Coming back to a community where you aren’t wanted

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(Disclaimer: This is not a call out post, and it is not intended to be as such. This post reflects my own experiences being part of the Lolita community, your mileage may vary.)

If I could break up the stages of getting into Lolita fashion, it would go something like this:

Stage 1: Birth

  • When someone has just found the fashion and they love what they see. It’s like a whole new world has opened up.
  • ”This is the fashion of my dreams! Do you all dress like this everyday? You’re all friends and you go out to have tea? This is like a fairy tale! How do I join you??”
  • Trying to find as much Lolita media as possible, finding people you idolize on social sites.

Stage 2: The Baby Stage

  • When someone starts taking tiny steps to making their first coord, often trying to use things they already own, trying to figure out how to save money through making their own clothes.
  • ”I’m not entirely sure what I am doing. Can I use this blouse? Is this outfit considered Lolita? I just want to look as amazing as the rest of you!”

Stage 3: Adolescence

  • A full coord has been assembled, but the person does not yet have the time or resources available to make their dream coord or style yet.
  • “Okay I have all the things I need. Why don’t I look like I hoped? What do I do now?”

At this point in someone’s progression in the fashion, there are a couple diverging paths.

Reminder disclaimer: I am generalizing in broad strokes. People can act unpredictably and in different ways, due to their own lives and resources.

Stage 3A: Growth and/or Lifestyle

  • The individual keeps collecting, keeps improving their coords. They continue wearing Lolita but quietly, having a minimal social media presence. Lolita is a hobby alongside other hobbies.
  • “I’m wearing Lolita one day at the convention, but I’m mostly excited to wear this cosplay I’ve been working on!”

Stage 3B: Growth and Social Media Climb

  • The individual starts to gain online notoriety from their coordinates, either positive or negative. They get more attention and continue a presence on social media, either casually or actively.
  • “Don’t forget to follow me here! What do you guys want to see next?”

And a third option, which is the point of this post, and I believe to be a huge contributing factor to the toxicity of the Lolita community.

Stage 3C: Salt and Stagnation

  • An individual is unhappy with some aspect of their own involvement in the fashion, either their appearance, their perceived status in a local community, their budgetary limitations, or their collection of items. They choose to project negativity on others as a form of dealing with their frustration.
  • ”How can this other person afford so much stuff? They must be an escort/sugar baby/having their parents buy it/in debt!” / “I saw pictures of these people hanging out but there was no community meet planned! Ugh they’re so elitist, like Mean Girls.”

Does any of the above sound familiar? This negativity is so ingrained in Lolita I don’t think it would be possible to irradicate it unless we somehow shut down the entire fashion and started over.

I’ve been on the internet long enough at this point where I don’t feel like I can be surprised anymore about how people can choose to act online either anonymously or not. I’m guilty of participating in small internet mobs, more often than I should. (Back when LiveJournal was still a thing, I stayed up until 4am one morning arguing with a mod about some rule change that didn’t even affect me in our off topic scene queen community. It felt very “us vs them”, like we had to make a stand or else more rights would be taken from us!)

Why do we even choose to go after each other if we are all in Lolita for many of the same reasons? Jealousy is real in social media, and of course in Lolita. Anyone with a keyboard can easily make their online persona a polished dream, showcasing enviable wardrobes, fun times with friends, all while looking impeccably dressed. I follow bloggers and Instagram accounts who seemingly have it all and I can’t help but compare my mundane life to theirs. Could I have their life if I were thinner/more sociable/prettier? It’s hard to not covet other people’s lives when so much of this hobby is centered around collecting clothing and trying to look a certain way.

Is jealousy too blame for everything wrong in Lolita? If we just somehow got rid of all the jealousy ever would everyone be right in the world? I might as well be wishing for world peace and free ice cream for all. Although it is a major contributing factor, I genuinely don’t think jealousy can be blamed for everything wrong in the Lolita community. An actual pet peeve of mine is when I see jealousy used as an excuse, as a way to end discussion and squash criticism: “Oh you don’t like X aspect about me? Well you are just jealous!”, as if it’s impossible to dislike someone and not want anything about their life.

In a way this negativity towards others is extremely human. People will find reasons to gang up on other people until the end of time, it’s just the way we are built and the way we are wired. People can become super competitive over tiny details when items or opportunities are perceived as social status symbols. In any niche community, small accomplishments and failures are amplified. Individuals in a position of relative public figure status are held up to impossible standards and criticized down to nitpick details simply because it’s entertaining to do so. Maybe community members think that the person with relative status has earned their position undeservedly and they need to shine a light on an ugly truth that exists. Maybe they feel a need to compare their own life to someone else’s, “Oh well this person may have (some positive thing) but at least I don’t have to deal with (some negative thing)“.

