Somebody I know (who shall remain anonymous, unless they decide to speak up!) made quite a bold statement about lolita a few months ago- "With all the information out there, there is not really an excuse to be an ita in 2016".
On some level, I guess I can understand where they are coming from. There is a wealth of information out there and it really is not that difficult to google it. Most of you will be familiar with F Yeah Lolita's article on "How to Avoid Being an Ita" and even though that was written years ago, a lot of the information is still relevant today, especially if you can't quite get your head around the Western community's idea of the lolita "rules". And yet, there are still a lot of people who break these "rules". Some of these rule-breakers manage to get away with it, whilst others end up being mocked on cgl. I think there will always be those people out there who just try to do their own thing, and those who wish to be hand-fed every single little bit of information. Some people just have different tastes. But as time has gone on, I find myself developing a new view on itas and maybe in some cases it is more about a certain state of mind.
I myself had a quite lengthy ita phase. I am not going to sit here and make excuses for myself- I looked terrible and I know it. But I sort of shrug it off now. The truth is that almost every lolita I know has either had an ita phase or at the very least made the odd mistake. As somebody who has experienced a lot of backlash in the past, I can say from my personal experiences that being called an ita doesn't have to detract from the fun you have at meets. A lot of the time, the drama just dies down and most people do forget all about it.
But from time to time, I like to look back at the mistakes I made and try to figure out where I went wrong. The interesting thing is, that I started to notice certain patterns in my behaviour. I came to the realisation that my outfits got better or worse depending on what was going on in my life at that time. Like I said earlier, I am not making excuses, it is more that I am trying to get to the reason as to why people become itas in the first place. So taking a bit from my own personal experiences, I have tried to identify certain types of "ita behaviour" and tried to come up with some ways of how to overcome this, should you wish to improve. I guess you could say this is a bit like how to avoid being an ita, with a more mental focus!
The Dream Dress Ita- You have been eagerly searching through all of the sales and auction pages for ages when all of a sudden, that dress you have ranked as the top priority on your wishlist makes an appearance! Sure, you may not have anything in your wardrobe that matches, and maybe it is going to leave you broke for the rest of the month, but it is your DREAM DRESS!!!! You stalk your postal delivery guy to the point where he is considering getting a restraining order out on you, and then finally the dress is in your hands. Instantly, you find yourself falling in love with this dress. It is every bit as beautiful as you imagined. In fact, you want to wear it it. Right now. So you put together an outfit, only for it to turn our terrible. You have been so focused on this dress, that you have almost become 'blinded' when it comes to the rest of your outfit. Pictured above is the skirt which gave me my very own rose-tinted glasses effect.
Solution- The only way to really overcome this is to make sure you have a ready supply of good basic wardrobe building items. Try and see which colours and themes appear the most in your wardrobe and flesh out your blouse, socks, shoes and accessory collections in complimentary colours. When I was properly expanding my lolita wardrobe, I had a want vs need list. For every item I got from the want side of the list (and really, your dream dresses are a want and not a need, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise) I had to buy one or two things from the need side, which included the essentials like blouses, or a new petticoat.
The Emotional Ita- Ever find that life is just a bit tough? Going through a bad patch? Had a life-changing tragedy? Well now is really not the best time to be thinking up new outfits or attending meets. When my granddad died, I made the mistake of going to a lolita meet a week later and I really regretted it. Not only did I throw together an outfit at the very last minute because I had been so focused on my grief, but I was an emotional wreck. Making sure I looked presentable was the least of my worries. Even now, I can't look back at the photos from that meet.
Solution- You need to take the time out to properly let yourself get over whatever emotional issue is having an impact on your mental well-being. There will be other lolita meets and if your comm is sensitive and mature, they will respect you for taking time out for yourself and not read anything else in to it. My advice would be to impose an internet ban on yourself for a while as well. Some things stay with you for the rest of your life, but as cliche as it may sound, time really is a great healer.
