I have been a longtime admirer of Lolita fashion, but didn’t start seriously dressing in the style until more recently. When I first started cosplaying, Malice Mizer was becoming popular, and a number of my friends cosplayed Mana. Even though I am not into gothic styles or J-rock, it was through these trends that I learned about Lolita fashion in general and discovered Gothic & Lolita Bible (a magazine) and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright (a Sweet Lolita brand). I browsed the BtSSB web site periodically and saved images of pieces that I liked, but I had to be content with admiring these pieces from afar. I didn’t have any connections to get them for me from Japan, and I didn’t have any money either (and Lolita is expensive).
Gothic & Lolita Bible: Vol.1 (2001), Vol. 16, Vol. 36, Vol. 50 (latest)
Some of my cosplay friends sewed their own Lolita outfits and were active in the Lolita community, organizing and participating in events at anime conventions. I put together a few Lolita-inspired outfits myself, but was not at all active in the community. In 2007 my friend Lynleigh started her own Lolita brand called Sweet Rococo. Her site had a Design Wizard where you could create your own dresses, skirts, and accessories using fabric and lace from Japan. I bought a few dresses and accessories from her. Unfortunately she has just closed her business making custom items, as she no longer has time for it, but she will be opening an Etsy shop in the near future.
In 2008, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright opened a store in San Francisco, CA, which is where I live. I could hardly believe it, it was like an impossible dream come true. It seemed so unreal that I could just drive into the city and buy these beautiful clothes that I could only daydream about before. Still, Lolita is a big investment, and it wasn’t until 2009 that I received my first two pieces as Christmas gifts. The first was the Jewel Tree Bouquet OP (One Piece) in black. I usually prefer lighter colors, but the print looked so striking on the black background. The second piece was the Heart Heart Blouse in off-white, which happens to be one of the items I had saved a picture of many years before. The Heart Heart Blouse is apparently one of their staples that they frequently re-release.
BTSSB Jewel Tree Bouquet OP in black, BTSSB Heart Heart Blouse in off-white, Mary Magdalene Mille Rose OP in Ivory
The rest, as they say, is history. I still can’t afford to buy all the pieces I want, but my collection is slowly growing. In late 2010, Angelic Pretty also opened a store in San Francisco with Harajuku Hearts. Now both BTSSB and Angelic Pretty have online stores that ship to anywhere in the U.S., making Sweet Lolita fashion much more accessible to American followers. Most of my items are from BTSSB and AP, but I do have one dress from Mary Magdalene, which is the prize of my collection. The Mille Rose OP was released in 2007. I saved a picture of it and daydreamed about one day owning such a beautiful dress, but never dared hope that it could actually be mine. Then one day I was browsing EGL Community Sales (I only go there when I’m trying to sell something) and found a girl selling one that she hadn’t even worn! I snatched it up, of course. I still can’t believe my luck!
Since I now own several dresses and have a number of friends who also wear Lolita, we like to dress up and get together for afternoon tea. It’s fun to see people’s reactions when we go out together. It’s definitely not a style I could ever wear on a daily basis though. It’s too impractical with all the petticoats and fine fabrics and lace, which I would be afraid to get dirty. Lolita fashion has definitely influenced my personal style, though, and has inspired me to design my own clothes that have some cute elements but are practical enough for everyday wear. I reserve full Lolita for special events. Even though I am one of the older Lolitas, I hope to continue wearing the style for many more years to come. As long as you are mindful of what styles are flattering on you, I think you are never too old to be cute.