Again, this is a human phenomenon. People link together in groups, form communities with each other. Defining  an “other” or “them” against the circle of “us” or “we” strengthens the bond people share in their group, reinforcing shared experiences, loyalties, or priorities. Unrelated to niche hobbies and combined with other factors this can translate into xenophobia, isolationism, racism, etc as people widen or shrink their circles based on who they consider themselves to be, and perceived threats to their identity. (Of course, all groups aren’t inherently all bad, if you become close enough with friends they can become like family.)

I could go on about the problems in Lolita and still not be able to point to one main issue or aspect that would make the fashion more accepting or open, or even bearable to remain in. More people than ever now are part of the community, divided up into subgroups based on how they identify themselves and which social media apps they choose to frequent. The tide of issues with the community may rise and fall, depending on who is doing what and where online.

So where does this leave me in my Lolita lifespan, why am I even writing this pointless essay and where am I going with this??

If we revisit the idea of a Lolita lifespan from before, I see people usually reaching a couple more stages:

Stage 4: Old Age and disillusionment

  • Going to meets is exhausting. Every new dress release looks the same. Lolita has lost its initial sparkle and the individual is having difficulty finding reasons to remain active in the community.
  • ”These dresses are so ugly, I can’t believe they keep putting them out. Please bring back X trend! I haven’t liked anything new in years.”

Stage 5: Death

  • Leaving the community, selling their wardrobe off, with or without flouncing from drama.
  • ”LEAVING LOLITA SALE!! ALL ITEMS MUST GO!! SEE YOU IN HELL!!! :)”

If I had to place myself in my Lolita lifespan I would be around Stage 4, or even some weird zombie sub stage 4. I spent two years falling in love with this fashion and everything about it, and two years falling out love with everything except the clothes. Ignoring issues with community members, it’s the gawking and harassment from non-lolita wearing strangers, the ddlg community trying to infiltrate lolita spaces, and the sense that as soon as you dare to stand out within the community, you start becoming a target for criticism.

The title of this post is “coming back to a community where you aren’t wanted”, which you may have read initially as a cry for attention. I suppose an alternate title would be “Coming back to a community where you aren’t needed”. The community at large doesn’t need me. I have not made any advances to the fashion itself and if I had never gotten into it, I doubt we would be in a different place than we are now. I’m not going to pepper in a sob story here about how I’m being bullied off the internet by the Lolita community, because that’s not what’s happening. My future decision to leave or move on will ultimately be my own choice, and is unrelated to what people choose to say online.

Here is my main gripe: Lolita is just not fun, it feels like a weird ordeal. I hate sharing a photo only to be called out by anonymous strangers on my fatness or the way my pinks slightly don’t match, like they’re doing me a favor. It’s exhausting and strange to stumble in on a conversation where “I” have apparently already been belligerently defending “myself” for the last few comments. What’s the point of dressing up if only stress is meeting me on the other side?

The easiest solution would be to ignore any negative comments, get back into dressing up, and ~*~enjoying my hobby~*~ all alone, but the fact of the matter is, community is so deeply ingrained in the fabric of what Lolita fashion is. Of course I want acceptance from my peers when I post a coordinate, why else would anyone share photos of themselves online? Of course I’m proud of my outfit, I tried to find a good pair of shoes to go with it but I didn’t have exactly what I wanted, I hope you like it :((.

How does this specifically relate to my own experiences and where am I going with this?

In January, my dad passed away. He died suddenly and it was like my world imploded. So much about my life changed that it would almost feel like a cliche to say a part of me died too. Almost 6 months later I’m in a place where I feel like I can maybe start to talk about it and come back to the things I used to do, but I feel like a shattered vase put back together haphazardly with glue that hasn’t quite set. I’m peeking back in to the Lolita community after being away for a while and I am apprehensive about whether or not I really want to come back. I’ve worn Lolita four times this year. Two of those times I ended up sobbing in cars due to the sheer stress of being in public when I was already feeling weak. With my break, I’ve essentially I’ve given myself an opportunity to seriously evaluate my hobby, something that used to make me so happy. Is it worth it to continue participating? Or should I walk away?

As an alternative to outright quitting Lolita, I see a lot of people taking a slightly different path:

BONUS! Stage 5B: Transcendence

  • Keeping a lot of their wardrobe, but moving on to other styles or communities, incorporating Lolita pieces or not.
  • ”I still occasionally buy Lolita! But I don’t wear full coordinates anymore.   Do you like my skirt? I altered it to be more like X style!”

