. This can be quite a novelty for those individuals who assume that “every single action in a woman’s life is entirely based around how she feels about the men in her life.” You know,

If she wants to be pretty, it’s because she wants men to look at her as an object. If she is a feminist or a lesbian, she just hates men. If she wants to be a stay-at-home mom, it’s because she feels she’s subservient to men. To society, absolutely nothing she ever does is based upon her own feelings, but to bow to or rebel against the men in her life.

Online, one Lolita shares a conversation with her friends’ father:

I was showing off ‘Sugary Carnival’, which is a print by Angelic Pretty with marshmallow-twist lines that end in carousel horses around the hem.
“So what,” he asked, “is the idea that men want to eat it off you?”
“Er, no,” I told him, “lolita isn’t intended as sexual. I guess people can find it that, but to be honest, finding it sexual I find more than a little creepy.”
“Well,” he told me, eyebrows raised, “what do you think men are thinking?”
“I think nobody cares what men are thinking.”

And there we have it. I suppose to outsiders like me, it can be difficult to understand how empowering pastels and frills can be. But I’m not about dictating what people should and shouldn’t wear – you know, “Let’s ban the burka!” or “these skirts need to be more feminist!

But this post is already way longer than I intended and I am by no means an expert, so I’ma throw it over to you guys. Any thoughts?

Lipstick Lawlessness: Spotlight on Lime Crime.

24 Jun

deere

I feel that I should point out that this post began life as a ‘Conform, Consume, Obey’ piece. After all, Lime Crime is a makeup company run by self-proclaimed feminist Doe Deere:

The moment I crawled out of my mother’s womb kicking and screaming, I knew that having a vagina was not going to make me inferior to a man. (Yes, I was already contemplating on the role of vaginas as a newborn. You could say I started early.)

and on the surface, there’s not much to dislike about Lime Crime lipsticks. They’re fucking ace. Just look at them. They’re pretty versatile; you can downplay your look, or you can make your face into a rainbow. The lipstick tubes come with a freaking holographic unicorn on them, not to mention the fact that names like MINT TO BE and NEW YOLK CITY are pretty adorbs too. The makeup is cruelty-free certified, in fact they used to donate to Bideawee (but I’m not sure they still do).

I thought it my duty to tell y’all readers to buy these suckers by the boxful, ’cause mindless consumerism is totally my game. However, I changed my mind about this story half-way through. I realised I was going to have to put Deere in headlights.

The lipsticks themselves are a teeny bit pricey. Unlike the assertion on the website, I’ve found that they’re a little drying and I’ve needed to top up with lip balm. And I’ve also found if I smoke/eat/bite my lips a lot they’ll go patchy, so I have to keep topping up my lipstick in public like I’m Dita Von Teese. But hey, maybe you don’t smoke/eat/chew your lips like a freak. You’ve also gotta be pretty brave to pull them off. I still haven’t worn NO SHE DIDN’T out of the house yet.

However — the main reason I feel I can’t support these admittedly hella rad shades of face goop is because Lime Crime is just a terrible company surrounded by drama, controversy and crap customer service. Deere has been accused of racism and cultural appropriation, online bullying, repackaging product, and threatening to sue reviewers who give her less than starling reviews, among other things. Like, so many other things that I can’t even list every PR disaster here. I’ll just link you to a Google search on “Lime Crime controversy” and the Tumblr blog “Doe Deere lies” and I’ll let you makeup your mind about the rest.

It’s a shame, because before I knew all this, I was a huge fan of Lime Crime and the Doe Deere brand. It reminds me of PETA and the sad way they operate. Like, it just makes me so sad when something that could have been amazing is ruined by the fact that it is actually terrible instead. The world needs more feminist-fronted indie companies — but it definitely doesn’t need more bullshit.

Conform, Consume, Obey: Sound FX Headbands

20 Aug

BOOM! Aren’t they neat?  There’s something vaguely amusing about looking like you’ve stepped right out of a graphic novel whilst receiving a non-fatal blow to the head. …Maybe that’s just me.

On a side note, I was wearing one of these when Laurie Penny told me I looked like Tinkerbelle. Just sayin’.

You can buy one of these muthas from janinebasil’s Etsy store.