52 Week Lolita Topic Challenge : How I First Found Out About Lolita

Today’s post from the 52 Week Lolita Topic Challenge is 10. How I first found out about Lolita. 

I used to do pixel art for a dress up doll website when I was younger. We took requests, and one of the requests we got was for lolita clothing, and so I started looking online for examples to use for artwork. I’m not 100% sure how exactly I ended up going from just admiring the fashion and drawing it really badly to actually being interested in it. I remember after I had gotten my first actual job after college I ran into two sites which had lolita clothing that wasn’t hundreds of dollars. One was the infamous Milanoo and the other was Bodyline. At the time, Milanoo was still stealing stock images, and I knew very little about lolita so I didn’t know that the images were actually stolen.

On milanoo I fell in love with this:

AP Stock Photo Stolen by Milanoo

“Cotton Red Sleeveless Front Lace Tie Sweet Lolita Top and Lace Skirt” Also known as Angelic Pretty’s “Pretty Bustier & Skirt Set” from 2008

And on Bodyline, I fell in love with the Candy Skirt. I actually liked it better in pink, but I had decided that getting it in blue was more likely to match with the bunny set which seemed like a very good deal.

                Bodyline Candy Skirt

After waffling back and forth, I ended up buying some things from Bodyline (mostly because it seemed like a better deal; I could get a dress and a blouse and a skirt and a petticoat for the same price as the milanoo set):
Bodyline Bunny Set   Bodyline Candy Skirtpan013-2

If I remember correctly, the skirt cost me $13, the petticoat (I can’t remember which one I got. I have Yellow, Sax and Dark Pink because I later bought more because it wasn’t fluffy enough alone) was $11, and I want to say the bunny dress set was either $25 or $31? So for under $60, I got two basic coords that needed only bags/shoes and leg wear. Unfortunately, the blouse looked absolutely awful on me, the detachable sleeves were like tents on my arms, and the bow was like helicopter propellers. I tried. It didn’t come out that well, but, at the end of the day, I hadn’t spent a ton so I wasn’t as horribly upset about things as I think I would have been if I’d spent over $100 for something that didn’t suit me.

I later went back to bodyline and bought a yellow high waist skirt, and a blouse with bunny ears in white. Then, from Quitieland I bought a sax star shaped purse and sax an*tai*na shoes.

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The shoes from an*tai*na actually were terrible, and I paid waaay too much for them when all was said and done, but I had a few pieces I could mix and match. I made myself some accessories, added some tights and knee socks from target and I wore these pieces occasionally around the house for a while.

Later I went to Otakon, though I was too shy to really meet any of the other lolita there. And sometime in the year following that I started buying second hand pieces from EGL Comm Sales. My first pieces of “brand” were bought the same week; two Angelic Pretty Skirts. The first was “Strawberry Picking” and the second was a gingham one.

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I made the terribly extravagant purchase of a pair of red x white bodyline shoes (red shoes! How much wear would I really ever get out of red shoes! Oh if only I had known….) and a strawberry shaped purse. Shortly after that I started bidding on items on mbok and Y!J auctions. I’m pretty sure I just bid on everything and anything that I thought might remotely fit me and was under $100. I ended up with a ton of main pieces really fast, but I didn’t really love most of them. In the end, I ended up selling most of them off a few years later. I also picked up some items from Taobao, though, most of those ended up getting sold as well.

It wasn’t until a good year or two after I started buying brand second hand that I actually went to my first meet up and joined my local community.

And I didn’t buy any main pieces new that weren’t on sale at all until Christmastime in 2012 when I caved and bought Toy March in Wine. I got the blouse, headbow and socks too, and I remember thinking it was super extravagant at the time. I still love that dress. After that, my buying habits changed a lot. I started buying more AP prints new (though I still bought a lot second hand too)

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All-in-all, I think it’s interesting how my perceptions of what is and isn’t extravagant in lolita changed over the years. There were a few years where I’d buy 2 dresses per month (some new, some used) and I kept a lot of them for years. I’ve cut back my spending a lot over the last year; I’ve only bought one dress this year: Juliette et Justine’s Le Premier Cri, which hasn’t even come in yet, despite it being bought in February.

Some things have changed a lot over the years; when I started out, my coordinates were fairly simple, then they moved into decololi, and now, as I get older and more tired, they are sliding back to being more simple. One thing, however, has remained constant; I absolutely adore wearing red, even if it is a bit impractical.

 

Bodyline and Rape Culture in Lolita Fashion

First of all, in case it’s not obvious in the title, this post will talk about sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape, though it will generally be in the abstract and non-explicit.

Most lolita are familiar with Bodyline, and many are familiar with Mr. Yan, the owner of bodyline who is on a quest to acquire more waifus.

