Since this post is all about conventions, this is a post I've been blogging because so many other people have written their own view on this topic that I felt the loliblogosphere maybe didn't need yet another post about it. But, I think it's finally time to add in my own two cents on the topic of being a Lolita at an anime convention.
I've been, more and more frequently as the years go on, regularly attending anime conventions since about 2006. I'm a late starter among my friends, who can sit around and talk about going to the very first of a few of the local area's largest conventions. My first convention happened very shortly after I got my first real pieces of Lolita clothes (thanks to a very large order from Fan Plus Friend) and I was really excited to get the chance to wear my new clothes in an all-out sort of way in a place where other people knew what it actually was I was wearing. Unfortunately for me I sort of looked like a hot mess, fortunately for me and everyone else it was a 2006 anime convention and it was pretty much on par with the times and the only other Lolitas at the con were 2 girls I very briefly saw all the way across the convention floor and then couldn't find again.
Packing for anime conventionsAs a Lolita, packing for an anime con can either be a nightmare, or a total breeze. But before deciding what way the Loli-pendulum sways, you need to decide on outfits!
Most Lolitas who attend conventions in their Lolita finery will use the chance to go completely all out in their outfits. This might mean that extreme OTT outfit that they haven't had the chance to wear yet, a style that they feel is inappropriate for their daily lives, or a themed coordinate or even a Lolitafied cosplay. Plan ahead on what you want to wear on all 3 days, lay out all your clothes and shoes and purses out to decide what you think looks best, if you have a giant suitcase that you don't mind carrying around, then great! Toss that all in there and you're pretty much set! If you don't have unlimited space, you're going to have to be a little trickier with what you decide to pack.
Personally, as someone who is often at conventions to peddle my wares in the artist alley, I have a ton of bags and almost no space for my clothes. I actually plan to fit everything I need for Lolita in a single backpack. This isn't always easy, but I have found a few shortcuts for fitting 3 frilly dresses and a ton of accessories into one little space!
- Plan your outfits around a single pair of matching shoes- Shoes are so annoying to pack! So plan on wearing one pair and wear them to the convention. Be creative with your outfits and see what you can do with just the one pair of shoes.
- Wear whatever you can up to the convention- Petticoats are probably even more annoying to pack than shoes, so if you can, wear it to the con. With this pointer, I've gone one of two ways, I've either worn my "base" clothes to the convention (petti, solid underskirt, cami with a cardigan thrown over it), or worn a long flared jacket to hide my outfit under, I found an amazing flared trenchcoat at Wet Seal years ago that's my "Lolita in disguise" coat. I've actually secretly worn Maid Lolita as well as Guro Lolita on several hours of train rides under this jacket!
- Avoid fragile accessories- If you can't cram it into your bag without breaking it, consider just not bringing it. There are a ton of different accessory options, if you have very limited space, just try wearing something else. If you absolutely must, limit it to whatever can be easily and safely transported in your purse.
- Hang it all up when you get there- Your clothes are probably going to be very wrinkly from all that cramming, so as soon as you get the chance, take them out and hang them up. Most every hotel room comes with an iron, take the opportunity to blast your newly wrinkled Lolita pieces with some steam.
A Lolita's convention checklistNever been to a con, or any other weekend long Lolita excursion and not exactly sure what to pack besides just your outfits and the usual traveling items? Afraid you're going to be forgetting something you take for granted and are totally going to be missing out on later? This is what I try to remember to pack when I get ready for conventions:
- Comfortable shoes- You're going to be doing so much more walking or standing than you ever thought you would. Tea Parties are sort of amazing for this. If you want to wear a particular pair for photoshoots, consider bringing a comfortable pair of flats you can carry in your purse!
- Bloomers or shorts to wear under skirts- I wish everyone wore something under their skirts at conventions, Lolita or not.
- Bandaids- not just for booboos, but because you might need a few to put on the back of your heels to prevent blisters. Because your comfortable walking shoes are sometimes never comfortable enough.
- A sewing kit, including safety pins- Honestly, the safety pins are going to be your savior if something needs a quick fix. Safety pins save floppy bows, quickly replace missing buttons, keep straps up, and quickly fix torn tiers of petticoats.
- Bobby pins, hair ties, and a portable brush- To do any quick fixes for hair. Even if you're planning on wearing a wig all weekend, plan for the very likely event that you realize it's too hot and crowded and awful to wear a wig and you don't realize this until halfway through Friday.
- Emergency makeup and mirror- Whatever you can fit in a tiny pouch or ziplock in your purse, not your whole makeup bag. I would suggest lipgloss, mascara, and a portable amount of concealer, and some eyelash glue if you're wearing falsies or gluing anything to your face.
- Calling cards or mini notebook and pen- You're most likely going to meet someone interesting or need to make note of something! If you get stopped for pictures, be sure to give your card to the person taking the picture and ask them to let you know if they upload them somewhere.
