Friday, November 01, 2013

Lolita: Sexual, or Not?

Lolita: Sexual, or Not?
Is the Lolita fashion a representation of sexuality or of modesty?

The word Lolita is commonly known to many people as the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel which tells the story of a man lusting after a child. However, Lolita also refers to a type of fashion that originated in Japan. Because of the sexuality that is tied with the word Lolita, it is no wonder then, that many people interpret the fashion to be an extension of the sexuality portrayed in the novel. Although there are points that may tie this fashion to sexuality, there are also points that prove it to be a form of protest against sexuality in women’s fashion.

What is Lolita?
First of all, you may be wondering exactly what Lolita fashion is. The style is largely influenced by Victorian girls’ fashion. There are many strict rules to achieving this look. First, the silhouette must always include a very wide a-line skirt that comes down to the knees. Many women who wear Lolita fashion wear petticoats under their skirts in order to fulfill the fullness that is required. Other distinct features of the fashion include blouses with puff sleeves, lace trims, and bows. Modesty is an important element in the style, the wearer must never show too much skin.

The Controversy
Because of the over-the-top nature of the fashion, it may be considered a strange style of dress to many people outside of Japan. A large topic that often comes up on internet communities, such as Facebook, is whether the fashion really represents the sexualization of little girls or not. On February 3, 2012, a poster for a documentary titled Are all Men Pedophiles? directed by Jan-Willem Breure was uploaded to Facebook by the documentary’s Facebook page. The image portrayed a woman dressed in Lolita fashion. The documentary itself, discusses pedophilia in general and does not actually link the Lolita fashion to pedophilia. Yet, when the image of the poster appeared, many women who dressed in Lolita fashion commented on the image displaying their displeasure at having their beloved style of dress being portrayed so sexually. This example clearly shows the different points of views that people have towards the fashion. Although those who wear it claim that the style emphasizes modesty, outsiders to the fashion end up perceiving it to be something sexual. If it’s not being perceived the way it was intended to be, then what does the fashion truly represent?

The Sexual
The main thing that sticks out about this fashion to many people who are not familiar with it is that it involves adult women dressing up in very child-like clothing. After all, the style is influenced by little girls’ fashions of the Victorian era. In addition to this, girls who dress up in Lolita fashion usually go all out to make their makeup and hair look nice too. The combination of makeup which can represent attraction and seduction and a child’s clothing which represents innocence provides the image that this fashion is about the attraction towards children or a child-like imitation.
In addition, a sub style of the fashion called Sweet Lolita usually incorporates very cute themes. For example, many Sweet Lolita dresses have cute prints on them such as teddy bears, merry-go-rounds, and cupcakes. Some of these prints may be seen to be another representation of children in Lolita

The Non-Sexual
On the other side of the argument, Lolita is said to be a form of protest against the sexuality in regular fashion styles. One strict aspect of Lolita is that it must always be modest. Not much skin is usually shown in Lolita outfits. Even with strapless dresses, the shoulders are usually covered by a blouse worn on the inside or cardigan or shawl worn on top. Skirts should go to about the knee level, preferably just below the knee. Legs do not remain bare, but are covered by stockings or knee socks. These aspects all go against the norms that we are used to in fashion where tank tops and mini-skirts are seen regularly and are perfectly acceptable garments.
As previously mentioned, Lolita often incorporates very cute, child-like themes that can relate the fashion to the sexualization of children. However, these cute themes can also be taken as simply cute themes. Lolita can be seen as a way for women to dress cutely and be attractive without doing so by just showing off a lot of skin.
Does simply covering up remove the sexuality that may be implied by Lolita clothing? Or does the fashion mean a bit more than simply being cute and modest? In the end, fashion in general is a way for us to express our personality to others. Obviously, the women who wear this fashion don’t see their clothes to be sexual at all, but only see it as a fun way to dress up differently than usual. Whether others accept the fashion or not should not matter as long as you have fun dressing up in it. And if this means dressing up a bit differently than what is normal, then so be it.

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