If you google “Mr. Yan” you get memes like this:

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A selection of YouTube Videos like “Leave Mr. Yan Alone!“, a video of a lolita teaching him to Tango when he was touring the world, and multiple unboxings of his Body pillow.

And of course there is the infamous body pillow, which sold out and was recently re-released:

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And as I mentioned above, he did a world tour where young women met with him while dressed up in lolita and flirted with him and joked around about him.

Recently, at rufflecon there was a panel called “Mr. Yan’s Next Top Waifu (18+)” where someone wore a Mr. Yan costume and held a fake wife contest. I didn’t attend, but the line was quite long. 

Before I go any farther, I want to say that this is simply an explorational piece and I am not calling attention to the people who used these memes, own these body pillows, made these videos, hosted or attended these panels in an attempt to condemn or shame them. Instead, I’d like to take an abstract look at the meme of “Mr. Yan” inside the lolita community. I encourage readers to draw their own conclusions and determine on their own how they feel about these things.

That said, let’s look into the history of the Meme of Mr. Yan. For starters, the first exposure the western lolita community really had to Mr. Yan was through cheesy images and videos used by the Bodyline site to promote sales. Most people who viewed these images and videos found them funny, and thought very little of it at the time. Though there were already mentions of him being a bit of a creep.

It wasn’t until later that it came out that the Mr. Yan so furious sale, which involved him breaking a mirror on camera because he was so mad, lined up with a model contest winner refusing to marry him, and Bodyline trying to force her to pay them back for her free trip because she wouldn’t marry the owner. Looking at this in the abstract, the contest was borderline human trafficking. Had the girl not had the money to pay her way out of it, she could have been trapped in Japan. This was back in 2009. There were also some rumors of Model Contest Winner Nadia (Yes, the love Nadia print is named after her) being hit on as well, and even back then there was chatter about Mr. Yan being a creep. In 2010 a Facebook fan club was set up. In 2012, Yoshiko left bodyline and had issues getting bodyline to mail her back her things. And in 2013, there was the whole thing with Venus which may or may not be exaggerated / staged; it’s hard to tell as her mother was pushing her as a reality entertainment personality. I don’t want to make light of her situation or imply that it’s ok to question accusations of harassment, but I also am not sure how credible her accounts are, given that we know her mother is not a credible source. In 2014, there was the sexy Mr. Yan body pillow which has it’s own fan page, and was literally made because over 100 people pre-ordered it after people asked Bodyline to make it.

Ok, so now we have set the scene a bit. Mr. Yan is a middle aged man who owns bodyline, he’s a pervert who likes to try to touch young women without permission, asks them to go to love hotels and/or marry him, and it’s funny.

It’s funny.

Right?

Funny.

Except, it’s kind of not funny.

So what is Rape Culture? “Rape culture is a term that was coined by feminists in the United States in the 1970’s. It was designed to show the ways in which society blamed victims of sexual assault and normalized male sexual violence.” [x]

It’s been a bit of a buzz word in the news lately in the US, but at it’s core, I think it’s an interesting, and valuable sociological concept to look at. In this particular case we have unwanted male attention being given to young women who are models. So they are coming into a job, where the payment is a trip to Japan, and the company owner is sexually harassing them, and if they refuse his advances, he’s violent. That’s quite a scary situation for most young women.

When we make a joke out of it, and laugh about it happening, this normalizes that behavior. It says to other people “I care more about this joke being funny, than I do about the fact that a young woman being hurt in real life was the punch line”. And that’s a dangerous slope. Because, if and when he has another contest for a model, and if we jokingly called it a waifu contest, and young women who are fairly new to lolita enter because to them it’s always been an abstract joke, and one of them gets hurt… what do we tell her then. Is it still funny? Is it still a joke? And is it respectful to those girls in the past who have been mistreated by Mr. Yan to joke about their sexual harassment?

If someone else comes into the community and flirts and jokes, and touches young women inappropriately, are we going to write it off as ok? What if they are cosplaying Mr. Yan, does it become ok?

The last batch of pillow cases were $21 each, and they made at least 100 of them. The new batch is $3.33. Let’s assume that at least $10 of the $21 was profit. That means Mr. Yan made at least $1,000 USD off of selling himself as someone who sexually harasses young women.

Is that something we as a community should laugh about, should joke about, should encourage?

Just… think about it.

…and as always feel free to tell me your thoughts in the comments.

10 Myths We Need To Stop Telling To New Lolita

There are a lot of myths that I see tossed around, especially to newer lolita.

