As a blogger who loves to talk about lolita fashion, I have sort of become an unofficial mentor over the years. Away from my blog I receive a lot of emails and messages from new lolitas who are looking for help or advice. Despite not actively promoting myself as a mentor, it is a role I am happy to do when people ask me questions. It feels reassuring knowing that people find me approachable! And I will always try my best to respond.
I feel that being a lolita mentor comes with a bit of responsibility. I admit that I sometimes wonder if I really did give the best possible answer. With this is mind, I decided to make a post about how us more veteran lolitas can help newcomers. I guess in some ways a lot of this list could apply outside of the context of lolita fashion as well. So here are a few things I feel you should consider before becoming a mentor, official or otherwise.
Be approachable- As I already sort of mentioned, being approachable is important. We were all new once, so try and bear this in mind. Be patient and never be rude. I also feel that if you are a mentor in a more official role, such as the Big Sisters in the Lolita Fashion Mentoring group on Facebook, then you at least need to show some enthusiasm for your role. You signed up for this, so prove you do want to be there. Also, don't be sarcastic. Emotions and intent can be super difficult to read online, so you risk somebody taking sarcasm seriously.
Keep up to date with news and trends- In the time I have been a lolita, quite a lot has changed. I have seen OTT sweet get overtaken by OTT classic, prints evolve and general attitudes change. There are things which you may find were acceptable a few years ago which are not as commonplace now and vice versa. An example I can think of is that when I first started wearing lolita it was not as acceptable for your skirt to be any shorter than knee-length but as time has gone on- and since some brands have shortened the lengths of their skirts- I have found attitudes to be a bit more lenient. People don't seem to mind as much if a skirt is one or two inches above the knee now, as long as it isn't too much. Having an active role in a local community or online will give you insight in to how your fellow lolitas think.
If you are unsure about something just admit it- It is better to admit that you don't know the answer than to give bad advice. Maybe see if you can direct them to somebody who is more likely to be able to help.
Be a good role model- Lead by example. If you have well put-together outfits and good taste then your advice will have a bit more weight behind it. People are usually less likely to take advice from somebody who doesn't dress well, even if the advice is good.
Use positive reinforcement- If you think somebody is doing something good, then say so. A compliment can really boost somebody's confidence and they will be more likely to continue what they are doing.
Back up your suggestions with examples- If you have a good idea, see if you can find an outfit that demonstrates the point you are trying to make. Whenever I find a picture inspiring I try to save it, and when people ask me about stuff I can usually find a picture relevant to what I am saying. Having a visual example is really useful, especially if you are not good about putting your thoughts in to words. You could also link to other sources, such as blog posts or websites.
Leave personal tastes out of it- As individual lolitas, we all have our own personal likes and dislikes. I personally really dislike some things which are quite popular in lolita, but just because I don't like it, it doesn't necessarily mean it is a bad idea. It's just my personal opinion. Try to be impartial. To give an example, if you don't like like chiffon, it doesn't mean that chiffon is a bad choice. In fact, chiffon is used quite a lot in lolita and lots of lolitas love it. So you shouldn't tell somebody to avoid chiffon, just because you don't like it.
Be mindful of people's feelings- Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to convince them otherwise, people have their hearts set on a certain idea. Tread very carefully with any criticism. Is there any way to compromise? Perhaps an idea may seem salvageable with a few suggestions for adjustments.
As a final point, I think it is worth mentioning that no matter how good a mentor you are, you may find that some people simply can't handle taking criticism or advice (even when they have specifically asked for it). I think the only thing I can suggest here is to rise above any immature behaviour and try to avoid the temptation to respond equally immaturely. As a mentor, you are probably going to come across some negativity eventually. Make sure you are prepared to handle it. I hope this post was helpful. If you are in need of some advice, do look up the Lolita Fashion Mentoring group on Facebook or ask a lolita who you feel you can trust. There are people out there who are more than happy to help!