Is this where I’m going? I really don’t know. I joined Lolita because I was looking for a community where I could find acceptance and friendship. In a way I succeeded, I found amazing friends that I could have never made otherwise. I guess I’m at the crossroads because being in this hobby has been an incredible experience already, but I’m just not sure where else it can take me. I end this huge post with no answer or conclusion. In the spirit of finding myself again, I’m not going to set any goals or benchmarks for myself. I’m just going to see where this takes me.

When is the next time I’m going to wear Lolita? Tomorrow, actually. I’m going to a Harry Potter themed picnic where I plan to drink wine in the sun and try to not pass out from the heat. I’ll try to take photos, but we will just see how tomorrow ends up. See you soon.

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Coming back to a community where you aren’t wanted

  1. Danielle

    Nicole, I’m so happy that lolita brought us together! You’re such an important part of my life.
    If it doesn’t make you happy anymore, then it’s not worth it. Even the Great Momoko told us in Shimotsuma Monogatari chapter 5 verse 16 (lol) that pursuing your happiness, regardless of others, is what’s important. Ok, so she learned that friendship is more important, but when your friends are telling you to pursue your happiness, do it!
    But with that being said, don’t feel like you have to participate in the community, online and off, to be a lolita. You really, really don’t. It’s not a requirement, I promise! There are tons of lolitas out there who don’t, you just don’t see them because they’re not putting themselves in the public eye at all.
    I would love if you stayed in lolita. But above all, I want you to be happy. Do what you feel like you need to do.

    Like

  2. Diane Simmons

    I feel like I’m going into 5B. I love Lolita, but all the negativity has me wearing it less. I have a closet full of clothes, some I’ve never even worn. But I find other fashions I love to be so much more open and welcoming in their community. It also seems to be an age thing. There are more older women in the fashion community I’m a part of outside of Lolita and they are always lifting each other up.

    Like

  3. Lulu Couture

    This is an incredibly insightful post. I have lost three people in my life while a lolita my dad, my aunt and my cousin. The last of which caused me to withdraw from the lolita community except for the occasional events. After immersion into my career it’s been even harder to juggle. I came back to a community I barely knew after a work assignment that took me far away from home. I still love it but I’m in stage 4 or maybe 5B it makes me happy still but meetups wear me out and I only get certain releases. I’m so old it’s hard for me to connect with the new girls coming into the community because of the age difference. I wear it mostly by myself or to meet up with friends that still have pieces and those times are great. Once my old gang leaves I’ll probably to some extent wear it but not anything ott or wear it in a much more casual way where it stops looking lolita. I can honestly say this has been a discussion I’ve been having with many people lately and this post makes me feel not as alone.

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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  4. There’s also this stage, maybe 4C?

    – Still enjoy the fashion, still love to wear it, Still enjoy meets, you might even be a collector.
    – You just stop giving a shit about other people and all the nitpicky aspects of the fashion community. You realize social media isn’t everything, even if you were once really into it. You don’t need social media and followers to enjoy the fashion. You’ll post a selfie or outfit shot but you don’t need everyone’s approval for validation. You realize you’re in the fashion for you..If your pinks don’t match, whatever. You look frumpy today in your pictures? It’s cool, you had a good time with your comm and you finally got to wear that dress you’ve had for months and haven’t worn yet.
    – You stop making your coordinates long in advance and you just kind of put them together “eh that’ll do” the day of, or when you are physically packing your things.
    – You wear it when you feel like it. Want to wear it with a friend for lunch on Tuesday? Want to wear it to a concert? Wear it every day of the con or just for the lolita event? Wear it to meets? Cool. There’s no holier than thou badge for being a ✧・゚: *✧・゚:*True Lolita™ *:・゚✧*:・゚✧ because you wear it the way anon on /cgl/ thinks you should.
    – It’s like the beginner stages, but you’ve probably built up your dream wardrobe, you know what you’re doing, but you just don’t give two shits. You’re the queen of your world. None of that princess shit anymore. Pass me the gd macarons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had a lot of people mention that they are somewhat lone-lolitas after I’ve posted this blog, and if that is something that works for people I encourage them to pursue it!

      At least for me, it’s never been about just wearing the clothes, otherwise I would be in a different alternative fashion. My personal experience of wearing Lolita is completely inseparable to community and interacting with others. Meeting new people is the main reason I started getting into the fashion. The longer I’ve been in it, I’ve realized that the fashion has its issues, which are incompatable with what I wants to find in the first place. The lolita community doesn’t necessarily need me to be in it, but *I* need that community. I’m trying to reconcile that the overall problems in the fashion are making me feel very alienated when it’s something I used to love very much.

      Like

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