Today’s Lolita Blog Carnival Topic is to discuss the changes you’ve seen in lolita since you started wearing the fashion. While I think the topic probably refers to changes in styles or trends, the changes I’ve noticed most about lolita are the community aspects – so that is what I’ll be focusing on in this entry. I did touch a bit on these topics during my last LBC post, so today I’m going to take the time to discuss in-depth how the western lolita communities have changed, and what I think the larger implications of these trends could be.
Community Fragmentation & Growth
The first thing that I’ve noticed, at least in the western communities, is that there has been an explosion in the number of lolita enthusiasts worldwide, but at the same time, we’ve seen communities fragment down to city based groups, or interest based forums. What this seems to have led to is a lack of shared knowledge between communities, and a lack of well crafted newbie focused resources that are modern and up-to-date. At the same time, we have a huge influx of new lolitas each month, and since most communities don’t have rules banning newbie questions, this means that the main centers for community discussion have become flooded with basic boring questions – where can I buy this? how can I lolita on a budget? what petticoat is best?
When I first started wearing lolita, there was only one real community for western lolitas to meet in – EGL on Livejournal. While there were a few specialized communities that were popular (daily_lolita and egl_comm_sales) most of the information that a new lolita needed was kept in a set of archives and FAQs, and these were pretty much mandatory reading – newbie questions and introductions were absolutely not allowed. This meant that by the time a member was engaging in discussion in the community forums, they had a working knowledge of the fashion’s aesthetic, how-to-buy dynamics, and community expectations. I can’t say for certain that the forums were more active, or that they discussed a more creative or challenging set of topics – but I do know that petticoat questions weren’t repeated monthly, and the more experienced members never seemed nearly as exasperated with “basic” discussions as they do now.
A Rise in Call Out Culture Dynamics Online
I feel like 2017 was the year of this, with the drama surrounding Angelic Pretty USA and Kelly Eden – and personally, I’m really not into a lot of it. I know it is not a popular stance to take, but I often see that this type of drama (and often misinformation) is spread so quickly online, that by the time the proof photos, research, and corrections come out, the damage is already done to a brand’s image, and people move on to the newest gossip. Not only does this leave the individual or company in a position where damage control simply isn’t possible, it also means that the general public may never see a situation truly resolved. This being the case, how can we take action and hold people accountable when we actually do need to deal with scammers or sexual predators?
While drama has always been a part of the lolita community, in the past it was more commonplace to provide extensive research and proof photos so that scammers could be documented and remembered. With the way that our current communities are structured (and fragmented) it is difficult to spread accurate information, and it is also difficult to archive it. In the case of the Angelic Pretty debacle, misinformation was spread like wildfire. I specifically remember seeing a high-profile Lolita note that a shop staff member had made some questionable comments (accurate), that comment was passed onto Rufflechat claiming that the individual was actually the owner of Angelic Pretty and that they were a nazi-sympathizer (not accurate), and two days later a boycott petition was being circulated around lolita communities worldwide branding the same individual an actual neo-nazi (not accurate) and the owners of the Angelic Pretty franchise were now considered racists (NOT ACCURATE!) Many of the statements in the comment sections of these communities were blatantly untrue, yet people didn’t take the time to research any of the claims for themselves – they only relied on the first screenshot and text provided. Though the situation has been resolved, and that individual has now moved on to another workplace, Angelic Pretty USA is still suffering the consequences. Not only are there still people who boycott them because they believe the entire company is racist, a simple google search still brings up the phrase “Angelic Pretty Racist” with all its sordid (and misinformed) history for newcomers to see. While I don’t have any proof of this, I do suspect that this is why sales at the SF branch are still slower than they were a year ago, and why their Anniversary Tea Party wasn’t the grand affair we usually see.
I also think that this is why in 2018, we are just now seeing the new developments with Scarfing Scarves and Anime Matsuri, when the events in question happened in 2015 – it is just too difficult to keep track of what information is true, with screenshots and other researched information and corrections often lost to a facebook feed swamped with petticoat questions and new member introductions. Without a dedicated archives system, it literally takes the threat of a lawsuit to teach newbies or remind people about past controversies that are still effecting our community.