1. Quality lolita clothing is always made of cotton

When was the last time you bought a dress that was actually 100% cotton? Do you even know offhand? 10 years ago almost everything was cotton. Today it’s less than half for many major brands. AP made Whip Jacquard (which is a jacquard, not a typical flat cotton), Dolly Cat, Wonder Gallery, University, Classic Fairy Tales, Fantastic Carnival (which has a linen-like texture) and Melty Berry Princess in 100% cotton. The rest of the main pieces on their web shop at the time of writing (representing 16 other series)are chiffon, polyester, or polyester/cotton blends.

Many of bodyline’s nicer things today aren’t 100% cotton, and many, many experienced lolita are moving away from wrinkle-prone cotton towards lighter chiffon and polyester pieces which don’t look rumpled at the end of a hot day.

2. Handmade/Indie (not from Taobao) is the cheapest option to buy

It’s been a very long time since this was true. I’ve bought secondhand brand dresses for $30 on multiple occasions.

Bodyline’s prices have gone up in the last 5-10 years, but their quality has also gone up, and with the weak yen, their stuff has become incredibly affordable again.

With the current Yen-to-USD conversion rate, all of these Bodyline pieces are under $35USD; the solid colored skirt is less than $10 USD.

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Meanwhile, handmade and indie lolita isn’t what it used to be when this was the rule of thumb. Sure, you do still have a few people on Etsy sewing quilting weight cotton into elastic waist skirts for the cost of the fabric, but that’s not common. Lolita is so easily available for so cheap, that there isn’t a market for filler indie brand items, at least not in the way there was 10-or-so years ago. Most non-Japanese and non-Chinese indie brands cater to people who are looking for custom sizing, or high quality, detailed hand work. Or they are producing their own fabric prints and operate much like smaller Japanese brands do. Indie designers who are making comparable-to-brand products actually tend to charge the same or more than brands due to the fact that they have higher out of pocket costs for materials and labor. When you are making 100 or 200 of the same thing, you can buy materials in bulk, and the price goes down a little. When you make just 1-50 of something the price for the materials is much higher.

3. It’s cheaper to make your own lolita clothing than to buy it.
So, the cheapest lolita main piece you can make is a basic skirt with an elastic waist, and a ruffle at the bottom instead of lace. Different tutorials suggest between 1.25 yards, and 2.25 yards of fabric. Let’s say, for the sake of ease of calculations, that it will take 2 yards even.
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So, I hopped over to fabric.com, and it looks like the cheapest fabric they have that is suitable is some cotton broadcloth in solid colors on clearance for $2.48/yard. This purple isn’t my first choice; but it was cheap. If you shell out another 50 cents per yard you can get black. So $2.48 x 2 = $4.90 for fabric.

Now, to that you need to add some Elastic for the waist. Let’s get some 1″ White Flat No-Roll Elastic, and it’s sold by the yard, so we will get a yard. That’s $1.48 for a yard.

Lastly, we need some thread. A spool of 110 yards of purple all purpose thread is $1.75.

So, our total is $4.90 + $1.48 + $1.75 = $8.13 USD. For a no-trim, elastic waist skirt with no details at all. It’s cheap, but it’s really boring. Adding lace to just the hem pushes it way over the price of a comparable skirt from bodyline. I’d like to stop and mention that the bunny pocket skirt from bodyline above costs 1,000yen, which is $8.34 USD with today’s conversion rate.

So, yes, if you make the cheapest possible skirt by hand you can save 11 cents over the cheapest option from bodyline, but at the end of the day, handmade lolita just can’t compete with manufactured lolita on the pricing scale when it comes to things that use lace and other trims.

Where handmade is going to save you money is if you want something very specific with lots of heirloom details like pintucks. However, you have to have the time and skill to do it yourself. Really, handmade is a good option not for cost, but for people who enjoy making garments by hand. If you don’t enjoy it, or don’t have the skill and cost is you main point, this isn’t the way to go.

4. AP is all Made in China, Baby is all Made in Japan.

This is a strangely prevailing myth that would be solved in a moment if anyone who owned these brands looked at the tags. Baby no longer makes all of their garments in Japan, and AP makes their garments in many countries (including China and Japan).  I hear this come up a lot in arguments about why a specific brand costs more, is replicated more, or is of a higher quality.

AP-Made-in_Japan

5. Lolita clothing made in Japan is higher quality than lolita clothing made in China.

Japan has a much smaller garment manufacturing industry than China does and higher wages. A local, Japanese factory is going to be closer to where the brand is located, so they have cheaper freight costs, no import fees and the designers are more easily able to check and make sure the production is going the way they want. That said, production in other countries, including China is not necessarily sub-par. Wages are cheap, there are far more people with higher levels skills, and there are more factories specializing in garment manufacturing. That means that outsourcing to China allows brands to pay less for better work than they would at a local sewing house. So outsourced sewing done outside of Japan can actually be better than work done inside of Japan! It all depends on what sewing house a brand contracts with, and their particular level of skill.

