52 Week Lolita Challenge: How strangers react to my clothes, and how I react to their reactions
I know, I know, I’ve fallen a bit off the bandwagon with the whole 52 week challenge. I’ve been really worn out lately, and got a bit behind. I’ll try to do better in the future! That said, this week’s out-of-order-on-a-whim-selected topic is number 44: How strangers react to my clothes, and how I react to their reactions.
I wear two main styles of lolita; classic and sweet. When I wear classic, unless it’s to a meet up, it’s usually pretty understated. I might get a couple older ladies telling me they like my dress (and a weirdly high number of comments about how it’s nice to see a young lady wearing hose) and every now and then a little girl will say something to me or someone will ask why I’m so dressed up. I get a couple funny looks, but, mostly I’m wearing black, brown or navy and it’s mostly pretty tame, so I assume that a lot of people just assume it’s some sort of goth fashion or what not. I get a couple odd photo requests, but it’s usually not too bad.
When I wear classic to a meetup, or go all out with a lot of flowers in my hair and fancier shoes, though, the number of comments and photo requests goes up. Mostly though, people are polite and mostly they still don’t pay too much attention to me.
I also wear sweet, and when I wear sweet it usually ranges from OTT Sweet to DecoLoli, so it’s almost never even half as tame as a classic coord. My sweet wardrobe is predominately red and pink, with a few odd blue or lavender pieces (most of which have red or pink in the prints on them). I have own two strawberry shaped purses, and a few polka-dotted pieces and a few pieces with strawberries. If you are a sweet lolita, you can probably guess where this is going by now, but if not, and for those who aren’t; I get called strawberry shortcake. A lot. It eclipses the other names (Shirley Temple, Little Miss Muffet, Little Bo Peep, Mary Bo Peep, Mary, Dolly, etc) by a large margin. I also have found that the more OTT your outfit, the more often you get stopped. I know from my experience in the world of design/marketing that the human eye is attracted to red more than other colors. This holds true for red coordinates in my experience. I get a little bit of heckling when I’m in urban areas, but mostly, I get curious tourists, passerbys and people with kids asking for pictures or about my outfit. Lots of questions of “are you in a play” or “are you a singer/in a band” too.
I pretty much always say yes to photos, because quite frankly, I don’t care all that much if someone takes my picture. I just take it as a compliment, pose and move on. (Though, I will apologize and politely say no if I’m eating, late, or really mussed up in some way). Of course, this does result in less than stellar photos of me if I’m really tired. I need to learn some sort of cute pose that gets me out of smiling, because I look like some sort of creature that eats small children when I smile while exhausted.
When little kids think I’m a princess, I just play along. I usually compliment them on their shoes or hair accessories (or for boys, their teeshirts) because those tend to be pretty safe things to compliment. I smile, say hello, and bend down to talk to them for a moment. I’ll rework parts of lines from a little princess sometimes; telling them things like every little girl is a princess if she’s good and kind. Just cute little feel-good things that fit into what I guess the parents would expect from a princess character at a theme park, since that’s basically what the little kids have equated me with. Usually we pose for a photo or two, and then I wave good bye and wish them a nice day.
When adults ask about what I’m wearing, there are three stock answers. One, is the meetup answer which goes along the lines of “We are a fashion club and we all just got dressed up to come out and see ____ today”. The second is the convention answer “There is a Japanese arts and animation convention at ___ today. I’m just dressed up in a style of Japanese street fashion.”. The last is the answer I give when I’m on my own, and it’s either that I’m wearing clothes from my favorite Japanese designer, or it’s “I’m wearing a type of Japanese street style. Kind of like we have goth and punk styles in the US, they have their own there. This style takes elements of Victorian and rococo fashion and remixes it with a sort of pop vibe.” Unless someone actually starts talking about J-fashion styles or specifically asks for a name, I omit the word lolita. It just has way too many negative connotations in the west, and the fashion is way too obscure for it to be something that could be over come by explaining to people. Actually, to be honest, I tell my own mother I wear decora or maiden style (otome) depending on the outfit, just to save her from having a conniption.
I realize that I look odd when I go out, and I understand when people take photos (as long as they aren’t pervy photos) that it’s because they are surprised and think it’s neat / odd / interesting. I understand that I’m basically entering into the realm of performance art with how far out of the norm I am, and I’m ok with that. So, I don’t yell at people taking pictures. I do sometimes tell people to please ask before they take a picture if I’m with a group that is getting agitated, or if the person’s body-language is hostile, mocking, or otherwise just off. I also try not to snub people, or be rude to people asking questions, and I try to gracefully deal with all the attention, though, I am very much an introvert, so it can get tiring. I’m pretty good at reading body language and avoiding people I don’t want to talk to, so for the most part, I’m able to navigate the comments, questions and photo requests politely and respectfully. The only exception to that is when someone is really out of line; I’m not above dressing down someone who is trying to take up-skirt shots or something equally disgraceful. When people aren’t being rude though, I try to be polite back, and it irks me a little when I’m with a group and the group is openly hostile to people who are merely curious and are being polite. I understand that it can be tiring to get the same questions over and over, but the person asking doesn’t know that it’s the 50th time that day, and it makes me kinda sad to see old ladies who come up thinking the group is fascinating only to be harassed back.