November 26, 2011

When Lolita is too Sweet....

Found on Wikipedia

Lolita may be the alternative aesthetic I have studied the least, but for the past three months I have been obsessed: lurking about egl, abusing googlechrome's instant translate function as I haunt the online stores, dreaming about outfits and even trying to design my own skirts in the margins of my notebooks.

 Needless to say, the Lolita aesthetic appeals to me very much.

Again, there are far better blogs, written by actual lolitas, which explain the aesthetic and details of the fashion. To the best of my understanding, Lolita is a silhouette.

How one fills in this silhouette is a matter of taste, but can generally be divided into three main styles: Gothic, Sweet, and Classic. Of these three, Classic is my favorite. It emphasizes an elegant rather than cute look: using muted tones and simpler lines with the influence of  a Victorian lady rather than Victorian doll. 

From Mary Magdalene website

The Beautiful Side of this Aesthetic:

Lolita is primarily a fashion based aesthetic and they do that very well. My appreciation can be divided into two general categories: the quality of the garments and the reasons for wearing them.  

First, real, brand or otherwise Lolita dresses are exquisite. The attention to detail alone is worth of  the praise of an epic poem. In an age of tee-shirts and blue jeans where simplicity without structure seems to be more valued than beauty, looking at the Lolita coordinates and outfits online is akin to looking at the pictures in a fairy tale. Why have ruffles and yards of lace gone out of fashion? Why are details like pin-tucks and embroidery absent from our current clothing?

The answer is disappointing in its simplicity: time and expense. Extra fabric, quality lace, delicate hemming all costs money and takes more time to create. We have forgotten that clothing used to be an art form- not something to be picked up at Forever 21 for twenty dollars or less. So while the prices for a Lolita dress may make the un-initiated blanche at first, they are well worth the price.

The greater expense also fosters a more sustainable philosophy of clothing. In an age where entire outfits can be bought for under fifty dollars, the idea of saving up for several weeks let along months seems foreign and antiquated. But clothing which takes so much effort to purchase won’t be left crumpled on the ground after a long day’s wear. Damage will be repaired rather than signaling a toss to the good will bin.  Even if the dress no longer fits the current aesthetic, the resale value is high enough to demand constant attention and care. 

But more than the simple quality and attention to detail of the individual pieces, to achieve a proper Lolita look, it is necessary to coordinate the entire outfit well. Lolita seems to be one of the few fashion communities left that have strict rules for what does and does not fit the aesthetic. It is not enough t to wear a few petticoats under a skirt with a frilly blouse. No, the accessories must match as must the socks, shoe, headpiece, hair, and makeup. 

Lolita is not a fashion one can just throw on in the morning. It takes attention and an eye for detail that is not often cultivated in this day and age.  Naturally, anything that encourages a greater care and thought to any aspect of one’s life deserves applause. 

But more than just the quality of the fashion, the motivations for wearing Lolita are equally laudable.  Fashion today often seems to be worn out of fear of being out of style, of being unnoticed by men, or of being judged harshly. But fear should never be the motivation for any action. Lolitas are incredibly courageous to take a step back, take a deep breath, and decide that they would rater wear what they want rather than what society dictates.

 Now, most alternative aesthetics do this. But Lolita is unique in their modesty. Plenty of Gothic clubwear or Steampunk fashion still flaunt the skin or is comprised of curve hugging outfits. But Lolita focuses on modesty with longer skirts, tights or socks on the legs and high necked blouses for the tops.  Sometimes, this can come across as childish, but I believe that is a flaw in our current perceptions of fashion than a comment on Lolita.

But the largest apparent reason to dress Lolita is the sheer joy the clothing gives its followers. Personal enjoyment and satisfaction is the way one ought to live one’s life! If some outfit or clothing gives you pleasure for the sheer sake of wearing it and indulging in your own enjoyment, then it ought to be embraced. 

The Lolita Aesthetic is very pleasing to me. There are many other reasons why but these are the most encompassing and philosophical ones I can devise right now. If you want, please feel free to make any comments or corrections about my understanding of Lolita or contact me for a discussion about any alternative fashion.

November 25, 2011

When Goth is too Monochrome....

This has been on my computer for ages. I apologize for forgetting where this  comes from.
The Gothic lifestyle manages to be both my oldest and least familiar interest. Despite my long term envy of those white faced, black haired stereotypes of television and movies, I am more hesitant to pass judgement on this subculture than those other which I have researched for a shorter time. The reason for this timidity is two fold: music and age.

Music is, arguably, as important to the Gothic scene as the familiar fashion. I, however, have never been a music aficionado and don't particularly care for Gothic music. Being unable to appreciate or critique what is an essential part of a Goth makes this review naturally biased.

The second source of hesitation is the Gothic subculture's age. There are far, far better sites for researching the history of Goth, but I believe the aesthetic began in the 80's and has gone through every variation a thirty year old movement can. There are at least twenty different subgroups in the subculture to the outside observer and once in the Goth scene, I am sure there are even more.

Being ignorant of the subtle nuances of the Gothic history's twists and turns and the entire genre of music, I begin this critique with some trepidation.

