By Jen Wang (Miyagi-ken, 2008-09) for JQ magazine. Jen is a research technician from Dallas who also writes for Purple SKY, a Japanese music website. Her love of cosplay and her junior high school students inspired the name for her own Japanese pop culture blog, Hibari-sensei’s Classroom.
The Japanese fashion subculture Lolita is based on Victorian and Rococo aesthetics. Its trademark look consists of a blouse, a knee-length skirt or jumper, a petticoat, stockings, and Mary Janes or platform shoes. Since its inception in the 1970s, Lolita has developed several sub-styles: gothic, sweet, classic, punk and more. There is also a mature variation known as aristocrat and a masculine equivalent known as ouji.
Although I had been interested in Lolita since college, I didnâ€™t really start compiling a Lolita wardrobe until I was a JET. It was easier to figure out what styles worked when you could try on the clothes. I visited the seventh floor of Sendai Forusâ€”the location of punk, gothic and Lolita storesâ€”so frequently that the shopkeepers started to recognize me. The budding fashionista in me missed the shopping trips and opportunities to dress up once I returned to the U.S. Then I discovered the Metroplex Lolita LiveJournal group.
The Metroplex Lolitas are a group of from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Prior to their creation in January 2010, several of the girls had been arranging meet-ups through another group, Texas Lolis. They decided to branch off to encourage more conversation and gatherings.
My first meet-up was in March 2010. We went to watch Tim Burtonâ€™s Alice in Wonderland and sat down for tea and a gift-exchange afterwards. The Metroplex Lolitas meet around once a month to enjoy a mealâ€”true to our Victorian influences, we do love tea and pastriesâ€”or an activity, which can be anything from a trip to the museum to ice skating. The Texas heat has never deterred us from getting together in our layers of frills since many members have come up with more summer-friendly outfits.Â We also host meet-ups with out-of-town Lolitas at anime conventions.
In addition to being a place for communicating meet-up details, the Livejournal and now Facebook communities have helped us coordinate group orders on brand-name merchandise (a great way to save on overseas shipping). Newcomers will find a lot of advice on which sellers are reputable and how sizes work for different companies. Members will sometimes sell their old merchandise. Not all of us buy our clothes from Japan; some will make their own outfits while others keep an eye out for thrift store finds and American fashion trends that are on the frilly side.
One of my favorite Metroplex Lolita events was our post-Valentine’s Day meet-up at a vegan restaurant. There were several new faces, and everyone was happy to realize that there were more Lolitas around. Two of the girls had just returned from a trip to Japan (inspired by their love of fashion), and those of us who had been to Japan before wound up comparing notes on our experiences. I got to learn a few things about shopping and themed restaurants, and I enjoy any chance to share a couple JET stories.
The Metroplex Lolitas agree that being a part of the Lolita subculture has increased our interest in Japanese culture and given us the confidence to go out in public in our petticoats and jumper skirts. The Internet has played a huge role in taking Lolita outside of Japan, and many brands are now making their merchandise more available to overseas customers. Social media sites have communities from all over the world, and if you donâ€™t find one near you, that is not an indication that there is not a Lolita nearby. Sometimes it helps to have friends online who can provide suggestions on coordinating outfits and encouragement to dress up on a random weekend. Being a Metroplex Lolita has taught me that you donâ€™t have to set foot in Tokyo to feel like a Harajuku girl.
Visit the Metroplex Lolitas online at http://metroplexlolita.livejournal.com.