Focus on Quantity and Trends over Quality and Personal Style
Another trend that I’ve noticed over the years, is a shift in focus from attaining a cohesive collection of high quality, carefully detailed clothing that suited your personal style, to a focus on attaining an enormous wardrobe filled with trendy, cheap, and often lower quality garments to suit themed meetups, conventions, and other events. Wearing lolita for the fashions sake is no longer really a reason to get dressed up. How often do you hear complaints of “oh, I wish I had the opportunity to wear lolita more often… ” or “I wish there were more events, I just don’t have anywhere to go dressed up…?” While I don’t think it is a problem to have a few fancy or themed items in your wardrobe for a special events, lolita is first and foremost a street fashion, and in the past, the clothing quality and construction was at a level where garments could be worn daily for years and not fall apart. These days many brands don’t produce items at that same level, and items are so trendy that within a year they seem dated. I personally feel that in some ways it is legitimately harder to wear some modern lolita styles as a daily fashion, despite the fact that the fashion has become more accessible and affordable than ever.
The Rise of Replicas, Taobao & The Market Flood
With the closing of many beloved Japanese brands, the question of lolita fashion’s longevity looms in the back of many people’s minds. What I personally think is this: we currently are at a turning point, and the question of quality vs. quantity is going to dictate future trends within the fashion. At this time, I think that the brand closures in Japan have shown us that a decade of replicas and cheaply made knock-offs are pricing many creators out of the market. Customers are not particularly interested in paying 400$ for a dress when they can find a replica of at 1/4th the price, and they also are more willing to shell out 60$ for four dresses made of broadcloth than they are to spend 240$ for a single dress made of thick cotton. What this means is that brands will need to adapt to this business model (providing cheaply made dresses at a lower profit margin) while compromising their brand’s vision.
Many people seem to think that this trend applies only to smaller brands like Victorian Maiden or Putumayo – but I think that we can see evidence of it with the more popular companies as well. For example – when was the last time you remember a built in petticoat in an Angelic Pretty dress? They used to be a standard feature, now they are the exception to the rule. And, what happened to the standard release of one OP, two jumperskirts and a skirt or salopette? These days we get an over production of two cuts (and a special set if we’re lucky) that are usually very small in sizing, very trendy in styling, and are often made of thinner, less sturdy materials.
With new Taobao releases being announced every week, it seems like even the bigger brands have to change their production cycle to compete – but how well are they really doing? It is very uncommon for an Angelic Pretty series to fully sell out these days, and with the number of re-releases and MTO’s they do, the market has been flooded with both expensive second-hand products as well as the cheaper taobao competition. Resale prices have largely plummeted due to serious oversaturation, and I personally don’t think it is possible for prices to recover while people continue to value quantity and cheap prices over a well made product.
All of that being said – I’m not trying to dig on Taobao or trendy styles – I understand their popularity and purpose within the fashion. But I do think that we are going to see big changes coming over the next few years, and personally, I don’t know how many of the original brands (with their 30 year histories) will weather the next decade if they can’t (or won’t) compromise their vision for a changing market. As much as I love the quality and construction of my newer Angelic Pretty dresses, they aren’t the same product I purchased in 2006. The real question though, is do they really need to be?
Wow, so with all of that being said, what exactly does all this mean? Well, honestly, that is a bit hard to say. I’m not sure that community fragmentation or growth is necessarily a bad thing, but I do think we need a collective space that everyone links back to in order to create a source of shared knowledge for newbies. I also think it is a great thing to hold scammers, bigots, and sexual predators accountable – but I think we need a space to store that information, and a way to edit it as new information is revealed. As far as the fast-fashion bit goes, I understand why cheaper, trendier items are popular, especially for those who might not stay within the subculture longer than a few years – the investment isn’t high to break in, and you don’t lose a lot when you leave. For someone whose been in the fashion well over a decade, these trends are difficult to adapt to, but at this time I still am able to find plenty of options to suit my style and budget. And, while I do mourn the loss of our strong resale market, I do think that its decline will encourage people to be more thoughtful about where they are spending their money – which could lead to a preference for higher quality, timeless pieces. So I guess my final answer in that regard is: Well, we’ll see!
I know today’s post is definitely a bit heavier reading than I usually publish, but I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on these topics anyway! If you are interested in a more fashion-related take on the topic, please feel free to check out the other Lolita Blog Carnival participant’s posts!! Let me know if you have any thoughts or comments about the topics I’ve discussed, and feel free to link to your own blog posts in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!