6. Only popular brands/prints get replicas (counterfeited).

Dream of Lolita Replica of Innocent Worlds GertrudeIt depends on the replica manufacturer. Some, like Oo Jia take surveys and base what they make on surveys, and borrow legitimate pieces from lolita (or get agents to buy pieces for them from brands, because the will ban replica makers from purchasing from their shops when caught). However, most counterfeiters, like Dream of Lolita and the manufacturers that the ebay shop ling_lam2008 resell from replicate whatever they can get their hands on. This results in a fair number of replicas where the real piece sells for less used than the fake does new.

The dress at left went on clearance on Innocent World’s site before it popped up as a replica on Dream of Lolita, for example. There have also been many cases of random Putumayo punk prints being stolen (beyond cat’s window which is well known).


7. Anyone can wear lolita   

Ok, ok, before you get out your pitchforks and chase me out of town, hear me out on this. Not everyone can wear lolita. Some people can’t afford to buy lolita. That’s not to say that they aren’t permitted to wear it if someone lends them things, or to buy it later if their financial situation changes. What I am saying is that we have a very unhealthy mentality in this fashion where we argue with people who say they can’t afford to buy lolita / need to sell off their lolita for really sound logical financial reasons. Time and again, I see people encouraging young people to make poor financial choices. I see people offering payment plans, and arguing with people who say they can’t afford things. I see people saying they are going to leave lolita because they need the money, and people argue against it. It’s fine to find it sad that a friend is leaving lolita, or to try to be encouraging to someone, but we need to stop ignoring that lolita costs money and some people really can’t afford lolita. It’s just not healthy.

8. [Only] Black x White is [Always] Ita 
Gothic Lolita Bible Old School BtssB Lolita
Sure, cheap white lace on bad black polyester is probably the worst combo possible, but it’s gotten to the point where new lolita think old school coords are bad just because they are black and white.

And most lolita aren’t going to run into the old school maid-like black and white costumes that plagued the lolita world 5-10 years ago. We aren’t saving people from Bodyline lace monsters any more because even bodyline doesn’t sell most of their lace monsters. What people are finding is sites like lightinthebox, where they are shown monstrosities in costume satin, stolen stock photos and ballgown length abominations. Most of which aren’t black and white. Milanoo might not sell the worst of what the lolita world has to offer anymore, but similar sites like lightinthebox still do. The new lolita of 2015 should be pointed towards reputable sites, and given a list of things to look out for (satin ball gowns, for starters), but telling them to skip out on black x white isn’t enough to save them anymore.

9. Taobao Brands aren’t “Brands” / Everything in the GLB is a Brand (and only Those Things)

You know what they call the bigger taobao brands in china? Brands. Because they are. For years we have defined a brand, in short hand, as “anything in the GLB”. Chocolate Chip Cookie, and Pina Sweet Collection are in the Gothic Lolita Bible. They are tiny little indie brands. But, we call them brands. Meanwhile, there are brands on TaoBao like Krad Lanrete that have sold thousands upon thousands of pieces and operate on a much larger scale than a lot of small Japanese indie brands that aren’t considered brands. While I wouldn’t consider all taobao based brands “brands”, just like I wouldn’t consider bodyline a brand (low level of design creativity, mid-range quality), I think we need to re-evaluate what we consider to be a brand. I think the Gothic Lolita Bible has realized this as well, as they have started to feature some Chinese-based brands in their pages.

10. Just Replace the Lace On That ____ and it Won’t Be Ita!

I’ve told people this. I’ve seen people tell people this. But, how many of you have ever done this? Have you ever taken a really whatever piece of clothing that you got cheaply and replaced the lace with high quality lace? No? I surely haven’t. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. Let’s be real here. You can replace that blouse/skirt/dress with a better one from bodyline or with second hand brand for how much you would spend to replace the lace with quality lace from a local store. Yeah, sure, you could buy lace on taobao using a shopping service, and wait for it to come in and then use that… but the time and skill we are talking at that point is ridiculous for a thrifted blouse or a milanoo dress. (You have to know how to find lace on taobao, how to tell if lace is good, how to actually remove and replace lace, how to use a SS… it’s not a small task.) And it saves them, what, $5?
The answer to “can I save this ita thing”, unless someone really wants to use it to learn how to sew / likes the idea of sewing for the sake of sewing should be “no, you should sell it on ebay”. List it as a Halloween costume if you feel guilty about calling it lolita, but sell it off; don’t waste time and money on something that isn’t good quality, just to make it sort-of-ok.