Over the years Lolita has undergone a number of changes, some major and some minor. The minor ones are sometimes mere blips in the history of Lolita, silly trends that came and went, while some of the major ones have managed to change the course of Lolita forever.
This post is about the 7 major turning points in the fashion that I feel have changed the fashion in huge ways. As someone who's been into Lolita for a long while, I've personally seen how these things have changed the fashion and have often wondered how different Lolita would be if some of these things didn't happen!
- 2003 Brands start selling overseas- I feel like the biggest change in the Lolita fashion happened when brands started selling overseas. This made it possible for people outside of Japan to finally get their hands on authentic (a word that was frequently used back then!) Lolita pieces without having to have gone to Japan or had a friend in Japan ship them their orders. This made it possible for us to, collectively, step out of our ita phase and get the chance to experience real Lolita.
- 2006 The Lolita Handbook is created- The Lolita Handbook was a Livejournal that was set up to be exactly what it sounds like. It helped new Lolitas both define Lolita and learn to wear the fashion. Despite the fact that it tried to make it clear that the handbook was a set of guidelines, it unfortunately cemented the idea of "rules" into the community. The Lolita handbook was both a blessing because of how it made the fashion seem simple and accessible, and a curse because it was often misquoted as Lolita law.
- 2006 Kamikaze Girls is released in the US- Kamikaze Girls was actually released in 2004, but that was the pre-youtube days of dial up and getting a hold of the movie, especially with the fansubs, was nearly impossible for most people. It wasn't until the movie was subbed in English and released on DVD that people could really sink their teeth into it. Not only did a lot of people get into the fashion because of this movie, but for those we were currently already in the fashion it was groundbreaking to see a Lolita, a real Lolita, in a full-length movie. Lolita clothes were still relatively hard to get a hold of at this point, despite the few shops that shipped overseas, so the movie allowed a lot of us to live vicariously through it.
- 2007 Angelic Pretty goes Deco- This turning point is a little less of a pinpoint moment and more of a slow build up that started a year before when Angelic Pretty decided to plop down pastel wigs on the models in their Twinkle Mermaid ad. Deco Lolita happened on the tail end of the Deco trend in Japan and eventually paved the way for things like OTT and Fairy Kei Lolita crossovers as well as the Sweet Lolita prints that have become iconic of the style. The over-the-top stylings of Deco Lolita was one of the things that made Sweet Lolitas stand out from the rest and become the substyle for people to wear for several years.
- 2008 Bodyline starts selling good clothes and ships overseas for practically nothing- Bodyline has always been around, although you used to only be able to buy them through cosmates at bloated prices. Bodyline opened up their site to overseas orders sometime before this, but it wasn't until they started selling nice clothes and had a $10 shipping sale that people really took notice of them as a legitimate place to buy Lolita. Before this, Bodyline prices were nearly as much as brand, what with the inflation and shipping, and were unapologetically ita anyways so very few people wanted them, it was in that era that Bodyline got it's reputation as being an overpriced cheap costume shop, because that's exactly what it was. Sometime in 2008 Bodyline took a turn for the better and surprisingly changed Lolita history. The first wave of cheap yet good Lolita that Bodyline started selling was incredibly cheap, skirts were between $11 and $20, JSKs were about $35. People who had previously only had a few Lolita pieces now could afford to buy a whole new wardrobe for the price of a brand dress. Lolita's closets practically burst with all the new Bodyline people could fill them with. Since then, their prices have risen and people have become disenchanted with them, but they still set a baseline for how much "cheap Lolita" should cost that has effected how a lot of people buy Lolita, for better or for worse. While cheap good Lolita is going to be in vogue no matter what, Bodyline's cheap Lolita was the precursor to the current Taobao obsession.
- 2009 Spoonflower allows people to custom print their own fabric- As long as the West has known about Lolita there have been Western indie brands doing their own thing and supplying locals with Lolita. Up until this one point, if indie brands wanted cute fabric people tended to scour internet fabric shops for imported Japanese fabric that had that kawaii feeling that Japanese brand prints did, but that was about the extent of cute prints indie brands could manage. That is, until Spoonflower came around and allowed anyone to be able to design and print their own fabric. With this there was an explosion of indie brands who could finally create their dream print that filled a niche that brands would never in a million years be able to target. While the Spoonflower trend has died down a bit after we all came to the collective realization that the fabric Spoonflowe prints on is simply not worth the price and trouble and has a lot of drawbacks designers have to work around, it still played a pivotal roll in the Lolita fashion in the West.
- 2011 Juliette et Justine releases their classical painting dresses- Just like that fateful day Angelic Pretty popped pastel wigs on their models, when Juliette et Justine put a classical painting across the skirts of one of their dresses, the Lolita fashion slowly began to turn in another direction. Away from saccharine Sweet Lolita, towards opulent Classic Lolita. Since then Sweet Lolita has been in decline as the Lolita fashion to wear and Classic Lolita soon started to become the style that was releasing must-have prints that people were practically climbing all over each other and throwing money at each other to own. This is a relatively new trend and it's hard to say exactly how long it will last, but looking back, Sweet Lolita was really only as big as it was for about 4 years, which is hardly the century long reign that some people make it out to be.
Of course, there are other turning points in the fashion, but sometimes it's hard to see them until after the trend has come and gone. Alternatively, some of the current things we think might be major turning points in the fashion might end up sputtering out before it really gets momentum.
In my experience with the fashion, these are some of the major turning points, but I'm aware that other people might have viewed things differently depending on how they interact with the community, what styles they focus on, and how long they've been into the fashion. What sort of events would you personally consider to be turning points in the Lolita fashion?