- Pick-me-up food you can keep in your purse- I recently discovered how amazing Cliff Bars are for preventing you from dying right there on the convention floor. Packets of nuts or granola are also pretty great! But whatever your pick-me-up food of choice is, bring at least one for every day you'll be at the convention.
In addition to the classic Lolita 101 panel, if the local area that the convention is in has a large and active Lolita community, there's a good chance there are a few other Lolita or related J Fashion panels happening as well.
Fashion showsLolita, or general J Fashion fashion shows can often be a main event at anime conventions and they can range from a more elaborate style of Lolita 101 panel featuring examples of the different styles to opportunities for local designers to show off their looks. Larger conventions also commonly feature actual brand fashion shows!
If you're interested in participating in convention fashion shows, you can usually find model, or even designer, call-outs before the con either in the local Lolita community, or in the convention's forums.
Tea parties or meetupsA Lolita tea party or a smaller meetup is common at conventions that have a large Lolita attendance and they can range from an off-premise tea party or restaurant meetup, to a quick and casual "Hey, let's meet at this location in the con at this time!" gatherings to get the chance to meet the local Lolitas. Usually these are held after a Lolita meetup or fashion show.
Lolita meetups at conventions aren't going to be something advertised in the programming (although it will frequently be mentioned at any panels), but is generally more word-of-mouth. If the area the convention is in has a local Lolita community, as them if there's going to be one. Alternatively, you can usually just ask a few Lolitas you happen to see at the convention if there's going to be one, one of them is bound to know!
Swap meetsSwap meets are another informal get together that's sometimes, but not always, advertised in the convention's programming, and they're incredibly fun if you have the space in your luggage to bring up some clothes you'd like to swap! If you've never been to one, it's pretty much exactly what it sounds like, you meet up with some other Lolitas and see who has any clothes they're willing to trade. Most conventions do not allow back-alley buying and selling, so most swap meets are strictly swap, rather than buy.
What to expect at an anime conventionIf you've never been to an anime convention before you might be in for a surprise! Conventions can range from being massive, overwhelming affairs, to much smaller laid back weekends hanging out with cool people and taking in some neat panels. Do a little bit of research for what sort of convention you're headed to, check the local area's Lolita communities and maybe get to know some of the local Lolitas online beforehand.
As a Lolita, there are two interactions with the average con-goer that you are almost guaranteed to have: People will ask for your picture, and people will ask you who you're cosplaying as.
Conventions are often a chance for many people to show off and taking pictures and posing for pictures is often a big part of the con going experience, if it's something you feel very uncomfortable with, you're welcome to decline having your picture taken, don't feel like you're required to pose for a photo just because someone asks. If you wish to wear Lolita but remain a little more inconspicuous, consider toning down your outfit. Personally, I've found that if I wear relatively uneventful Gothic Lolita, I get very few, if any, photos taken of me. If I wear pretty much any other style, I will get a bunch. Black sort of blends in in large crowds and your average con goer might not really be able to spot the difference between your immaculately put together Baby the Stars Shine Bright kuro Lolita outfit and the dozen black-based Visual Kei Lolita inspired outfits they already filled up their memory card taking pictures of. If you're camera shy, unfortunately photos are a very big part of the larger event. Even if you're not currently posing for a photo, many people take photos and videos candidly, and it's almost impossible to stay out of the backgrounds of photos.
If you do get asked who you're cosplaying as, try not to take it as an insult. About 90% of the people at the convention who are dressed in anything other than jeans and tees (and about 25% of the people wearing jeans and tees) are going to be cosplaying a particular character. Just respond simply by saying that you're not actually cosplaying as anyone, you usually won't be pressed further on the matter.
Avoiding drama: Don't cause it and you probably won't be getting any in return.There is always a bit of background talk about Lolita drama at conventions, and most of these center around "rude Lolitas" who were sitting in silent judgement on someone else, usually from all the way across a convention hall. Generally, I feel like a lot of these stories are over dramatizations by some people who are either wildly overestimating how friendly strangers are going to be to you just because you're wearing similar clothes or who are completely misinterpreting a situation, if not so completely bizarre as to be outright fibs. After all, if you say "Hi" to someone in a room crowded with several hundred (if not thousand) other people at a convention and they don't respond to you, it honestly probably doesn't mean anything at all.
The truth of the matter is: not everyone is going to be nice to you, and that's life, regardless of what everyone is wearing. Even if you met someone who was outright rude to you, so what? Conventions typically have between a few hundred to several thousand attendants, if one of them didn't say "Hi" to you, or was even outright mean to you, just find one of the other myriad of people to talk to instead. I've been to many different conventions over the years and honestly have never run into this fabled "rude convention Lolita" even in my days of looking like a hot mess.
Generally, if you don't assume the worst out of people, and ignore those who's worst does show, you'll manage pretty much avoid any sort of convention Lolita drama.