The "But it's by ____ brand" Ita- The tag says Angelic Pretty, so naturally it must be sweet lolita right? Well, the answer is no actually. A lot of the big Japanese brands, especially ones like AP, take inspiration from other Japanese fashion trends. At the time of writing this, Larme-kei is big news, and Angelic Pretty are about to release Dolly Dot. Whilst Dolly Dot is intended to be lolita, it could easily fit in to the Larme-kei aesthetic. Similarly, in the past, AP have put out a lot of mini skirts. There are some of these AP mini skirts which became popular in the fairy kei scene, and AP were probably intending for these to be worn in a more casual, street fashion kind of way, rather than lolita. Let's take the series Sugar Hearts as an example. Angelic Pretty released an OP and JSK which were clearly designed in a way that was meant to appeal to lolitas. They also released a mini skirt. I own this mini skirt and believe me, that skirt is not long enough or full enough to create the perfect lolita shape which is so vital in lolita fashion. The bad thing is though, that if that skirt had been just the tiniest bit longer, it could maybe just about have passed as a lolita skirt. Because it is so close to being nearly lolita, and with the dresses from the same series fitting lolita fashion, I think this caused a bit of confusion for some people. You could also make the same argument about salopettes. Some people class them as lolita, whereas others will tell you outright that a salopette is not lolita.
Solution- I would just be careful about how you tag your outfits online. It is fine to tag an outfit with the brand, but if you are not sure if something is lolita or not, just don't tag it as such. If you wish to add more tags so it reaches a wider audience, use more generic terms such as "kawaii" or "Japanese fashion". It also may be a good idea to refresh your memory on the basics of a lolita outfit, so you can compare your outfit and see if it meets the "requirements" of your typical lolita outfit.
The Anime Ita- So your primary passion happens to be anime, and then you see one of your favourite characters dressed in this fashion called lolita. Chances are, this character is wearing some incredibly OTT ensemble covered from head to toe in bows and with added sparkly backgrounds. You discover that lolita fashion is actually a real thing, only it doesn't quite match up to the characters that introduced you to it. The trouble is, the 'ideals' of anime lolita are very different to what somebody who is in to lolita fashion, but not anime, sees as the ideal lolita aesthetic. With anime lolitas, you don't really get a feel for how important lolitas value the quality of the materials they are wearing (to be fair, that would make for some very slow-paced anime!). A lot of the time, the focus is just on the cuteness.
Solution- This is one situation where it depends how seriously you are in to lolita fashion. If you are serious about wearing lolita as a fashion outside of anime, I feel it is vital to start from scratch about learning about the fashion and ignore what you think you may have learnt from anime. It is important to remember that anime is a very exaggerated take on reality and a lot of these lolita characters are deliberately designed in an OTT way (and sometimes in a very deliberately sexual way) so that they will appeal more to the audience. That is not to say that all anime/manga lolitas are equal. I personally have always loved Misato from Nana and her old school lolita look!
The Multiple Fandom/Fashion Ita- You love lolita fashion, but maybe you feel that it is only one aspect of your life and that lolita doesn't really fully represent who you are as a person. So maybe you wish to try and do a cross-over with another fashion you are in to, or maybe make an outfit based around your love of Doctor Who/Sherlock/Other fandom. You see somebody do something like 'steampunk lolita' and think "Hmm, I could do that...". The only trouble is that when you add another fashion or fandom on top of lolita, you are adding in another set of fashion's rules or a character's aesthetics. These aesthetics may not always gel together 100% with lolita and as a result, you end up having to make compromises. The problem comes when you compromise too much, and the outfit stops looking lolita altogether.
Solution- Make sure that you make time to fully enjoy each of your hobbies and interests. Look online to see if there are any communities that are about the fandoms/fashions/hobbies you enjoy. If you still feel strongly about combining 2 fashions together, have a look to see if lolita brands have released any series which may appeal to both of your interests. For example, a lot of Angelic Pretty releases have a slight retro feel to them, Meta did a series which had a steampunk influence to it (Wheel of Time) and quite often you will see brands do collaborations. Disney and Japanese lolita brand collaborations are something that come up quite often, for example. You may even be surprised at the influences in some lolita series. Alice and the Pirates just did a Sherlock inspired series. That is the sort of series where you could wear it and then casually bring up the Sherlock theme in conversation, to show that you are a fan of that particular show. If you are in to character cross-overs, maybe instead of trying to mash them with lolita fashion, just ask yourself "how would this character wear lolita" instead. A Sailor Moon inspired outfit could just have a star or sailor theme for example, rather than going all-out with an Usagi wig and an almost cosplay-like outfit.