Taken from

The Appeal of Goth:

The work that I believe most fully captures everything beautiful about the Gothic subculture is The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales compiled by Chris Baldick. If you are interested in Goth, or aren't but want a collection of rich and magnificent tales, go to your favorite used book store and begin searching for it. The collection spans tales from 1773 to the modern day and seeks to give a comprehensive outline of Gothic short fiction.

What I loved about these tales and see reflected in the fashion is a depth and richness of emotion that is missing from modern society. In the Gothic image there still exist decaying castles on the windswept moors where young maidens are forced to marry against their wishes or sent to convents. Questions of immorality, of death, of madness are all considered despite being shunned now a days.

I love the motifs of roses, ornate crosses, ravens, and  tombstones.

I love the curiosity and willingness to explore the decaying hallways of once grand houses, overgrown graveyards, the crooked ways of the human mind. The ability to find beauty in the unconventional, the gruesome, or morbid is a wonderful gift.

I love the depths of soul where one incident can drive a mind to madness or turn shadows into ghosts. There is a delicacy of the spirit which is not concerned with mortal drudgery which sorely missed today.

I love the awe inspiring vastness of the Church because it means there are things out there that the human mind can not know and needs protecting from.

I love the passion which infuses the work and the drama which inspires the clothing. Gothic clothing takes a brave soul to wear well. More so than the other aesthetics I will discuss, Goths need a flare for the dramatic to flesh out the elaborate garments and making the fantasy alive.

Found at
Critique of Goth:

However, this passion of Goth seems to be it's undoing. Not everyone can haunt about a castle. Not everyone can stay in the frenzy of infatuation forever. Dawn eventually reveals the shadows to be dressers and closets rather than ghosts of old.

Goth isn't about the day to day or the practical. Never in any Gothic story that I have read is the heroine's morning routine described or the running of the mansion or the minute worries about money and income.Yet we live in a world where days do pass and the practicalities must be considered.

The way I see most Goths dealing with this daily necessity is by cutisfying the motifs of the subculture and making them every day. So you find paper plates and cups with bat motifs. Prints with cute skull and cross bones to make your skirts. One would be hard pressed to find those in any normal person's home, but the passion is lost.

My second concern is the inherent helplessness of  Gothic stories. No one sits down to think how to escape whatever problems they are in; the stakes are too high. Maidens wait to be rescued or have delirious dreams of suicide. It is either financial ruin on one hand or murdering the uncle on the other. No one stops to consider practical measures to take. At that frenzy, the choice has become either or. Black or white.

But this isn't the human experience. The world is complex and we have the minds and skills to use that complexity to our advantage. If a character can only see two opposite alternatives to a problem, she is missing some third angle. We can change the world around us, that is one of the principle things which makes us human. We have tools. We look at a forest and see not only the trees but the houses and furniture and art that the wood can create. But Gothic stories would not exist if the heroine or hero were rational, practical people who sat down at talked things through.

Now some might argue that you can either be passionate, or you can be reasonable. They cancel each other out otherwise. Part of my goal in this blog and my study of Neo-Aristocrats is to prove this is not the case.

Finally and most whimsically, Goth is too monochrome. I like black. A peek into my closet is testament enough. But I like other colors as well and as more than just accents to my black skirt and coat.

Goth is not for me. I want an aesthetic that can be applied to my everyday life without losing its power, which promotes human competence and real world solutions while not killing the passion and beauty that Goth contains in abundance.

As always, if you would like to point out an error in my thinking, discuss an idea with me, or have me read something else, please let me know!

November 21, 2011

Roots and Inspiration

Alternative aesthetics have appealed to me since the early days of high school. I would pour over the descriptions of Neo-Victorianism in Neil Stephenson's "The Diamond Age" and stare at the gothic outfits and languor in television shows, dreaming of waking up one morning to either be in a nanotech finishing school or with a wardrobe of black and wonder. However, my life was creative enough, my parents were reasonable enough and my dislike of makeup irrational enough that I never crossed the bounds from loving to living the lifestyle.

Over the years, four main subgroup have constantly been able to reach out and to tug on my aesthetic heart strings, but leave me wanting something more: Aristocratic or Romantic Goths, Lolita, Steampunk and Ayn Rand's philosophy Objectivism.

In the next four days, I will try to explain what in each of these aesthetics appeal and where they fall short of inspiring me completely.  Also, I shall explain why I believe that Objectivism or a devout belief in any philosophical system should be considered and alternative lifestyle on the same level of Goths, Lolita and Steampunk.

Naturally, all thoughts in this blog are opinions only, not fact. Naturally, your opinions may differ wildly from mine in the nature of each of these categories. That's fine. I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of the these subgroups, excepting Objectivism, is from an outside viewer only. I have never dressed like a lolita, gone to a steampunk convention, or a Goth club. My knowledge is limited which is why I am not passing judgment on the groups as a whole, just why they don't work for me. 

However, I will be happy to discuss any of my thoughts with you and read any article or blog you suggest.

~ Lynette

(Note: this is my first blogging challenge! Part of creating this blog is to teach myself to follow artificial deadlines. It is up to you, my dear readers, to critique me soundly if I don't keep on track. Also, what fashion or philosophical inspirations do you draw your own aesthetic from?)