I’ve been part of the lolita subculture for nearly ten years now, and one term that has always really bothered me is “ita.” The term supposedly comes from the japanese word itai, which means ouch or painful, and is generally used to describe new lolitas who don’t have a firm grasp of the lolita aesthetic or have yet to develop their coordination skills. It is often also used as a way to police the lolita community, and to literally make clothing choices a point of moral failure. An ita is not a single poorly coordinated outfit or a newbie who is still learning, she is a person whose bad clothing choices are read as a reflection of her willful ignorance and deliberate inability to conform to arbitrary rules written by strangers. She is a bad person, and she chooses to be one.
Learning about the lolita subculture and fashion takes a lot of time and work. Though there are more resources available now than when I started, many of these are written with a prescriptive feeling – they talk about rules instead of guidelines. Rules make it very easy to define the fashion, but they also make it very easy to pick out those who haven’t figured it out just yet. Rules also come with a moral imperative – to be a good lolita you must follow all of the rules. Those who don’t are bad, and therefore deserve punishment via harrassment and cyberbullying.
Guidelines, on the other hand, encourage the fashion to grow. They allow for playful experimentation & self expression so that new trends can be born. They allow for objects of sentimental or practical value to be included in coordinates, because they are important to the wearer, not the community. Guidelines keep the fashion from feeling stale, and old.
Now, to say that lolita fashion does not have a general aesthetic would be misleading. Some things are lolita and other things are not, but this has more to do with the general feel of an outfit than an individual’s ability to follow strict rules.Understanding the lolita aesthetic is just as important as understanding the guidelines. This is something that takes time, and certainly shouldn’t reflect on one’s moral standing within the lolita community. Ridiculing newbies who have yet to learn about the fashion doesn’t help anyone. It creates & perpetuates a culture of fear around something as trivial as the way someone is dressed. Considering the fact that many lolitas deal with social anxiety, depression, and histories of bullying & harassment, this type of policing shouldn’t be happening. Leading by example & mentoring newbies is a more effective way to encourage both personal and community growth.
Being an ita isn’t the worst thing that a lolita can be. Being cruel and harassing someone over something as arbitrary as a single questionable coordinate? That’s definitely worse.
Reposted from Tumblr.