The Poor Ita- You really want to get in to lolita, but your budget just wont allow it. When you are starting out, it can be very overwhelming thinking of all the different things you are going to need to buy, just to get one complete outfit together. You find yourself trailing budget stores such as Primark for 'loli-able' finds or tell yourself that if you add lace to something, maybe it will look a bit more appropriate for lolita, only to forget about your craft plans after you brought the stuff. And when there is a lolita bargain on offer, you get so excited about it that you snap it out without thinking it through first. Perhaps you have even considered cutting a few corners. Maybe you have a nice lolita dress, but you spent out a bit on it, so you are now considering wearing a basic work blouse you already own anyway. After all, a blouse is mostly going to get hidden by a dress, right?
Solution- Sorry, but the only way to truly get over this is to learn how to budget. You have to scrutinise every single purchase you make. If you see a good deal on a sweet skirt, but you are a gothic lolita, then it isn't really a bargain because you are not likely to actually wear it. When I started out, I struggled with money. I still have piles of £1 Primark loli-able socks that I still haven't worn years later, as I never really thought about if they actually went with any of my dresses. And believe me, all those little £1 purchases do start to add up. There may be other little frivolous purchases you can cut back on to add to your lolita funds You could also consider cutting down how frequently you spend on lolita. For example, if you have about £30 to spend a month on lolita, save it up for a few months and you will find that you have enough money to buy something of a better quality, rather than lots of cheaper and poorer quality pieces. And if you are buying better quality products, there is less chance of them breaking and you needing to buy replacements. Another thing to watch out for is how much people are selling these supposedly good deals for. For example, there may be a lot of Bodyline on Ebay, but sometimes you will find that these products are actually being sold cheaper on Bodyline's site.
The 'Lost' Ita- Gothic? Sweet? Maybe classic? There are so many different sub-styles as well. When I first discovered lolita, I was like a kid entering Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. There are so many dresses to choose from, how do you know what is right for you? Maybe you are one of these people getting in to lolita who just goes aimlessly about and buys pieces which seem like a good idea at the time. The only trouble is, you have found you are now stuck with a classic blouse, a gothic skirt and a sweet Alice bow, and none of it goes together.
Solution- If this sounds like you, then now is not the time to be purchasing anything. Sites like lolibrary.org are your friends (Well, when they are working they are. Be aware that Lolibrary goes down a lot. Be patient.). Empty your schedule and devote a few hours to going through Lolibrary. Whenever you see something that piques your interest, make a note of it. Make a board on Pinterest, reblog Tumblr pictures that you like, look through some Gothic Lolita Bibles and bookmark pages which have stuff you like on. Once you have a good collection of pictures, it is time to look through them and make notes. Is there a certain style that is cropping up more than others? Certain colours? Certain recurring themes? Before you go buying anything, try to imagine yourself buying them. If you had to choose between 2 of the dresses you have picked out, which one do you think would make you feel the happiest? What items from your collection of pictures would go with this dress? And be aware that sometimes your tastes in lolita may just naturally change as time goes on.
Looking through this list, I have noticed a couple of themes seem to be quite frequently appearing. Impulse-buying, over-enthusiasm and mis-information seem to be big factors. These are things that can be overcome. It seems to be a trend with people who get labelled itas that most of them do go on to improve naturally. I think it is something that comes with time, and I suppose time is a key thing to focus on here. Lolita shouldn't really be a race to see who can get the most dresses or a contest to see who can get the most likes and reblogs. Sometimes it is this pressure to make a name for yourself in the lolita community that causes us to make mistakes in the first place. Changes in lifestyle can also be key. It isn't really fair to compare a teenager just out of school for example, with somebody in their late 20's or even older who is more likely to have a stable job, a good income and have maybe gotten married or gone through other big life changes.
I hope that this post doesn't come across as judgemental, as that was really not my intention. It was more that I was curious to explore the mindset of people who have maybe been labelled as itas, and to also reflect on my own past mistakes and why they happened. The subject of this post is a bit sensitive for some and I found this post was incredibly difficult to write! And maybe there are even people out there who happen to not care about their mistakes or just feel confident and comfortable enough to make their own choices. Do you have any further advice that you feel should be added to this post? Or do you have any general comments about the content of this post? Let me know what you think!